Consultants may consider some applications their babies. Some applications tend to tag along for many years. Others seems to have a mood of its own and keep you awake at night.
My guess is that most senior consultant have had this feeling. However, this is not the topic of this post.
18 Months of Parental Leave
Me and my wife have two small boys and I have had the opportunity to take a break from my day-job to spend about 18 months together with the boys. 9 months back in 2012 and about 9 months in 2014/2015.
Before I became a parent my life, like most others I guess, had its ups and downs, like a slow moving wave or tide. However, staying at home with two small boys is more like a roller coaster. A rocket propelled roller coaster, on fire.
These ”breaks” have given me quite a lot of time to think about parenting and of course my role as a consultant. There are a lot of differences between my work as an intranet consultant and the life of a stay at home dad but there’s also several similarities. So- here’s my top 3 list of things that I think we can benefit from, both as consultants and as good parents.
1. Manage time
Time travel would certainly be helpful sometimes. But until NASA figures that one out we have to use our minds.
One success factor in managing an intranet project as well as an ordinary day at home with the kids is about being able to manage over time. You have to be present in the moment but take every chance to plan and prepare ahead as well as tie up loose ends left behind. Pretty much, not physical but at least mentally, be everywhere at the same time.
Plan the next day’s activities for the kids. Make sure there’s food on the table just before the kids are hungry and turn the house upside down. Clean up the sand they drag in from the playground at the same time as you make sure they clean their hands and provide them with a snack.
As a consultant, always stay several steps ahead and behind the customer and your fellow team members at all time. You have to plan upcoming activities as well as clean up any loose ends left behind. Stay prepared, make sure you have your stuff in order, keep an eye on the time plan, budget, plan for upcoming meetings and follow up on old ones. Make sure you request the proper information from the customer some time before your need it, make sure you follow up on any questions you postponed.
Keep the initiative, stay in control, and use it to your advantage.
2. Explain so They Understand
Many things seems obvious to me. This doesn’t mean they are obvious to everyone else.
As a parent I have to explain to my boys in terms they understand. I also have to be able to explain it in one sentence or less. The attention span of a 4 year old only span seconds. I have to use those seconds well. If I fail to explain they won’t buy it, the message. If they don’t understand what I try to explain they won’t accept it.
The same thing goes for customers, colleagues or even your boss. They hopefully all have an attention span of more than 5 seconds but the principal is the same. You have to be able to deliver your message in few words, in a way they understand it. What’s in it for them? Short, simple and concise. Otherwise they won’t buy it. They may say they understand, and they may very well think they understand, but as long as they don’t they won’t buy it. Cut out the technical mumbo jumbo and explain in a language they understand.
This may require some practice but I’m sure we all can benefit from it, both as parents and as consultants and colleagues.
3. Anticipate change
No matter how well you plan a day with the kids or a project you will have to deal with changes. All plans are preliminary until they are realized. No matter how well you plan there will always be factors that you won’t be able to foresee or prepare fully for.
Don’t get me wrong, you should have plans, make risk analysis and prepare for them, it will help. However, it will also help to be mentally prepared for the fact that changes others than the once you have prepared yourself for will knock on your door, and possibly tear the door down altogether.
You can try to fight or mediate these changes to some extent but you will benefit from quickly realizing when you need to take another path rather than hanging on to the old plans. Working with the circumstances is a lot better than fighting them. It will help you keep momentum and help you sleep at night.