It’s Not the What – It’s the WHAT NOW

It’s Not the What – It’s the WHAT NOW

I attended a webcast that spoke to strategy recently.

It was informative – there was healthy discussion – and a number of enlightened professionals weighed in.

I’m pretty sure nothing will happen after for most of the participants though – even though I suspect everyone, to some degree anyway, was listening. 

I wish I had a dollar for every seminar I attended in my decades in industry that rendered zero return. It would be a sizable figure I’m sure – and truth be told, in some cases I was responsible for the budget that was “invested.”

There are estimates that suggest that up to 80% of the training, workshops, and overall support we offer in industry goes for naught – simply disappears into a Black Hole of budget expenditures, never to be heard from again – or at least until the cycle repeats and we offer the same training, workshop, and overall support.

When we stop to consider that some estimates place the total expenditures per year in the U.S. alone for some version of corporate training is now in excess of 87 billion per year – well, that pays for a lot of flip charts, workbooks, and markers. (See Forbes – The Wasted Dollars of Corporate Training Programs – 9/15/19)

Don’t get me wrong – EVERY company must provide training – the problem is that so much of training isn’t that effective.

A few years back – after many years in the business world – I decided I would “retire” – build my own consulting business – see if I could, in some small way, pay back some of the gifts I was offered by so many.

Since my passion always was the study and application of leadership the path forward was clear.

Except that I knew the truth – the list of “experts” on the subject is a lengthy one – the money trail of companies who stand in line for their services just as far reaching. Those companies who avoid “The Black Hole Syndrome” however, is small.

So I decided on a different approach.

As one friend suggested at the time, “You will be the ONLY consultant on the planet who played the game for 38 years – who was responsible for revenue – who actually had to apply all these so called ‘wonderful principles’ to stay employed. You’re a practitioner – not a consultant.”

Whether that was accurate or not, I listened – and that counsel has guided me ever since.

It’s meant I could drop some of the window dressing that adorns authors, speakers, and influencers and focus on a dimension that is infinitely more important.

EXECUTION – practical application – what comes AFTER.

I think it’s because I know the truth – even water drawn from the fountain of knowledge is meaningless if no one cares to drink it – or then uses it to move forward.

So when I work with a prospective client I find myself encouraging them to consider 4 dimensions –  4 questions that should dictate whether we will decide to work together.

  • What is it this will offer me that we don’t already know?
  • Why will this make me better or my business more productive?
  • How can you assure me I can put it into practice immediately?
  • How can we measure the value down the line?


Listening to the answers to those questions has led to mutual insights that have served both sides of the partnership well – and a working charter that sometimes leads to moving forward. Those insights:

  • The long list of companies that stand in line for the next round of seminars – or workshops – or even executive coaching sessions – doesn’t have to be quite as long. If you are repaying for  the same services year after year – stop. Your goal should be in building traction – not new training “events”.
  • It’s what happens after the workshop that is most important – let’s talk about sustainability – a LOT.
  • Great coaching – and great workshops demand 3 ingredients that I need to work with you on  —- (1) Quality content based on YOUR needs (2) Quality implementation that marries with that need and (3) Quality alignment and integration within your organization to make sure we significantly move the needle after.
  • And finally – and most important, an agreed on vehicle to assess or measure uptake in the months that follow. If participants simply go back to what they did before then we have effectively wasted your time and your resources (see the 80% Black Hole referenced earlier).


I don’t own the franchise when it comes to helping clients and companies – not by a long shot. But I do find that cutting through the jargon and the “academic speak” and getting to what is really involved in running a successful business seems to strike a chord.

Execution is everything.

And if we’re not aligned around the above points it’s much easier for me to say, “I’m not your guy.”

As I wrapped a meeting last week I found myself reflecting on – of all things – a long forgotten book from the 80s – and a highly controversial broadcaster of that era – Howard Cosell.

Now, for those of a certain age, Howard summons up vivid memories.  He was acerbic, highly educated, highly opinionated, and was – for a time – about as well known as anyone in the sports’ universe. He was also convinced that he was never given full acknowledgment for his genius and in his 1985 memoir, I Never Played the Game, lamented that fact.

His argument – I will never be appreciated because I am not an ex-athlete – and it’s NOT FAIR.

Howard made a good point – and whether you loved him or hated him, one thing was certain.

You listened.

Whether his central thesis was correct is another matter.

I’m guessing “playing the game” does make a difference – but in the business world, winning the game means even more.

Somewhere right now a company is making a decision to invest in their people…their leaders…their future.

Let’s hope it’s a decision that leads to a productive outcome.

Let’s hope someone is listening.





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