Opinions Posted by David McDermott

This blog aspires to be a little bit of grit in the oyster that might just yield a pearl or two. Having now retired from full-time consulting and training, I’ll be taking an alternative and ruthless – some might say cynical – look at current events and debates. The aim is to identify what might actually be usable, rather than simply intellectually interesting and elegant. I’ll bring to bear over 25 years consulting and standing at the front of classrooms around the world.

I also hope in the course of this process that, if nothing else, some gentle amusement might result.

SotBO Syndrome

The Winter Olympics are in full swing. The Football World Cup kicks off in May. As soon as it ends, the Commonwealth Games will come round the last corner into the home straight. The hardy annuals of sport – Wimbledon, The Open, Formula One – will fill in the remaining gaps.

It will be commentator heaven and the barrage of SotBO – ‘Statements of the Bleeding Obvious’ – will be unremitting. You know the kind of thing:

“He’d have liked to have stayed on his feet for that final run.” (Really? What an astonishing insight!)

“The team that scores the most goals will win.” (Surely not. You do surprise me)

“It’s just a matter of who crosses the line first.” (Well, who would have thought that?)

All this wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have to suffer SotBO Syndrome all year round and in all activities. Business-related cyberspace is full of it. Blogs, social media posts, ‘likes’ and tweets all peddle SotBO messages. They masquerade as life-changing metaphysical aphorisms that dare not be challenged. Call me a cynic (well I did warn you), but most are recycled quotes and sanctimonious soundbites. Their irritating nature is bad enough, but in rendering the underlying issues down to a catchphrase, they often brush over their complexity and leave huge traps for the novice or the unwary.

Here’s one I saw the other day:

“Give people what they want and they will like you for now.
Give them what they need and they will value you forever”

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, a lifetime of consulting with client organisations and training their salespeople, managers and directors tells me that giving people what they need isn’t usually that simple, or even welcome.

Most commonly, what organisations say they want is not actually what they need. They want a quick fix, but they need a sustainable competitive edge that takes time and effort to achieve. In the classroom, those who need the training the most are usually those who want it the least, and vice-versa. Any consultant who blindly applies this little motto is doomed to a career of frustration and penury.

These little maxims can set laudable aspirations in terms of what to do. But leaving it there short-changes the audience. What most people and organisations also need is help with how to do it and a consultant who will challenge and push them all the way through the learning process.

The trouble is that they may not want that. A compliant pundit with an ample supply of SotBOs and a compass that leads straight down the path of least resistance is far easier to handle.

Coming next

Over the next few blogs, I’ll be reflecting on the ‘art’ of consulting – principally, but not exclusively, in the area of Training & Development – and identifying some key principles that I hope you’ll find helpful around client-handling. The edoMidas approach to dealing with their clients was one of the characteristics that attracted me to them as individuals and as a company.

About the author

Barry Hazelwood is Non-executive Adviser to edoMidas. He retired from full-time work in 2012 after a 25 year career as a consultant and senior manager with Huthwaite International, the world’s leading international sales effectiveness consultancy.


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