Archive for November, 2011

This particular consultant profile is one of the main reasons why I left management. I was suffocated by the number of Diva consultants that the firm turned a blind eye to.

The “Diva”

Definition: a consultant who insists on a high-maintenance, extravagant workstyle

% of consultants that exhibit this trait: ~1 in every 20

Detailed definition: If you are a client, you will recognize this consultant when you get your first expense bill. If you are a consultant, you will recognize this type of consultant once you get past the dazzle and glimmer that surrounds them wherever they go.

At first, with clients, this consultant is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. They say all the right things and seem to be nothing short of awesome. And they really know their stuff – they can confuse you with their brilliant minds and fantastic buzz words. But then, as you start examining the expense bills, their true self will start to unravel…

Example 1: Early in my consulting career, I worked under a project manager who fell into this profile. The client liked him enough to keep him on the project, but those of us who worked under him grew to hate him after the first few months. He would want to take an hour-long trips to the coffee shop a half mile away because that “barista” had “bitter-less” coffee. (And if it were raining or snowing, one of us peons would have to drop everything to make the coffee run for him.) He would eat dinner with the team only when we went to the high-priced steak restaurants. He would require that we submit individual status reports that looked exactly like his format (which did not follow the company’s standard methodology) because it was how he wanted it. And, he would require that someone drive him around every week. He sat in the front passenger seat since that was (conclusively) the seat least likely to be targeted in the event of a sniper attack…everyone else rode in the back. Note that this guy came from a military background – military consultants have quirky habits.

Example 2: This example is based on one of the most “celebrity” diva consultants I have ever met. Luckily, he has since left our company. This person would take a limo to and from the airport every week, although it cost the client 25% more. He also ignored all other standard travel expense policies, like booking flights at least 3 weeks in advance to get a cheaper rate. He would book his flight the weekend before, which could cost the client >$500 extra. Finally, he would ignore emails from 90% of his peers – unless you were the CEO or another member of upper management, your email went straight into the Trash bin. (I would bet an entire paycheck that he created a special Outlook rule.) But…he made sure to respond to every email from the client with extra sugar, and the client loved him…just not his expense bill.

Example 3: There once was this hot shot kid who came to us from a large consulting firm. Upon arrival, she immediately exclaimed that she was going to be our new CEO within 5 years. Most of us just shook our heads at her, remembering what it was like to be young and naive. But her true “diva-ness” stemmed from her working hours. She proclaimed that she could only work 40 total hours a week, including travel. Therefore, if her travel snapped up 15 hours of the week, she would only work (and bill) 25 hours, as 15 travel hours + 25 billable hours = 40 total hours. To this day, we don’t understand how she got away with it. She no longer works at my firm.

Why would a consultant behave in such a manner?

It’s really simple: Divas are usually not self-aware, so most of them do not even realize they are behaving badly. In addition, they keep getting away with it. As no one likes to deal with Divas, consulting firms often turn a blind eye to these folks because they are gifted in a particular area of expertise and have dazzled enough clients to be in high demand. They are usually high billers and are spread across multiple projects at once. I’ve noticed that most of these Divas are also Over Billers (see post entitled “Consultant Profiles: the Over Biller”).

How do you know when a consultant is a Diva?

They are smooth talking, very sharp, and often full of themselves. And you’ll know when you start seeing those expense bills, because Divas typically charge 20% more than other consultants due to their high-priced lifestyle.

So what can one do about Divas?

This is really an internal issue, one that consulting firms must manage. Management has to acknowledge that they have a Diva in their midst and then figure out a way to manage their expenses and personality conflicts with others. But, to be honest…because Divas are Divas, their lifespan at a single consulting firm is about 1-3 years. Perhaps everyone can just wait them out…


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