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The Scouting-Consulting Connection

By: Joe Combs

Young American Boy Scouts Help pull up from the cliff

Last year, I wrote about the deeper meaning of integrity for SEI consultants. Many of the qualities that make a great SEI consultant — creative problem-solving, thought leadership, excellence — are qualities that permeate our personal lives as much as our professional lives.

In the course of a recent conversation with a fellow consultant, I realized that the lessons we learn from how these qualities play out in our personal lives can inform how they play out in our professional lives — and vice versa. As I have chewed over this realization, I have begun to see that serving as a scouting volunteer for many years has provided me with numerous skills and insights that have made me a better consultant. Among many others, these include:

1. “Be prepared” is not just a motto, but a way of life.

Scouting teaches us to expect the unexpected, to prepare for any and all “what-if” scenarios. Anybody can adhere to a plan when everything goes right, but what happens when things go awry? When a supplier comes in late or requirements are not properly communicated? Winning teams prepare for these eventualities so they are able to address them as if they were just another part of the plan.

2. Flexibility is crucial.

To keep the program moving, scouts have to adapt to changing weather conditions, forgotten gear, scheduling conflicts, and more. Similarly, the corporate world has been moving toward agility for years, and developing the ability to adapt to shifting market conditions quickly is absolutely essential.

3. Goal-setting matters.

Nearly every scout I have worked with has at least toyed with the idea of becoming an Eagle Scout. Those who actually end up doing so practice classic goal-setting strategies: they have a clear understanding of the desired outcome, the steps they will take to achieve it, and the milestones they will need to hit along the way. At SEI, we not only set goals for our own business and our consultants’ professional development, but we also help our clients set goals and define the milestones they will need to hit to achieve their strategic business objectives.

4. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

A great deal of scouting takes place outdoors, and scouts are routinely tested by their environments. For a scout, dealing with extreme weather, setting up camp in the dark, and contending with the unknown are part and parcel of daily life. As consultants, we often have to adapt to new environments quickly, mastering new vocabularies and the intricacies of new problem domains. When this adaptability becomes a way of life, the uncertainty that inevitably accompanies new projects becomes part of our comfort zone.

Become Part of a Service-Minded Team

Many SEIers are deeply proud of what we do both at work and in our communities. Our work makes us better volunteers, and our volunteering makes us better consultants. If you are a servant leader and driven to solve exciting complex problems, let’s talk.

Joe Combs


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