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Do fat smokers make poor consultants?

Optimize Blog - November 24, 2009 - 0 comments

The latest megabucks lawsuit against the tobacco giant Phillip Morris ($300m which they are going to challenge) reminded me about a guy who was a candidate on one of our leadership courses.
Early on in the program he loudly shared his view that as far as he was concerned “Leadership is all just common sense”.  Now, whilst I might have been mildly disappointed by his dismissive tone, the truth is that I couldn’t agree with him more.
However, if Leadership really is merely common sense, then the application of common sense is the issue.   By way of illustration, if the application of common sense was simple and routine, there would be no fat smokers in the world.
The analogy of the fat smoker is not new but it gave me a timely reminder that so often ‘common sense’ is anything but common.
One of the qualities of a good management consultant is to take common sense and help the client to apply it.  Whilst ‘common sense’ is by default simple in nature, it is far harder to actually apply in real life.   For the smoker who knows that the habit is highly likely to be doing major damage to his or her health, wouldn’t it be just common sense to give up or not take it up in the first place?
Of course life is much more complicated than that and the young smoker in particular will find a range of ‘reasons’ why they smoke – it’s ‘cool’, “I’ll give up before it does me any real damage” or even that they know someone who smoked all their life and who never got lung cancer… there are always plenty of arguments that get in the way of common sense.
In the business world take the issue of communication.   It is common sense that communicating with your team and your peers is a good thing to do.   It keeps people engaged, we find out quickly if there are issues and concerns and we can sign up to some team goals.   The reality of course is that ‘stuff’ gets in the way and, despite it being common sense, we find ourselves spending nowhere near enough time communicating effectively with others.
Improving our communication takes practice, discipline and effort – we need to work at it.   The fact that it is common sense doesn’t mean that it will happen naturally.
Ultimately, like the smoker who will have little chance to enjoy this potential pay out from the manufacturer, we must not leave common sense until it is too late.   As in our decisions around health, so our decisions in business need to have some immediacy – we need to start applying common sense now and not just leave things to chance.
Trying to compensate for common sense decisions that should have been made some time in the past can be costly – and compensating for errors made doesn’t appear to be a compelling strategy.
So the next time you see something that is common sense, try making it a little more common…

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