"He (or she) is such a dinosaur".
You may have heard that expression said about colleagues. A shorthand for a set in their ways, do-it-as-it-has-always-been-done mentality.
For a moment, let’s concentrate on a specific dinosaur sub-species - the office Brachiosaurus.
These lumbering, benign creatures inhabit many professional services offices. They have often been around for many years and are an accepted part of the landscape. Characterised by their low energy levels and inability to listen, they are blind to changes around them and unwilling to adapt. In short, they can’t and won’t be taught anything new.
This is particularly relevant when it comes to having a business development mindset. Research has shown that those people who are successful at winning new business (i.e. selling) tend to be trainable and coachable.
If that is the case, then why do these latter-day dinosaurs exist?
Here are some possible explanations for why staff (often, but not exclusively, senior) become less accepting of the need to be coached or trained, in particular in personal development skills:
1. “I already have a profitable client base and I don’t have the time or need to grow it”
2. “I am an acknowledged expert in my practice area and clients find me”
3. “I can spend my time more profitably doing ‘real work’”
4. “The brand and reputation of my firm is such that a constant flow of work is assured”
Does this describe the mindset of some of your colleagues?
Even if you can’t change the mentality of these ‘creatures’, it is worth considering the qualities of those team members who are trainable and coachable.
· Open minded
· Seek feedback and are open to constructive criticism
· Have great listening skills
· Demonstrable emotional intelligence
· Appreciate new insights and perspectives
· Are prepared to have their thinking challenged
It is important to acknowledge that many senior members of staff at professional services firms have never had any form of personal development training, especially regarding business development. Indeed, in some firms it is possible that trainees have had more personal development skills training than Partners.
Is it possible to change the habits of the Brachiosaurus? This will depend upon many factors including the drive, ambition and energy of the leadership team and how well the culture of business development is embedded. Formalised learning and development plans can help, as can strategic succession planning.
Perhaps a more important question is whether it is worth the investment in time and energy to change those habits? The answer must be yes, not just in terms of setting a good example to those climbing the career ladder. Leaving a legacy of a fresh and contemporary approach to business development is more likely to happen by being up to date with the latest thinking, research and competitor insights.
Crocodiles and cockroaches survived the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs. I think I will leave those comparisons for another day.