Michael and Tom discuss managing extreme fatigue and stress: using a personal incident at FC when a partner collapsed and had a seizure recently. Michael decided to discuss this subject because some of the most popular podcasts on our iTunes channels Strategy Skills and Case Interviews are usually podcasts about softer issues. In fact, after the interviews with Bill Matassoni and Kevin P Coyne, the most popular podcast is How to be Productive.

We did not think podcasts about less technical skills would be so much in demand. So given how popular is productivity when it comes to FC community, we decided to do a podcast on managing extreme stress and fatigue, which is something every consultant deals with at one point or another.

Stress and fatigue is always in the background within the consulting environment. There is no way around it. Projects are tough and value has to be delivered to the client. Deadlines shift, data cannot be collected on time, the client is demanding, the scope of the study changes, a computer crashes and you lose day’s work, internal project demands conflict with client work demands, and the list goes on.

Worse, the subject of managing fatigue and stress is often frowned upon within consulting firms. It is a badge of honour to “pull an all-nighter or to “work through the weekend”. Consultants are afraid to bring up this topic because they are concerned it may raise questions about their “fit”, whether they can “make it” in consulting, whether they are “partner material.” The situation is worse within MBB and other firms that practice up or out policy. And similar sentiment can be observed outside of consulting firms.

FC also has a very client-first culture and we look at the implications of this philosophy.

This is a very unusual podcast. Michael runs it as a Colin Farrell movie, sharing an unexpected event that happened during a recent business trip, how something went really wrong and how we handled it, flashing back to explain what led to it and then flashing forward to discuss the lessons learned.

So get some popcorn, candy, or relax into your seat if you are listening on your commute from work, and enjoy as we share a very personal behind-the-scenes story.

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8 responses to Managing Extreme Fatigue and Stress: a recent event

  1. Hi Aamir,

    Every situation is different. Sometimes you should accept and others not. It depends on the individual’s unique circumstances.


  2. Interesting perspective towards the end about negotiating money. I wonder if Michael / et.al have any advice on how should a jobseeker / candidate protect themselves against lowballing by prospect employers. In the part of the world we are, it’s very common for companies to begin by saying “we are a startup like company so we’re looking to be very lean.” which is another way of saying if you want to work for us settle for the first number we offer you.

    My question is: when is it right to discuss money? and what is the right way to do it?
    Ps: Thanks a lot for the amazing content as always

  3. Hi Ryan,

    Glad you enjoyed the podcast. I was not posting to “What Firmsconsulting is reading” section recently because we are planning to remove that section and move those updates to social media accounts. So I am just posting directly to Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. In fact we are planning to remove the entire group section in our drive to simplify the website. Michael, on the other hand, chooses to stay on the “Titanic” until it sinks.

    I agree with your comment on our humor. In fact, I think if Michael was not such a brilliant thinker, management consultant and business person he would make a fantastic comedian. Some of us fortunate to bask in his wit every day. It is a treat!

    I guess I do have a track record of sometimes pushing my physical limits too far. But life is short. If I don’t push the limits how will I know what is the limit? 🙂 It all comes down to values. We had some important client work that had to be done and I may have pushed myself too hard, but no balls got dropped. Life is all about trade offs. The key is to find the right balance. I tend to err on the side of pushing too hard but as time goes by I am getting better and better at taking care of myself, which I believe is of course crucial, while pushing the limits to make the most with my time.

    I distinguish between burnout and physical exhaustion. To me, they are different. While I always push myself hard when it matters, I rarely suffer from mental burnout to the point where I cannot do anything. This is a good example. While my body could not handle it my mind was fine and I was back on the line providing advice via the telephone as soon as the hospital would allow me to do so.

    And you are right, it does seem ironic that I lead the leadership group. Yet, wouldn’t you rather have advice from someone who has actually experienced the limits of the mental and physical space versus from someone who only reads about it? These experiences help me tremendously when guiding clients, since I have first hand experience, can see the triggers and understand the difficulties. I also understand clients are different and are not like me.

    I believe we do important work at FC:-) This is not a job that ends at 5pm and we clock-off. Our clients matter and the work with do with them matters.

    Will Smith said it best.

    “The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things you got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple…”

    Cheers, Kris

  4. Great podcast as always, very humorous (despite the topic, which is impressive). I think part of the humor for me was drawn from the irony/misfortune of this happening to Kris. Was she not the partner in charge of leadership lifestyle on the power sector study?!!? I also recall her having a problem with her hair falling out because she wasn’t taking care of herself.

    I hope she is doing alright now!

    P.S. I don’t see her posting in the “What is Firmsconsulting Reading” group complaining about how they don’t think they can work anymore, unlike someone we know. Perhaps she is too busy!

  5. Thanks Houda.

    This is a great point. Stamina can be built. However, at a certain point you cannot work any more hours so you need to change your goals (counter-intuitively – make them bigger!) and work processes to increase productivity with the same or fewer hours.


  6. Hello Michael;
    Great podcast as always. I wanted to mention a pitfall that people fall into when just starting: having wrong expectations about your current endurance level.
    Like with many other attributes, I found that stamina is something you build up over time. Just like a muscle or a skill, you will go through a curve, though the ramp up will differ from person to another.
    In my first case team meeting, I could barely keep my eyes open after 4 hours, it was torture.
    But now I have taken over to not only be alert during the meeting but go a step further to be the facilitator of these sessions and am able to discuss content throughout the meeting.
    I have noticed the same pattern with interns even over few weeks periods: they start by having energy for a 9 to 5 day, but 2 months into their internship, they are still very lively at 8 PM and beyond.

  7. Thanks William.

  8. Great podcast on a very relevant topic. Thanks for sharing!

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