This podcast is based on an off-the-record conversation I had with Felix when we were not recording The Consulting Offer. Sometimes after the 90 minute sessions we would engage in small-talk and useful things were discussed but never captured.

This podcast discusses some advice I once gave to Felix about not always choosing the most glamorous McKinsey partner as a mentor. The bottom-line is that most of us look out for mentors who are at the top off their game and try to align ourselves with them. This could be a bad idea for one simple reason.

You need to learn from senior partners who continue to exhibit the attributes which made them great consultants. When many rise to the top of their fields, they change their behavior and become defensive in their mannerisms. That is, they are friendly, but they take actions to protect what they have in their careers versus taking actions to necessarily move ahead. If you modelled your actions on those taking defensive actions, you would only learn how to be defensive. As an associate, there is no point learning how to be defensive when you have nothing to defend.

The reality is that not all leaders in their fields are like this, but many are. Your challenge is to distinguish between the top people in a field, like a senior partner, and decide which kind of actions she/he is taking: defensive or offensive (offensive means taking initiative to build client value).

I use two examples to explain this:

Working at Microsoft Windows Division (leader in its field and defensive in nature) versus at Salesforce Marketing Division (new division looking to grow). Do you think the leader here will teach you how to be innovative and grow?

My own experience as a young and naive associate when I aligned myself to a senior partner who really was very happy to simply protect his turf and the changes in my career when I aligned myself with a new associate principal. I made partner only because I changed my mentor.

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