How to elevate professional skills and get your team to number one across the US
Below we share with you a video and transcript of the interview with Denise Harris, one of our amazing FIRMSconsulting Insiders. Denise shares how she used FIRMSconsulting’s training programs to strengthen her professional skills and achieve significant results for herself and her organization.
My name is Denise Harris and I am proudly a FIRMSconsulting client. I am from a small town in New Jersey about 60-70 miles west of Manhattan. When I was born I was given up for adoption. And what I can tell you is spending time in an orphanage and being in foster care do bring a lot of life challenges. But I do believe that is all in how you accept those challenges in tough circumstances it really does make you a stronger person.
Believe it or not, a few years back I actually got to know my birth family a few years back and I’m very glad that I didn’t grow up in the hard streets of Trenton New Jersey and I did not have to face a number of challenges that my siblings, that I since came to know, they had to face.
But I can tell you that being an adopted child is never quite feeling a part of a family unit that you are just kind of genetically tied to. I think there is a lot of nature vs. nurture that come up for you. Even knowing your medical history. That stuff has always been a challenge for me.
But as I moved through life, even as early as elementary school, I decided in my little mind that, you know what, I want my mom and dad, Robert and Betty, to feel like I was worth the investment. And that I would show them that I could do it. I could be a great athlete, I could be, you know, a great student and I did achieve those things.
But man oh man, I’ll tell you one of my best friends went all the way to upstate New York, she’s someone that lives in the city, to adopt a puppy. Believe it or not. And after she went all the way to upstate New York, several hours, she was told that she was not a fit parent, and came back without a puppy.
Now, you might say, “Well, why is that?” Well, she traveled a lot, she is a single person, she is on the go and they really didn’t think the puppy was going to have the proper home environment.
You know, as much as I appreciate it, you know, my mom and dad who did take me in, my life was kind of tough. I mean, I dealt with alcoholism, a lot of uncertainty, probably had way too many adult responsibilities as a little kid. But I tell you what, it did make me stronger.
Those are some pretty significant challenges that, quite frankly, they kind of pop up when I least expect it today in my adult life. But I’m happy to say that because of my hard work and dedication, as I said earlier really leaning into my school situation, I was quickly identified as a kid who should be in the talented and gifted program. Science and mathematics were sort of my wheelhouse.
And everything from getting exposure to an internship around engineering and science from the time since I was in seventh grade all the way through high school. I took the SAT in seventh grade and those kinds of things.
I also developed people skills in a professional environment. Now I will tell you I decided that engineering wasn’t what I wanted to do. I spent a lot of time in the research lab and I hate to say it but back then there were the typical engineers who were in short pants and they did have the pocket protectors. Nice people, but I wasn’t sure that I wanted to become that or quite frankly spend a lot of time with those colleagues.
The neat thing is that I did go on to attend a great school, great university. Go Quakers! I did go to UPenn. And it was there that I really got the confidence to know that I may have come from a small town in good old Morris County in New Jersey, yet I really could think and I could do as well as kids who came from schools like Andover. You know, those kids where both of their parents were physicians and they went to all kinds of fancy vacations during spring break.
I tell you what, it was an eye-opening experience around folks who had different life experiences. But, again, it also gave me that confidence that I can compete and learn and I had just as much brainpower as those who were just a little bit more privileged. Great people, no judgement, but my particular path made me stronger.
And, after college, I stepped out into the world of finance. Did a lot of great things there. As a quite young 20-something year old, I got married not too long after that. Had a fast family of four. My husband along with my two kids. And I’m proud to say that I’ve got one daughter who’s a senior in college. She already landed a job with a big four firm, and I’ve got my second daughter who is a sophomore in college who is a computer science major. She already got offers from you know NSA, NGA in Washington DC.
So, clearly, oh and my husband, he’s a scientist. He does satellite work. Super smart guy. He’s kind of cute too. He’s a keeper.
And I’ve ended up having what I think is a great life.
What had brought me to the FIRMSconsulting program is that, hey even though I’ve had a lot of tremendously interesting and stimulating experiences and I’ve been successful, I’m really interested in developing a deeper set of skills around strategic thinking, problem-solving and becoming a better leader and coach to my peers as well as my direct reports.
So for anyone considering this program, rest well assured that you will develop those foundational skills that you need to help build a better business, to be a better top performer and deliver results that will be life-changing for you and super beneficial to your organization.
I couldn’t recommend the program any more than I’ve mentioned. It’s a great opportunity for anyone watching this video.
And if you’re watching this video I’m going to guess that you’re pretty interested in becoming a high achiever or elevating your level of achievement. Jump in and commit to the program.
HOW DENISE CAME ACROSS FIRMSconsulting
I was interested in professional skills development. I looked on the internet and reviewed quite a few programs. I found the FIRMSconsulting program most suitable to my needs because of the wide variety of offerings, whether it was strategic thinking or problem-solving, or just developing a wider view of business in general.
So whether I wanted to sit and learn or I wanted to be on the go and take the training with me it really helped that I had that choice when I was utilizing the materials. Not all the rival programs offer that and the fact that this content is developed by senior partners of major firms I knew that not only was the training interesting and quite fun, I was also able to know, I was able to rest well assured that I was getting the best of the best from the best of the best.
THE REASON DENISE SELECTED FIRMSconsulting TO BUILD AND STRENGTHEN PROFESSIONAL SKILLS
What my experience has been is the FIRMSconsulting program is so comprehensive that even if you don’t have the intention of developing a more strategic mindset, becoming a more senior executive or gaining the skills as a management consultant, whether those are your specific goals or not, you will get that benefit if you commit to following the program, the timelines, reading the articles and the support material.
Because again you’re going to become a better thinker and people who think better they just kind of do better.
So again, I think the The Consulting Offer (TCO) program I found that to be foundational. Just critical business skills that every person participating in a business role, regardless of the level in the organization, you will benefit. So again TCO as a foundational program and then essentially I was attracted to become a member where I was able to view that content it was because of the quality of the partner-led podcasts and I got hooked.
I mean, I was watching the programs on FIRMSconsulting so much my family started saying, “Well, are you talking to that guy more than you’re talking to us?” It’s kind of a joke but it’s kind of true. I just kind of integrated listening to podcasts when I was making a long commute on the train, whether I was doing a long visit on the road to a customer or I was flying to an event across the country.
Because you can download podcasts. And then, when I became a member, again I used TCO, the different series, as foundational business skills and then as you advance through the programs your natural inclination is to want more. You are going to want more. And the more is essentially becoming FC Insider.
You get access to more advanced premium training, whether it’s how to become a management consultant from analyst to a partner or again it’s just to hone your skills to become a more effective business person in your current role.
I can tell you when I’ve sat down to do my strategic plan, my marketing plan or my interface with different folks in my organization since it’s a more matrix structure, my ability to get to the point, structure and frame with the conversation and then create measurable goals so we can know sort of where we are and know that we are at the end of it. I got all that by again first becoming a member, moving up to the more advanced premium access tools and then participating in the FIRMSconsulting community.
I’ve got partners, case partners, that are all over the globe. And that even widened my perspective of how business happens in other countries and cultures. So, when we took a family vacation to Mexico I started thinking about how businesses interact, how their services are delivered. I’m asking key questions about, well, why don’t they provide one service versus another. Again, I kind of can’t help but see the world that way.
I can tell you, becoming an FIRMSconsulting insider, looking at that premium content it was really the cherry on top. The more advanced skills training and beyond sort of the foundational step-by-step access to content that you have, whether it’s someone who is interested in becoming a management consultant, there is content that actually walks one through what it looks like to be an analyst to really rise to the top if that is your goal.
If that’s not your goal, whether it’s intentional or by default, you really do develop that more executive perspective and I can’t say enough around the value that I’ve personally received by being just a basic member all the way up to a premium FIRMSconsulting Insider. That has been my experience.
DEVELOPING SKILLS: REVIEWING DELIVERY, SERVICE, AND QUALITY
When it comes to the delivery, service, and quality of the FIRMSconsulting materials, what I can tell you is they are outstanding. Specifically, for these reasons.
You are able to really get an over-the-shoulder view of exactly what clients can expect to experience as one goes through the key material whether you want to develop the ability to estimate a market size or estimate the number of units in a given market, you really get an opportunity to again see what that looks like, put yourself in the seat of the client and really imagine how you would apply these skills in a live situation.
Everything from body language, whether or not one is leaning in too much, all of these things build one’s confidence. And the people on the other side of the communication they think that whatever you’re talking about, it’s more believable, it’s more credible and it compels folks to take action in a different way based on your recommendations.
And again, you are able to influence the results that you get and all of this comes from being a client of FIRMSconsulting and really participating in the membership program.
In terms of quality, what I can tell you is that the quality really does come again from the content of the materials. Now, the materials they range from recommended articles, podcasts, online video content and once you decide to lean in and really stick to the program and its recommendations, and its structure, you’re going to feel compelled to move forward, participate in the more advanced training, become an FIRMSconsulting insider and lean into that content as well.
So again, I just can’t recommend it enough. It’s delivered all kinds of value across a wide view or wide body of skills development. It’s been great for me.
KEY MILESTONES IN MY SKILLS DEVELOPMENT
When it comes to key milestones in my development I’ve got a personal example and a professional example. And really this is where the rubber met the road in terms of aha moments.
I’ll give you my professional example first. When I originally became a client, meaning just participating in the TCO foundational training, my business unit was doing well but quite frankly performing sort of right at expectations, right at quite frankly the average way of performing. So one of the key skills that I really did develop very quickly, to be perfectly honest, was brainstorming, coming up with a key question, breaking down that key question into primary drivers, doing that another time and perhaps a third. That really structured my thinking in terms of coming up with options.
So again, sort of average performing business unit. I was able to take a step back and ask, “Well, why is the team doing okay but really performing around expectations?” And so I started to think, “Well, what are the expectations? Well, the expectations are to deliver sales results, do it pretty quickly and do it with, of course, in an ethical way to make sure that how we execute aligns with who we are as an organization.
So when I started to think about, “Well, what are the next level of primary results in terms of driving sales?” I wanted to think of, well, how did we deliver the message to customers, sort of what is our marketing approach and are we thinking about online direct to consumer advertising, are we thinking about refining our sales message in terms of visual aids and developing the skills of the salesforce?
And then also something else to consider, you know, would be channels. Are we leveraging our relationships with our suppliers so that they can become advocates of our program or our products when they are interfacing with B2B potential clients, if you will?
So, that was sort of one example. And as a result, in terms of a stacking, my team was ranked right in the middle 15 out of 33 business units and I tell you I just got back from Dallas and I’m happy to say that, hey, I was named the number one manager in terms of delivering sales results against our goal and I had five account managers who roll into my team who won rep of the year and one person is actually going to Copenhagen as the big prize.
So that’s one professional example of how really developing a structured approach led to measurable business results that were quite different before and after the training.
Now here’s a more fun personal example. One of my best friend’s, she’s on the market, she’s dating, she often gives me a call after a date and ask, well, what’s your opinion about let’s say Joe. Now I’m able to say, well, what are your deal-breakers? What are your two or three qualities that you would want in a mate short-term but ultimately long-term if that is your goal. I was able to guide her thinking and ask her, beyond that sort of key definition and initial primary drivers. Now she had developed this framework and it was called, well, character, compatibility and the likelihood that the person would make a commitment. And all three were important but she really decided that someone’s character was going to be the key driver of what her decision would be pretty much framed around.
And so she would observe someone on a date. Was he nice to everyone, the wait staff, to the taxi cab driver etc.? Or was he sort of selfish and self-centered, and didn’t give her an opportunity to talk? I can tell you before we did that she would talk hours and hours around the bar and up the street and back again. And not only could I not help her come up with an answer. I was getting really tired of hearing the same old thing.
So we were able to kind of get there, frame it up and then she could make her own decision. Again, there were other primary drivers, but once she was able to hone in on someone’s character pretty quickly I think she’s a happy dater, she’s dating a guy consistently and last time I heard they may have been considering getting engaged. So those are my two examples.
ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE MY RELATIONSHIP WITH FIRMSconsulting
One word to describe my relationship with FIRMSconsulting would be advisory.
And by advisory what I mean is that it’s up to each client who’s decided to become a member in the offerings to really take responsibility for your own program. An example would be the timeline. There is actually a recommended timeline for candidates who have a specific goal around skills development or otherwise. But you have to ask yourself is that timeline right for you and your developmental program.
Maybe you need 12 months, 24 months, whatever it is. It’s up to each client member to again take a step back and really evaluate the recommended timeline.
I wouldn’t advise deviating too far from the timeline and rushing through the program because really what’s the benefit in that? You really want to make sure that you have an opportunity to digest the content, pressure test it and then again move forward in a way that helps you develop and grow as you structure your own program.
The next thing is to actually have goals. It’s hard to run any race or I should probably say a marathon if you don’t have a flag in the ground called your final goal. Now, along the way, you may have water stops which means you have key milestones. But again, as you’re owning it and defining what your program should look like you’ve also got to have key milestones, key aha moments.
My suggestion would be to align it with a real-world maybe business project, and maybe you have the milestone goal of really developing a skill to brainstorm problems that you may face as a part of this project. Maybe you’ll realize that if you’re not able to brainstorm at this point that you may be stuck so this may be one way to think about a specific skill called brainstorming that you would certainly develop as a member of the TCO program.
And, man oh man, as you move through your own project maybe it’s time to switch gears and upgrade your skills to the FC Insider program or the premium program because the more advanced skills and the advanced content really will take you and your delivery, I’m sure, at work to the next level.
Also, I would add in there coaching. Coaching because when you’re able to take a step back and really think of the client videos that are a part of the TCO part of it, you’ll be able to look over the shoulder, see how the coach provides feedback to the candidate and be ready to hear some pretty tough feedback but also some really complimentary feedback as candidates advance through the program.
The real opportunity for you is to see yourself as a client being coached is to apply it, to apply it and see whether or not that coaching is relevant for you. I’m pretty sure it always is but if you think that there are ways that you can tweak that coaching and get more use out of it it’s up to you to do it.
But it’s definitely there as an option and again because the partners coaching clients on video have been on the front end of being an analyst or being an entry-level business person after college or business school, developing along the way through client engagements and participating in key projects that really do drive results in their current role at their current organization, these folks have advanced to the senior executive levels like I said industry experts, partners in major firms, so you can be confident that by viewing the videos and opening yourself up to seeing it as a coaching opportunity you are being coached by the best of the best who delivered results against their own goals, in their own careers.
ADVICE TO FIRMSCONSULTING MEMBERS ON HOW TO STRENGTHEN PROFESSIONAL SKILLS
My specific advice for those who are participating in the foundational programs (part of Premium membership) and anyone who’s actually advancing through to become an FC insider and has exposure to the premium services is to really map out and follow a timeline that is unique to your own professional development and the content that you really want to apply in your current career or your career going forward.
You’ve got to really make sure that you have really narrowed your focus around key skills that you want to develop, whether it’s problem-solving, strategic thinking or essentially being a better coach to your peers or anyone who reports to you. Following a specific unique timeline will give you the confidence that you’re moving through, hitting your developmental goals and really going to be able to look back and say, “Hey, I’m a better business person because I’ve applied the content of this program.”
The second thing and this is really, really important is you know there’s this sort of learning by watching and that’s important because that’s how you do your prep work. Following the timeline and then watching the coaching videos where a client is being coached by a partner that’s observing. There’s a very different process that goes on in terms of your ability to digest and be able to really develop skills that you can apply is to practice. You’ve got to watch and practice. Practice by doing.
As an example, if the client on the video is going to learn about how to estimate market size, there are three or four preparation videos that you can watch and observe. But what my recommendation is to not only watch and observe but even in those prep videos to sit down and see the question, stop and pause the video, attempt to work out the problem, meaning pen to paper putting your thinking cap on, and see whether or not you’re heading in the right direction or quite frankly you’ve solved the case.
Then you can push play, see how it went and then know that you’re not only watching but you’re learning by doing. We know that in certain research worlds that you’re going to get long-lasting development and training when you actually build those neurons that are growing and stretching, just as your skills are growing and stretching.
And my final piece of advice would be never give up, never give up, never give up. Believing that you have what it takes to move through the program, get to the final set of modules and be more successful. And being more successful might be transitioning to a different role within your firm. It might be, to quite frankly, jumping over and getting a good look professionally at another industry. It may be simply engaging your heart and mind in new personal development skills that’ll be long-lasting and meaningful for any client, based on any goal that you may have.
HOW PURSUING CAREER GOALS HAS CHANGED FOR DENISE
How pursuing my career goals has changed? It’s I’m able to really hone in on what I want, how I’m gonna get there, and why I’m pursuing the career goals in the first place. In terms of how I’m going to get there it’s what are my timelines, what are the resources that I need to get there, are they attainable or do I have to pivot and shift directions. Because as much as I determine the how maybe I’m not quite clear on the why.
You know, speaking of the why, aligning my goals to my passions in life it’s extremely important to me. And because I’ve been able to map out you know what it is I want the why just as a natural thought process really does challenge you to come up with the reasons why you want to achieve a goal. And again it kind of ties into what I’ve said all along and that is anything worth pursuing, anything that you determine how you’re going to pursue it, being a part of FIRMSconsulting program it actually affirms one of my central values that I’ve had all along and that is pursuing your career goals with passion, purpose, and integrity. The why and the how, if integrity is not a key part of that, well what do you get at the end of it? I heard this funny saying that if you are running a rat race with sort of no potential goal in mind, no matter what you do, whether you pushed up and you step off the treadmill at the end, it still makes you a rat.
I’m no rat. I want to win, keeping integrity at the forefront is very, very important in terms of being a successful client and applying the key insights and the foundational skills that are inherent to the FIRMSconsulting program.
WOULD DENISE RECOMMEND FC TO BUILD YOUR PROFESSIONAL SKILLS
In terms of what would I recommend to someone and why, it’s simply this. If you’re watching this video it means that you’re looking for ways to grow and develop. My one piece of advice is go for it, make the commitment. People who are looking for information and again come across this video it means that you want more. You want more out of your career, you want more out of life and you’re looking for ways to raise and elevate the contribution that you either intend to make or you are making now, and you want to enhance it.
This is a program that will absolutely develop your skills and deliver that value. So really, my only piece of advice, my recommendation is go for it. Commit. You will not regret it. I know I haven’t.
WHAT IS NEXT? If you have any questions about our membership training programs (StrategyTV.com/Apps & StrategyTraining.com/Apps) do not hesitate to reach out to us at support @ firmsconsulting.com. You can also get access to selected episodes when you sign-up for our newsletter above. Continue developing your strategy skills.
PODCASTS: If you enjoy our podcasts, we will appreciate it if you visit our Case Interviews channel or Strategy Skills channel or The Business of Management Consulting channel on iTunes and leave a quick review. It helps more people find us.