I love House.
I think we all like to empathise with the outsider, the maverick, the tormented genius.
And in our professional lives, many of us secretly long to be able to play that role – at least sometimes. To be able to just use our huge brains to solve clients' problems without having to deal with the complex, messy emotional issues. To not have to deal with feelings & relationships. To just get on and do our job. “If only we didn't have to deal with clients…”
Often we label this emotional side of the job as “politics” – when in reality it's just dealing with people.
Of course, Gregory House doesn't put up with all that. He avoids seeing patients – because they all lie about their symptoms anyway. He uses cold, hard facts to make his diagnosis.
And he always gets it right.
It's a very seductive image. Dangerously so – because the real world just doesn't work like that.
For accountants, consultants, lawyers and other professionals; how we interact and deal with people has a huge impact on our success – that's hardly new news.
When we're selling our services, we#ve always known that at least to some degree, clients decide emotionally and justify rationally.
But often we castigate them for that – how foolish of them not to pick the “right person for the job” just because they didn't get on with them, or they didn't have great interpersonal skills.
But the idea that somehow the highly technically competent person with no social skills is the right person and has been unlucky in not being hired is just pure fantasy.
In reality, it takes great social skills to truly succeed in performing professional roles: Dr Kildare's bedside manner not Dr House's.
In the world of consultants and others who focus on organisational improvement there's a phrase that's as true today as when I first heard it nearly 20 years ago.
A B grade plan with an A grade implementation is infinitely better than an A grade plan with a B grade implementation.
Organisations only change and improve to the degree which their people change and improve. The greatest ideas and plans in the world are no good if you don't have the people skills to get them implemented.
So in fact, the “foolish client” who based a lot of their hriring decision on which consultant they got on well with and they felt would “connect” with their people actually made a highly rational decision. They hired the person most likely to successfully implement change in their organisation. The technocrat with poor people skills would have had great ideas and produced a great report – but that report would be left on the shelf unimplemented.
Or take an architect. If they can't connect with their clients, they can't find out what they're really looking for. They won't be able to get behind “I'll know it when I see it” to a deep understanding of what would really delight their client.
Even lawyers and accountant need their clients to open up to them, to share with them what they're really looking for. They need to understand how they really feel and to get real feedback on their performance in order to do a great job.
In the real world, it's Dr Kildare not Dr House who gets the best result.
The learning for business development?
Often, the skills you need to attract and win new clients are actually the skills that will make you a great professional. Don't view them as two different worlds.