Fishing is supposed to be peaceful. You're not supposed to care whether you catch any fish. It's supposed to teach you patience.
Unless, of course, you're a commercial fisherman.
Consulting is the same way, and we do a little of it here at Pro Rhetoric, LLC. A very little bit of it. I'd say our consulting business is … peaceful.
We make our daily bread on Vital Speeches subscriptions and Professional Speechwriters Association membership fees, and through training—live events that you either attend or don't, on the date we say.
For my taste (and my nerves) consulting gigs rely too much on the current at the client. And these days, it seems to me, in organizations, that the current is the only thing there is. At a recent PSA Leadership Communication Days roundtable, everyone went around the room and identified why they came. All 25 said it's because their organization is going through a terribly disorienting transformation. It got to be a joke.
I can't tell you how many times I talk to a communicator who urgently needs help in executive speaker coaching, thought leadership or leadership storytelling—pretty stable, basic subjects that all organizations should always be working on.
So I connect them with the perfect consultant—I know a lot of people and I'm a good matchmaker—and they have a terrific call, everyone's impressed and super excited and they'll get back in a week with dates for the first engagement.
Then nothing. Then nothing some more. Then six weeks later or six months—priorities have changed.
This happens over and over and over again. In fact, it happens far more often than it does not.
I'd be more philosophical about it if I understood it a little better.
I can't figure out if that's just how fishing goes, in which case most full-time consultants must have at least 50 lines in the water at any given time, and a deeply zen attitude about eating. (And about juggling the rods if a dozen bite at once.)
Or are corporate masters flakier than they used to be? Would-be dynamic, storytelling thought leaders today, technocratic cost-cutters next week, but we'll get back to you if something changes?
In any case, the whole thing reminds me of a pal of mine who came of age in the late 1960s. Away at college, he received word from a hometown pal that the local high school girls had moved in together and formed an orgiastic nudist commune.
He eagerly returned at spring break, arriving at the commune house only to find all the girls fully clothed.
"Oh yeah," one of them said, "these days we're into Baha'i."