Thursday, November 22, 2012

How to impress your McKinsey boss - Consulting rock stars are five-tool players

In this post I'll review the five consulting skills we look for and provide examples of how to demonstrate excellence in each of them.  The best consultants are good at all five and are distinctive, or "have a spike" in at least one.

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Knowing what a McKinsey person is looking for can help you make the right impression on your former McKinsey boss, your current Engagement Manager, or the management consultant who is interviewing you for a job.

This post is about the abilities of a great management consultant.  To learn more about the behaviors of a great consultant (or direct report to a former consultant), check out this earlier post on the 3 things you can do to keep your McKinsey boss happy.


The highest compliment a McKinsey consultant can receive is to be referred to as a "rock star" by their colleagues.  There's no specific definition for the term, but it's generally accepted to mean someone who is a top performer across every dimension that you'd look for in a great consultant.  Considering how selective the Firm is in hiring and how effective it is at developing talent, being called a rock star is high praise, indeed.  To be truly distinctive, you must be the consulting version of a five-tool player.


The concept comes from the sport of baseball and refers to the five most important skills for position players (everyone other than pitchers) - 1. fielding skills, 2. throwing arm strength, 3. running speed, 4. batting for average, and 5. hitting for power.  To be referred to as a "five-tool player", an athlete has to be exceptional along all of those dimensions.  Most Major Leaguers excel in at least one of the five tools.  All-Stars might be outstanding in three or four.  Five-tool players are rare and can often transcend the sport of baseball - examples include Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Ken Griffey, Jr.


Based on my experience, there is an equivalent list of five tools that any good management consultant must have.  Rock star consultants will outshine even their most talented colleagues along every one of these dimension.  The more you understand how your McKinsey boss evaluates talent, the better you can focus on becoming truly distinctive in your strengths and address your weaknesses.


Why it's important:  Building a credible fact-base often requires analyzing and making sense out of a large amount of data.  Also, deliverables often include models that the client will use after the study is over.
What excellence looks like:
    • High level of comfort working with numbers and understanding implications of data on the problem at hand
    • Ability to prioritize and focus on the areas, data, and analyses that will generate the greatest impact
    • Excel skills to build models that functional, error-free, and easy to hand-off to clients


Why it's important:  Consulting recommendations and insights are only helpful to clients if they can communicated in a clear and compelling way.
What excellence looks like:
    • Understanding of stakeholder needs and how to make topics relevant to them
    • Ability to synthesize large amounts of information and highlight the key takeaways
    • Crafting storylines that drive understanding and acceptance


Why it's important:  Help in solving their most pressing business issues is ultimately why clients hire management consultants.  Collaboration - both with the client and McKinsey leadership - ensure we consider the greatest range of and most applicable solutions.
What excellence looks like:
    • Extensive creativity, insight, and content knowledge to inform the best possible answers
    • Ability to work collaboratively with colleagues and clients to generate buy-in
    • Leveraging all available resources and expertise and incorporating them into solutions


Why it's important:  Our goal is to become the trusted advisor to our clients, not just deliver impact on individual engagements.  Getting clients actively engaged in our work increases the likelihood of buy-in, impact, and success.  It's also important that your McKinsey boss know that you're "client ready" and can trust you to lead client meetings on your own.
What excellence looks like: 
    • High emotional IQ and ability to empathize with and relate to clients at all levels of an organization
    • Genuine interest and investment in clients' long-term success
    • Professionalism, confidence, and poise that build credibility


Why it's important:  Consultants are expected to drive a large amount of impact in a short amount of time.  Timelines are often compressed so
What excellence looks like:
    • Talent for multitasking and driving impact across multiple workstreams
    • Efficiency and able to prioritize and focus on the highest-value tasks
    • Commitment to getting the job done, no matter how difficult or how long it takes


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