I'm presently in another state, all the way across the country pretty much, doing a consulting assignment that will last a fairly long time. I will get to go home every couple of weeks, but otherwise, it's a tough adjustment as far as time goes.

The best thing about being a consultant is that you usually go into a new assignment in one of two roles. One of those roles is as an independent, where you're pretty much responsible for yourself, do your tasks, hopefully collect the glory and go home. The other role is in some leadership capacity, where you'll hopefully be able to establish that you're not a threat to anyone, work with people towards a common goal, have them beg you to stay, then go home because you like where you live.

This time around, I'm in the leadership capacity, and though I like it, sometimes people come into these things not quite knowing how to integrate themselves smoothly enough so that they don't do any damage that they'll then have to work hard to overcome. That may sound ominous, but I hear stories all the time about new leadership coming into a place and establishing that they're "the boss and things are going to change around here". That kind of thing never works for long, if it works at all. People may bow to the will of such a person, but they do so unwillingly, which means you never get their best effort, and those types of leaders never achieve everything they've hoped to achieve.

I like to do things a little bit different; of course I do. My first day at the new office, I went around with the person I'm reporting to, meeting the top brass. I got a little bit of knowledge as to what he felt some of their issues might be. He introduced me to my direct reports, then showed me my office, and from that point I was on my own.

The first thing I did was go back to where I knew at least one of those new direct reports was and said I wanted to meet with the three of them at a certain time, and I decided to meet them in their space, rather than my new space. I began the meeting by saying my name again, in case they didn't remember it (I'm bad with names), and told them that I'm not there to take anyone's job or replace anyone, because I have a home, a place I love to live, and when the assignment was over I was going back home. That broke the ice, because I've found that, often, people think when an interim consultant comes in that they're going to immediately look at people to get rid of.

The next thing I said was that I knew there were some issues to deal with, and that I was going to need every one of them to give me input as we went through the process of corrective action wherever necessary. I told them I was there to support them in any way possible, but that I was there to do a job, and the job was going to get done, and that shared glory goes a long way. Then we talked, and it was productive conversation. That's what I like, people sharing with me their thoughts, me giving them my thoughts, and, in this case, we all seemed to agree on a direction; whew.

One other thing I did was walk around and introduce myself to everyone that was going to be reporting to me, even indirectly. I'm not the type of leader who sits in my office, hiding from everyone at all times. I like to be visible, yet I also know when I need to be alone in my office, thinking about ways to implement change, or open communications.

The last day of my first week is tomorrow, and I have four meetings scheduled; ouch! And yet, each one of these meetings is helping me to evaluate and learn what's going on. I even initiated two of the meetings, opening dialogues with other departments that have never had any pertinent discussions with the department I'm leading; that's just phenomenal. And yet, it's also common; usually there are what I like to refer to as multiple little ponds with a big fish in the middle, and the big fish is only concerned with his pond and how other ponds are taking away attention from his pond, not how a combined effort of fish from both ponds might possibly be beneficial to the overall state of things. It's not always intentional either; sometimes, leaders tend to be myopic without knowing it.

When you can get other people to talk with you, then work with you, it makes your job a whole lot easier to do, even if the job you have to do is a hard one. One can never have enough information or enough ideas from others, because somewhere in there, great ideas and relationships develop. If you're willing to share of yourself, others will share with you. And who can think there's anything wrong with that?