Culture Matters!

Interdependent cultures require mature leadership and encourage employees to lean into their strengths.

The top 15 global management consulting companies employ more than 2.2 million people and generate more than $400 billion in revenue (2021 data). You would expect the largest firms would nurture talent, but only some do. Organizational culture is the difference between exceptional professional service firms that encourage talents and abilities to flourish and those who don’t.

Several high-quality consulting firms stand out because their culture is focused on bringing out the best in each individual. If you want a career in management consulting and consider yourself a high-potential, top-quartile performer, this is where you want to be. Here is what to look for when assessing corporate culture and whether it’s a good fit.

Independent cultures encourage leaders to be captain of their own ship, not part of a flotilla. Being independent implies having power over your ecosystem. Success is measured and based upon individual achievement and results, not on collaborative effort. In some large consulting firms there is a subtle, yet pervasive authoritarianism that demands obedience. People use terms such as “my people” to describe their domain. Often, with nuance, employees organize themselves into different camps where loyalty to the leader is paramount. Interpersonally, people are polite, but “winning” over others for recognition and resources is prevalent.

Interdependent cultures encourage leaders to collaborate to deliver unique solutions. These cultures necessitate more interpersonal interaction and deeper discussions. Setting aside the ego’s desire for dominance is essential. Interdependent firms offer transformational problem-solving, not just tactical solutions. The very best professional firms work with clients to rapidly scale, expand business models, implement innovative processes, and add value to the customer’s experience. There is an unspoken precept that everyone’s contribution can only fully manifest as a result of the team’s collective effort.

Talent is nurtured and people are able to move into different areas, both internally and externally facing. There is real respect for authentic, impactful leadership.

Professional consulting firms with an interdependent culture provide the best opportunity for individual growth. Only interdependent firms add strategic value to their clients. Good firms solve client problems. Great firms add strategic value and provide a more exciting expanding career track.

10 Markers of Interdependent Firms

We’ve identified 10 markers of top-quality interdependent professional consulting firms.

  1. They invest more dollars into professional development. When leadership invests in your Success, you are a valued part of the collective whole.
  1. They transform and evolve over decades. If a firm can’t adapt, how can they help clients innovate and implement new ideas and technology?
  1. Leaders consistently demonstrate ego maturity through selfless listening skills, grounded optimism, emotionally intelligent self-disclosure, and genuineness. Authentic mature leadership is essential.
  1. Talent Management is a competitive differentiator. The C-suite deeply comprehends that psychologically mature leaders are the real key to a great culture. So the role of HR head reflects this competitive insight. For example, the more visionary companies assign the title “Chief Leadership and HR Officer” as opposed to the “CHRO” or “Chief People Officer” titles. HR’s counsel is highly valued; they have a seat at all important tables.
  1. Performance reviews are seen as opportunities for meaningful career conversations about strengths and how strengths can be best leveraged. Independent cultures usually focus more on weaknesses and where you need to “improve” or “change.”
  1. The interview process for selection is longer and involves more people. This is because the team, collectively, wants to make certain a new hire fits within the group and organizational dynamics.
  2. Leaders are highly compensated because clients are willing to pay a premium for their advice. Compensation is wholistic and not just financial. Leaders are able to take sabbaticals to reset and refresh their mindset. Leadership development opportunities, job rotation, and stretch assignments create new and exciting opportunities for growth.
  3. There are robust internal mentoring and career counseling programs and processes. Active career guidance is an ingrained part of the culture.
  1. Diversity is seriously valued and isn’t just a paragraph in the annual report. At the most senior levels, it is recognized that diversity leads to more robust creative thinking and drives higher revenue and profitability.
  2. Business units view each other as members of the same team. Whether it’s corporate versus the field or client-interfacing versus the back office, there is an appreciation and respect for each other’s contributions to the success of the whole.

Lean Into Strengths

Interdependent cultures require mature leadership and encourage employees to lean into their strengths. Independent cultures are the opposite. They don’t foster people’s highest capacities; they seek hard-working employees who adequately perform their role. Thus, psychologically advanced leadership isn’t really necessary. The trickle-down effect here can be toxic.

If you want to grow professionally and add strategic value to clients, an interdependent corporate culture is the #1 attribute to look for. Culture matters!

Dr. George Watts and Laurie Blazek
Dr. George W. Watts is chairman of Top Line Talent. He is an author, behavioral scientist, and senior executive. His passion is to inspire people to believe in themselves by maturing their natural personality strengths. Dr. Watts started his career as a sales trainer and rapidly moved into senior management positions. Hehas been a CEO of a mid-cap publicly traded company, and EVP of two large service companies. He received his doctoral degree in Counseling Psychology from the College of William and Mary, and is Foundation Board President for the Society for Psychologists in Management (SPIM). George is the co-author of “Becoming a Strategic Leader” and co-creator of the TLT Coaching Program. Laurie Blazek is President and CEO of Top Line Talent. She has more than 25 years of consultative selling and leadership experience as a managing and executive director for several multinational banks, including: JP Morgan, Citigroup, and Bank of America. She has held senior positions in a wide variety of sectors, including corporate and investment banking, and private banking. She also founded her own financial advisory firm, providing guidance and counseling to individuals and couples in budgeting, investment management, and retirement planning. Blazek received an MBA with a concentration in Finance from DePaul University and a BS in Business from Illinois State University. She also holds a Certified Financial Planner designation. Blazek is the co-author of “Becoming a Strategic Leader” and co-creator of the Top Line Talent consultative selling skills program.