Looking Back: Personal Development

The first time I had the opportunity to lead a client meeting as an Associate Consultant, I was sure that bringing supporting documents to our presentation of a research deliverable would be a waste of time. My mentality was— “why would our clients want to see where we got the information from, so long as we had pertinent information?” Needless to say, my Lead Consultant quickly steered me away from a potentially disastrous first client meeting, and we went in with plenty of documents to support our research.

This is my go-to story for development within SOURCE, for it highlights the ideal learning scenario. A majority of the development that occurs throughout one’s time at SOURCE is through hands-on experiences like this, something that cannot organically be taught in a classroom or workshop. As easy as it may be to simply say, “be prepared to back up what you say in client meetings with evidence,” it does not equate to the feeling one feels when the client asks for supporting evidence before even looking at the deliverable, and knowing you had just been advocating for leaving it all behind.

Being wrong or making a mistake does not always have to be a negative, and at SOURCE it certainly isn’t viewed as one.

There is always someone (or lots of people) to support you should something go wrong, and ultimately it all adds to the development experience. I now make sure I go into every client meeting with sufficient evidence to back my statements, and am always prepared to provide more information to the client should they delve deeper into the research I conduct.

Having such a meaningful learning opportunity early in my time at SOURCE has driven me to foster an atmosphere of constant discussion and learning within my teams. Through my experience, I have found that taking risks is crucial to development, particularly in an environment where one can feel comfortable taking them. I took a risk (albeit perhaps a foolish one) demanding we don’t take any supporting documents into our meeting, because I felt comfortable as a first-year Associate Consultant to make that decision. It wasn’t the correct one, but I learned a great deal from it, and knew I could trust my team to not let me fall on my face if I took other risks and turned out to be incorrect again.

Of course, there is no one way to foster a team environment in which people feel comfortable taking risks and being pushed out of their comfort zone. Fundamentally, people lean towards risk aversion, and it takes time to broaden one’s horizons to be able to feel comfortable practicing some risk-seeking tendencies. Personally, situational confidence has had the greatest impact in my risk-taking decisions, as having more confidence allows one to better operate outside of their comfort zone. On Team Pilgrim Place, we have been working on fostering client-facing confidence through active engagement and responsibility during client meetings, with everyone on the team from the Lead Consultant to First-Year Associates taking charge of their section of client presentations and meetings. The confidence buildup is evident, even after one or two client-facing interactions, particularly among the Associates. Overcoming the initial mental hump of speaking up, and feeling proud of being the driving force behind the discussion at hand is something I have always found to be successful in developing confidence.

Now into my third year at SOURCE, I still seek opportunities in which I can continue to take risks and facilitate my development. It has been quite some time since my almost disastrous first client meeting, but the same eagerness to go with my gut and pursue new opportunities has stayed with me. Moving forward, I hope I will continue to facilitate the environment of growth for others in the organization.

By Rei Imada