• 29th May 2007 - By proteman

    In the old roadrunner cartoons, Wile E. Coyote had a business card. It said:

    Wile E. Coyote, Genius

    Now I can’t say that I’ve been handed a business card with a “Genius” title on it. But I have come across a lot of self-proclaimed “Gurus” lately.

    I’m a member of the professional networking site, LinkedIn . Just for fun, I ran a search of my network (contacts and my contacts’ contacts) to see how many people call themselves gurus. I found 53. Outside of my network, there were hundreds more.

    Gurus galore.

    There were your run-of-the-mill gurus. Marketing gurus. Sales gurus.

    And there were some highly specialized gurus. I found a “70s music guru”, lots of “recruitment gurus” and a “dp api guru” who worked for a major software company.

    It seems that many companies want to hire gurus as consultants, usually with a heavy price tag…to motivate the troops or work some kind of magic in the organization. Gurus are often seen as a quick fix. They are expected to fly in like bees, speak at a conference or talk to an executive team, pollinate their people with magic dust, then jettison out.

    So what makes someone a guru? Here’s a definition from Answers.com:

    “An advisor or teacher. The term, which comes from Hinduism, refers to a spiritual teacher. ‘Gu’ means darkness, and ‘ru’ means light; thus a guru turns ignorance into enlightenment.

    In the west, the term has been interpreted quite often as simply an expert in a field, whether that person helps you learn or understand anything or not.”

    So let’s say your company is looking to hire a guru – a high-powered consultant, speaker or advisor. How do you know you’re really getting a guru (someone who can turn ignorance into enlightenment)…and not some self-proclaimed genius who decided to quit corporate life and hang out a “guru” shingle?

    Here are some tips for hiring a guru for your business:

    • Beware of people who call themselves gurus. As my husband says, “Any self-respecting guru would be embarassed about being called a guru.” (Can you imagine great people like Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein or Vince Lombardi calling themselves gurus?)
    • Peel back the layers. When you think you’ve found your guru, ask lots of questions to make sure there’s substance beneath the surface. Many consultants and “experts” talk a good game (like salespeople), but lack the smarts or common sense to deliver results. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions to make sure you’ve found the right person.
    • Set realistic expectations. If you’re expecting to hire a guru to work miracles in your organization, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment (and wasted money). Be clear about why you want to bring in a guru. Is it to motivate the troops for a day? Do you want behavior or cultural change in your organization? Or do you just want a smart person to come in and talk tough to your leadership team? Before engaging your guru, ask yourself, “Is this really what we need…and will it really solve our problems?” Or are we just looking for a quick fix?

    © 2007. Phyllis Roteman, The Loyalty Group. All Rights Reserved.

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