– You know the type: You walk away clueless; happy, but clueless.

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I recently attended a management seminar in my neck of the woods. I don’t want to mention any names here but the speaker represented a consortium of consultants who specialized in a variety of subjects, such as business process improvement, tax laws, planning, technical writing, etc. The person making the pitch specialized in “life coaching” which, as I gathered, offered the same type of advice a good parent, guidance counselor or mentor would. I judged the speaker to be in his mid-to-late 30’s and was very preppy in dress. He tried the usual speaker stunts to stimulate the audience, such as saying, “How many of you has had this happen to you? Can I see a show of hands?” He also passed out prizes if you answered a question correctly, which made people look like trained seals being rewarded for tooting the horn and clapping. In addition to his histrionics, he was an entertaining speaker and used a good multimedia presentation to support his points. After awhile though, it became apparent there was little substance in his presentation, but you were supposed to go away feeling good about yourself, the consultant’s service, and a possible business relationship.

After the seminar I ran into a couple of the attendees outside in the parking lot and asked them what they took away from the pitch. They both replied, “Not much,” but they sure felt good about themselves. (I even thought I heard them humming “Kumbaya” as they walked away).

I’ve always wondered how speakers who offered more baloney than a delicatessen survived, but I’ve got a feeling they do quite well for themselves. Frankly, I don’t think people want to know the truth and would much rather be entertained. Truth is often sacrificed for panaceas which the public seems to thrive on. After all, why exercise and diet properly when a little pill will cause you to lose weight instead? It should come as no small wonder that a lot of snake-oil has been sold over the years. It seems the public will buy anything if we pitch it with slick talk and make people feel good about themselves. In other words, tell the audience what they want to hear, not what they need to know.

People tend to resent brutal frankness – it may be correct, it may be something that needs to be said despite the political ramifications involved, but people just plain and simply have a hard time dealing with reality and prefer living in a surrealistic comic book world instead.

Years ago we were contracted to study the problems of an information systems department for a large Midwest life insurance company. We studied the group carefully and impartially, gathered the facts, and presented our conclusions to the board of directors. We didn’t sugarcoat anything and told the executives precisely what the problems were and how to rectify them. The executives went into a bit of a state of shock as they had previously believed everything was running smoothly in their systems department. It wasn’t. They didn’t exactly like what we had to tell them, but they listened and to their credit acted on the information. Despite this, we were never asked back due to the embarrassing snafus we uncovered.

The point is, you can only be conned if you allow yourself to be conned. “Feel Good” speakers may be entertaining, but beware of their facade and seek substance instead.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mon, Wed, Fri, 12:30-3:00pm Eastern), KGAB-AM 650 “The Morning Zone” with host Dave Chaffin (weekdays, 6:00-10:00am Mountain), and KIT-AM 1280 in Yakima, Washington “The Morning News” with hosts Lance Tormey & Brian Teegarden (weekdays. 6:00-9:00am Pacific). Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube.

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