The McKinsey Kiss of Death

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The #1 reason new McKinsey consultants get fired is what I call the firm’s “kiss of death.”

What offense could be so egregious to warrant being fired?

It occurs when it’s been determined that you’re...

“Uncoachable.”

Huh?

The McKinsey culture involves others giving you a lot of feedback on how to improve your performance.

It also requires you to receive and act upon that feedback.

Rather than receiving this feedback, some new consultants get defensive and argumentative with their managers and partners.

Nobody comes into McKinsey perfect. If you were perfect, you’d be promoted to partner on your first day at work, instead of taking close to a decade.

We all have things to learn.

This is true whether you’re at McKinsey, another firm, or working in industry.

The ability to be “coachable” — able to receive feedback and adjust your behaviors accordingly — is THE key to success in any field.

Some consultants react to receiving constructive feedback as if they are in a dissertation defense.

If you made a small mistake, it’s okay as long as you learn from it and avoid repeating it again.

It’s not okay if you start arguing about how the mistake really isn’t a mistake or that it’s someone else’s fault that you made a mistake.

Making mistakes is how we all learn. It’s how human beings learn.

This is difficult for many perfectionists to appreciate.

(And there are many perfectionists at McKinsey.)

When someone gives you constructive feedback, the ideal response is to say:

“Thank you for the feedback.”

If the feedback doesn’t make sense to you, an appropriate response would be:

“I value your feedback. Could you clarify what you mean by providing a specific instance of when I did what you described?”

Other appropriate follow-up questions might include:

“I see... and instead of doing that, what should I have done instead?”

“I will work on that. The next time that situation comes up again, it would be great if you let me know if I did it any better or what else I need to do differently.”

When a highly talented new hire is coachable, it’s great.

You have confidence that they will keep improving over time.

Any short-term problems are just that... short-term problems.

When a new hire isn’t coachable, that person’s career is capped. They will eventually hit a ceiling on their skill growth.

At McKinsey, once it’s determined your skills have hit a ceiling, that’s when you get passed over for a promotion and asked to quit.

In industry, once your skills hit a ceiling, that’s when your career fails to progress further. Your career tops out.

The key to preventing this scenario from happening is simple...

Be Coachable.

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