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A BCG vet’s advice for aspiring consultants and future board members

“In particular for women, there seems to be a view that you can’t be both likable and respected. Don’t buy into that.”

By Kathryn M. O’Neill  |  May 4, 2017

2017-Moose

Sandra Moose

The Boston Consulting Group’s first female management consultant, Sandra Moose, spent more than 30 years with the company, serving as a senior partner and managing director from 1989 until her retirement in 2003.

Now a senior adviser for Boston Consulting Group and president of her own firm, Moose presented lessons for aspiring consultants — and future board members — at a campus talk for Sloan Women in Management May 2.  

Tips for consultants:

Listen well
“Listening is an active sport,” Moose said. Because consultants often work with experts in their fields, it’s especially important to be sure to understand everything clients say. “Synthesize what you heard and play it back.”

Be nice and respectful — to everyone
“In particular for women, there seems to be a view that you can’t be both likable and respected. Don’t buy into that; you can be both,” Moose said. “No one wants anyone in a position of leadership who is inherently not likable.”

Network wherever you go
Rather than concentrating on finding one perfect mentor, Moose recommended learning from every contact — from a young peer who can provide hands-on training to an older mentor who can offer guidance about how the organization works. “You can get some value out of everyone,” Moose said.

Speak up for yourself
Be an advocate for your own career, Moose said. “If you feel you’re not getting ‘juicy’ assignments, volunteer for them,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it, because it’s going to become obvious that you need the help.”

Tips for board members:

Moose, who has led and chaired more than 15 corporate and nonprofit boards over the years — including for Verizon Communications, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston — also offered a few suggestions for those interested in taking on a board position:

Develop your own career
“You’re going to be dealing with a lot of issues that CEOs deal with. They want people who have wrestled with these issues,” she said. Get a leadership position in your field before joining a board. Having financial and operational skills and experience can also help you land a board position, Moose said.

Maintain high ethical standards
“Speak out when you see things that are inappropriate or if people are making decisions that are wrong for the company. Remember you have your personal reputation to consider,” she said. Board members are there to prevent companies from making serious ethical, strategic, or financial mistakes, she said, so “be a loyal critic.”

Don’t micromanage
The goal of the board member is to provide oversight, not to run the company, Moose said.