My appointment with the consultant was his first of the day, 8am, in the third floor conference room, the one with the overactive thermostat that was too hot in the winter and too cold in the summer. It was July so I made sure to bring a cardigan sweater. I arrived early to the office, drank my coffee at my desk while reading my online horoscopes. At 7:57am, I walked up the three flights of stairs to the conference room.
I was not prepared to find an enormous cockroach seated uncomfortably at the table. I muffled an alarmed squeal and jumped back out of the doorway.
“Come in, come in,” said the cockroach. “I’m used to it. Take a seat. I don’t bite.” He sounded cheerful.
I stood with my back to the hallway wall, peered into the room and confirmed that a giant cockroach, indeed, sat at the table. Several hairy appendages, bent slightly at 45-degree angles, sifted through papers. He dipped one appendage at a time in his mouth to better separate the pages.
My boss had told us that he hired the consultant to analyze our development team and make recommendations to ensure our fund raising success. I was a major gift officer. Our campaign, “An Excellent Legacy,” was expected to raise $50 million dollars for the school, a prestigious preparatory program for girls.
The cockroach bowed his head toward the door. “Please, come in. We only have an hour and much to discuss.” I had no choice but to edge my way into the room and sit down at the opposite end of the table, clutching my notebook.
“First things first,” he said. “My name is Carlyle, not Gregor. Gregor is a character in Kafka’s Metamorphosis and most definitely not a cockroach. He was a big beetle. Ask Nabokov. Google it. I am a fund raising consultant with expertise in personality analysis for major gift officers. My job is to help you become a better you.”
“Excuse me?” No one mentioned anything about personality analysis.
“I specialize in reviewing skill sets, aligning them to campaigns. So, let’s talk about you. Do you enjoy your work?”
“I love my work.” Carlyle’s antennae whipped in different directions as I spoke, like a lie detector test analyzing my response. I nodded my head too enthusiastically. “I love my work.”
I couldn’t read his facial expressions but I suspected he was smirking. “In reviewing your reports, it appears that you brought in $2 million two years ago but then dropped to $1 million last year. Why is this?”
“I was taking care of my mother during the last few months of her life. I admit I was unfocused.” The past year had been difficult—I lost my mom to cancer and, after six months of little work and much grieving, my boss, the VP of development, told me to “snap out of it.”
“Ah, yes. Your VP indicated this death in the family. I had to care for my father for several years. Old age, really. I had to cook for him.”
I raised my eyebrows in surprise – a cooking, consulting cockroach.
Carlyle sensed my disbelief. “One shouldn’t make assumptions about what a cockroach can and can’t do. Do you make assumptions about your clients?”
“Of course not, no. I try not to. My apologies.”
“It’s all about warmth, don’t you think? If you are genuinely empathetic and care about your clients, they will trust you with their money.”
I tried to face Carlyle without flinching, focusing on his exposed dark, vested underside, hoping that this was not a faux pas. “Yes, this is true. The more frequently I visit with a prospect and get to know them, I find that it is easier to make ‘the ask’ and they are more likely to give.”
“Your Briggs Myers test suggests you are an INTJ: introverted, intuitive, thinking, judging. You might be better suited doing research on prospects than actually meeting with them. Have you considered that?”
“Are you saying I should do something else?”
“Well,” Carlyle said, stroking the side of his head, “you wouldn’t have to leave the school. The fact of the matter is that soliciting donors isn’t part of your skill set.”
“OK, then. Perhaps I should go consider that.”
It was a Tuesday in July and the room was freezing and a giant cockroach just told me that I wasn’t suited for my job.