Options: Carrot. Stick. Trust. Guess what works?

Consultant pilot fish has been assigned to this client company for years -- and though he likes the client, he's getting bored with his project.

"I was in consulting because I liked variety," says fish. "The client had plans to develop a new system using the then-new Java technology, which looked really interesting, and that manager said they'd love to have me on the project, while keeping my subject matter expertise available for my previous project.

"But I didn't have Java skills, and didn't have enough after-hours time to gain the knowledge necessary on my own."

OK, fish thinks, what about company-paid classes? He researches the options, selects a training company, gets an OK from the regional manager and the money is approved.

A few days later, he gets a letter from the office. It's a contract to get the training -- with a clause that says if fish leaves in the next two years, he has to pay back the cost of the training. He calls the marketer -- who says it's the first he's heard about it.

Next day, the marketer and regional manager show up at the client site to discuss the situation. Fish explains that he's not willing to sign an agreement that locks him down for years. Regional manager -- who's not used to being told no by consultants -- accuses fish of threatening to quit if he doesn't get his way.

"In reality, my commitment was to the client, not to him or the consulting firm," fish says. "I wasn't worried about being fired -- the client loved me, wasn't covered by the non-compete and had repeatedly tried to hire me."

Then the client manager catches wind of the conversation. Fish explains he won't get training for the new project, but he'll live up to his commitments to the client.

A few days later, fish hears from the marketer again. Sign up for the classes, he says, and we'll cover reasonable expenses, with no payback contract required.

Agreed, fish tells him. And when fish learns of a package deal where he can get twice as many courses from the training company for the same cost, the marketer says that's fine -- so long as the total cost isn't higher, he doesn't care how fish spends the money.

Fish is happy, the client is happy, and the consulting company eventually gets lots of revenue from fish working on the new Java project.

"And as I found out later, they got the client to split the training costs," says fish.

"But I don't think I ever spoke with the regional manager again. He was gone within six months."

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