At The Gunter Group, the leadership traits and characteristics that define us are our Non-Negotiables: Collaborative, Integrity, Intellectual Curiosity, Thrives in Ambiguity, Emotional Intelligence, and Grounded Confidence. These traits and characteristics guide us every day in our interactions with clients, each other, and our community.

When I think of intellectual curiosity, I think of someone who is constantly yearning for new input and has a natural curiosity to learn and understand complex systems. Someone who is aware of their blind spots, has the motivation to seek out additional expertise when needed, and focuses on improving their decision making abilities.  

At The Gunter Group, we search for individuals who exhibit intellectual curiosity because this trait tends to be a significant indicator of someone who makes good decisions and thoughtful recommendations. Almost everything we do in consulting is about helping our clients make the most informed decisions possible, ranging from small-scale projects to strategic visioning.  

I was recently talking to a client about some challenges a potential client was having with Workday. They had already implemented the software but it wasn’t operating well—business units weren’t happy and were finding it difficult to agree on ways to improve it. Frustration was growing and their leadership team approached us, asking for process improvement and system configuration to resolve the issues. 

So, I got curious about their situation, wanting to dig into the root cause of the problem and determine the underlying causes of frustration. As we talked further, the CIO shared more about each business unit and their respective leaders. It became clear that they were unable to find consensus when it came to problems stemming from the application. Even when they could agree on WHAT should be done, they would disagree on HOW. 

Through a series of conversations, I helped the client pivot from the assumption that they had a Workday problem to a realization that their core issue was around decision making and governance. Now we are working with this client to address the root cause of their issues and it was my curious inclination that led to a solution which will have lasting impacts within their organization. 

On a more personal level, intellectual curiosity has been a recurrent theme throughout my life. My undergraduate experience was a function of my interest to rigorously investigate the philosophical roots of my own belief system. I found the most difficult program I could, one that would challenge me on multiple levels, and pursued it as a source of intellectual growth. My military career was punctuated by the sheer enjoyment I found in having to learn new jobs frequently. The life of a Junior Officer in the Navy was one in which I made frequent role changes in order to quickly learn how to effectively balance mission completion and shipboard life. 

And now, as a Principal Consultant and a Market Leader for TGG, managing work across multiple clients in multiple states, my career in consulting is still satisfying my thirst for knowledge because of the opportunity to learn new things with every new client engagement. Enjoying the opportunity to shift from client to client is one of the main reasons consultants enjoy what they do and that is certainly true for me. It fosters both intellectual curiosity and engagement with the work itself. I’ve always said that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up; a sentiment stemming from curiosity in many different domains. Consulting is where my natural intellectual curiosity intersects with the real world and TGG offers the opportunity to grow and thrive in a constantly shifting environment. 

More about Tony Schweiss:
Tony builds teams to support strategic change initiatives and helps leaders plan for highly impactful change. Thriving in the face of complex problems, he brings clarity to ambiguous situations and organizational questions. Leaders quickly come to trust Tony as a partner in making their tough decisions. A former Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy, Tony’s leadership and management philosophy is tempered by a career of bringing calm and planning to high-impact, high-stress scenarios. His track record of success in defining and overcoming challenges in demanding environments has led to consistent portrayals of him as an outstanding manager and a leader among his peers. 


At The Gunter Group, the leadership traits and characteristics that define us are our Non-Negotiables: Collaborative, Integrity, Intellectual Curiosity, Thrives in Ambiguity, Emotional Intelligence, and Grounded Confidence. These traits and characteristics guide us every day in our interactions with clients, each other, and our community.

Thinking of INTEGRITY as something that is non-negotiable requires that you define it as so much more than simply the absence of questionable behavior. At The Gunter Group, integrity is actively demonstrated in everything we do and is baked into the fabric of our culture, business, and day-to-day work.

Sometimes making choices based on integrity can be difficult or unpopular, but it’s critical in our work that we be willing to say what needs to be said.

Before joining The Gunter Group, I spent six years in the seminary, a career that offered no shortage of time spent discussing the meaning of integrity. My pastoral experience taught me how hard it can be to translate ethical theories into action—especially in the business world. When I first heard someone at The Gunter Group talking about integrity as a non-negotiable, I was skeptical. However, I quickly saw tangible evidence that not only convinced me of their commitment, but actually deepened my understanding of what true integrity looks like.

As an employee, I expect my employer to treat me with dignity and respect. In this way, The Gunter Group exemplifies this kind of integrity on a daily basis. The transparency and candor of our leadership team, the fact that they seek and incorporate feedback, and honor the diversity of experience, perspectives, and needs of employees sets the tone for the entire company. I’ve seen our Partners make long-term investments in their people, even at the expense of short-term gains. Rather than seeking growth and profit for their own sake, they see building a successful business as a means to provide opportunities for their employees and constantly seek improvement in everything from our 401k and health benefits to family-friendly policies and events.

In our work with clients, we practice integrity by focusing on results, first and foremost, and being truly worthy of trust as opposed to gaining it as a means to an end.

Each consultant contributes to The Gunter Group’s commitment to integrity. Sometimes making choices based on integrity can be difficult or unpopular, but it’s critical in our work that we be willing to say what needs to be said. No matter which client we are currently working with, integrity requires an honest assessment of our abilities, asking for help when needed, and following through on commitments. Additionally, integrity means celebrating a culture of inclusion and collaboration, always taking responsibility for ourselves and our work, and sharing credit where credit is due.  

In our work with clients, we practice integrity by focusing on results, first and foremost, and being truly worthy of trust as opposed to gaining it as a means to an end. When speaking about our clients and peers’ challenges and business problems, we do so with empathy and respect. We look for opportunities to exceed expectations and favor building an organization’s capacity over increasing their dependence on us. 

“Have the courage to say no.”

~W. Clement Stone

Finally, The Gunter Group embodies integrity by being willing to say “no.” On many occasions, I’ve seen The Gunter Group turn down work that didn’t align with our values. When the best solution for a client is one that doesn’t involve us, we recommend it anyway, even if it means less business for us in the short-term. 

When every decision is made through the lens of integrity, what many organizations think of as “nice to have” becomes fundamental. 


After being named the #4 Best Company to Work For in Oregon (medium business category), Oregon Business connected with us to publish an article highlighting The Gunter Group’s story.

We were excited to share our holistic, Non-Negotiables approach to client delivery with Oregon Business and to be highlighted in their magazine alongside the other 2020 winners on the ‘100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon’ list. Congratulations to all these awesome organizations! Read the full story at OregonBusiness.Com to learn more.


A couple months ago we learned that The Gunter Group ranked on the Oregon Business ‘100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon’ list for the 6th year in a row!

Specific rankings were announced at the annual awards celebration dinner hosted by Oregon Business on March 5, 2020 at the Oregon Convention Center. We are excited to share that we have been recognized as the #4 Best Company to Work For in Oregon – in the medium business category

Check out the full list on OregonBusiness.Com.


As part of our recognition as one of the nation’s Best Small Firms to Work For by Consulting Magazine, we put together this short video summarizing our unique, “listen first” approach and showcasing some of the people and values that make The Gunter Group such a rewarding place to work. We are so grateful for our team of talented consultants, the clients we get to serve, and the communities in which we live and work. Together, they create meaningful opportunities to solve problems and grow a thriving business. Special thanks to Magaurn Video Media for their outstanding production work that so beautifully represents The Gunter Group. We look forward to seeing how our firm continues to evolve and grow in the year ahead and remain deeply committed to the mission, values, and people who helped us get where we are today.


Veteran’s Day at The Gunter Group is pretty special. You see, 16% of our current employees are veterans so odds are good we have a front row seat for the incredible skills and experience they bring to their work as management consultants. When we say, “Thank you for your service,” to our friends and colleagues, we could just as easily be referencing their most recent success with a client or how they stepped up to lend a hand with our last project.

If we include military spouses, our percent of military-connected employees jumps to 22%. Several of us, like myself have direct experience as contractors for the military. In my case, I spent a summer living and working on a navy base in Italy years ago, directing programs for military families. Years later I provided career coaching for veterans and consulted for universities on how to tailor support services to meet the unique needs of military-connected students.

When we include all of the above military experience and affiliation, 27% of our organization has direct, first-hand experience with the United States Armed Forces, and that doesn’t include employees who grew up in military families!

This week, three of our veteran employees will join a panel at Portland State University to share how their military experience prepared them for various roles as consultants across multiple industries. At The Gunter Group, we know that diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives make us better as an organization. Hiring talent from less “traditional” consulting backgrounds has always been a priority for us (e.g., I represent one of two former archaeologists among our ranks!), and we have actively recruited veterans from our beginning in 2011. 

We’ve learned veterans are uniquely suited for the work we do. From operating on imperfect information and having to improvise to solve a wide range of problems in changing conditions to showing up with the utmost integrity, grounded confidence, and the rest of our non-negotiables, in every situation. Veterans have much to offer the business world and they are among some of our most successful employees.

Part of our motivation for continuing to grow our business is that it allows us to provide opportunities for those who have served to apply all that they’ve learned to work in the civilian world. By reaching out to our local community, mentoring other veterans to translate their military experience, we hope to see more veterans join The Gunter Group. We also promote military-friendly practices among our clients. It’s not only serving those who serve but it’s really good for business.


Birds of a feather flock together. 
Like seeks like.
You are known by the company you keep.

How do sayings like these burn themselves into our brains? It helps that they’re short and pithy, but I don’t think that’s the only reason. Perhaps a statement like “birds of a feather” has power because it’s true. And what truth lies beneath the cliches above? It matters who your friends are.

There’s plenty of science to back this up. A number of studies expand on the concept of homophily (coming from the Greek for “love of what’s similar”). Study after study shows that we seek out, consciously or subconsciously, people who are like us. And even when we differ from those around us, we start to mold our actions to be more like them. The people we spend our time with will influence our opinions, speech, music preferences, and even our health

All these studies point in one direction: the people around you literally help shape you into the person you are, and the person you will be tomorrow. 

It really does matter who your friends are. 

Looking at how a person spends their time will tell you a lot about that person. If I spend my evenings on hiking trails and in softball leagues, you would call me an athlete. If I get home from work most days and sit down at the piano for several hours of practice, you would call me a musician. If I head to the mountains every weekend with skis strapped to the top of my car, you would describe me as an avid skier. 

But what if I do all of these things? What if I spend my evenings and weekends doing all sorts of activities that don’t have very much in common? What would you call me in that case? 

You can call me a generalist

A Generalist Fits Everything Into a Day’s Work

At TGG, we’re generalists. Our consultants come from different backgrounds: some come from healthcare or finance, others come straight from the military or academia. My own background includes a 6 year chunk of time in the seminary. Every consultant at TGG has a unique background, and we bring these backgrounds to our work, no matter the client or industry. 

TGG also houses a diverse set of perspectives and approaches to business environments. We aren’t just project managers or data analysts; we do these things with a holistic perspective, one that spans industries, business cycles, and clients. 

Here’s an example. A client in healthcare might hire us to perform the work of a business analyst, collecting requirements and mapping processes for a new service offering. The person we place, however, is never just a business analyst. We provide someone who also has experience in change management or project delivery. The client benefits from having a generalist instead of a specialist, because the result (such as requirements gathering, in our example) is better tailored toward successful delivery. We perform work within context, bringing together lessons we have learned in a variety of environments to maximize the value of our present work. 

Generalists excel in all environments without having to master them. At TGG, we cultivate individuals who can thrive in ambiguity, rather than in any one particular familiar system. And the way we spend our time after the work day has a big effect on how we do that well. 

A Generalist Networks Broadly

You can tell a generalist by the shape of their calendar. As a case study, let’s take a quick look at mine. 

Over the past few weeks, my calendar shows a rather adventurous exploration of topics. This is the story of a generalist. Outside of working hours, I’ve had a number of networking events crammed into the margins. Here are a few examples: 

A few weeks ago, I attended a lecture on artificial intelligence in medicine. My colleagues and I have recently been working on articulating the impact of AI on the future of business, and were excited for the chance to reflect on advances in AI and machine learning in the healthcare industry. 

A week later, you could find me drinking coffee with change managers and discussing ways to use change management as a tool to better serve strategic planning by business leaders. Consultants in our People Practice have recently been synthesizing varying perspectives on change management to identify the key phases and activities that all good change management engagements must include (look out for a thought leadership piece on our blog soon!). This was a great chance for us to carry this conversation into a community of change management practitioners. 

A few days after that, I spent my evening at a talk by Kevin Ciccotti on the topic of how good leadership inspires good work. After Kevin finished speaking, I sat at a table with professional mentors, small business leaders, product owners, and project managers and discussed how we could put Kevin’s words into practice in our various industries and positions. Conversations like this spill into all the work that I do as a TGG consultant. 

Two days later, I swung by an early morning roundtable discussion on project management in manufacturing environments. Everyone in the room had experience leading projects, and we went around the room for an hour asking questions and sharing advice about how to make projects better. At TGG we recently created an internal bank of resources to help our consultants who are managing projects; roundtable discussions like these are a good way for us to test drive our resources with a group of experienced practitioners. 

Artificial intelligence. Change management. Strategic planning. Reflecting on Leadership. Project management. Why all these different things in one month? Because that’s just what we do at TGG. We specialize in quickly immersing ourselves into new contexts, bringing in a new perspective that adds value to the system. 

Our time inside and outside of the work day is an adventure. We get to learn about a hundred different topics and thrill at the chance to make connections between them. This enables us to bring a broad, integrated perspective to our work. 

At TGG our success comes from schedules like mine. It matters who you talk to. As generalists we talk to everyone. Spending our time like this helps to form us–speaking with such a wide array of professionals and therefore, helps shape who we are.

Interested in learning more about the life of a generalist? Check out this book on the subject. Want to hear more about how our generalist approach benefits our clients? Check out a couple case studies of how we successfully bring a broad perspective to our clients’ challenges.


At The Gunter Group, the leadership traits and characteristics that define us are our Non-NegotiablesCollaborative, Integrity, Intellectual Curiosity, Thrives in Ambiguity, Emotional Intelligence, and Grounded Confidence. These traits and characteristics guide us every day in our interactions with clients, each other, and our community.

At the Gunter Group, we consider EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, or “EQ,” essential for understanding and solving complex problems. In short, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage emotions in yourself and others. For us, it’s about more than accurately reading and adapting to social cues, although this is an important part of EQ. It’s pulling from the depths of our intelligence, experience, and heart to show up fully for ourselves, each other, and our clients. It’s an approach that not only feels great but gets the best possible results.

As consultants we’re accustomed to a steep learning curve, but EQ requires serious commitment to truly master and cannot be built overnight.

While emotional intelligence is often referred to as a “soft” skill, we think of it as quite a hard one – both in terms of tangible value and difficulty to master. I recall taking an EQ assessment early in my career for a job in the hospitality industry. What I thought of as sophisticated and mature responses at the time I now think of as cringeworthy. “Where was my self-awareness?!?” I think now, after gaining much experience and insight in the years since. It certainly didn’t come easily or overnight. I’ve learned that other skills can be taught, and as consultants we’re accustomed to a steep learning curve, but EQ requires serious commitment to truly master and cannot be built overnight, hence why it is one of the most important traits we look for when growing our team.

EQ enables us to challenge the status quo and deliver success without pushing too hard or coming in like a bull in a china shop. 

As stewards of our client relationships, our consultants must demonstrate the highest degree of emotional intelligence. With this in place, we can trust them to assess and respond to situations appropriately, enlist support as needed, persevere through challenges, and moderate their own impulses, especially during times of stress. Exceptional EQ also means being aware of potential burnout, building individual resilience, and integrating work into a fulfilling and healthy life. When our consultants thrive in and out of the office, they deliver outstanding value for the long haul.

Furthermore, emotional intelligence is essential for our other five non-negotiables, enabling and amplifying our most important traits. For example:

— Self-awareness, a component of EQ, keeps the ego in check (grounded confidence).

— We can sense when someone feels unheard or steamrolled and adjust accordingly to cultivate trust within a group (collaboration).

— Connecting to our own emotions keeps us rooted in a strong moral compass (integrity).

— Giving, receiving, and integrating feedback makes continuous learning and improvement possible (intellectual curiosity).

— High EQ people are better able to maintain optimism and intrinsic motivation in the face of uncertainty and rapid change (thrives in ambiguity).

Research shows that emotional intelligence in the workplace helps establish the psychological safety proven to increase group intelligence which then drives innovation. As one of our non-negotiables, EQ enables us to challenge the status quo and deliver success without pushing too hard or coming in like a bull in a china shop. 

Finally, when we enter a new engagement, understanding perceptions is crucial. I’ve been on the other side, when your company brings in an “outsider.” It can feel like a stranger who knows nothing about you or your work telling you how to do your job. We understand a degree of skepticism or even resistance to partnering outside your organization. Our clients have tremendous ownership and expertise – they are right to be protective of their work! It’s from a place of empathy and self-awareness that we navigate the at times tricky role of “third party” to eventually become true partners and trusted advisors. With emotional intelligence as a cornerstone, we know from experience that our non-negotiables will always lead to the best possible outcome for everyone.


This month, The Gunter Group was recognized as Consulting magazine’s #4 “Best Small Firm to Work For” in the nation.

TGG Partners, Mike and Ashleigh Gunter, attended the Best Firms to Work For gala awards dinner on September 19th at the University Club of Chicago. “Mike and I were honored to accept this award on behalf of our firm,” said Ashleigh Gunter. “This is a wonderful accomplishment and recognition of our supportive team culture and values-based approach to leadership.”

The Best Firm rankings were based on an annual survey of 11,000 consultants, representing more than 300 firms. The survey measured six different categories of employee satisfaction including: Client Engagement, Firm Culture, Firm Leadership, Career Development, Work/Life Balance, and Compensation & Benefits.

TGG ranked #1 in the Best Small Firm’s Leadership category as well as a top five firm in the Work/Life Balance, Compensation & Benefits, and Career Development categories and in the top 10 for the Client Engagement and Firm Culture categories.

“We are building a sustainable firm, and in it for the long-haul,” said Mike Gunter. “We will continue to grow and build in a way that is consistent with our values.” 

Learn more about TGG’s rankings in Consulting magazine’s September 2019 issue.

The Gunter Group is a management consulting firm headquartered in Oregon, serving the west coast with offices in Portland and Bend, Oregon, and Reno, Nevada. Learn more about us and the services we offer here.