EP 035: Navigating toxic work cultures and conflict with Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew


“Knowing what is the water cooler conversation like [is important].  You might not learn it immediately, but you have got to pay to attention it.”

Quick Wins interview with Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew, a senior executive in the public sector, seasoned consultant, and author of 2 books, Ready for a Revolution: 30 Days to Jolt Your Life and Rules of Engagement: Making Connections.  In this interview, Dr. Booker-Drew shares her own career journey and then breaks down what a toxic work cultures and how to best manage workplace conflicts.

Links from today’s episode

EP 034: Disruptive Technologies 101 with Biren Gandhi

MECE 034 | Disruptive Technologies 101

“I think one of the crucial components of [disruptive technologies] is the people.  Ultimately it is the people who drive things forward and make critical decisions using the data.”

Quick Wins interview with Biren Gandhi, a senior key level technology executive based out of Silicon Valley.  A former Facebook & Cisco technologist, Biren provides our listeners with a deep dive on disruptive technologies such as Internet of Things (IOT), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and fog computing.   In this informative discussion, Biren provides definitions of the various technologies and shares insights on some of the key ways technology will continue advance into 21st century.

Listen to the Episode Here:

We’re going to do a Quick Wins interview. If this is your first time tuning in, Quick Wins is when I have an opportunity to connect with individuals discussing ideas, products or services to help round out your consulting toolkit. Our guest is Biren Gandhi. He is a technology senior executive, worked for a lot of cool companies such as Facebook and other tech firms. Biren is going to help facilitate what I call a disruptive technologies one-on-one conversation. I’ve had a lot of mentees and some go-getters that have been having conversations about all these cool technologies that’s coming and that’s hitting the marketplace. There’s a lot of noise in the system around AI, Artificial Intelligence, around blockchain, AR/VR and fog computing.

Biren came on the show graciously and started to break these down. He has a front seat as one of the tech senior executives that are helping drive this type of technology forward and in advancing that agenda. He’s going to break it down for us, get into the one on one. I know that you will find this conversation very informative. We don’t get a chance to even cover all of the various technologies. I’ve asked him to come back. If you’ve got questions, thoughts, opinions on the interview, feel free to drop me a line, MECEMuseUnplugged@Gmail.com. Other quick updates, go-getters, the Amazon, Kindle and Nook is available for my book The MECE Muse. We’re still taking pre-orders. The paperback is going to be released on February 20th, so make sure you do get your pre-order in. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback, a lot of positive thoughts and ideas, and so I’m super excited that people are enjoying the book. Make sure you grab your copy and be prepared for the paperback. I’m super psyched as the book launch continues to roll out. With that, I hope you enjoy this interview.

Interview with Biren Gandhi

Biren, thank you so much for joining us on The MECE Muse Unplugged. How are you doing?

Pretty good. It’s my pleasure to be on the show.

What part of the world are you in right now?

I’m in the Cupertino, the sunny Silicon Valley area right now.

MECE 034 | Disruptive Technologies 101
Disruptive Technologies 101: The whole world is working on that shared economy, shared knowledge and shared best practices.

Thank you so much for making time to connect. Before we get started with an important conversation on disruptive technologies, maybe you can introduce yourself to the go-getters of The MECE Muse Unplugged.

My name is Biren Gandhi. I have worked at Cisco for almost seven years doing a variety of things. Before that, in the past life, I’ve been fortunate to be in the pivotal stages of various interesting companies like Facebook and Zynga, and I had my own startup in between as well. I went on in Silicon Valley focusing on a variety of things, but throughout my career, I have focused on various levels of the stack of people especially who understand, right from the bottom of the stack to the top of the stack, closer to the machines, to more on the application and business side of things. As part of that, I have acquired a variety of knowledge across various verticals and domains. In a way it’s good, in a way it’s bad too. We try to leverage the best part of ourselves. Recently, what I was doing is focusing on this disruptive technology, technologies of the future, things which are going to make a difference for us in the next five, ten, fifteen or twenty years. A lot of technological buzz is going around and sometimes it’s very difficult to fine-tune. What I’ve been doing is focusing on various aspects of engaging with technology companies in a variety of capacities. Sometimes it’s by investment, sometimes it’s by mergers and acquisitions doing the due diligences, sometimes by working with them in the partnership role, sometimes co-innovating, co-developing the solutions, sometimes just helping them go to market and have a holding hand towards the future. It’s pretty interesting, the world and time we are living in right now.

You have a story background in working with some of the most innovative companies in the world. How did you get started in this field and what keeps you going?

Sometimes it’s a matter of destiny, honestly speaking. At the beginning of their career, people have limited choices. I too had the same set of choices in terms of where can I go, depending on the skill set you have acquired by training or by your comfort zone or by whatever means. There are some choices but along the way, every one of us can make those specific choices which lead us into a specific direction where we want to go in. At least having a definite goal, maybe it’s an abstract goal to begin with, but having some goal of which direction or what’s the end point I want to go in eventually, for someone who is starting their career, that’s a very crucial point. Along the way, whenever there is a decision-making time, you’ll make the decisions which are in congruence with your long-term goal. That creates the path. Sometimes the path is not linear, sometimes you might have to come back and take the next fork in the road and go ahead with that. With an open mind and an open eye, people can survive and make the best use of their time in moving towards their ultimate goal.

I’m glad that we’re getting a chance to connect with you and that we’re going to have such a seasoned expert give us a real drilldown of disruptive technologies. I’m dubbing this episode, Biren, as Disruptive Technologies 101, because I continue to get questions from mentees or from younger consultants. Hearing a lot of noise, hearing a lot of buzzwords but not being able to make sense of it or connect the dots, this is going to be a very popular episode. I’ve created a list of different words that I know I hear or see or read about, and would love for you to just unpack each word for us, what that specific technology is and how it may be currently used that we may not realize it. With each technology, if you can also share how you believe that technology will impact professional services, organizations or consultants in particular. Does that work for you?

Yes, I would love to. It’s all information and knowledge sharing. The whole world is working on that shared economy, shared knowledge and shared best practices.

My first buzzword I see a lot is IoT, Internet of Things. Biren, can you give us an overview of what Internet of Things mean?

IoT, Internet of Things. Even though there is the word ‘things’ inside the IoT, IoT is made up of four components. It is people, process, data and things. Each of those components have unique places. I’ll start with things because that’s most obvious. The world we live in; we are going ahead from the centralized computation to distributed computing as we saw the waves coming and going forward. Initially, we started with super mega, supercomputers, and then we were accessing those computers with dumb terminals. Then the era came where everything switched to desktop computers and PCs. Going back to the cloud computing that centralized somewhere else, you were not managing your own data centers. Then the wave came on the smartphones, moving the compute to the edge.

The pendulum swinging of technologies moving the compute, either in a centralized location or in a distributed location, has been going on for a while in the industry as a whole. IoT is basically making smarter things or devices or endpoints, which is they are not connected to the broader internet to leverage this connectivity paradigm, but they are getting connected slowly and steadily and having these intelligent computations running on them. Low-end devices like temperature sensors, humidity sensors, door sensors, alarms, video camera monitoring, all of those sensors are becoming more and more intelligent by their connectivity to the broader internet at large. That’s the ‘things’ part of IoT. Three other components are people, process and data. Even though it’s called Internet of Things, one of the crucial components in the whole mix is people. Ultimately, it’s the people who drive things forward. Ultimately, it’s the people who make those decisions and are responsible for business outcomes, making critical decisions along the way using the data. People are the most important component of the IoT puzzle. Along with people and things, there are process and data. Many times we are seeing the world like data is the new oil. Essentially, all these things are starting to measure but unless there are intelligent ways of interpreting this measurement and derive intelligence out of those, data is there but it’s raw data. How you derive knowledge and information and wisdom and make intelligent decisions based on the data using algorithms and a variety of other techniques is the critical part of it.

The fourth component is the process piece of it. How do you make the workflows and processes more relevant, more meaningful? Compute was one example. How do you place the compute wherever it makes sense logically? For example, oil rigs, in some cases, they are generating massive amounts of data, those little sensors that are drilling for oil and various other things. That massive data has no bandwidth to send it up to the cloud, so they are running, burning the blue, red discs and shipping them via helicopters to the coast. Even in 2018 and 2019, if that’s the way, there is something different that needs to happen. How do we convert those legacy processes which are highly-paperwork driven or highly-manual labor intensive into more automated, more agile, more scalable processes, digitization, digital transformation of the future? That’s the fourth component of this whole IoT. In summary, it’s people, process, data and things that are all acting together to create a better world for us.

With IoT, is the goal or the future intent that every type of utility or object is IoT? What’s the end goal of all of these things?

The end goal is making our lives better. Ultimately, it’s all about human lives. How can we improve the quality of life? That’s the overarching goal for the entire human race. All of our endeavors are in line with that. For IoT, it’s no different. Let’s take the sensors scenario. Sensors were not connected. They were locked components in cabinets somewhere. Let’s take a simple thing of utility, electricity reading, the meters. Previously in the world, somebody from the electricity or utility company had to go out from house to house for doing those meter readings. That process worked for a while, but the computation power and the storage and the network bandwidth are becoming so much cheaper today, that it’s much more efficient and much less error-prone to let those smart meters report the reading automatically on a periodic interval or on demand, without anybody paying a visit. We are not only saving tremendous human labor, but we are also removing a lot of manual errors, a lot of paperwork errors, by digitization of this entire workflow. That is a very simple example. We could utilize the more intelligent, higher order human intelligence. Our paradigm is making work more automated, smoother, and delegating all the mundane, laborious, routine and monotonous work to machines, where they can do it more cheaply, more effectively with less errors and use the human intelligence into the higher-order needs where it makes more sense because the human resources are becoming more and more costly than machine resources.

I’m going to move on to the next word. This one is more broad, but AI, Artificial Intelligence. Can you describe what that means?

So far we have heard a lot of things about human intelligence. Coming to the machine era, there are three different layers people talk about and I take the liberty to explain two other words also in addition to the artificial intelligence. People typically talk about artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning together in some interwoven form. Artificial intelligence, think of it as the highest level of abstraction about making the machines similarly intelligent as human beings. We are far from there yet, but the number of efforts are moving in that whole overarching direction. How can we have machines think and behave similar to human beings from an intelligence perspective? The Googles, the AlphaGo game defeating the world champions or IBMs like chess-playing computers, we are seeing a number of examples along the way where we are constantly trying to make machines learn faster and better and quicker than the human experts in the field. Artificial intelligence is that overarching field of making and demonstrating machine intelligence, very similar or very close to human behavior or human intelligence. That’s the highest level of field.

One subset of that artificial intelligence is machine learning. That’s an approach to basically achieve some of the goals of artificial intelligence. Basically you have lots and lots of data, the past data and some training set. You train your machine learning or computer algorithms model based on that dataset that you have acquired in the past and generate some models so that it’s able to do predictive modeling of the future based on the past data. To give an example, if you have the last 50 years of stock market data, how can you predict that a given equity or a given stock is going to move up or down in the future? If you can come up with this magic silver bullet system, that’s a classic example of machine learning. That’s one way of replacing human intelligence with machines in some shape or form in maybe some limited domain, but the fundamental paradigm is learning from the past datasets and making those predictions in the future. In connecting the dots with the earlier question, IoT, when you make a machine smarter, one of the impacts is coming from machine learning also. You acquired performance data, let’s say jet engines, for example. Jet engines have been flying and generating massive data from various sensors. You have all these datasets but based on the dataset, if you can predict with very high degree of confidence when the next maintenance or the next breakage is going to happen before it actually happens, if you can predict that it’s better if you do the maintenance of this jet engine now instead of next year because some of the readings are telling me that something is wrong from a wear and tear perspective, if you can save lives based on this predictive modeling and predictive datasets, analysis of the past dataset and using it for predictive purposes, that’s a classic application of machine learning.

The third field, the human subset of machine learning is called deep learning. It’s a technique for implementing machine learning beyond the predictive and all. There are other terms, artificial neural networks and convolutional neural networks and I won’t go into the details in terms of those things now, but that’s a very specific domain of object identification. How do you distinguish whether something is a human or an animal or some other object, and how do you define the characteristics of those objects as well? Whether it’s a male or a female or some other kind of human being. It’s much deeper than machine learning can achieve. There are three different levels: artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning. They all pretty much rely on processing of massive datasets. The field has always existed for the last 50-plus years, but the process is massive data, the computational power, cheap computational power, electricity and other things, they were pretty much nonexistent up until now. Recently, they are becoming more and more accessible and feasible, hence there is a rise and acceleration of all these domains.

That’s so helpful when you connect the dots of the different words and how they interact. The next one is my personal favorite, blockchain. If you can share your thoughts on what blockchain is and how it connects with this whole new world.

MECE 034 | Disruptive Technologies 101
Disruptive Technologies 101: With an open mind and an open eye, people can survive and make the best use of their time in moving towards their ultimate goal.

People are more familiar with all the Bitcoin hype lately that’s been going on in the marketplace, but few people understand the real distributed structural algorithms in a trustless environment. The whole premise is the foundation of Bitcoin, and that is the blockchain algorithm. The blockchain algorithm, most famously, it is being utilized for all these cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and so on and so forth. The blockchain algorithm, the foundation of having trust in a trustless distributed environment, that can be utilized for many other dimensions and many other ways. Banks, for example, they are using this automated clearing house. Instead of having those manual processes and having centralized access to a certain bank, it could be much more distributed and machines verify the authenticity and endpoints of the transactions without disclosing the identity of the endpoint. For example, if I want to transfer some money to you, and there are tons of examples on the web online for that, but let’s say I want to sell my house to somebody else and none of us want to be disclosed of our identities in the transaction, and yet the transaction needs to be fool-proof and it needs to be authoritatively validated and compliant to all the local laws, one of the ways to implement is the blockchain mechanism. Think of it as a massive distributed database which takes care and behaves as if I talk to the database saying, “Make this transaction happen,” and the other person also says, “Make this transaction happen,” and the transaction happens. Underneath, it’s a massive network of distributed systems; thousands and maybe millions of computations, millions of storage and network activity which orchestrate internally to make this transaction possible and have it in a reliable fashion so that it cannot be challenged. It’s mathematically validated for the correctness purposes, and it’s immutable, so it’s not reversible. Nobody can fiddle it and nobody owns it per se. Nobody has central uniform authority on top of it, which might allow them to change it later on for their own selfish purposes. It’s more of having trust in an inherently trustless environment. That’s the summary of blockchain.

The example you gave about the house and being able to have that automatic clearance, is that going to be the case in the future of mortgages or is the example you gave an exception? When I go to buy a house in the future, is it that I will be connected somehow to a blockchain and that transaction happens with the seller and we don’t even connect but we know that everything is been cleared? I want to make sure I understand the dynamic.

That’s one example. Any give and take transaction, currency is the most obvious one, people spend money and people basically earn money. Money exchange is one transaction. House is another kind of asset, so I’m transferring a house to something else, or you transfer any other kind of asset. That domain is called smart contracts, for example. You add smartness to the contract. Right now, escrow companies basically own that piece of transaction and they facilitate to a certain degree from an identity prevention of buyer and seller and making sure everything is compliant, the title is clear and all that, but there is still a single party which is doing that, single escrow companies taking care of that. Whenever there is a single entity doing anything, people are reliant, people are at the mercy of that single entity. In the future, the world is becoming more democratic and much more decentralized. People do not like the increased dependence on the single parties.

All such transactional interactions are bound to happen in a distributed manner so that there is no single entity controlling all the dataflow in the validation and the compliance checks, but it’s a massive computer network. It’s no human intelligence in there, so whom you can influence and have a biased decision-making and all that. It’s all in a way, dumb but smart computers taking care of it in a machine intelligence way about the whole transaction and orchestration of the transaction in a distributed manner. The same copy of the transaction is deciding on thousands of computers at the same point in time. Even if somebody gets access or someone’s computer gets hacked, the transaction at large is not affected. The integrity and cohesiveness from the transaction at large is not impacted as a result. It’s much more trustworthy in that sense. All such give and take type of transactions, not just house and mortgages, but all such transactions in the future, even including supply chain where I’m sourcing various parts to build a product, how do I know the authenticity and genuineness of a given part from a given supplier, there are many other domains which are coming up with various use cases around this blockchain idea.

The next one I have on my list is RPA, Robotic Processing Automation. Share with us what that means.

RPA is one of my favorite fields or drones. The RPA acronym is used for drones as well. It’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft as well. I’ll try to touch on both the robotics automation and drones in general. The robots have been in the workplace for a long time, especially in the automobile and manufacturing and heavy industries and all that. There are various reasons, either the manual thing was not safe or it was too monotonous. In my keynote speeches, I tag them as 4D activities. It’s dull, dirty, difficult or dangerous, 4D tasks. Either it’s a dull and mundane task which no human being wants to do, or it’s a dirty thing which nobody wants to get spoiled in whichever connotation of dirty we can think of, either physical or much more metaphorically speaking. Or it’s extremely difficult for humans to take care of that object, or it’s dangerous from a safety perspective of human beings. All of those things are being taken care of increasingly by the machines. Heavy machines in the beginning which were manually operated, then automated machines that we call robots, then intelligent machines which are making autonomous decisions based on certain machine learning and artificial intelligence paradigms. Or flying machines, what we call drones.

Drones are also being increasingly utilized. Initially, the RPA term was designated for drones because of the presence and affiliation with the military. People were remotely piloting those aircrafts obviously for surveillance and many other things. Drones are becoming much more viable and feasible in the commercial segment. Individual consumers are increasingly using them for photography, some difficult-to-take shots, aerial shots and videos and all, all the way to the commercial ecosystem like cellular tower inspections or aerial photography or coverage of live events, windmill inspections, or many other inspections to the live event coverage to other domains, they are being served effectively and cost-effectively by these flying robots or drones.

The robotics is becoming a much more integrated part of our day-to-day lives. Previously, it was unknown because it was primarily limited to the heavy industries and most of the population was disconnected from them. Lately, they are becoming part and parcel of our everyday lives. For example, Roomba, the robotic vacuum, it came into the household, so that’s a new robot which does its own vacuuming, and the consumer drones which are flying all around us. They are becoming more and more visible and these flying machines or autonomous machines are becoming much more integrated into our daily lives, which was not the case two decades earlier but now that’s the trend we are seeing.

My last word is going to be fog computing. Tell us what that means.

Fog computing is a unique distributed computing paradigm for this IoT. When I was describing IoT, it means putting the computation wherever it makes sense. If you look back, the computing market has been doing the swinging between the centralized computation or the extreme edge computing, so from cloud computing to the smartphones. In one case, you just put everything, all your compute and intelligence, everything in the cloud so you capture all the data, everything flows into the cloud, and all the algorithm intelligence is running in the cloud. That’s one extreme. Other extreme is let’s say smartphones. Today, you collect the data locally and you process the data or applications, various applications, games, running inside your smartphones. They capture the data and they capture your face also. Like Snapchat, they do various transformations on top of that, or Instagram. Basically, you capture the data locally, you process it locally and also do some transformations before publishing to the cloud. You do the processing on your smartphone. Those are two extremes, either the cloud or the edge.

Fog computing is putting the computation anywhere in between, anywhere along the spectrum. That’s the most powerful way of defining fog. You should not be limited to this either extreme, cloud extreme or the edge or device extreme. You should be able to run computational algorithms anywhere along the way. Very few people who are in the networking industry, they know that there are many networking hops along the way. When the data moves from my smartphone to the cloud, there are many hops along the way. It does not go in one stretch. Technically speaking, all of those hops are potential candidates for running computations. In some cases, it may save your bandwidth. Let’s take a practical example. If I have a temperature sensor, which most of the time during the summer months in California, it basically stays around let’s say 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If I am capturing the data every second from the temperature sensor and all it says is 85 degrees, sometimes 86, sometimes 84, it doesn’t matter, and if I’m shipping all that data to the cloud, I’m utilizing my network bandwidth effectively for mundane purposes. It’s not doing any intelligent job for me. Instead, if I put a fog computing node, some computing algorithm somewhere in my home Wi-Fi gateway, for example, which takes care of three of my temperature sensors and it captures the data, let’s say the bounds are 80 to 90 degrees, only if the temperature is out of those bounds of 80 to 90 degree Fahrenheit, only then report it up to the cloud. Otherwise, it’s business as usual, nothing to report. Why waste the effective bandwidth of the network for that? There’s no purpose. It’s not giving any more intelligence. It’s just raw data which is mostly noise.

That’s one example of how fog computing can help you save the effective bandwidth by pushing the compute in my home Wi-Fi gateway instead of running that computation in the cloud. The entire pipeline between my home and cloud, that’s free. It can be utilized for more meaningful purposes instead of just transmitting this dumb dataset every second. That’s one practical example of fog computing and there are numerous other examples. There is in fact a fog consortium which Cisco led in and it’s been going on for a couple of years already. There are more than 50 companies and academic institutions that are members of that. Check out the OpenFog Consortium website as well. There are many more use cases of what fog computing is, and what it could be utilized for, what kind of practical problems it can solve.

This was really helpful information and insights, Biren. Another question that I have is when you think about the future and beyond, what are some things that you see in the future that people should be considering, particularly consultants?

A lot of people are putting their analysis of 2017 and predictions for 2018, but what I like to see is more of an end goal oriented thought process. In fact, I wrote a blog post on some nine leadership attributes that everyone should strive to cultivate before 2019. Keep that goal of 2019, 1st January 2019 as the starting point and what can you do in the rest of 2018 to cultivate those goals. There are nine leadership attributes. It’s more of following the A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, the first nine letters of the alphabet, being an authentic leader to being a business impact, always thinking other items, leadership, contemplative leadership, discipline leadership, experimental, experiential leadership, fault-tolerant leadership, genuine leadership, helpful leadership. Not only being selfish but thinking about others. Finally, introspective leadership; how you can constantly think about improving yourself. Some of the attributes are needed for everybody irrespective of whether they are at the beginning of their careers as consultants or they’re masters as consultants or they’re working for somebody else or having their own business. It’s a universal appeal and that’s what I would like all the audience of the podcast to think about.

MECE 034 | Disruptive Technologies 101
Disruptive Technologies 101: It’s the people who drive things forward, people who make those decisions and are responsible for business outcomes.

I like this conversation because we talked a lot about the technologies, but I love how you rounded it out and talked about the leadership, the people skills that will help enable and drive this new world. Ultimately, it’s all about people. It’s all about ourselves. How can we be better selves of our own in the future, coming years? It’s constantly improving and learning and developing some new skills, either tangible or intangible, but adopting and learning and making ourselves a better individual as we move forward.

If individuals are interested in connecting with you and learning more from you, how can people find you? Can you maybe share some of your handles online?

I’m active on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the best place. LinkedIn/in/BirenGandhi. Twitter is @BirenGandhi. Those are the two obvious places to connect and reach out and follow and share interesting dynamics for the future.

I want to thank Biren for being on this episode. Hopefully you’ll come back because I feel like this is an ongoing conversation and people that are going to be great consultants in the future need to continue to be educated on all of these technologies.

It’s an educational experience for me also. I call it the three Ls; it’s a lifelong learning for everybody. I definitely am looking forward to coming on the show again in the future.

Thank you, Biren. Thank you, my go-getters, for tuning in. This is Christie Lindor, signing out for The MECE Muse Unplugged pop-up podcast. Here’s to your journey to greatness.

Links from today’s episodes

EP 033: Staying Away from the Consulting Hype with Loren Weisman

MECE 033 | Consulting Hype


As you slowly build up and you share what you know with an authenticity, you will be able to grow your experience and authority and your online reputation so much better than going out there and hyping with the thousands of others that should not have anything in consulting at all.

AMA (Ask Me Anything) interview with Loren Weisman, a musician turned accidental business consultant.  Loren is a brand precision marketing strategist, speaker, author and host of Wait What Really OK” is A Methodical, Comical & Informational Podcast.

In today’s interview, Loren shares his career journey into consulting, the concept of intention vs. perception, and some of the common pitfalls he has witnessed over the year with his experience in the profession and with startup companies.

Listen to the Episode Here:

We’re doing an Ask Me Anything or AMA. AMAs are when I have the utmost pleasure of connecting with either seasoned or former consultants and they give you advice. Our guest is Loren Weisman. He’s got an interesting background. He’s a musician, turned what I like to call an ‘accidental consultant’. He has a cool title, Brand Precision Marketing Strategist. He is also a speaker. Just as his interesting background sounds, you’ll enjoy my conversation with Loren. He shares not only about how he started out as a musician, a little bit about the music industry, but then how he ended up pivoting and getting into consulting and shares his nuggets of wisdom. I launched my book, The MECE Muse, and I had my launch party. It was so fabulous. Thank you so much for those that took the time out to attend the party in person. Those that attended it virtually, those who were not able to attend but sent me text messages and tweets and emails and LinkedIn messages, I really appreciated it. It was so amazing for two reasons. One, I got a chance to connect and celebrate this milestone of my book launch of The MECE Muse, but what’s cool is that The MECE Muse is officially an Amazon best-seller. It is making its way up the charts on Amazon within 72 hours. It became the number one new release book in the consulting category.

It’s so surreal, given the amount of work to put this book together that we’ve made it this far. The MECE Muse is also currently number two Kindle book in the consulting category, and it’s also ranked number five overall bestseller in consulting category in general. It was an awesome launch. I’m super thrilled. I know that this book is going to change a lot of lives. I set out almost a decade ago wanting to be the mentor that I wish I had. I started to get calls and emails that people are reading the book, they’re enjoying it and it’s only available on Kindle now, unless you got an advanced copy, but people have been starting to absorb it. I cannot wait to see the lives, the change, the career trajectories that are changed because of this book. I feel like I’ve met my mission. I get goose bumps talking about it, thinking about it, and knowing that I created this legacy. I’m very excited for this moment. Check it out. If you haven’t already, go on to Amazon. We have both the Kindle version that’s available for immediate download. It’s at a reduced price, so check it out while it’s still at that reduced price. There is a paperback copy of the book. You can pre-order it. It’s going to be released on February 20th. With that, I’m super excited to share this interview with Loren.

Interview with Loren Weisman

Loren, thank you so much for joining us on The MECE Muse Unplugged. How are you doing?

Thanks for having me. I’m doing great.

This is going to be a great conversation. I’m so impressed with your background. I was very excited to connect with you. Before we delve into the interview, can you maybe kick off with the introduction of yourself to the go-getters of The MECE Muse Unplugged?

I’m a Brand Precision Marketing Strategist and Counselor. In a sense, it’s a consultant, it’s a coach, it’s whatever term you want to use. I look for more of a psychological operation standpoint of how you’re reaching with your brand, with your business, with your goals, with your budget and with your time. Are you spending too much time in certain areas? Are you following methods from other coaches or strategies that are either outdated or they don’t have the full picture? Maybe someone’s explaining, “All I did was this,” but they had $500,000 behind it. We look to specialize and individualize what the best path is and what the best message is that’s your message. Because when you come from an authentic and personalized base, you’re going to be able to capture a greater audience with your product, your service, your consulting or whatever else that you’re putting out there, over a sea of spam emails and pre-written templates.

Maybe for those that are unfamiliar with the type of consulting work you do as a brand precision marketing strategist, can you take it down for us? On a day to day, what does that mean that you do and maybe even share how you got into this line of work?

I started as a drummer. I was a musician coming up. I never thought I would leave music. Some people spend twenty years getting in. I spent twenty years and then I got out. In being a drummer, I got to do something called ghost drumming. What that consisted of was signing a confidentiality or an NDA, coming into a studio and playing for someone that either couldn’t play the part. Maybe they were unwell, maybe they had too many drugs or too much alcohol in their system. That entire experience got me to see an array of the entertainment world of investors, of how things were working. That crossed over into television and the music production. The entire time, it was discovery for me of everything from a soda brand to a multi-million dollar music brand to an author putting out a book. Then in my second to last book, I was on a book tour and more people were coming out that weren’t musicians. I started getting hired as a business consultant by accident. Mostly what I do and my goal is to come in and be with a given client for a short and as inexpensive time as possible. It’s a mixture of looking at everything that they’re doing with a different mindset and a different eye then saying, “From a budgeting standpoint, from a strategy standpoint, from a social media standpoint, from logos, colors,” all of it. To summarize it very simply, I look at intention versus perception. A given client, a given product, what is their intention and what is the perception? How is it being perceived, and how can it be met halfway, because you can’t please everybody, to get your business out, your message out and the theme that you want in the most effective way?

You mentioned the ghost drumming. I find that fascinating. I didn’t know that that was an actual role. Since it is media entertainment, it sounds like you’re almost like a backup singer.

It’s exactly like that. I was in the New York City studio and a guy came up to me and he says, “You’re tall, you’re hairy and you’re scary. You’re never going to be a rock star, but you seem pretty grounded. I could probably get you gigs playing for a lot of them if you can keep your mouth shut.” That’s how that world started for me because I’m not pretty.

You sound like an awesome person to hang out with. That’s definitely for sure. You mentioned in that introduction, the intention versus perception. If someone is new in consulting or aspiring, trying to get into consulting work, maybe share what’s the big a-ha moment you had when you learned about intention versus perception and how critical that is for a consultant to have as a skill.

As I crossed over into consulting, it was built off of the experience that I had, the successes and the failures. A lot of younger consultants, you may have a lot of great ideas, but you’re coming up against a wall of, “Why should I hire you to tell me what to do when you haven’t done it yourself?” Authority and expertise are key, but at the same time, if you don’t try so hard to challenge and be that hype machine and you explain where you come from, what your voice is, what your views are, the things that you grew up with, these can identify how you may be looking at things in a different way.

I get spam emails from 21-year-old consultants that explain how they can take my name to the top and they can do this and they can do that. One off, they haven’t even looked at me. Second off, I’ve already done all of that stuff for myself. Third off, when I go there, I don’t see any example of them except for hype. To dial back the hype, to come in the humblest way possible, to identify what is basically the failure analysis, you don’t have as much experience, so how do you grow that experience? You share and bring across all the experience that you have. Did you grow up in a different country? Maybe you can bring a product or a person or a business to understanding the culture of that country and how to crossover. Do you love animals? Maybe you can bring something to different businesses that want to do cross-marketing with animals. Regardless of where you want to be, as you slowly build up and you share what you know with an authenticity, you will be able to grow your experience and authority and your online reputation so much better than going out there and hyping with the thousands of others that should not have anything in consulting at all.

MECE 033 | Consulting Hype
Consulting Hype: As you slowly build up and share what you know with authenticity, you will be able to grow your experience, authority and online reputation.

I’ve been a consultant my entire career, and I see that. I have mentees that from time to time, they feel that way. There’s this imposter syndrome that people sometimes feel like, “I’m so young,” or, “I don’t have experience, how can I bring or create that expertise?” I love how you said about authenticity and authority. Let’s say someone who’s getting started, they’re in the throes, they feel like they’re the hype and they don’t want to be the hype anymore. They want to be concrete, solid and experienced. Anything else you can share from your background or experiences that they can do to help round out? I know you mentioned authenticity, but anything else from a mechanics, operational perspective?

What you mentioned there first though, that’s the perfect place to start. One is humility. I’m realizing that I need to come in a little bit more real. The second thing that’s still tied into that humility becomes the identifier. Business consultant can be a very broad term. It’s why I chose brand precision marketing strategist. I’m still a business consultant, but it looks at different aspects of strategy. If you look up the term ‘business consultant’ online, there’s the widest array. What area of business are you most passionate about? What do you love? What do you want to do, and why do you want to do it that way? In that, that can help you develop your business. Second, I call it the fake business. Take the time and create that business that would be doing everything that you told them to do in your mindset, in your views, in your organization.

For example, in one of my books, I talked about a band that doesn’t exist. The band was called Kitty Likes Avocado, and it was named after one of my cats that I dropped some avocado on the floor and he went ballistic. Inside of this book, I built this band with a bio, with a brand, with a logo, with all the information, with all the pieces, the stage plots, the promo, the posters, the recording budgets, everything that I would have wanted. By putting that inside of this book, it showcased to people a greater sense of, “Here are things that you can get both for free, and if you want to dig in a little bit deeper and work with me, I can explain more of the details.” Create your template. Don’t use a template from some other life coach or some other business coach or using templates or examples of things that you don’t understand. Create what you know. If you’re interested in, let’s say fitness fashion, create a false fitness fashion line. It doesn’t have to turn into something too big, it doesn’t have to be expensive, but you can create a brand and who knows. Maybe as you create that thing and use that as an example to show other clients, it might get this leverage of people saying, “I want this.” You bring out you. When you stand out as you and don’t follow the droves of followers and fakes, the right people are going to look to you and the right people are going to hire you.

To the point about creating a fake type of scenario, there are tons of case study, go-to market simulations out there. If you tap certain consulting firm websites, you’ll see them out there. It’s not about doing case studies specifically for recruiting which is great, but what Loren is alluding to sharpening your saw and building that muscle through creating opportunities in addition to your day–to-day work. The simulation and the case studies are great ways to build that and to start from a vantage point. Thank you, Loren. It sounds like you had an amazing background, and I feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface of your background. What would you say is advice you would give your younger self, knowing what you know now?

Knowing what I know now and not to come off negative, my biggest failure analysis is trusting too early. I genuinely want the best for everyone. I want people to succeed. Any of you, as consultants or aspiring consultants, if you are truly doing it because you want to help someone see success, then it’s a beautiful and moral thing. Inside of me wanting to see success, and at times wanting to benefit financially too where I should have stopped, I kept going. Where I should have closed down, where I should have moved on, I pushed it another step. I trusted in a lot of places that I shouldn’t have. I don’t regret it. I have no regrets whatsoever. Some people say, “You’ve got to regret.” The losses that I took have made me the consultant I am now.

There was one project that cost me and a team $4.3 million. It was devastating, it’s the stuff that nightmares are made of, but had that not occurred, it would not have brought all these other opportunities. To look back at my older self and to say, “Do your due diligence. Double check. If somebody says it on the website, go find three of their clients and talk to them. Go ask more questions.” Because sometimes in our heart, when we love something so much, when we see the opportunity, when we see the options, we ignore that sense of, “We’d better check into this.”

What would you say is the coolest thing that has ever happened to you in your line of work?

There was a reality show that I was doing some consulting on, and it was a pretty large one. There were all these people telling this particular person what to do. I came in, I sat down and they had a very up-guarded thing. and everybody wanted something. I viewed it as a situation where, “If I can create this, this can leverage so many more opportunities for me.” I didn’t look for the high pay. It was the same thing in how I started my drumming career. I asked for 25% of what all these other consultants and coaches and strategists were asking. I laid out, “This is what I want to do. This is why I want to do it. This is how I believe it will work. This is when it has to happen. This is what we do before it. This is what we do during it and here’s how we follow it up after.” When that happened in that moment, to watch that thing happen and unroll on television, to watch certain headlines come out, to watch things on the news, not to say that it was contrived but to an extent it was, but it showed at the highest level of how brand penetration can move a product and can move a person out there. It was a pretty big highlight in all that. I do love the small businesses and I love the hands-on stuff but that big one was pretty cool.

In terms of next steps, if someone wants to get a hold of you and to connect with you, how can people reach out?

People can connect with me at LorenWeisman.com. Anywhere on social media, Loren Weisman on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I have a podcast myself called Wait What Really OK. Mainly, if you connect with me, connect to look at the things that you can take from me and use for your business and yourself. Everything that I talk about with people and showcase, it’s all proof of concept with me. That’s one thing I want to tell all of you consultants. If you have an idea, test it, prove it. Don’t say, “Somebody told me, I heard, I read, I saw.” Test it out. One other thing, do a whole bunch of sit downs for free. A lot of these consultants that made their millions, they don’t talk about that in their books. A lot of them sat down. It wasn’t getting into the door and becoming a consultant. A lot of them had said, “I have some wonderful ideas. I want to do an hour with you. I’ll do it for free. Just consider me.” What a great way to get your voice, your ideas and your authenticity out there for free. It’s not shortcutting yourself because that one person is going to tell ten.

Thank you so much, Loren. I call it a power pack interview. You gave our audience so many different ideas and toolkit things that they can use. You mentioned your podcast show. I took a look at it and was intrigued by the subtitle, “A Methodical, Comical Podcast.” Can you maybe share with the audience a little bit more about the podcast show?

MECE 033 | Consulting Hype
Consulting Hype: When you stand out as you, the right people are going to look to you and the right people are going to hire you.

The show is a business and branding style podcast and it’s just for me, in all honesty, all transparency, it’s an audio that I have that comes out once a week. The show talks about different elements of what I apply and I make sure that when I apply those things, I work on the title of the podcast so that it optimizes. I fill out the tags, I put in the bio, it’s making every piece of content that much stronger. Inside of that podcast, it allows people information in a down to earth way of, I call it the ‘who, what, when, where, why and how’. It’s not the hype about something, it’s this is what it is, this is how it’s done, this is how I’ve seen it applied, and this is why I think that way.

Go-getters, check that out. That’s WaitWhatReallyOK.com. It’s been a pleasure Loren, to connect with you. This was fantastic. Thank you so much for making time to join us.

Thank you for having me.

If you have a specific question or feedback about this show, feel free to drop us a line, MECEMuseUnplugged@Gmail.com. I’d like to thank Loren for being a guest on the show, and thank you, my go-getters, for tuning in. This is Christie Lindor signing out for The MECE Muse Unplugged pop-up podcast. Here’s to your journey to greatness.

Episodes from today’s links


EP 032: Navigating Transformational Changes with Ron Carucci

There’s nothing more formative, than being on the other side of somebody who is relying on your advice, your expertise, or your views to run their business.

AMA (Ask Me Anything) interview with Ron Carucci is the managing partner of Navalent, a best selling author, and TEDx speaker.   In this interview, Ron shares his career journey, highlights differences between internal and external consulting, and provides his definition of a great consultant.  We also discuss the challenges of transformational initiatives.

In this episode, I also discuss more information about my book launch, The MECE Muse and announce availability on Amazon.  Tweet your congrats using hashtag #MECEMuse2K18

Listen to the Episode Here:

On this episode, we’re going to be doing an AMA, Ask Me Anything. If this is your first time tuning in, AMAs are when I have the utmost pleasure of connecting with either seasoned or former consultants and they give you advice. Our guest is Ron Carucci. He is the Managing Partner of Navalent, a consulting firm. He’s also an author as well as a TEDx speaker. We have a cool and candid discussion about Ron’s career journey and discussed a couple of different topics, particularly around transformational initiatives and some of the challenges with those types of projects, and so much more.

I’m also super thrilled and excited to share with you that The MECE Muse book is available on Amazon Kindle. With our launch, we’re going to be running a limited price of $1.99 for the book. For the Kindle version, the full price is $9.99 in the future, but we’re running it at $1.99. We will continue to scale the price, so it’s a limited time. I’m very excited that we have gotten to this point. The paperback will be available on Amazon, so stay tuned for that. The paperback, once it is available on Amazon, it will be for a pre-order. We will be taking pre-orders and shipping books starting February 20th, so stay tuned for that, go-getters. I’ve been having a lot of people asking me lately about how I started on this journey. I do recommend if you haven’t, go ahead and check out episode one, the intro episode of The MECE Muse Unplugged Podcast show. I delve deep into my journey and how I’ve been scaling the mission of being the mentor that I wish I had. With that, let’s get started with the episode.

Interview with Ron Carucci

We’ve got Ron Carucci of Navalent Consulting. Ron, thank you so much for joining us on The MECE Muse Unplugged. How are you doing?

Christie, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me.

What part of the world are you currently in, Ron?

I am in Seattle, Washington.

Before I have you introduce yourself, I did want to share that you have hit a superlative on our show, given that you are the first consulting partner that we have on The MECE Muse Unplugged, so I’m excited for this conversation. Maybe with that you can introduce yourself to the go-getters of The MECE Muse Unplugged.

My name is Ron Carucci and I spend my days with my firm, Navalent, traipsing the hallways of large and small organizations. Mostly our engagements are around very messy, high-risk, high-visibility transformation. Usually at the enterprise level, a CEO or a senior executive has some mandate or some charge to either preemptively create change or in response to some unforeseen disruption, create change. At the intersections of strategy and organization and leadership, we accompany them on that journey. Usually it’s a couple of years to help them find some aspired future that they otherwise might have missed.

I’m doing the same type of consulting work, so I know that you’re doing extremely meaningful work which is great to hear. Ron, before we talk specifically about how you started your company, maybe you can let us know how you got started in consulting, and if it’s been everything you expected it to be.

We’re going to have to go back a lot of years. Like many change practitioners, I spent a good number of years inside corporations. My first job out of college was with a non-profit consulting firm, so I had a taste of what it meant to be outside of organizations early on, but then I came back inside. For the next ten or eleven or twelve years, I struggled. As passionate as I was about organizations and improving them and improving the integrity of how they worked together and how they synchronized together, the political landscapes can be difficult. An ancient wise prophet once said, “You can’t be a prophet in your own land.” I learned the hard way that in order to do the work we do well, you have to tell the truth. You have to shed spotlights on things that organizations often conspire very hard to cover up. I realized after a third attempt at a big corporation that if I was to live out my passion for organizations and express my desire to make them better places to work, I was probably going to have to do that by not being part of one.

I realized that what got me in trouble inside companies got me paid well. The same activity got me paid well outside them, and so began my career as a consultant officially after realizing that the same type of work inside companies, in the way, I wanted to practice it. There are lots of great practitioners inside companies doing fabulous work, but for the kind of change I wanted to provoke, I realized that I was best going to be positioned outside of a company. I have spent lots of years as an independent, solo practitioner, as part of a mid-sized boutique firm that later was acquired by a very large firm. I’ve done mid and large-sized consulting. After 9/11, there were some other challenges in our industry then. We decided to live the dream by saying, “Let’s go start our own boutique firm.” That was about thirteen years ago.

Maybe you could shed some light on what are the skills that made you successful being an internal consultant versus those that make you more successful as an external client-facing type of consultant. If you can share the differences, that’d be awesome.

If you’re inside a company, you have the requirements of being part of a political landscape. You’ve got to be somewhat savvy. You can’t pull your punches and be some native that you’re not provoking change. At the same time, you’ve got to also recognize that the people who are your clients are also your bosses. That requires a more delicate relationship management skill. The decisions you’re de-risking have to do with your expertise. Outside, we’re de-risking financial decisions, but inside, you’re de-risking a relational decision. Your competence and the depth of your capability becomes your selling feature. You have to amass a track record of results that impact. You’re also with those organizations for longer periods of time, so unlike a consultant who may come and go in six months or a year, the results of your work will go on for many years with you. You’ve got to be able to have much more staying power and resilience to follow through on your projects and keep up with your internal clients. Often, internally, you’re managing enterprise-wide processes, you’re managing the succession or strategy or other types of core processes that are repetitive. How you’re continually improving those processes, how you’re making them better for the purposes of showing and demonstrating your own continued impact also become important. As an external consultant, you’ll be with an enterprise for a defined period of time and you’ll go. It’s a different type of risk that leaders are engaging in when they hire you.

What would you say is your definition of a great consultant?

Back in the 2000s, one of my first books was The Value-Creating Consultant, and its sequel was Relationships That Enable Enterprise Change. At the time, our industry was taking a well-deserved punching from the world. You had books like Witch Doctors and Consulting is Insulting, and a lot of literature and research on the horrors and the exploitation of our industry. It was painful to be associated with that kind of behavior, and for me and some colleagues we thought, “There’s still got to be value we can add. What is it that we can do that’s helpful?” We did a ton of research on consulting engagements and the relationships between consultants and the clients to understand what was it that set great consulting apart, that distinguish them from bad ones. There were a couple of things. One is, too often, consultants believe of becoming like a messiah. “I’m here with an answer that you need,” versus the consultant that acts like a partner and is there with better heart and harder questions. Too often, consultants, especially if you’re with a firm, have to create dependency. “My revenue stream, my income, my incentives are attached to the longer you hire me, which means I have to make you helpless and more dependent on me,” rather than a great consultant that works himself or herself out of a job by making you more capable.

MECE 032 | Transformational Changes
Transformational Changes: Relationships That Enable Enterprise Change: Leveraging the Client-Consultant Connection (J-B O-D (Organizational Development))

Finally, there’s the consultant that is the rubber stamp. There’s the one that tells you what you want to hear, the one that ratifies your already pre-determined point of view versus a truth-teller, the one that comes in and gives you an honest, unfiltered look at reality, however painful that might be. If you’re a consultant and you’re not willing to be those things, a true partner, a true capability builder, a true truth-teller, you shouldn’t be in this business because all you’re going to do is perpetuate the bad reputation many consultants already have, of being people who come in, charge millions of dollars, leave lots of un-implementable binders and answers on shelves that never get looked at again, and don’t leave the organization better than you found it.

What was a story or an experience that you had that maybe shaped some of the core values that you mentioned about being a great consultant?

When I was still internal, my last stop on the train as an internal consultant, we were working with a technology company and we were in the IT department which had all kinds of executional challenges. The leadership of that group was notoriously not a great group of leaders to work with, lots of turnover in the department, lots of quality issues. We did a fairly in-depth diagnostic of the organization through some interviews and some surveys and indeed, the data revealed that there were some problems on the dimension of integrity. At the aggregate level of the data, you saw this little dip in the bar of integrity.

One of the leaders who was quite corrupt, he had his own cronies of people who were there to protect him. In the meeting when we were discussing the data, one woman in his corner stood up and immediately began to try and discredit the data by saying, in all kinds of statistical language, “Tell me about the R factor of your data. What is the reliability and validity statistics? How do we know this data is even meaningful?” It was an attempt to discredit the data. I thought, “This is a pretty defining moment for me. I can take this bait and cave, or I can tell the truth.” I answered her questions. I said, “Let me tell you about the validity and the reliability of the statistics of the data. It’s pretty high. It correlates at a 0.8. The data is representative of about 80% participation rate.” I gave her all the technical answers to her question. I said, “Let’s go ahead and test your theory that integrity is or isn’t an issue in your group.” I said to the group, “By show of hands, how many people in this room have never lied to somebody else in this room?” Nobody raised their hands. I looked at her and I said, “I guess we know what the data is telling us, don’t we?” It was a very powerful moment for me and my team and for those in the organization feeling oppressed and feeling like they had been silenced and feeling like they were not able to have a voice. Politically, it didn’t work out too well for me later, but I realized that’s the kind of change I want to provoke, but the risk of provoking that kind of change as an insider was probably too great.

People don’t realize the aspects of transformational change. Sometimes there is what I call the sacrificial lamb that takes place with large scale transformational programs. You’ve done this a lot longer than I have Ron, but have you ever been able to go through a transformation and there not be that person, whether it’s the consultants are deemed at or the partner or the sponsor? Have you ever seen where there wasn’t that person that gets the hit as a result of the political and collateral damage that comes with change?

There are two different types of sacrificial lambs. There are the ones that need to be slaughtered, and the ones that get inadvertently blamed and become collateral damage when they shouldn’t have been. Maybe they were the ones that were trying to be prophets the whole time. I’ve seen both. I think of the transformational programs we design where we create a diagnostic, a very thorough forensic MRI on the front end, helps reveal where those landmines are. The people who have been holding the organization hostage too long or people who have been allowed to perform at incompetent levels too long are forced to improve or are forced to leave. We try to instill the kinds of changes we lead in that direction, rather than some political agenda that some leader has to exit people they don’t like or to get rid of their nemesis. Typically, a lot of that baggage have already happened before we come in, but typically it is part of the way we work. Obviously, we can’t always avoid it, but we hold leaders accountable if there are going to be exits of people in any form, that it’s justified and it’s data-based and rooted in the need for the change you’re aspiring to, not in some other agenda.

Ron, I found out more about you when I attended the TEDxBeaconStreet talks, and you gave a compelling talk on organizational transformation. Upon doing a little bit more research, I also found out about the TEDx Talk you did on How To Be More Powerful Than Powerless. Maybe you can give us some context in terms of how you got started with TEDx Talks and why you chose those specific topics.

For me, I hired my own coach a couple of years ago as part of the ‘We should all take our own medicine’ belief in how consultants get better. There’s never a time in your career where you’ve arrived. A couple of years ago, I decided I had to sharpen up my game and not rest on 30 years of experience, but try and continue to grow. That’s part of how I thought about my work as a thought leader and how to bring compelling insights to my clients stood out on a number of fronts. One of which was how do I use my voice in more outward-facing settings beyond my clients. TED was a great platform for that. My last book called Rising to Power was based on a ten-year longitudinal study of leaders transitioning into broader roles of influence inside organizations. The reality that we’ve known is that more than half of them fail within their first eighteen months. It was painful for us and we were confused by why that had become so acceptable. Our research set out to find out why that was and more importantly, how could we steer clear of all that carnage and find out what it took to be influential and succeed in positions of leadership. The two TED Talks you were talking about were both based in that research. The first one on power that you referenced was in part because it was such a personal and sacred topic to me. How many of us are sick to death of how many more headlines do we need to see by the day now? They seem to be coming out of one more leader that abused his power for exploitative or immoral or self-interested reasons. It continues. One bad apple does poison the whole bunch. All leaders begin distrusted until proven trustworthy.

MECE 032 | Transformational Changes
Transformational Changes: Rising to Power: The Journey of Exceptional Executives

The reality, and the shocking finding in our research, was that the greatest abuse of power that we found among a 2,700-person sample, was not self-interest, it was not immoral or personal, exploitative gain. The greatest abuse of power was the abandonment of it. They are so fearful of using the power that came with their roles so they simply chose not to. The part of my TED Talk was if we want to stop seeing so many leaders exploit their power for self-interest, more of us who aren’t using our power need to start.

A line that you said in the TEDx Talk was that power not being either good or bad but just giving people’s experiences with it, they usually do associate it to one or the other. I thought that was so spot on, because I never thought of power with that type of dynamic. It was helpful to hear the insights from your research.

It’s an interesting insight that most of us hear the word ‘power’ and we cringe. Our media association of it is with, as the Alvin Toffler quote says, because of the bad odor that clings to power because of all the misuses it’s been put to, we assume that the minute someone acquires power in any form, whether it’s positional or influential or financial, it will be used for corruption. That’s what the media and headlines tell us so much. We don’t often get to see how many people are using power for great good. Our position of power allows us to bring justice where there’s been injustice. Our relational power allows us to enable others to become and flourish. Our informational power allows us to help change perspectives and broaden views in the world. There is great power to do great good, and the sources of power are available to us if we would embrace and use them.

Going back to your company, when you’re hiring new consultants or fresh out of college or early career consultants, what are some of the traits that you look for in these types of individuals that may be go-getters out there that are looking for consulting roles should consider?

In our firm, most of our consultants come with some previous experience because of the level at which we play in an organization. We’re a small firm so we don’t bring armies of folks in. The sad part about too many of the larger firms, with all due respect to you aside, Christie, too many consultants get put in backrooms early on and they don’t get client-facing experiences. I would never encourage an aspiring consultant fresh out of undergrad or grad school to go to a place where they’re not going to have any time with clients, because you’re not a consultant if you haven’t got clients. If you’re crunching numbers, doing analytical work, if you’re doing important work that helps other consultants be impactful, that’s great, but that’s hardly going to get you the experience that you need to build your own muscles. There’s nothing more formative than being on the other side of somebody who’s relying on your advice, your expertise, and your views to run their business or their department or their team. You’ve got to get quick experience. Even if it’s pro bono and even if it’s voluntary, get yourself in front of somebody else where your advice matters so you can learn how to build genuine, healthy attachment with your expertise and your credibility. At the end of the day, your relationship with somebody else is the only vehicle by which your insights and advice are translated into credible action. You have to learn to form attachments.

I’ve got a great piece in my Forbes column that I write for yearly, on the dimensions of what healthy attachment looks like and how to be influential through those relationships. You’ve got to learn how to come out from behind your tools. Too many early career consultants feel like imposters. They feel like, “Who’s going to want to hear what I have to say? Or I’m so young, they’re not going to believe that I have anything to offer.” They hide behind tools and models and frameworks and data. You cannot lead with those, nobody’s paying you for that. You’ve got to stand on your own two feet and learn to find the efficacy of your own voice. No matter how young or old you are, your tools, your frameworks, your models, your methodologies are all very interesting. Your client already assumes you have those. If you’re not contextualizing those to the advice you’re giving your client, you’re just regurgitating something that they could read in a book. You’ve got to learn to build attachment, to find your own voice and to be influential with clients. If the earliest career experiences you’re going to have won’t give you those, I would definitely urge you to think twice about how you choose your early assignments.

This is such a great and timely advice, Ron, and I so loved our conversation. I wish that I had more time to connect with you and talk about other topics. I would love to have you on the show in the future. If some of the go-getters want to get in touch with you, what’s the best way that they can do that?

Come visit us at our website, Navalent.com. You’ll find a quarterly magazine you can get from us, there’s a great blog, there’s a bunch of great and inspiring videos on consulting and how we think about our consulting work. There are links to the books. If you come to Navalent.com/Transformation, you’ll find our free eBook on leading transformation in organizations and give you our blueprint for how we see change happening and you can incorporate that into your own toolkit. I’m also on Twitter at @RonCarucci and on LinkedIn as well. Come find me and let’s keep the conversation going.

I am definitely going to make sure I check you out on Twitter as well, Ron, because you are definitely the mentoring type that younger consultants look for. Thank you for making time to connect with us on the show.

Christie, my pleasure.

Links from today’s episode

EP 031: Market shifts, relationships, industry conferences, and more with Tanya Stevenson

“Always remember, you never know you are meeting or working with, what their role will be the next time you meet them”

AMA (Ask Me Anything) interview with Tanya Stevenson, a seasoned independent consultant, author, and Founder of Stand Up & Deliver Consultancy based in Canada.   In this interview, Tanya shares her career journey as well as how she has been able to adapt to volatile market shifts as an independent consultant.

In today’s career dilemma, Tanya and I give advice to consultants attending their first industry conference and seeking to maximize their experience.

In this episode, I answer commonly asked questions about my upcoming book launch, The MECE Muse.

Links from today’s episode