Episode 10: Managing Change and Creating Enthusiasm and Common Ground—with Kenya Rutland
Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to Episode 10 of the Craft of Consulting podcast. I have a fantastic guest today: Kenya Rutland. He is the Principal and, get this, love this, Chief Enthusiasm Officer at KJR Consulting. And that is a well-earned title. He's actually been described as relentlessly upbeat. His firm creates a whole wealth of customized solutions that helps nonprofits, corporate entities and government agencies build healthy teams and organizations. And they do everything from change management to customer service, diversity and inclusion, leadership, productivity, team development…sort of all those building blocks that are essential to help create healthy organizations. So on this podcast, he gets into the details of critical consulting skills, like facilitation and change management. And he talks about how he applies those to get groups enthused, get them ready for change, and able ultimately to find common ground, and then to do what every consultant needs to be able to do, which is to help them move forward. So this is a great episode, let's get started. I want to welcome Kenya Rutland to my show.
Kenya Rutland: Thank you so much, Deb. I really appreciate getting the opportunity.
Deb Zahn: Oh, wonderful. So let's start off with telling my listeners what type of consulting do you do.
Kenya Rutland: Yeah, Deb. I would identify our firm as an organizational development firm, that really is about getting people excited about working better together and then providing the tools to make that happen. So instead of specializing in one particular area of OD, we identify five core services, which are strategy, consulting, and training. We do a lot of coaching to support people who've gone through that work. And then we use a lot of assessments, whether that be the Meyers Briggs or DISC for the individual or organizational assessments, whether that be customer and employee satisfaction surveys, and things of the sort.
Deb Zahn: Wonderful, and how did you become a consultant?
Kenya Rutland: Trial and error is the way I'd put it out there like your listeners may experience. I came out of the wonderful world of, I would say business development. I got pulled into a technology company working for one of my business mentors, and long story short, we went belly up and as a newly divorced dad with two little kids, I was like, "What am I going to do?" And so I decided to put my skills that I knew I had around client connections and connecting strategy for clients where they wanted to go into action, and I started gigging it and then got a niche, specifically in the area of working across differences. So diversity and inclusion, landed a large contract training gig, and then that just got me on to the space of learning and developing myself more, getting people interested in my work. And fast forward 19 years, we're in a place where we have a pretty solid firm.
Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. Now your title is Chief Enthusiasm Officer, which is probably the coolest title ever. And I also did read an article about you, which described you as relentlessly upbeat. I'm hoping rubs off a little bit during this interview because I think that's a wonderful thing for a consultant to be. So I'm sure like me, you've gone into organizations of all different types. And sometimes you go in, and folks aren't as enthused, or they're not quite sure why they should be. So how do you get them going and sort of be able to get that enthusiasm and switch from the “can't do,” to “the can do?”
Kenya Rutland: Oh, I love the phrase, I love it. First off, I love that last phrase you said and ironically, one of my mentors in a program that we delivered had a model around building trust, and that's the idea of can do it, will do it. And I think that's always something that innately my family has taught me and I've tried to live in my business and my work. We go in generally, and try our best not to try to be the experts to tell people how to do their job better, but instead to actually listen, ask questions, connect with them, and let them realize that when it's all said and done, we want to be part of the family of the staff who's there. So again, sort of being an outsider coming in and saying, "Well, you need to follow my motto."
I find that what works best is we like to do conversations or interviews or focus groups before we launch any initiative, just kind of give people an opportunity to see what we're doing. And where that's possible, what's really nice is, I walk into a training class already having established rapport that was not tied to learning and development, it was more like a, "Here's who I am, here's what my style is." And generally speaking, I think with that upbeat, authentic approach, it works well.
Now, obviously, as you know in many cases, you're going in to deliver a gig, you don't have the chance to do that pre-work. So I think it's going to sound a little cheesy, but I think ice breakers are so crucial. And ice breakers tie to, "Hey, who are you? Tell me what matters to you." I’m trying to get people to buy into that passion that they're bringing to the classroom or the retreat or whatever on that day. And then I try to replay that as much as I can in my interaction. So that small thing that I know about you being based in, and that you're from, or your kids, I keep reminding them that that matters, and this learning is just going to help you be better for those folks.
And I've actually just found that that's worked really well. Being personable, and just trying to connect, I mean and sometimes you get that person who's going, "You tried buddy, but it ain’t going to happen.” Or I've also been told by some people, "You got too much energy for 9 o'clock in the morning." And you know those folks, you have to at least kind of process that a little differently. I used to find that was a little tough for me, because when I didn't get the response, I went like, "Hey, you're with me." And I'll be like, "Oh, man, they don't like me." But now I just realized, I live in New England, and the world says that, "Until I have my coffee, don't talk to me." So that makes it a little easier.
But I think it's that authentic connecting with people, finding out what their passion is, and what they're sitting in the room with, and how you might be able to help them really say, "If you work in a more positive way, you get more work done, as you go home to those people you love in a better way. If nothing else just try to do it for that." And I found that that's worked for me. It's not easy all the time, but it works for me and being able to connect to folks.
Deb Zahn: That is wonderful. Because in a sense, what you're doing is you're saying, "Look, I'm showing up with my whole self, and I'm going to recognize your whole self, and so if any part of that gets you into what we're doing today, then we can fly."
Kenya Rutland: Yeah. There we go. Exactly. If I might throw in one interjection, I just spent in the session I did, it was years ago, and it was a diversity and inclusion session. And it was in a tough space where the company had had a lot of issues. And this gentleman walked in and said that in a derogatory way, but I think with a little bit of trying to shake the trainer, he told me, "I'm going to be your worst participant more or less." And he didn't say those exact words, but, long story short by 4:00 PM, we hugged it out, and he was one of the best I've ever had.
And so was that idea of he was kind of going, "I don't want to be here, and maybe I don't want to talk to you." And I think in a conversation of what I tried to do and make it an authentic, he wanted to be a union steward in the building, and I hit a nugget for him that was like, "You know what, I can be an ally to this, or I can be an enemy to this guy, and actually, I think I like the ally." And it wound up really making me realize this works really early in my career.
Deb Zahn: That's fabulous. So I have heard that you are an expert facilitator, which is what you were just describing, and being a facilitator is a very specific skill. And I was reading an article several years ago in Connecticut, you facilitated a session that had folks with opposing points of view, and contrasting perspective, sitting around the table, I was reading I think economic development. And I'm sure you've been in that situation before where you've got folks that just don't agree. And they walk in not agreeing, and they walk in with a completely different view of the world. How do you approach those situations and try and help people to move past whatever is sort of keeping them stuck in that sort of singular view of the world and help them find common ground?
Kenya Rutland: That's a great question. One of the things that I would say to that is, I learned from a facilitator on my team actually a few years back, that while it might feel a little bit less inclined to consultant language, because we’re always supposed to know everything, right? It's not about right or wrong. It's not about me having to tell you that you need to come to my side or your side. It's really about appreciating the complexity of diversity, that's it's space. And so I found that when I do that, it really sets the tone for, "Hey, you know what Deb, I'd like to hear your perspective. I'm Kenya, here's my perspective. Here's our peer, here's their perspective. Now, where can we find that nuggets?"
And I think, when we approach it from the get go, that I'm not trying to tell you, I want to hear you, so that I can tell you you're wrong, which is the climate that we live in right now. I mean, then there's punitive damages, "Oh, you're wrong." Thirteen years later, you're in trouble for something that you did when you were a kid or whatever. We don't try to go into that space, but I think we open the conversation now with people, "I really want to know your perspective. And by the way, I'm going to let you tell me your perspective too." Oh, and then I have one, mine being the last one that I would always share by the way, as a facilitator. I think that opens you up to realize like, "Wow, this guy's really interested in hearing what I have to say. And he's not asking me to say it so that he can attack because it's a different viewpoint."
I think then once we have the views on the table, I mean it's a classic facilitation tool of then trying to figure out, "What's our endgame here? Are we trying to all decide that we need to do one thing?" Well, we want to get their opinions on the table. So we can actually decide what we need to do next, to be inclusive of all of those, or if it's a, "We need to have a one, two and three priority," or "We just got to make a decision." Sometimes the leaders have to say, "We are doing this, and by the way, we disagree with your opinion" Well, whatever that end game is kind of drives the ship a little bit.
I will confess and say, as a human element, I love being liked. I don't want to get into complex scenarios, but I've had to grow and learn that sometimes you can make those tough decisions. And I think that's where it's a matter of again, doing the pre-work with your leader, in the room to kind of get an idea of what we are trying to get at. And I think when those opinions come to the table, we've expressed them, and there is a clear-cut difference. I think at that point, we have to go ahead and have the discussion around what we can do. And how do we incorporate some of the other perspectives and other people into what we're trying to do. And generally speaking, I don't think I've run into scenarios where even the opposing view doesn't have some aspect or nugget that still can be incorporated.
And being in that scenario of, "All right, we didn't go my way. But I feel that I've been heard. And on the opposite side of that, I'm in a position where maybe at least they took a little bit of my idea." We have this premise and is born right off of an author that I read a lot which is: Weigh in creates buy in. The premise of that is, "When I've been able to speak my piece, even if in the end game we pick a different path, at least I could say that the audience that I had that day, heard me and I felt like I was listened to. Not just in one ear and out the other.”
And I think when we do those things, Deb, I think that sets us up. And I think in the event of the article you may have read, I know we've been in spaces where there's been different political views, business views, and there's an end game of strategy. And in one particular scenario, we were able to get people across party lines, across business sectors, etc. It's one of the really solid plans for how they can change the economy of their state. And we've started to see some of that stuff coming to life.
Deb Zahn: That's just fantastic, yeah. So I coach obviously, a lot of consultants, including folks who've been very accomplished and done great things in their lives. And one of the key questions that I always get asked is, I facilitate quite a bit as well, is sort of how do you do it? Because it's different than training. With training you know what the path is, you know where you're trying to get people to, but when you have a whole bunch of different folks in the room, and you have a sense of what the end game is. But it's intentionally filled with uncertainty, because uncertainty creates space for getting to yeses, or getting to “good enoughs.” What would you, if you were coaching a new person who wants to be a facilitator and wants to sort of rise up to the level that you've gotten to, what would you tell them?
Kenya Rutland: The first thing I would say is, you have an opinion, but hold it back. Because I think that you nailed a very powerful thing in your comment, which is the platform of the canvas, which is when I like to think about it, you have an open canvas, you can even go with a palette, depending on your choice, if its food, or paint or art, right. But you have to have an open canvas, and one of my dear friends told me she loves to cook, and she'd always say, "I don't know what I'm making today. I go in the pantry, and I pull out whatever, there's a masterpiece.” Well, it's the same thing with facilitation, I have an opinion. I know what I like, but really, it's about what do you want? You're visiting me or I'm here in your space. And so what I say is that one, you got to have big double…utilize those ears as much as possible. My grandma's old adage is, "God gave you two of those, use them more than your mouth."
Deb Zahn: I love it.
Kenya Rutland: Listen as much as you can, because there's a lot of nuggets of things that are not being said, certainly utilize your eyes to read the group as well, because you get people who are shaking their heads saying, "Oh, yeah, uh-huh, yep, uh-huh." What they're really thinking is, "This a dumbest idea I've ever heard." Or it's a, "Yep, uh-huh I'm going to say it in public. But I'm going back to my side and doing the exact opposite of that... I'm going to keep doing it the way I have it." And you need to be able to read that to call it out.
When I say call it out, I think it's a little bit more of an appreciation of "Hey, Kenya or Deb, I'm noticing that maybe you may feel a little differently. What are you thinking there?" Or simply holding space to say, "I know this sounds like a great idea. I'm wondering if anybody has a different perspective on that." And if you've created that space earlier where people are comfortable, inevitably, people actually speak up. And I think that when you're... one more thing, I mentioned listening, holding your opinion back, using your eyes to read. I think it's also important to be comfortable with silence.
And early in my career as a talker, it was that idea of like, "Okay, I got to feel every minute, I got to feel every minute because I went silent." It's like, "No, you're facilitating, ask a question, let it sit." We were all created equally in some aspects, I'll say, but one of the areas that I think we execute differently is our behavior and learning styles, etc. And some of those introverts need that time to process and they want to feel comfortable that it’s going to be said perfectly. Whereas people like me to just shoot from the hip and go, "Hey!" But you have to make space for that.
And I think it healthy facilitators can do those. Listen, use your eyes to read your group, be OK being silent, or having that silence create space, as you said. And then the last thing I said, is where it warrants if your opinion is the last thing you put forward, especially utilizing it when you know that it might spark the dialogue you want. I would also maybe just even add one small tidbit which is, "I'm not afraid to be controversial anymore either." I know my audience, I'm not going to certainly add a spark to a political conversation. And I don't mean that. But I mean like it's okay to put a burning platform question out there, where it's not, I believe, but it's more like a, "What if I told you, how would you respond to that?" just using that creativity, charisma, that you might have interest that you have with the group and be able to kind of spark dialogue?
Deb Zahn: That's great because essentially, what I always find that...I am an introvert who facilitates, which is also an odd thing. But that means I can read a room like nobody's business because I'm hypersensitive of what's going on.
Kenya Rutland: You're a great partner for a person like me who can tell me like, "Stop talking for a second, I think we're seeing something."
Deb Zahn: Exactly. We should do that sometime. That'd be fun.
Kenya Rutland: I love it.
Deb Zahn: So sometimes in a group, what I've also seen can help is, particularly if you get the opportunity, like you said, to prep ahead of time, to talk to the leaders, maybe talk to a few folks, get a sense of what the dynamics are, because essentially, what you're trying to do is break up the sort of state dynamics that have always been there a while, and you only can say this, and we can only do this, and I don't want to talk in sort of all of that things where they're stuck and trying to break it up a little bit.
And to me, that's one of the hallmarks of a good facilitator who can maybe say something provocative, like you were just suggesting, or take on an opinion that you know folks have that they're not voicing, and then people are responding to you instead of the person sitting next to them. But all those kind of tricks of "We like human beings, we understand they're complex, we understand their organizations are complex, and we're going to try and get them unstuck a little bit. And to me, that's the magic. And that's what I've heard about you as you're very good at the unsticking of organizations and groups.
Kenya Rutland: What I'll tell you, I try and think that the end game is always organizational health because I bring you back to that. And really that's the framework that we use. But again, one of my favorite authors has a great model. And the premise of that model is, you have that solid leadership team. And that's where the stickiness oftentimes happens. "Oh I don't like this, I don't like this, I want this." And it's really not about how smart we are. It's really about the healthy things like when junk happens, how willing are we t,o engage and get through that junk? And then if we do that well, we get clarity, and clarity is all that we're trying to get you.
And if we can do that well, those two things, I think most organizations are well on their path to being successful. And I think for me, I found something that works, it clicks. And when I try to connect with clients, it's the same way, like, I love your phrase and saying it and I'm trying to get you unstuck. And it really is tough because some organizations just do that. There's a great video clip on YouTube, we use in our diversity training work, and also diversity and equity work, specifically. And it's a man and a woman in an escalator, and they're going up the escalator and it stops. And there's this idea that, "What are you going to do?"
And they go, "Whoa, it's almost like somebody's going to come and help us." But again, notice they weren't stuck in an elevator, you're stuck on an escalator. No one thinks through walking up. And it's the same thing with groups sometimes. And that's where a good facilitator comes in. I'm not coming to help you, per say. I'm coming to help you help yourself. As I learned a long time ago, inspiration is having the fuel to continue long after you're gone. And I don't see myself as a motivational facilitator, but I think my natural energy, sometimes may come across as such, which can be good and sometimes challenging.
But I think what's nice is it yields scenarios where clients can say, "Oh, remember, what Kenya referenced or remember the team referenced or remember whoever referenced?" I love to have somebody call me and say, "I remember that thing you said." That is just like one of the most fulfilling things, you don't have to pay me a lot, you don't have to give me accolades. I don't need any awards, is just when I hear you use nuggets of things that I know we've shared, it's like, "Wow, you had an impact." And maybe you inspired them and they continue doing whatever it was long after.
Deb Zahn: That's right. I love that. Or even give them a new language, to describe something. I do something, I've done something with a few clients, where I have them kill zombies. And what I say zombies are the living undead activities and projects that you do that add no value, everybody hates them, but you keep doing them. And what I always love to hear is, like a year later, they're like, "Oh yeah, that was a zombie, we got rid of that." And I wasn't even around. That's what I want.
Kenya Rutland: That's awesome. That’s awesome.
Deb Zahn: So I know, you also do a lot of work with change management. Now, for a lot of consultants, change is what we do. We would be out of business if change didn't need to happen. But change is tough, and organizations definitely struggle with it. So how do you help your clients sort of manage change and embrace that change is really about getting to where they want to get to?
Kenya Rutland: Yeah, well, I think I first thing is we try to do, and I would say with the staff that I have produced that I'm privileged to lead, we try to model it. One of our core values is kitchen tested, it may sound a little cheesy in the way we say it, but the premise for us is we don't try anything. Or should I say we don't promote anything that we haven't tried ourselves that we're not living. And I think that when you think about change, I am a change for change takes purpose person, let's roll with it. My partner in life happens to be someone who she's like, "Yeah, don't change anything." So what happens to me is, it's one of those things where I live it, and I think we try to model it.
I think a few things that come to mind for me, and this is learned from mentors of mine, research, etc. is yet to manage the people's side change first, in my opinion. Obviously, when I say manage, we know that there's a process, and there may be, like project management. There should be some shifts in the way we do business. We work with mergers and acquisitions, that junk's happening and that's for the money side of the business. That's smart stuff. You need to sign on from where the partner is going to make sense from a revenue perspective and growth. Great, right? However, no one really thinks sometimes about, "But Deb likes to get up early in the morning, and she's an introvert. And Kenya is an extrovert, he loves to be up late. Well, how is that going to work with a team up?"
Well, we're always thinking about that people side and I think that when we think about moving through that resistance, the issues around training, people leading information and things like that…it's rolling over a lot of leader’s heads and they just go execute it. And sometimes, what they want to have happen in three months, realistically, could happen in three months on paper, and physically connecting this to this. But you need to train people, give them a chance to weigh in on what you're trying to do because maybe, just maybe, and you probably have experiences. I know I've been guilty of this, maybe in running my own firm, I rolled over and had a good idea as a leader. But I don't do that work every day.
So what about the people who do it every day? Maybe you should check in with them, before you make a major change. So I think that that's the other side of it. So I would say that it's really been great for us to really get out of the world to say, "Change management's about writing the right plan and using the right model and using certified change process." It's really about those things, but at the same time making sure that you're thinking about what your people need, what they need to know, how do you really understand that there's going to be resistance from where it comes from, and that you work through that. And I think when organizations that we work with, kind of look at it in an unorthodox way of going, "What are our people thinking?" And then let's roll that into the physical change. Man, they've had faster results, more impactful results.
And even when people are going, "I hate this!" Because there are a lot of people who just, no matter what, they hate it, they're still going, "You know what, going back to my comment earlier, I weighed in, so I bought in, I can go commit to this. And I'm on board, and I'm not going to be a saboteur." You talked about killing zombies, we don't like saboteurs or people who are just going, “I want to hijack this project” and “I'm going to go, ‘I told you so, Deb.’” Well, and as long as you've been the one person that we needed on board being all in, that would have actually helped us get there. So I think that's really the crucial part for us. I mean, I know it's a lot there. But I mean, I think simply said, it's managing the people side first, and making sure that you pick that part through just as much as you have your great strategist for the best consulting firms working on the process change, or the project side of it.
Deb Zahn: That's right, because at the end of the day, as I tell people, unless you're switching to hamsters, you got people.
Kenya Rutland: Exactly.
Deb Zahn: And I'm not saying hamsters would be any easier, by the way.
Kenya Rutland: Whatever that is so well said though.
Deb Zahn: So you mentioned a few times, that you've had mentors, which I think is critical for anyone who's going to be a consultant who really wants to truly be excellent and as well as be able to build the business side of it. What are the sort of key things that some of your mentors have taught you that really made a difference in how you built your business?
Kenya Rutland: Oh, wow, that's a great question. Now, it's almost one of the things I reflect on and get a little bit sentimental because you're thinking about all the people that have had an impact. You asked me earlier how I got into consulting and I was obviously really privileged to be in a space where I was smart enough to move when the market required me to move. Starting with the idea that was in a company that went belly up, but I didn't go, “Well, I’ll just sit back and collect unemployment and just figure out what I'm going to do next.” Because that might have put me into a new role of business development, that wasn't my calling.
For me, one of the last people that I was able to collaborate with, where I left that firm, was, and I would say this really candidly and directly to leaders, was a person that looked like me, I connected with and actually had business success. So an older black male, who basically looked out for me and said, "You got to make sure you know your value for starters. You really want to ensure that you're not in a scenario we think about equity in the world we live in, that you feel as if like you're not getting what you're valued, or you're doing things that many other people are not having to do but you get that."
So I think that started me off really early, just being aware of the fact that things may be different for us, depending on who we are: women, men, people of color, etc. So I bring diversity into a lot of my work, in my daily life. It’s inevitably going to happen, it’s just what I look like. So I think that that was one of the first lessons that I learned, which is just knowing your value, and not necessarily playing cards, but really kind of understanding that there are differences that we get treated differently based on who we are. And so you have to walk into certain spaces, recognizing that and actually be prepared to eliminate or minimize any negatives that might be coming with you.
So there's a stereotype proceeding you. So that was one and that kind of sucks, for you to be valued for what you do but sometimes people may have preconceived notions. On a more, I guess, business notion, I actually learned really early, there were two people that you need to have in your consulting firm, and get it early and get them as trusted people early: a good accountant and a good attorney. I started my firm doing my website and marketing, trying to figure out my taxes, I came out of a business administration background and accounting, filing my own taxes, trying to figure out what I could figure out the contracts, etc. And then someone introduced me to an accountant who said, "You can write this off, and I can save you a lot of time, but I can also keep you out of trouble."
And my attorney was like, "You have these contracts and learning guides, etc. I can help you with that too." And it was just a great change of going, "Why are you trying to worry about everything that you're not a specialist in? That's not what being an entrepreneur is about." And I could tell you, my accountant saved me in a major scenario early in my life and my attorney, and that I had someone steal my content, and they developed a program around it. I had envisioned bringing me in, or at least that's how it was sold as, and they took it and ran with it and never brought me in. And lo and behold, they got an award for the work. And someone asked me, "What do you think about that great program?" And that's how I found out about it.
So no, I did not sue. But it taught me that had I had a legal perspective in play, my content would have said, "No you're my attorney, you're not having anything over without the appropriate documentation." So I may be like rigid and stuff, but I would just say that life lesson one was: just know who you are, know your value, and know what you're bringing. Life lesson two is: when it comes to your business, whether you want to be a one man or one woman show, or if you want to grow into a firm, have the right people who specialize in the things you need your support in around you. And then build relationships though.
And what I mean by that is, it's not a matter of me saying, "Here's some checks, go handle this, or here's my taxes for review" What I mean is be able to have those conversations. Like they say in the entertainment world, "I have a lawyer watching my lawyers." Like I have a consultant watching my consultant. It's like just having those relationships that are crucial. And then I would just close by saying that the third thing is: remember the people that are around you. I'm in a grind right now, we're doing really well as a firm. And it comes from the hard work that we put in. But I realized too, that my wife has been an amazing partner in this process.
I have four kids, and I was unfortunately divorced in the middle of that mix. So she came in as a step mom, and we certainly built a family around two younger kids and just having a partner that gets it. And we've recently joked around, but it's taken 11 and a half years for you to realize that, but as I'm going to stay in a hotel tonight, it's not because I don't want to come home and I don't love you, it's because I'm exhausted and I got to be with a client tomorrow and I don't want to take that drive through the snow.
Because we know in consulting, if you don't show up with 30 people in a room, you're the bad guy. They're not going, "Oh, it snowed, so we're just trying to understand.” When you get that partner that can really help out, boy it really makes your life go a long way. And I think as a consultant, we just want to see it as remembering your loved ones and not forgetting them.
Deb Zahn: That's right. Yeah, my husband who I adore beyond measure, who's also a behavior change expert...he's very good at also just saying, "Every choice is a relative choice." So when you're making business choices, you're also making life choices. And make sure you know what I mean, and to have that at my disposal, to hear that, which of course he has to tell me on the regular. Because I don't know why I forget that that makes all the difference in the world is to have somebody who's sharing the perspective of, “this is our life together, and how are the choices you're making impacting that?”
Kenya Rutland: That's awesome. Interesting. My wife is a behavior analyst so…
Deb Zahn: I bet they could talk about us!
Kenya Rutland: Definitely. Definitely.
Deb Zahn: So let me switch to a little bit more about some advice for new consultants. So who I'm targeting with the Craft of Consulting are people who have been accomplished professionals, who are now going to become consultants. And of course, that's a whole new skill set that you have to learn to be a consultant. So if you are giving advice to folks who are switching, which you did at one point in your life, what would you tell them, "Do this first, this is the most important skill you need to get or knowledge you need to get to really be successful?"
Kenya Rutland: Wow, thinking back here? I would say that one of the first things that I think is so crucial, is deciding what you really want to be in your work. And what I mean by that is, are you Kenya Rutland, Organizational Development Consultant, Chief Enthusiasm Officer, blah, blah, blah? Or are you Kenya Rutland, Principal and Chief Enthusiasm Officer of KJR consulting, we are a firm that does X. And what I mean by that is, I do my work, or we are a firm. The significance of that is the role that you're going to play in that work might change dramatically when you start adding people. So specifically, what I'm referring to is, I started off as one man, I'm the guy on the plane, I'm the guy flying here, I'm the guy doing this, I'm the guy trying to build content at night, because I got to deliver tomorrow and I've been behind, I'm the person paying taxes, writing checks, paying American Express, blah, blah, blah.
Well, that gets all really quick, but if that's what you want to be in a one-person operation, that's what it is, and you might decide to take on work or things around what I can actually have and been with. Well, I honestly had a shift in my world, and I kind of wish I had thought about this earlier is that we are more in the realm of being a firm. By that I say that I've been able to grow through great relationships and firms hiring me and building my client base to a place now that I'm choosing the engagements that I want to physically be part of, and then I'm actually, what I would have to say, "I'm using my team or hiring consultants that support the others." And I think there's a big difference in that, because as an older gentleman told me, he said, "Kenya, one of your challenges is, you're not going to be able to grow, if you're one man, and you're trying to do everything.” Whereas if you recognize that, "Hey, growth is in your game plan, you can do four gigs in a day, five gigs in a day, if you have other people to do those."
Deb Zahn: That's right.
Kenya Rutland: And so it's just kind of understanding that, and I think for me, started off in a space of, "I got to do it all." But I realized my value or my calling is really providing solutions for clients to achieve organizational health. If I do that, awesome, I love it. But if I can't provide that, and somebody else can help with that, that's even better. And I think we're still making the world a better place. Companies are better. And the way for me today is that's happening underneath my brand of KJR Consulting, and that's an even better feeling. Clients are calling us back, etc. So I feel like I can have a bigger, broader impact. And I'm not lost in the space of being able to do the work, I just have to choose the ones that I want to be involved with.
And I think that is really big, and for any new consultants who may be listening, you may be thinking, "Hey, I'm not even there yet. I'm just starting consulting." Well, I'm thinking bigger picture, which is like: Where are you looking to go? And I think that may be a second thing that I would say to you, to have a map of what you're looking at. I can tell you firsthand, and I'll say this very respectfully. I've hired and probably had to remove members of our team in a way that I've never had to more recently, because everybody thinks they’re a consultant, everybody wants to be a consultant "I lost my job. I want to consult." It is not the same thing. Just because you have X number of user experience doesn't mean you can consult.
I mean, I think there's value in that knowledge, but you have to put it into a package that makes sense. And I think that's one of the challenges that we've had as well, where people just, don’t really know what they want to do and we could spin and burn a lot of time trying to onboard people to consulting, who are really just employees who really need that nine to five mindset, focus, etc. And they can't do it. Because we all have our ups and downs and you have those windows where I get to say, "I'm not going to work, I'm going bashing today." But that's not because I'm a slacker, that's because I know what my strategy is, I know what my day looks like and I plan accordingly for that work life balance.
So I think those would be some things that I put up those nuggets: know what you want to be in the future, know where you're going, and then have a plan for how you think you might get there. And I would also add, don't be afraid to hire the resources that might be able to help you. And the significance of that is people who are good at it, just like other consultants can save you a lot of time or trying to figure it out on YouTube or Google, when they can say, "Here's this is why." And again, I think that early in the game resources matter. So I may not have the money to hire somebody, but that's where you barter and you think about what things you could do to help somebody else.
I told a graduating class at St. John's University for our leadership program I support recently, there are three things we need to have and I think it applies in this case as well. A solid Rolodex, the women, and men you can call when you need something, build relationships out of those Rolodexes, people that you know you know more than just the business card in your context is going, "How do I know them?" I know something about them and I can reach out. So if I see them, or I need somebody I know how to make connections. And then, last but not least, is being real. And that's being authentic about who you are or what you're doing. And I think for consultants means, "Man, this isn't working." Well know that and walk away, don't try to be a hero and starve your family by saying I just got to make this consulting thing work.
And it's not working because I just think that that starts to erode your quality etc. You don't want to be somebody who I've met and that was formerly partnered with in some aspects. People that maybe are in this business for the wrong reason or this feel. I don't work for money, I think I do really well in my work but I found that when I take that out of the picture, and my line for my clients is "Let's not let money prevent us from working together." Very often, their checkbooks opened up in a larger way because they realize I'm not looking to invoice the heck out of them, I'm looking to do some real work. Let's get rid of some zombies, as you said, but let's figure out how we can do it in a way that it works for your budget. And as long as it's fair, we're good. And I can't tell you the number of repeat clients we get from that.
Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah. I love that authenticity and heart. Because we've all seen the consultants that are just chasing the money and they can do fine, and they can have their place in the world but I often come in after them and try and give clients the experience that they really wanted to have which is, "Hey, somebody come help me, I need some help. I need you to come help me figure out how to make things better." And I love that you talk about it that way, because that's the only reason I think that I want to be in consulting and anybody that I know and respect is in consulting for that reason. So that's wonderful. So is there anything, you would tell a new consultant, "Do not do this?"
Kenya Rutland: Oh boy, lessons learned? Well, I tell you what, one thing I would actually say pretty demonstrably is. "Don't chase money." But I would say that from the standpoint of, sometimes we see the gig and the dollars and cents, but don't think about all that needs to be done to get to the dollars and cents. And you wind up paying the client for working with them. When it's all said and done, if you follow me?
Deb Zahn: Oh yeah.
Kenya Rutland: I've had gigs where I was like, "Well, somehow, I feel like I'm thanking you for letting me work with you because all the time I'm spending, is huge.” So I think that that is really important. I'm not chasing just the dollar. I mean, there's a big gig, I'd say, "Go nail it." But it's an idea of nailing it for the right reason. I think another thing, too, is being careful who your partners are. You could get pulled into scenarios where your name, your brand, you are forever connected to something that's not good.
And I think it's important to have people that have business acumen or business savvy around you, if you're going to partner with them, or at least, and I'd say it this way, at least they're going to bring you up, or more so than, "We're in the same plane, and we can be the blind leading the blind."
And the significance of that is I think that if we surround ourselves with groupthink and people that are doing things, we're not really going to really move the needle in the right way. Or we might miss something really big. And I think for me, I found myself in a scenario where I had the business savvy, I didn't have the facilitation skills, and I'd connect with people who had a little bit more facilitation skills, but they didn't have business skills. And so when I go land a gig, that was big money or that seemed like it was a larger revenue generator, I think it was sourcing dollars and we start losing quality, the authenticity of the work is there.
And again, that's an easy problem to have, or you want to buy a new this or buy a new that or, "Oh this feels really good. We're making money." I think the other thing that I would say, don’t do is, don't make your life your business. And what I mean by that is, I live KJR Consulting. I don't have any ink or tattoos. But I thought what am I going to get? Maybe it was going to be the tagline, “Get Enthused. Make it Happen” for years. More actually like, "You bonehead, can you not make it about work.” And I guess our premise was like, "What, are you going to look at your arm every day and be reminded of work? It'd be really nice if you put the kids or something like that.”
So it's just like the idea that you have to let go sometimes. And I've gotten to a place now where I can take a vacation. And I have a number two who's amazing. And she said to me, "I'm not bothering you on your vacation. If I find that you are checking email, I'm going to actually tell you and the client, both that you're on vacation. And have it be that they'll reach out to me.” So I have someone that's like calling me out on that. And not everybody has that to start, but I think we over prioritize it, if there's such a word, our business, it starts to feel like everything's about work and your kids, your wife, your husband, your partner, how we...whomever it is in your life, or people or things around you start to suffer, because everything's about the job.
I love to golf. I love sporting events. I just got a bike last weekend. A Mother’s Day gift is we got bikes. And the cool part about it was I rode a bike for the first time, with an intent to go somewhere. For the first time I bet you Deb in maybe 20 years, it was the greatest feeling of just being there on a bike, not even a motorcycle can take that. But it was like a great feeling, which I don't have time for a bike, I got to get in my car to hurry up and get somewhere. Because "I got to hurry and get back and do more work." It’s the general mindset. Don't forget to take care of yourself.
And remember the people and things around you that are going to make you show up as somebody who's not wired and crazy, trying to hurry up and finish the gig because you got to go, but instead say like, "Hey, we got to take care of some stuff today. My job is to bring some peace to this space, bring some enthusiasm to this space today and help you get through your challenge." And I think that as we run our businesses, as we saturate the market because there's a lot of consultants, they wanted to be the best people they got at work, think about the things that are going to really help you remember, "I've been in my life journey."
And I fast forward to wanting to have my two older kids be in my business and work in my field, and I think about what would it feel like if I have my grandkids on my lap one day, and they're looking at their parents and saying, "This firm has been great, it must be nice working for Grandpa?" Or whatever they will call me right? And I can say “It’s been a great run.” And when legacy, which I hope to have one that's good, when biology calls and it's my time to go, people can look back and say, "Rutland made an impact." But more importantly, "That guy was a good guy, he was balanced in the way he did his stuff." That's something that I really value and that I love to be able to say, in whatever time my time is up and I’m there.
Deb Zahn: That is absolutely wonderful. Well, I want to thank you so much. There are so many nuggets and gems throughout this whole thing that I imagine can be tremendously helpful for new consultants. So I thank you so much for your time. And I hope to see you in Connecticut, because I know we both work there. So I'm sure I will see you in some room somewhere and your enthusiasm will rub off on me.
Kenya Rutland: Right my friend, I would consider it an absolute privilege to be able to work with you. I know that what you're doing is amazing. And I think that hopefully those that are listening, and I now will be a listener as well really kind of take these nuggets from whomever we're getting from it. Because I think the camaraderie amongst consultants is something that's a little bit of a missing link because we're in such competition with each other. You said something that was powerful earlier, which is when we do this work for the wrong reason, you oftentimes come behind that person. And I think that's the thing, we really want people that are authentic and really understand that we are, I would say many cases that people who are normally advisors to those people who are running companies, are going to change this world, but they need us and I really just thank you for the opportunity to consider me worthy of being on this podcast. So thank you so much.
Deb Zahn: Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you for listening to Episode 10 of the Craft of Consulting podcast. So I have a whole lot of other great interviews just like this one coming up. Please hit subscribe so you don't miss anything. And definitely check out Craftofconsulting.com, you're going to find a whole lot of information and tools that are going to help you in your consulting journey, help you succeed faster, and ultimately to be able to create the life you want. So thanks for joining me on this episode. I will be on the next one, looking forward to it. Bye bye.