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Episode 111: Change Strategies That Make You a Valuable Consultant—with DeAdrian Maddox

Deb Zahn: Hi, I want to welcome you to this week's episode of The Craft of Consulting podcast. So today, we are going to dig into so many details about how you manage the people aspect of change when you're working with a company or organization. And I am telling you, this is so loaded with information. I brought on Dee Maddox from DMX consulting, who has a background in HR and really understands how people work and function, and what you have to do on the people side of the business to actually get change to happen and make it stick. This is applicable to any consultant who's doing any type of change work. So let's get started.

Hi, I want to welcome to my show today, Dee Maddox. Dee, welcome to the show. I'm so excited to have you on.

Dee Maddox: Thank you, Deb! I'm so excited to be here.

Deb Zahn: So let's start off. Tell my listeners what you do.

Dee Maddox: So I have, in the middle of a global pandemic, launched a consulting firm.

Deb Zahn: I love it!

Dee Maddox: People pick something that means something to them, so I chose the initials of my name. Dee Maddox. DMX. The first initial, the second initial, and then the last letter of my name. DMX Consulting. And the mission of my consulting firm, as a long time HR practitioner, is HR consulting where you demand excellence. Another wordplay. I love words. So DMX consulting is an HR consulting firm that we want to help you demand excellence and achieve success. And so somebody's always, "Well, why are you demanding excellence? How can you achieve success?" Well, you're demanding excellence through your most important asset, your human capital. Through your employees.

So by focusing on the people through an HR mechanism, and putting systems in place, you can create sustainable processes that are going to give you the excellence that you deserve. And that's actually the mission of my company, to help you achieve the success that you deserve.

Deb Zahn: I love that. And I love that you focus on the people part because that's the part, as you know, that gets ignored a lot. Like if you just do everything else, you'll be solid. And, of course, that's never, ever true. So we actually are going to dig into the people side of business and organizations today. And I know you love words, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to have you on. I want to start with one that I just loved when you talked to me about it, which is DEED to Success.

Dee Maddox: Yes.

Deb Zahn: Say what that is, and how that works with folks you work with.

Dee Maddox: So when you are talking about helping someone achieve success, who's responsible? If you're a success or if you're a failure, there has to be some ownership. So the word DEED has two major meanings. So I have kids and I talk to them about, "Don't tell me some obscure meaning that's number four, five, or six. What are the top two?" So when you're talking about a deed, you're talking about ownership. A deed shows ownership. The other thing, if you're talking about a national organization…we all know, the Boys' and Girls' Scouts of America, a daily good deed? A deed is an action. So a deed, there's success and then there's action for that success. There's ownership of that success. So two things. Action and ownership. That's how you achieve success. So the success that you deserve is based on those two things. So your DEED to Success is demanding excellence in everything you do, and you're doing that through the action and the ownership.

Deb Zahn: I love that. I love that because again, I've seen a lot of places who will start to implement the action without clarifying the ownership piece, and then when anything starts to go awry, nobody knows whose job it is to do something about it.

Dee Maddox: You said a whole word when you said that, Deb. Because when you talk about ownership and that action, there has to be some skin in the game, as we like to say. But in the organizational structure, you know this better than anyone, in human resources, when you have those key meetings and you're deciding on next steps. You have to have some key stakeholders in the room who can make those decisions. And ultimately become responsible, right? So next meeting when you say, "Deb, your team...You can''s undeniable who owns that task." So having a clearly defined process of major stakeholders. And so that's why it's not just about the people but it's about the performance of those people and the ownership, which gets into those stakeholders and decision makers so that there's some accountability. Which is the second piece of clear expectations and enforced accountability, of that ownership and those actions.

Deb Zahn: I love that. And so many organizations need help figuring that out because that's not what they necessarily naturally do. So let's dig into the people thing because I know organizations need to figure out how they situate their people. How they organize their people. How should they be thinking about that, when they start to think about who should be in what seat?

Dee Maddox: So I love the fact that you asked that because for years when personnel went to human resources, and it was the resource of those people, it was well known that you have an organization inside that organization. You have different functions. Within those functions, you have the people. But do you have the right people, in the right place, at the right time? Because operations change. We're in the middle of a global pandemic right now. One thing we all know, and I hate to say this word, is that organizations have been forced to pivot. They've had to change some of the operations. They've had to stop delivering certain products. They've had to think of new ways of delivery. So as your organization operations are changing, are the skillsets of the folks that you have like musical chairs? Have you checked to see that you still have the right people in the right place at the right time? This post-pandemic, or we're in the middle of the pandemic.

So checking on those skills. Doing an organizational analysis. Achieving that success through a strategic plan using the analysis of the organization to check on those skills. Doing a needs assessment to see who's capable of what and then playing to those strengths. And not getting freaked out, thinking, "Boy, this person is a dud." But looking into them as whole individuals and their capability. And defining a new place for the new organization where they can be successful. Or maybe getting some additional training to help them achieve the strategy that you put in place to address the changes that we're under now, with limited face to face contact. With limited public gathering. All those kinds of things that might be impacted if you're in a service industry.

Deb Zahn: And I like that because someone might be a dud given the current circumstances, but if you did move the chairs around, you did put them somewhere else, they might become a rock star. So talk about the organizational analysis that you do. So what would that look like at an organization that you were working with?

Dee Maddox: Thank you for asking. So as an HR practitioner, there's about six or seven competencies that define the discipline itself. One of those is organizational analysis that leads into the strategy. When you're looking at the organization, you're looking across the board. Not just at leadership. You're looking at the individual contributors. You're looking at the different functions. So the first thing you do is look at the overall structure of the organization and how it's put together. Then you look at the individual functions. Then you look at the skillset of the folks, the competencies necessary to accomplish what's in that. So where are we now, and where do we want to go, and do we have the necessary skills and talent to get there? Maybe we do, maybe we don't. If we have it, that's great. If we don't, when you look inside, then maybe you need to go out and recruit it, or develop someone internal to get it.

Deb Zahn: You said something that's actually...I want to dig into it because I've seen so many organizations not approach it that way. What I've seen them do is to look at the people they have first. So not look at the functions, not look at what they're trying to achieve, but just look at the people, and say, "OK, where's the best person to put Bob? Where's the best person to put Marie?" As opposed to looking at what the organization needs, looking at...The description that you just gave is the sequential way to do it. How do you get people past that don't start with the people you have, start with what you actually need? How would you get someone past that different way of looking at how they're managing people, without front loading the exact people they have right now?

Dee Maddox: OK, so that is part of the strategic plan. So you know what your business is, whatever you're in business to accomplish. So when you're looking at your business, you're looking at the operations. As a HR practitioner, I used to be responsible for writing position descriptions. When you look at the position description, you think about the job itself, not who you can get to do the job but the functions that encompass that particular role. So you're looking at problem solving capability, communication levels, is there going to be supervision involved? So you're looking at some sort of concrete functions that go across the organization, but you're not thinking about individual people. So as an organization, if your job is to produce something in manufacturing or if you're providing a particular service, you don't want to think about individuals, you want to think about the process it takes for your organization to accomplish this mission. So you don't think about who's in the chair, you think about what chairs you need. Like if you're having a cookout, it's different from having a formal dinner.

So you're not thinking about the people, you're thinking about the outcome. So in James Clear, Atomic Habits, he talks about that. Not focusing on the goal because the goal is a one time accomplishment versus focusing on the sustainable processes that get you where you want to be and then you just keep revisiting the process. And you keep performing the process. Versus thinking OK, I want to lose 10 pounds. You lose the 10 pounds and then what? You've reached the goal. Do you fall back into your old eating habits or not exercising? But if you focus on just living better, making healthier choices, moving more, and just thinking and adopting that process, then you become a whole healthy person. Versus saying, "I lost 10 pounds, and now what?" Then you're on the yo-yo diet and you're up and down. Well it's the same thing for organizations. If your goal is just to be Chick-Fil-A and produce the best chicken, and all you do is chicken, you can't go there and get a burger. You focus on the one thing and everyone that comes there, it's their pleasure to serve you.

So they know what excellence looks like for that organization and everyone that comes in is drawn in and educated on that process. So when we talk about defining excellence in everything you do, with clear expectations and enforced accountability to get to what you're saying for that organization, you have to define what excellence is. You have to educate every employee that comes through the door, and then you have to make sure it's being executed properly. And then you document and measure that performance. And then rinse and repeat. So you're not looking at individuals, you're looking at the overall organization. What they want to accomplish and how they want to accomplish it. And you stick to whatever that map is on how you're going to get there.

Deb Zahn: I like that, and I think that Chick-Fil-A is a good example because what you wouldn't want to do as an organization is say, "All right, here's the people they have, who's good at making tacos? OK, nobody. OK, maybe we should do this instead." You don't have to lead the process, you have the organization and what you're trying to achieve lead the process. So as a consultant, if you go into an organization, which is different from being in an organization, and there's pros and cons of being an outsider, how do you help them understand that this is actually a good way to do it?

Dee Maddox: Well, that begins with educating them on the process. So you don't just go in changing things. The first thing begins with observation. You have an entrance meeting with the powers that be to find out exactly what they're trying to achieve and what their current methods are and that includes some interviews and some desk audits where you actually are monitoring and observing the current incumbents in those roles. And you may or may not see that based on what you're seeing, that everyone's doing things the same way or everyone's not doing things the same way. Because over time, people tend to put their own little personal twist on accomplishing certain goals. And those individual twists may be a departure from what you intended it to be. If you want service with a smile and you discover that some people are not smiling, but they're still delivering service, well that's not what you intended if you want service with a smile. Then everyone, every day, has to give service with a smile.

So just observing to see if people are still following the same sheet of music because what happens when they start getting jazzy, and adding extra beats, and speeding up, or slowing down, so just some observation that begins with interviews and then seeing if they're still on track, and then recalibrating them if not. Like I said, defining that excellence, reeducating, monitoring the execution, and then documenting it and measuring.

Deb Zahn: So one of the things you're doing is you're giving them information that they wouldn't have. Because they're not going to sit there and watch people the way that you would when you're observing folks. So that's a huge value to them is chances are they don't actually know what's happening. And they don't know if the variation is good or bad, they don't even know it's happening.

Dee Maddox: Exactly. And with the pandemic, that variation might be necessary because we're going to consolidate services or eliminate services, and someone's found a smarter, better way, and if it is a smarter, better way, that only one person is doing, then that's a best practice that we need to adopt across the board, that can increase the organization's performance because someone was innovative, and creative, and they loved what they were doing. Now they're not following the sheet music, but if it is something that is profitable and desirable, then we do want to adopt that and teach everyone. And then move from there.

Deb Zahn: So I love one of the things you do is you say, "Let's do an assessment before we make any decisions. Let's get the right information and data in front of us." And then you move into strategy. So now what do we do with that information that is actually going to help us make decisions? So how do you transition, then, companies and organizations into that next phase of, now you've got to really make decisions?

Dee Maddox: Well that depends on how willing the stakeholders are to make the change. Because that's going to entail not just coming in and knocking everything down and starting over, but it has to be a very orchestrated, timely change management process. And that begins with communicating to the employees why the change is necessary, so there's a communication process that has to happen. So if all of the powers that be have decided that it does need to happen in that way that I've designed, and that they want to move forward with the execution of the strategic plan, then you'll want to incorporate some of the people that were involved in performing the work with communicating the change and deciding how the change is going to be executed.

So the more buy-in you get from those employees, then the more successful the change is going to be, then they don't feel like it's being shoved down their throats, and then you have more advocacies and champions, in terms of how you get the change accomplished. So the communication and the buy-in from the existing employees is really necessary. If they decide that this strategy is going to be, “Where are we now, and where do we want to go, well how do you get there?” You have to involve the current employees, the incumbents that are in those roles because if you're going to be moving them around or making changes to how they do business, you want them to be aware that it's happening so that it doesn't become, "Why are you punishing me? Why are we changing things?" They understand the change, and they're in the more critical spot to be able to communicate that to their peers, and to new people who come on as well.

Deb Zahn: I love all of it, and I love how casually you said something that's pretty monumental, which is so many organizations just think,

"Oh, OK, then we'll just make this change, and we'll send a memo out." Or, "We'll put it in the company newsletter."

Dee Maddox: You just made my heart stop when you said that.

Deb Zahn: I know, right? I know. And I've seen it, and it's like, "Nooooo!"

Dee Maddox: Yes, exactly.

Deb Zahn: Don't do that!

Dee Maddox: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: So if you imagine...So they're going to make a significant change. They're going to move folks around. They're going to change functions. How would you help the leadership of that organization figure out, here's how you need to manage the change so that you get the outcome you want? So what kind of conversations would you be having with leadership?

Dee Maddox: So the leaders, oftentimes are resistant to change. Change is necessary, but it's not always easily digested. So you actually have to have an education plan for the leadership to talk to them about the changes. So if the change is being made by the owner or the president, and he has his executive team, everyone has to be brought to the table at once and communicated what is happening. Because otherwise, you have different versions. There's something lost in translation if you have one person and they put in a memo, "Oh, I sent the memo to my team." Well that's not OK. You have to get them in the same room at one time and talk about it together. And that's where you can start to see the resistance and you can answer questions. You can also get some of the pushback at the top level that will probably be replicated at the subsequent levels.

Deb Zahn: So I'm sure you've seen lots of common mistakes, and we've hit on a few of them in terms of organizations that aren't necessarily going to manage it well. Or you set up it beautifully in just the way that you described it, and then somebody goes off the rails, or you find out that somebody's freaking out about it, and nobody's handling it appropriately. How do you help them manage it step by step, so again, if anything goes off track, it gets put back on the track very fast?

Dee Maddox: Exactly. So that's for the documentation process. So when you're making the strategic plan of this change that has to occur that everyone has agreed on, in addition to the communication of the plan, you actually have to document what the changes are going to be. And then you're having status meetings and updates along the way. So the change doesn't happen overnight. Nothing happens overnight. So as you're incrementally phasing in the changes, you're monitoring and documenting and communicating along the way. So there is a communication plan that goes along with the changes, so as the changes are happening, you're communicating on a regular basis what's next, where are we now? Because the whole point of the strategic plan is, this is where we are, and this is where we're going.

So all along the way you're communicating the status of the change. And then if you're checking in regularly, and someone goes off the rails, those status reports are going to prove that. So you don't just announce the change and hope for the best. You're actually walking alongside and regularly communicating, "So, where are we going? We're going to Florida. That sign said we were headed to Utah. We must be going in the wrong direction." So if you're not regularly communicating the plan and regularly checking up on the status of the direction that you're headed in, you won't ever know if someone's gone off track or is pushing back or there's a hiccup.

So one of the things we did when I was working on a change management project at NASA, is we did what we call transition management. So managing the change and having regularly scheduled, cross-functional team meetings so that everyone in every department was aware. Even if you were human resources, accounting, logistics, public relations, everyone was included in these meetings so that they got regular updates. Now you could never say you weren't told, you didn't have the opportunity to ask questions, or you were unaware that the change was occurring because these monthly status meetings are required to have a person available to communicate within your organization, take this back to the group. Like ants. Take this back to the group, and tell them this is where we are, and this is where we're heading.

Deb Zahn: I like that because you never know where somebody's going to knock a wheel off the bus, to use another analogy. And it could be someone who you thought was just tangentially related to what you were doing, and if you ignore them, and then suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt because you didn't include them in it. I think that's why such a thorough process is so important. And this is what consultants have to help their clients understand. This doesn't just happen at the C-suite level.

Dee Maddox: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: And that's one of the mistakes.

Dee Maddox: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: So I know metrics, and one of the other reasons I love what you do is you also really emphasize metrics. So how folks are even going to know that they're achieving what they want to achieve. Because often they'll say, "Oh, we want to do a merger and acquisition," or, "Oh, we want to transition to this new IT platform." Whatever the big change is. But that's it. They set the goal. They set the North Star but there's nothing that tells them that they're actually getting there. So what kind of metrics do you often talk to people about when they're trying to figure out, how are you going to know if you did what you said you wanted to do?

Dee Maddox: That's why you need the key stakeholders and the representation from all of the core functions. Because you want to define a dashboard of what you're measuring. So how do you know you're winning if you're not keeping score? So that definition, when we talk about the DEED, the define, the education, the execution, and the documentation, that definition of what that excellence looks like for your organization or what that target is. How do you get to that target, and what steps are being taken to get there? You have to put a key measure. Some key performance indicators in place. And then you start tracking that.

So if you're going to reach, you need timelines and you need outcomes. And then someone is responsible for measuring and tracking that all along the way until you hit that target. So the key performance indicator would depend on what you're looking to achieve but you would definitely have to get those stakeholders in place and then create a dashboard and monitor it along the way.

Deb Zahn: And as a consultant, when do you know your job is done and you can ride off into the sunset when you're helping organizations with this type of change?

Dee Maddox: Well, usually you have a follow-up meeting. So I'll ride off into the sunset when everything is in place and I've delivered, for example, what it is. They may not keep me on for the long-term, or they may have a full HR department who can carry out the marching orders and they just need me on the planning side. So it depends on how much of the engagement they want me to do, but if they want me to hang around and see it through, then I don't know about riding off into the sunset. But I would know once it's just that one thing. Once it's documented and all of the steps are in place, they've identified someone who can continue and transfer that knowledge to everyone who comes after me, after I'm gone. So there would be a key person in place that I would pass the baton to before riding off into the sunset.

Deb Zahn: So if you were queen of the I'm going to give you a crown for a second. So far so good, right?

Dee Maddox: So far so good.

Deb Zahn: If you were with an organization that had some trouble changing, like they had trouble getting changes to stick, let's say.

Dee Maddox: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Deb Zahn: What would you be doing after the assessment, the analysis, was done. The strategy was done. They have the metrics. They've started to implement it. How would you help to just make sure that it actually sticks?

Dee Maddox: So that is going to be what education should be. An ongoing process. So once you educate everyone in the organization, and you've communicated to them why we're making the change, what the change is going to be, and what we hope the collective outcome will be positive for everyone, you have to revisit the education piece with reminders and refreshers. So there's a cadence of education and then the reminder. The education and then the reminder. So performance indicators, where it can be quarterly, they may be biannual. Not just once a year you call everybody together and say, "We sucked for 12 months." Well, on a monthly basis, you want to check, especially when a change is being implemented, to see if people are getting it.

And if they're not getting it, that's OK. Then you revisit the foundation with more training, and you keep training until it's second nature. Until they can reach the levels that you want them to. So it's got, there is some work involved in retraining and retooling everyone. And that's also where the discovery piece happens. Where someone may not have the necessary skills. So they've had the training and they're still not quite performing up to the levels that you expect? Then there may need to be some supplemental skills that may need to be. Or you could look at possibly finding a new home for them within the organization.

Deb Zahn: So if you were, and I'm going to let you keep your crown for now because I think it looks fabulous. So if you were working with an organization and you did all of this good work with them and everything was fine, and they referred you to a consultant who's just now trying to figure out how they're going to be working with similar organizations, what would you tell that consultant that they should...and they don't know everything that you know...what would you tell a consultant who's going into an organization and is trying to help them with a major change? What are the two things you would tell them? "Do this no matter what?"

Dee Maddox: Two things that I think every consultant should do is observe and listen. Without a doubt. Observe and listen. Before you take any action, before you do anything, observe and listen. Listen to what the client wants and observe the organization because there will be different tools and techniques that you'll need to work, depending on what you see and how they work. Not all organizations are the same, of course. So I would say listen to the client, to what they want, and then observe.

The client's assessment of what they think they're dealing with and what you actually observe from an objective place are probably not going to be the same. So they may say, "Oh, everyone here loves it here, and they all know what they should be doing," only to discover that they all don't know exactly what they should be doing. So say you have five steps, and you find out that 60% of the people are only doing four of them? Well no, everyone here does all five. No, I found out that about three years ago, they decided that step three was unnecessary, and they could go on lunch break sooner if they just skipped step three and got done faster. And you have defined this company on this five-step process, and you wonder why your customer levels are going down or why your costs are creeping up. Well, this finely tuned five-step process that you put in place, and never checked back on, they've eliminated one of the steps and you're unaware. So you have to observe and you have to listen. Listen to what the client wants and then observe.

Deb Zahn: That combination is so powerful. I'm thinking of an example years and years and years ago, where there was a client who said, "We need marketing. We're just not getting enough folks that are actually coming in the door." And for some reason, when I listened to it, I'm like, "Something doesn't sound...I hear you. You need more folks in the door because you're losing revenue. I'm not convinced that's what it is." So we actually, it was a clinic, we actually had someone sit in the waiting room. They had plenty of people coming in, and they were leaving because it took you three hours to actually get someone from your waiting room in through their appointment and get what they needed. So folks were abandoning you. And marketing won't fix that because marketing's a promise that you can't keep.

So to me, that has always stuck out in my mind if the client has their perspective...and they're going to tell you what it is and you need to listen deeply to it. But the reason that consultants are so valuable is they bring other things to the table, and you will know what you need in your toolbox if you observe. So that's one of the best answers I've ever heard to that.

Dee Maddox: I speak from a place of experience. So I know that you know from our previous conversations, but after 20 years of working in every type of industry in multiple states, you start to see that, sort of like male and female, there are just some things that are going to be commonalities. And the managerial perspective is very different from the employee perspective and what they think you should be doing and what's actually happening behind the curtain are two different things. Had a consultation recently, to your point, where someone told me what they wanted.

And when I started describing exactly what they said, they went, "No, no, no, don't focus on that. What I want you to focus on is this." And I was thinking, "Wait, you actually said to me this term, and I just described to you what that would look like if I did it for your organization." And when I said step one, going back to what you said, they said, "No, I don't want to talk about the people. We have a person." And I was saying, "But that's not what you just asked me." They were talking about redesigning the organizational structure and I explained to them what you just asked me, what would I do first, and they actually said that they didn't want me to talk about the people. They wanted to know what skills they needed in their human resources department to be successful, and I said, "Well, I'll start by taking a look to see what you have right now and then we'll determine what's missing." They did not want me to do an assessment of the current roles that were being filled.

And in my mind, I was thinking, "Well, if you don't want me to talk about what role are the people who are currently in your HR department performing, how can I do a full assessment if you want me to tell you some ideal state without looking at it?" Because it always goes back to just the basics. Where are you now and where do you want to go? And he didn't want me to find out the where-you-are-now. He just wanted me to describe a utopia where he wanted to be. Like what a HR department would be, and that's great. But how would you know if you can afford the number of people, or if you have people performing the right skills? The right jobs and functions?

So that was very interesting, to your point, marketing was not the problem. The customer service is all it boils down to for many things, is how you perform. You may know your job really well, but you may not have good relationships if you're in a face-to-face environment. And even if you're not in a face-to-face environment and you're just online, response time and how you write and respond, it can't be...People tend to start writing like they're texting. So going back to customer service basics tends to be another key point like that three hour wait, in that room where you were serving.

Deb Zahn: Exactly. I love the example that you just gave because first of all, we've all been there, right? So we've all heard things from clients about what they want but they don't want the process that gets you what they want. They want something different.

Dee Maddox: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: And I understand because a lot of consultants will go in and say, "Oh yeah, I'll just give you a Shangri-La strategy. I don't care if you implement it." Which I think is awful. But the problem is, and I think this is important for consultants, particularly new ones, to hear, who haven't experienced what you're describing and what I'm describing, is you don't just say yes. And you don't just say, "Yeah, I'll do whatever you want." One because they're probably not going to be satisfied with what they get at the end, regardless of what they say. And two, you need to establish a reputation of excellence.

You can't establish a reputation of excellence if you're doing things that you know are not going to yield a good outcome. Or sometimes cause harm. I've seen organizational, or reorganizations that would cause harm if they were done in the way that the client described them. You don't want to get a reputation for that. So I wanted to focus on that because that's such a powerful example of either figuring out a way to redirect the client towards something that serves the right aims or walk away.

Dee Maddox: And that's what I was forced to do. Instead of asking me for an ideal structure, maybe we need to just do a needs assessment. What are your needs? So don't focus on structure, like you mentioned earlier. How do you get them to redirect the attention away from the people to the organization? So rather than saying, "Can you build me...or give me an outline for what the perfect human resources department looks like?" I said, "Why don't we do a needs assessment and find out what your organization needs?" So when we talk about HR as a discipline there's several functions that are required in an HR department to just function.

However, for business purposes, you may not need all of those things at once. If you have, in terms of what you're currently offering, and what you plan to offer. So I said, "Why don't we just do a needs assessment, and then determine how that might impact your current structure?" Without saying, "Don't touch my people, don't look at my people, just paint a picture of a perfect HR organization."

Deb Zahn: With unicorns and angels flying around it or something like that.

Dee Maddox: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Because that exists.

Dee Maddox: I wish.

Deb Zahn: We wish, yeah. We do wish. But you've been around long enough. You know it's not true so you've got to be honest. So I really appreciate you sharing that example because a lot of new consultants, I think, trip up because they don't know it's OK. They hear customer's always right, and what they think that means is you can't disagree with them, or you can't tell them something is going to either cause harm or not work. But any good consultant worth their salt will do that. You do it skillfully, but you still do it.

Dee Maddox: Exactly. I think prior to making the decision to become an external consultant, working in human resources, every function that I've been in, I've had an assigned internal client. And it's much of the same thing. So I think rather than starting from scratch, I'm starting from experience because I've been an internal HR consultant as well as an external consultant. I was in a small boutique firm in one of my lives, where I did just client-based consulting for some principles that broke off and started a boutique consulting firm. And I did that for a while. But more importantly, for more than two decades I was an internal consultant working with assigned organizations within corporations.

And so you're working with the division chiefs and the branch managers. And you're going into their house and saying, "What can I do for you?" And oftentimes they don't necessarily want what is needed. One of the big things, of course, we talk about performance. Well, I don't always start with performance as a problem. I want to know if the person has all the skills and tools necessary for success. So before you ding them, and discipline them out the door, which costs one and a half to three times an annual salary to replace a person, who wants that? You want to avoid turnover. You don't want to go to the discipline right away. Why don't we check to see if everyone has the same 10 Crayola markers or the same eight crayons.

So don't wait until it's time for art to check the toolbox. Why don't we check to see that everyone actually has all of the supplies in order to do what they need to be successful? So when we say defining that success, part of it comes with the tools and the skills, which goes back to the processes. Does everyone get the same set of manuals? Does everyone get the same computer? Just making sure that everyone's starting at square one before you let them loose and then try to hold them responsible for something when they weren't given all the tools they need for success.

Deb Zahn: This is great and it's so applicable beyond HR consulting. I can't think of a change project that much of what you said didn't apply in some way. That's why it's so powerful. So where can folks find you, so that they can continue to hear this great wisdom?

Dee Maddox: Well, thank you. So they can find me on my website, which is my name. Dee Maddox Consulting, so not the letter but spelled out D-E-E-M-A-D-D-O-X-Consulting, all together, .com, is my website. And I also, thanks to my teenager, am present on all of the social media places. I have Instagram, DMXConsulting. I have Facebook, DMXConsulting1. And Twitter, DMXConsulting1. So you can find me and check out the services that I offer because everything that I'm describing to you, demanding excellence in everything you do, which is your DEED to success, those clear expectations and accountability, alongside of ownership, and action. You can find out how to book an engagement with me, book consultation, or even training delivery if you know and you've already had some diagnosis of some skills that you need. Then I'm a skill facilitator and I used to do the Cutty Products speed of trust and seven habits within my previous life.

But I can build a unique process for you to reach the success that you deserve. By defining that excellence, helping educate your employees on it, executing it, and then documenting it. And going back to those atomic habits. Excellence is a habit, it's not an act. And a habit is just repeating. You are what you do. So repeating a sustainable process that's getting the desired outcome. So I can help you define that and document it so that you can continue to be successful. Not just reach the goal, but to go beyond and continue to grow your small business into a medium business, or an entrepreneur who wants to grow their business.

Deb Zahn: I love that. And we'll have all of that in our show notes so that people can easily link to it and connect with you. So let me ask you the last question. So you do this amazing work. How do you bring balance to your life, however it is you define that?

Dee Maddox: So I bring balance by doing fun stuff and giving back. I love people and working as a consultant is great for me because it doesn't matter what background, or what location, or what age. I love children. I love adults. My husband says I collect mature people, or senior citizens. So I don't discriminate. I love people. But I give back. When you're volunteering, the one thing about volunteering is you're there because you want to be and you're not getting paid but you have the luxury of picking where you want to be. And food insecurity is my secret passion, and food insecurity is just like a bullet. It doesn't have an address. It doesn't have any restrictions or obstacles. It can hit anyone, anywhere, and this global pandemic has shown that.

So volunteering is the way that I bring balance to my life because I work because I love what I do and that's why I've chosen to stop being corporate and launch a consulting firm, but choosing to volunteer and give back, is just something that I feel good doing, and that makes me happy. So that brings me balance.

Deb Zahn: Well Dee, I am so glad that we connected, and you got on my show because this is just, it's so filled with just tremendous wisdom. Thank you so much for joining me today.

Dee Maddox: I would like to thank you for putting your content out there. So as I was getting started, and thinking about who else is in this space, so as a business major they always say, "Check the market and see who's doing what." I was absolutely, you know I'm a words person, so like DEED, The Craft of Consulting just blew me away. And then when I saw this wonderful, relatable face looking back at me because I was cyber stalking you, and everything you said about what I was actually doing was so applicable. So having 20 years of expertise is one thing. Having a business degree is one thing. Having certification is one thing.

When you broke it down to the actual elements of what it means to be successful and then when you say the craft of consulting, that means that there's work involved. How do you, if you think about DIY, and people are doing renovations in this pandemic, the craft, the things that you do to produce something, a craft, whether it's a picture, or pottery, or a garden, it's something that you have to put work into. And that spoke volumes to me so that I started following you. I was delighted for the privilege to be on and join you today. So thank you.

Deb Zahn: Oh.

Dee Maddox: Thanks for having me.

Deb Zahn: Thank you so much. You know that I chose craft very deliberately for exactly the reasons that you're saying, so I'm so glad that it resonated. But I can't wait to connect more. I love following you, I'm going to encourage everybody to follow you so that they can hear all this good stuff all the time.

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or if you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up and a lot of other great content and I don't want you to miss anything. But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is, one is, if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those.

And then the last thing is, again, if you've gotten something out of this, share it, share it with somebody you know who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant, and make sure that they also have access to all this great content and all the other great content that's going to be coming up.

So as always, you can go and get more wonderful information and tools at Thanks so much. I will talk to you on the next episode. Bye-bye.

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