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Episode 127: The Power of Transformative Consulting—with Crystal Kadakia

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. In this podcast, we are going to dive into transformative consulting. Now, if you don't know what that is, we're going to get into what it is, what it looks like, why it's different than a lot of consulting that's out there, why clients love it, and how you can build your business based on it. I brought on someone who did exactly that.  Crystal Kadakia built a business over the last 10 years based on that model, and she's going to dive into exactly how she was able to do it and what it means for her and her consulting business.

Then we also dive into how folks who are younger than Gen Xers and Boomers  can also consider becoming consultants in a way that definitely can add value to their market, and also as an alternative in terms of how they actually want to build out a career. Let's get started. I want to welcome my guest today, Crystal Kadakia.

Crystal, welcome to the show.

Crystal Kadakia: Hi, Deb. It's so good to be here.

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

Crystal Kadakia: I wear two different hats. One is for leading a training firm, in which we really help people break out of the box of classrooms and courses and really deliver learning experiences across different times, ways, and places. I have a team of folks who does that, and I created a model along with a colleague of mine that drives that work.

Then the second hat I wear is as an independent organizational development (OD) consultant. I spent a lot of my time on organizational change, very specifically thinking about how workplace culture is changing from the industrial age to the digital age and how I can help organizational leaders with that transition.

Deb Zahn: I love that, and I love that on your website it says giddiness. I can't remember the exact phrase, but something from analog to digital.

Crystal Kadakia: Yeah. It's about analog culture to digital culture, and it's like, are you operating in an analog culture because nobody wants to be there, y'all.

Deb Zahn: That's right. If it's a stone tablet, that's even worse.

Crystal Kadakia: If you're still using abacuses, you're in need of evolution, for sure.

Deb Zahn: Exactly. We're going to talk about two buckets of things today. The first is really about the craft of the type of work that you do, and then the other one we're going to get into some of the business aspect, which I think both go together very nicely.

But one of the things we talked about previously when we spoke is transformative consulting, which just made my heart sing when I heard that phrase. What is that? Describe what that means.

Crystal Kadakia: I think there are a lot of occasions where when you hire a consultant, you're looking at, “Hey, I've got a problem. I want you to come in and fix it.” And they go off in their little black box or closet and come back with, “OK, here's a recommendation. Here's a report.” Maybe in the middle, they do some here's my process, I'd like to talk to such and such people, and so on and so forth. But for the most part, it's something that happens in a black box. And it's really the consultant's experience and wisdom that's coming to the forefront.

Now, transformative consulting, to me, that's completely different than that because it has a lot more to do with the client. What is the client's context? How are you collaborating with the client to form the solution? The reason that that is more transformative is because whatever solution comes up and that emerges is based on the client's wisdom and the client's story and the client's contacts. Therefore, it has a much greater probability, in my opinion, of actually lasting and being able to be implemented versus the proverbial report on the shelf. I think that what's so important about transformative consulting is you don't really start with an end solution in mind.

Whereas a lot of times in traditional consulting, traditional consultants, they'll come in and they'll talk to you, "I've seen this problem a million times. Let me tell you, with my work with such and such Fortune 500 and this and that, this is what we ended up doing and it was great." That's great. But with transformative consulting, the solution is emergent. You go into it knowing that you don't really know exactly the right solution for this culture, this client, this unique set of people and stories, and you're going to...You have the talent to help the client discover their own wisdom and their own solution through the process. It's much more about the process versus here's the end solution before we've even started really digging into the problem.

Deb Zahn: I like it. I love it because that's what I do. I didn't have a term for it. But for a lot of consultants, it's also got to be a little scary because you have to be willing to not cling to the shores that you're used to, to be able to let go to get to a different destination that you don't know what it is yet.

When you're talking with people who are used to the old more rigid, we have X product, we have X thing. And we're going to hand you that, and it's going to go in a report. What would you say to them in terms of their willingness to do things in a different way?

Crystal Kadakia: Here's what I will say, is every time I've pitched a client and I tell them, "Well, at the end of this, you're going to be getting an improvement in your employee engagement, and you're going to be getting that because we're implementing X, Y, and Z things." For example, they'll say, "Well, how do you know X, Y, and Z things are the right ones?" I'm like, "Oh, just from other companies I've worked with." "Well, how do you know that'll work here? We're really unique. We have unique challenges." Right?

When I was very early in my consulting practice, I saw that traditional consultant route, and I saw clients' responses to that. I thought to myself; that it’s obvious why this isn't landing well. It actually makes your job a lot harder when you're promising how you're going to achieve the results. In short, what I would say is my response to clients is more about focusing them on what are the results you want to get and what is the problem that you initially are...What is the pain you're trying to solve? And tell me everything you know about that right now, upfront because that's actually more important than how we're going to solve it. Because a lot of times you start an engagement and people really don't even know the pain they're experiencing or what they want at the end. What success looks like at the end.

It's more of a shift in conversation because we don't have the capacity to discuss all the endless details anyway. Why not pick and choose the details that give me the most information to then trust my talent, trust my process to find the how as we go along? Does that make sense?

Deb Zahn: It does, and I love it. If clients forget that the other way is less effective, you can always point to the binders that are behind them on their shelf with an inch of dust because they got their product, but that product didn't actually get them the result.

Crystal Kadakia: Because how many times do you deliver a product, and you find out the client didn't know what they really wanted anyway? By seeing the product, they realize, “Oh, well, actually, I wanted something completely different.” That to me is a sign of poor contracting and poor collaboration from the beginning because you should really be working with your client from the beginning to help them, during the contracting process even. Walk the talk. Show them your process, even as a part of contracting. And a part of that collaboration is helping them get really clear on what is it that you're looking for.

Hey, if you really don't know what success looks like at the end of this, let's be both clear that this is ambiguous, and we're both open to figuring out what our different possible successes could be and choosing which one we want to go after as a part of this process. They might be able to get really clear on the pain and not be able to get really clear on the success. And that's OK. But let's get on the same page with that upfront so we don't do all this work, you don't spend all this time and money with me, and only to realize, oh, well, actually, now that I see the product, actually success for us to look like this over here.

Deb Zahn: Which is painful. It's painful.

Crystal Kadakia: Yeah, that's a contracting fail to me.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, I would agree. The other piece is if you're talking to a CEO, what they're describing they want what could be extremely different than what the CFO wants, than what the chief information technology officer wants, than a mid-line manager actually wants.

Crystal Kadakia: 100%.

Deb Zahn: If you deliver a product that only serves one of them, you're not going to be able to implement it. No one will.

Crystal Kadakia: That's why sometimes in transformative consulting a useful engagement is figuring out what do you really want? What does the organization really want? If you can hear the theme and some of these answers, for me it's all about unlocking the client's wisdom, and that can happen in the contracting process, that can happen as an engagement of its own of, "Hey, we do have a business pain, but we don't really have success criteria. We know that we have different constituencies that want different things. Help us discover that and synthesize that. Help us make sense of that."

That can be a great engagement on its own that sets someone up for success, sets an organization up for success much more than if a client tells you, "Oh, yeah, we want this implemented." "Well, why?" "Our VP thought it'd be a great idea." OK. Just as much as I would question a consultant who comes, has an immediate solution, the how. I also question the client if they've got to how like that because I'm like, "Where did that come from for you?" "Our employee engagement survey." "OK, well, what did they say in your survey?" Oh, it's always some vague thing. They just want more training.

Deb Zahn: Oh, that's my favorite one. (Sarcasm)

Crystal Kadakia: Me too, and I'm like, "OK, now you're implementing more training, but what kind of training? Why? Is it really training, or is it more development opportunities? Have you actually done the due diligence of understanding why, understanding the anchors before you invest even more money on a how?"

Deb Zahn: I love that. On the consultant side, what does it take to do that type of work really well? What kind of knowledge and skills or attributes do you need to have to be able to do that well?

Crystal Kadakia: A couple of things. For me, this is very...I think so many of you would answer this question differently. But what does it take to do transformative consulting? Well, for me, a lot of my values personally are about knowing my identity and listening to clients' stories and client wisdom and clients' identities, their origin stories. A lot of it for me is being able to tell the difference between what I want, what they want, and what's best for the overall situation right at hand, and that always ends up being a blend, right? Because, of course, there are things I bring from my experience. That's why you're hiring someone external.

There are things I'm going to bring from my experience. There are also capability I have around sense-making or project management, of course. It's really a table stakes thing. But definitely around the sense-making process design, right? Decision making, strategy formation, those are all very core technical kind of capabilities in our OD space. Then there are these softer skills, which is funny to say. OD already is considered a soft thing. To me, all the strategic lens, that's very technical. You have the softer pieces around, do I really know? Can I really differentiate myself from the client, and then can I weave those together into an organizational win?

I think that capability is really, really important because otherwise you can bring your anxiety in when you're doing the transformative consulting and try to make up for something you're feeling, but the client's not feeling. Or something you're feeling is mirroring what the client's feeling, and you're diving right in there with them when really you should be holding the space for something else. I think knowing what's going on for you in every moment, knowing what's going on with the client, that's really important. Knowing your stories is important. I would say being able to hold space is really important.

Those are those softer skills on top of those core OD skills that not...Even within core OD skills, not everyone has the same skill set, right? I have a background as an engineer, so things like sense-making and strategic thinking and decision making and problem solving...those are pretty second nature for me, and that's why it lends towards a certain specialty of working with leaders on culture change. But other people are really great coaches. They’re really great developers. They're really great team folks. That's probably a different realm for me. I can't exactly put myself in a box. I hate putting myself in a box. But in generality, in general terms.

Deb Zahn: That's all right. That's all right. We always have a sort of-

Crystal Kadakia: Like a sweet spot.

Deb Zahn: ...a weaving together of different things. Yeah. I resonate so much with a lot of what you're describing because I think self-reflection, awareness of your identity, and your desire to mesh with the client. All of those things can make or break being able to get the results that you get. I do think they can be cultivated. If someone wanted to cultivate some of those soft skills, maybe they've got a kernel and they really want to cultivate it. How would you encourage them to do that?

Crystal Kadakia: I think you just said it. Noticing. Taking the moment to notice, especially when there's a moment where you feel like, at the pit of your stomach, you have a feeling that something is off, and you're worried or you're nervous, you're trying to communicate a lot sometimes. It can manifest in different ways. But when you have a sense of discomfort, I think that what it is, a sense of discomfort, that is a great time to pause and really just take a moment to surface. How am I feeling right now? Just starting with that, and am I worried? Am I anxious? Am I nervous? Am I anticipating?

Then fill in the blank. What are you anticipating right now? What are you hesitating about? What's making you feel in conflict? One of the things for me, for a long time that's been a tough spot is I really like to be liked. That's definitely something to watch out for when you're working on transformative consulting because you're definitely going to say things, probably, and bring things to people's attention that they don't want to hear. You got to set aside your desire to be liked and to say what the client really needs to hear. It's an interesting balance.

It's cool because I get to hear from my clients that I do a good job of balancing it now, right? So I know that I've grown on that journey. Then the other biggest comment I've gotten is that I never work from my own agenda, and that goes back to what I'm saying, is it's about what the client needs, not what I want for them, and that's been a really big compliment. But that takes a lot of noticing when is my agenda in play? Let me step back and actually listen to the voices of the client and hear their agendas for a minute. Those are kinds of the...I think just noticing really is what I would say really helps build that capability.

Deb Zahn: I love that. Now, obviously, there are things that people should avoid. Some of them, we've already touched upon, like not noticing yourself overriding some of the signals that you're actually picking up on that are either coming from you or coming from the client. What else, for someone who's doing this type of work, should they avoid?

Crystal Kadakia: Now, I think you'd mentioned we've covered some of them, right? Overriding the client's needs, those types of things. I think some of the other things I noticed, one is definitely about your own stuff, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Crystal Kadakia: Bringing your own anxieties into it, and especially even your personal life. Thinking about how many consultants do worry about the money and if they're being valued appropriately. I think sometimes a lot of people worry about that, even after the contract is signed, and that just always draws at me or gnaws at me because you can see it happening in the back of their mind, they're not fully committed to giving the time to the client. It's like, "Well, you've already signed the contract. If later on you need to go back and reflect on, hey, what should you have done differently in contracting to make this more worth your time?" That's fine.

But you're committed at that point. Or if you want to go back and renegotiate, that's fine too, but don't...That can end up creating organizational harm. Right? And it's in your mind all the time. I think one other thing I'll mention, I've noticed that I would really avoid is always feeling like you have to be the one to have the best idea in the room. I'll see that so much with consultants. They always feel like they have to, in a meeting, be the one to say the smart thing, or have the idea that the client ends up using. It's OK.

You don't always have to be the smartest person in the room to prove that you're worth your contract. A lot of times, what will happen, and this happened for me, is I would spend a lot of time being silent, and really only recapping things when I felt like it was necessary. I really would try not to repeat what was already being said, and I would congratulate other people on their wisdom. If I thought they made a great point, I would say that's such a great point and I would be taking notes on the side and later connecting dots, and that might actually bring more benefits to the client later on.

I think just focusing on, “Hey, this is my process, this is what I'm good at” and not trying to overcompensate, again out of some feeling of lack of self-worth. Another really great compliment I got once was that I held consistent energy throughout an entire project, and they could always rely on me to bring that energy no matter what. And this was for a 19-month long project!

Deb Zahn: That takes a lot of energy to hold a space that long.

Crystal Kadakia: I actually cried when I heard that feedback because I didn't realize that they noticed that...It was crazy because outside of that client, I definitely have my fluxes, and I was having fluxes in energy all over the place. But I knew this is my client's space, and I think when...Yeah, just going back to the bringing your anxieties or your stuff into the client's space. Just got to watch out for that because at the end of the day, that was one of the most valuable things for them, is even if their energy flag went up and down, they could always count on this resilience here on this side of the table, and that's awesome. I didn't realize they noticed, and you feel amazing that they did.

Deb Zahn: Well, and it's value because not everybody can do it, right? That's why it's such a huge compliment to get. But also, it doesn't often happen within companies and organizations because you have all this other stuff that is part of people's responses to things. Being that stable and stabilizing presence and energy and all of that is worth its weight in gold to the client. That's part of why they're bringing you in, which is why I'm so excited to hear that as an example of what's possible with this type of work.

Crystal Kadakia: I definitely had to do stuff outside of that in order to keep that stability, and that's a lot of that noticing and reflection and self-care, really because things were crazy. But of course, things are crazy in my life. Things are crazy in everyone's lives, and this was during the pandemic and it's still the pandemic.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Crystal Kadakia: It's not like this is like, "Oh, I'm perfect Crystal. It's perfect crystal 24/7." It's like, no, that took work to create that stable resilience. That was, I thought, invisible to the client happening on my own time. Meanwhile, it was noticed. That's very, very cool.

Deb Zahn: Well, I think then the thing to avoid is assuming that it's automatic because it sounds like as good as you are at it, and I've certainly had to do similar things. It takes effort, it takes reflection. If you think that you're going to show up and just be the cool cucumber all the time, you're probably mistaken and you're going to leak.

Crystal Kadakia: 100%.

Deb Zahn: You have to actually assume that that's likely and then do something about it. I love that. I'd love to switch gears and get a little bit into the business side because you said something to me when we spoke before that was really profound to me, which is when a lot of people think of consultants, there are a couple buckets. There are the big firms, and they have their way of doing things and then their process, and then there are independent consultants that are Gen-Xers like me or Boomers, and they went and had all this corporate experience, and now they're going to be a consultant.

Deb Zahn: That's sort of the stereotype of independent consultants, and then obviously, there are other types of firms and agencies in between. But it doesn't have to be that way. Why would consulting be attractive and a viable option for folks who are younger than those of us who are Gen Xers?

Crystal Kadakia: Now, just a bit of background on this. For me, I started my consulting practice when I was 25, which is a pretty youthful age and now I'm a millennial, and now I'm nearly 35, so it's been almost 10 years. When I started, I realized I'm not the same as the Gen Xers and the Boomers . Most people start consulting practices after they've already been in the workplace and they have a whole community that can be a possible pipeline for them. What I was really good at was problem solving. I mentioned earlier I was an engineer.

I had then realized that instead of solving all these machine problems, I was actually really into culture and people problems. They were always way more interesting to me, way more complicated, and I guess I love a challenge. Being able to bring the engineering lens to culture change was a huge asset to the field, and I realized that because I have this way of thinking about things that I was taught in chemical engineering school, right? It's a very deliberate approach to analyzing problems and then crafting models and frameworks to help make sense of them.

Then me being who I am outside of engineering, I've always been very much about questions and helping people arrive at their own wisdom. That's been a part of my DNA. All these things started marrying together for me, and there was a very specific problem I saw around how people were approaching the generation transition, and it just wasn't useful. People were going into training that really bucketed generations in the silos. It really didn't make sense to me, so I was like, "OK, here's something I can help with."

When I think about younger people starting out as consultants...Now, when I say that, I think there are even two micro buckets within that. There are people like me who maybe have had some years of experience, be at three, five, six, whatever, and then there are people right out of college. People right out of college, when I see them trying to be consultants, I do question it a bit because it's very easy at that age. You don't have the big systems experience. You haven't been there yet, and it's very easy to fall into the trap of advice-giving, and which is why you see a lot of younger people jump straight into coaching.

To be honest, anyone can give advice, OK? We all have life experience. I don't really care what age you are. We all have life experience that we can turn into opinion, that turns into advice that's relatable for someone else going through something similar. But if you have that five years of experience in corporate and you decide, hey, there's something that I've developed here from a credibility standpoint, from a capability standpoint, I've heard this feedback numerous times from people that there's something I see that they don't, you might have something.

That to me is really crucial to capitalize on, if you want to go forward as a consultant. I say that because once I left my corporate job and I started, there was something that the Boomers in the field, they wanted a perspective change on. They're looking around and they can't find many people who are in my age or generational bracket, or ethnicity bracket or gender bracket to give it to them, right? In my case, I had all those boxes checked. If you want to look at it again from a very siloed perspective. It is about your credibility, your offer, your capability, and do your homework.

Do you actually have something to offer from the years of experience you have? Do you see the system? Do you have something standout or unique that you are actually aware of and you're ready to hone? Because a lot of people, they just go off, they're like, "Oh, well, I just want to quit my job, I want to do something sexy," but they really haven't thought it through at all. They haven't thought about their unique value proposition. They don't even know what's unique about themselves before they put themselves on a stage, put themselves out there on a platform, and again, you can cause harm to yourself, cause harm to your clients going through it that way.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, I would agree. Now, I want to state that consulting is sexy. I'm really glad that you said that.

Crystal Kadakia: It's totally sexy.

Deb Zahn: Totally sexy.

Crystal Kadakia: You can solve so many different problems-

Deb Zahn: Exactly.

Crystal Kadakia: many different cultures. I love it.

Deb Zahn: Hello.

Crystal Kadakia: I love it.

Deb Zahn: Of course, it is. But I like that because then that goes back to some of the skills that you talked about earlier, which is that self-reflection, recognizing your identity, recognizing what you uniquely bring to things. There are all kinds of folks that can provide value in different ways, but you got to stop and think about it. You got to stop and examine it. You probably need to ask a few other folks about it to make sure that you're accurately assessing what you can and can't do. But there were things that I could do when I was 25, that I could do when I was 30 that were enormously helpful.

Crystal Kadakia: There's a lot less jadedness, right? I even feel it in myself. Year after year, you see the same problems. There is something that changes in you as you get older that when you're younger you have this possibility to offer people if you've thought about it, if you've done that reflection. If your reason to quit and start your own business is just because you don't like your nine-to-five, that's not good enough. You're setting yourself up for failure. Right? When you think of it that way.

What I love about learning from the Boomers, Gen-Xers that left and started their consulting practices is they were most often doing it out of a desire to give. They saw that they had something to give back. If you have that feeling at 25, which is essentially the feeling I was describing, is I had a feeling I can give something back. I can give something here. That's an important feeling. Then it's just answering, “Well, what is it that you can give?” But if you're just trying to escape your current reality, OK, well, best of luck to you. I'm not wishing you at all ill will, but you might want to work a little bit on the other half of the equation, what are you headed towards, not just what are you trying to leave behind?

Deb Zahn: That's right. Or the struggle will overcome how sexy it is in a very short period of time.

Crystal Kadakia: That probably goes for Boomers, Gen Xers too. If you're just trying to escape. Goes for anyone trying to start a business. If you're just trying to escape a current reality, go for it, but also figure out the other half of that equation. What are you trying to head towards?

Deb Zahn: I love that. Now, obviously, when you're younger and you're about to launch, you've done all that self-reflection, you've done all the great things. When you were 25, when you were launching, I know that for Gen Xers and Boomers, we always have a sometimes unhealthy skepticism about who can do what. You have to build credibility. How did you do that? How did you break into consulting on your terms when you wanted to with your value?

Crystal Kadakia: Yeah. The big thing for me was, on the side of my full-time job, for two years I was experimenting with business models. I was trying to find that value proposition that would be a full-time viable income. I did start with career coaching. I was thinking, “OK, maybe there are more people like me, and maybe I can work with the high school students. They have to make this decision on what they want to do in college.” I was also starting to do some speaking about this generation transition topic. All these things were tied together. I was trying...I knew it had to do with this industrial age, digital age transition, so topic wise, I knew where I was headed.

But from a value stream perspective, it took me a while to figure it out. In those two years, towards the end, one of the things I ended up doing was speaking at a TEDx event, and this was...I had moved to a new city and I saw that. This was my second time in my life speaking, and I was like…

Deb Zahn: You're bold.

Crystal Kadakia: ...oh, they still don't have speakers yet. Maybe I've got something I can say here. Remember, by this time, for two years, I've been ruminating on these different ideas, and they said yes. It was a really terrifying experience, but that's when I learned that people can get paid to speak, and that that's a huge credibility builder. Because after the TEDx talk, my first one, I had MailChimp come up and ask me, "Hey, would you come speak at our company?"

Deb Zahn: Wow.

Crystal Kadakia: I was like, "OK, I'm not the Gen X or boomer who has this huge network of people." Especially coming from an engineering background, who's going to hire me for organizational change, right? It's also a complete pivot into a different field. I didn't have that pipeline, but what I could do was build a platform and think, thank God for digital age, right? That's possible today. Where I speak, I put out thought leadership, and that could lead to consulting. That's eventually what happened over 10 years. A bulk of my business for the first three to five years was keynote speaking.

I built a training to help support that, but the training offering wasn't really delivering as much as the keynote speaking, and then over time, that led to a publishing deal which can...Then I got my masters, which all of that built to the credibility to consultant. The last five years, it's really transitioned from speaking as my main income to the consulting as my main income, which is again, strategic thinker, long-term planner. This is where I've wanted to be forever. It's pretty awesome.

Deb Zahn: You engineered it.

Crystal Kadakia: Yeah, you guys are probably thinking, this is the most deliberate person I've ever heard of. But I think for me it's very much about see all the possible abilities out there, hear from people who think differently than you, and then go after the thing that's going to be the fastest to get to where you want to go because life is short. I know that just because I don't think something's possible, it doesn't mean that it's not possible.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Crystal Kadakia: I just haven't thought of it yet. Let me go talk to people who have done it and then see whose point of view is one I can implement for myself, and the keynote speaking really worked out in that perspective.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, and be bold because if the second time you've ever spoken was at a TEDx event, my hat is off to you because that is...

Crystal Kadakia: I could not sleep the night before.

Deb Zahn: Of course.

Crystal Kadakia: It was definitely terrifying.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, but you did it, and look what it actually brought with it. I love that because it does sometimes take that boldness to say, "It didn't seem possible a couple of days ago, but what the heck. Let's do it. Let's give it a try."

Crystal Kadakia: Here's an industrial age to digital age transformation. Right? I’m very petite. I'm five-foot tall, Indian American woman engineer, and I end up speaking in boardrooms, I end up being invited to speak like in Norway, right? I've been in some of the most Caucasian rooms I've ever seen, and that could not have been possible in the industrial age. Do you know what I mean?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Crystal Kadakia: Nobody would have cared about what Crystal Kadakia has to say, and I know that because I look at my parents. I see what they went through, right? They were all about blending. Here I am in the digital age standing out, and people care about that. And they want that. That's a huge possibility that if I spend all this thinking, man, engineering is not the right fit for me, I'm screwed. If I spent all my energy on that, I never would end up where I am today.

Deb Zahn: Wow.

Crystal Kadakia: You have to see the possibility that's out there and then just work towards it.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Whoa, wow. I love that. That's extraordinarily inspiring, and I think a great way to say it because there are things possible now that weren't possible before. Why not? Absolutely, why not?

Crystal Kadakia: People get so hung up on it. Especially in our really polarized world today, people are ultra...Not to knock any feminists. I love feminism. But you can get really caught up on how your identity holds you back. I guess that's what I'm trying to say, and it's like I just never wanted to put my energy there. My mom always used to tell me, "Crystal, when you open your mouth and you start talking, people don't see you anymore." They don't see that she's Brown, she's short, she's a...People always tell me, when they meet me in person, I'm so much shorter than I thought.

Deb Zahn: They expected six feet, something like that.

Crystal Kadakia: It's the presence, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Crystal Kadakia: Because I don't let those things become barriers to my voice. Now they can be, right?

Deb Zahn: Sure.

Crystal Kadakia: Systemically out there, I totally agree that there's racism. There's sexism. There's all this inequality everywhere. But it's my choice whether I let my voice be affected by that, and I choose not to. I choose not to really think about it unless I want to reflect on that inequality. The rest of the time, I'm just like, "I'm going to be me, I'm going to do me. Whoever's attracted to that will come, and who hates on that, OK. That's fine. I'm not going to spend any time on them."

Deb Zahn: Yeah, you don't need to pry those doors open when you have others open.

Crystal Kadakia: Right. I don't even convince them to pay me or something. I don't need to spend my life working on an uphill battle or an uphill mountain when there are plenty of people who are just attracted in this day and age, right? To people who stand out and have a different perspective.

Deb Zahn: Right, and are themselves. I love it. How the heck with all that going on do you bring balance to your life, however it is you define that?

Crystal Kadakia: Yeah. Couple things. People are always like, "Wow, you've accomplished so much." But I'm really a very go-slow-to-go-fast type of person. So I don't spend my time on useless things. Basically, I really watch myself and I try not to get hung up on things like continuous email checking or accepting every single meeting request just because people might expect me to. I draw a boundary. I do a lot of free speaking with my training company, and especially this year because we had our book launch last year. It's a great way to get the book out.

Well, I noticed that all these people were asking me for pre-meetings to do tech checks and stuff. At some point, I just started replying and I said, "Look, Zoom fatigue is real. For free events, I'm no longer doing these rehearsal meetings. I will be joining 15 minutes before the call."

Deb Zahn: Good for you.

Crystal Kadakia: We can do a tech check then. OK. Things like that, relentlessly focusing on what's meaningful and what's important, and then carving my energy to allow me to do those meaningful, important things. If I need a slow morning routine, which I do, I need to clean my house, make my chai, sit down, read something or watch something when I'm eating breakfast, then I start my work. OK? Really my core hours are 10:00 to 3:00, and I'm amazing. I'll do immersive work stuff, and then I'll go for a walk, or I'll take a shower. Then I might come back and do more, but I might not. I might sit down and do dinner. Most of the time, I'm working from 10:00 to 3:00.

Deb Zahn: Wow.

Crystal Kadakia: And maybe an hour or two later. It's not the number of hours I put in, it's what I'm putting those hours towards, if that makes sense in terms of your question.

Deb Zahn: It does because truthfully if we were honest with ourselves and looked at all the fluff, looked at all the meaningless activity that doesn't actually yield anything, we could probably carve it down to that easily. As an engineer, you've done that, which I think is fantastic. But yeah, there's so much wasted time in our day that doesn't serve us.

Crystal Kadakia: Yeah, I saw this great LinkedIn post someone put up about being so excited to go back to commute times of two hours a day, but we're always complaining about productivity. It's like,ß please.

Deb Zahn: Ding, ding, ding.

Crystal Kadakia: We're willing to spend it on that, but we're not willing to spend it on additional training for myself or reflection or taking a break. But we're fine spending it on a two-hour commute, though.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, on the cattle trains, as I like to call them back when I used to do it. Well, Crystal, I am just so delighted that you came on the show, and there's so much here and I really appreciate you coming on and sharing it.

Crystal Kadakia: Well, thanks so much. That was a really fun conversation.

Deb Zahn: 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.

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