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Episode 176: Enjoying Consulting More Than Being an Employee—with Elizabeth Silleck La Rue

Deb Zahn: Hi, I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. So I'm excited about this one because we're going to talk about the differences between being an employee and being a consultant. And not just as an intellectual exercise, but really to think through, what are the things that you wanted to get out of being a consultant that you couldn't get when you were an employee? And how to make sure that you give yourself those gifts so that you can really maximize the joy of being a consultant. And I brought on someone who just wrote a fabulous article about this. And so she's going to highlight some of what she talked about. Elizabeth Silleck La Rue is going to walk through what those differences are, and what it can mean to you as a consultant as long as you do certain things to make sure it looks the way you want. So let's get started.

Hi, I want to welcome to my show today, Elizabeth Silleck La Rue. Elizabeth, welcome to the show.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

Deb Zahn: So I'm really excited to have you on to talk about what we're going to talk about today, but first of all, let folks know who you are and what you do.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Sure. I'm Elizabeth Silleck La Rue. I am the CEO of my own consulting firm, Silleck Consulting Services, LLC, which I formed about a year ago, August 2021. About a year after being laid off from a full-time job. And so, I service primarily nonprofit organizations and private companies that do work in environmental sustainability, with a particular focus on environmental justice, climate justice, energy justice, and ocean justice. Justice is core to my principles and my interests, so I provide a variety of services to those sorts of organizations.

Deb Zahn: And thank you for doing that because obviously that is work that is critically important for all our survival at this point and has been for a long time. So, thank you. Well, I've been following you now for a bit on LinkedIn, which I encourage everybody to do because you post the most wonderful stuff. But I was particularly struck by an article that you had in Medium, and it's been updated recently and there's going to be a link in the show notes, but it's why I'm still never going back to being employed, and how life as a consultant is better. And I said, that's right.

And I got to have her on and talk about that because it rang so true for me. And I also know, and I love the way you talk about it because these aren't things…you don't automatically get them. You give them to yourself as a gift as you become a consultant. And so I'd love to hit on a few of those and try and get through as many as we can. Definitely want people to go read the article. But let's start with choosing your team and say a little bit more about when you're a consultant. How's that different than when you're an employee?

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yeah, well, I'll say that I was an employee for a variety of organizations and companies and agencies; government, nonprofit, private, small, large. In most of the positions that I held, I had really no control over who my team members were. One classic example that I think is probably increasing in the kind of unstable economic circumstances that we're in right now is turnover and reorganization. I've had circumstances where I had a small, tight-knit team and everybody worked really well together and we were very functional. And then someone left and someone new came in, either in a managerial role or not, somebody lateral to me, but just the personality dynamics kind of threw off our vibe. And that's the best-case scenario. And in some cases, you can have somebody come in that is supervising you now, and they have a problem with you.

Maybe it's the way you look. Maybe it's the way you talk. Maybe it's where you're from or whatever. And it just has a tremendous impact on your career trajectory, your day-to-day life, your ability to kind of thrive in your environment. So as a consultant, the beauty is, particularly if you're working with short-term contracts, which I tend to prefer, you don't run into that. I mean, even if you're in a situation where you have to work with people that you would not necessarily choose to work with because of the nature of the team or the nature of the work itself, even if you do that, it's a short-term commitment, you do what you have to do and you leave.

It's not a big life-changing decision to extricate yourself from a circle that you don't necessarily like. There are a lot more options open to you as a consultant of the types of organizations you can work with. I'm sure you're aware, when you're going through interviews, they're looking for somebody very particular to fit with them and they need to check all of the boxes, whereas if they just have a project that they need completed or they just need advice on a very discrete set of issues, they're not intrusively picking apart all of your...

Deb Zahn: Exactly.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: And all of that. So I think I just find you have a lot more freedom in who you deal with and what those interactions look like.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. They're not looking at your resume and saying, "Why do you have a gap there?" And you're like, "Well because I was recovering from a toxic work environment, that's why there's a gap." Right?

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Exactly. Exactly.

Deb Zahn: I love that. The next one that you talked about, which just made me so happy, is clients aren't bosses. And that's a huge one for me because even though you have clients and clients are directing your work, it's really, really different. So I'd love for you to get into really how that's different and especially how to make sure it's different.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Mm-hmm. Yeah. So far, and again, I've only been doing this full-time for a year, so my experience is my experience, and I can't speak for anyone else. But so far, what I've realized is that there's a different approach that clients take with consultants than managers take with employees. So I just find their entire orientation tends to be, I won't say deferential, but they're coming to you for advice and there's already this sort of baseline respect and understanding that you have a skillset that is being brought to the table. Whereas some managers, and I'm not going to say all managers, but some managers are really more concerned with the hierarchy and with... I mean, there really are managers out there that are really more concerned with your ability to conform to the organizational culture, for example, than your actual work product, that are more concerned with establishing and maintaining the hierarchical relationship.

There's a lot of power dynamics. And if you're a person like me, I just naturally am somewhat self-possessed, I guess, and confident. That can really cause problems between you and managers that take that sort of hierarchical approach to things. So, with clients, my experience has been that they understand that I know what I'm doing. Oftentimes my clients, the individuals that I work with who are employed by the organizational clients that I serve, are younger than me, they don't have the breadth of experience that I do. They really value my advice because they see that I know things that they don't. And I think in employment situations that can actually be regarded as a threat, whereas in a consulting situation, there's no threat. I don't want your job. There's no worry. I'm here to help you. And so, they're just much nicer. They're much nicer and there isn't all that power struggle because I'm not interested in taking anybody's position. And in a consulting capacity, they know that. There's no risk to them.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Isn't that wild? You change just a few variables you can have a completely different experience. Because I've experienced exactly what you're talking about, where suddenly I'm sunshine and roses. And I know if I said exactly the same thing that I just said but I was an employee it would be received in a completely different manner, simply because I'm in it and I'm in whatever the stew they've actually created there. Now, I know sometimes for some consultants it's hard for them to get out of that mindset and they still treat clients like bosses and they still think, "Oh, I have to do everything they say," and, "Oh, I have to do it exactly the way they say," and things like that. Do you have any advice for consultants who need to get out of the employee mentality and get into a consultant's mentality?

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: That's a good one. Well, the first thing I would say, and again, this is my experience, I think diversifying your clients is really important. As an employee, I often managed consultants and I had consultants whose entire business portfolio consisted of working on different projects for the same organization. So they were effectively employees of the organization. All of their revenue was dependent on this one client. I would never do that. When you do that, you are in effect creating an employer-employee relationship because you're wholly dependent on them for your livelihood.

So that's the first thing. To position yourself to have a little bit more autonomy and a little bit more authority over what you choose to do, you need to have more than one client and make sure that you have healthy revenue streams coming in from different clients. I think the extent to which you can push back on micromanagement in a client-consultant relationship, it really depends on your work. So it depends on the type of work that you're doing. I do a lot of writing. I find my clients don't heavily edit what I write because I write well.

Deb Zahn: You do indeed.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: So I don't run into people trying to say, "No, we can't say this this way." And unless there's an ethical reason, or there are words that someone's trying to put in my mouth, if my name is on whatever we're producing and they're trying to take a position that I don't agree with, something like that, I would definitely strongly disagree and even reconsider the contract, but I've not run into that problem. You have to be solid about your values. You have to be solid about your values and you have to be solid about your boundaries as well. If you say that you're not going to answer the phone after a certain time or you're off, you really have to respect yourself enough to be solid in your own boundaries.

But I do think you have to be flexible with your clients as well. You can't necessarily impose your way of doing things on them. You can present to them how you think it should be done, but at the end of the day, if they choose not to follow your advice, make sure you document what you advised and be strong about it, but it is their prerogative to choose to ignore your advice. And all of this, I take everything as information. I take every situation. In this short time that I've been doing this, I worked with a client where ultimately, I decided I wasn't going to stay with them long-term because there was a disconnect in the extent to which I think they valued my perspective and my belief in what I was advising. So, it's not the end of the world. It's just that I'm not the right person for the needs that they have because I'm not willing to compromise on certain things.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And then you don't have to show up every single day because you're not an employee. So that's OK. But yeah, I love the boundary thing because I was just struck in the article, I think you were talking about a 7:00 AM call when you were employed and having to do all that stuff. You really do get to choose that. And so I learned very early on, I turned the alerts off my text. And it's OK if the client's listening to this because she actually knows she's why I did it because she would think of something and she'd think of something at 2:00 AM and she'd want to make sure she told me before she forgot.

And so I said, "It's totally fine if you do it. There is no way I will ever answer you outside of the work hours we've talked about, unless it truly is an emergency. So go ahead. I'm just going to turn my alerts off." And we have that understanding and she's like, "I just need to just be able to say it." And I'm like, "Cool. Now you can say it, but I'm not waking up." And she's fine with that. Everybody's cool with that.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: And that's so critical too. I mean, unfortunately I feel like employees don't feel that freedom necessarily to have those conversations, but having those conversations is really important, just saying, "Look." I'm that way, I'm like your client. If I have a thought in my head, I need to get it out. But I've learned about schedule text, schedule email. You can drop it in a Google doc and send it later. Because I like to avoid putting pressure on other people to feel like they should always be available. But the way you handled it is perfectly fine too, the point is just to communicate those things.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And know what your boundaries are so that your consulting business doesn't look like employment, which I think it can without careful attention and careful choices. I love that. So the next one that you talked about is agency over the type of work you do. So I'm a huge fan of recognizing and exercising agency as the owner of your business, and truly allowing yourself to be the boss. Talk a little bit about how agency comes up in choosing what you do.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yeah. I think the way that it's manifested in my firm thus far is that I've been very deliberate about being justice focused. So I studied in undergrad, I studied women's studies and anthropology. And at the time I don't believe my school had an intersectionality sort of focus, but I studied a lot of systemic oppression and justice-oriented history, anthropology, sociology. And then I went on to law school and ended up doing environmental law. So my career had taken this trajectory where I was very much, I guess, pigeonholed into the conservation world. And I was frustrated because justice has always been important to me, so that the way that I've really seen agency manifest in my work is that I don't take on projects unless they are justice oriented.

So, for example, right now I'm working on a geographical assessment of climate justice issues in a particular location. And it's not just about what are the threats that are looming because of climate change, it's about how are the most vulnerable people in the community going to be affected by these threats? So that agency is not something I had as an employee. Projects were literally dumped on my desk in some cases. "Hey, you're hired to fix this problem that was created five years ago. Good luck."

Deb Zahn: Seriously. Or that I created five minutes ago.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Right. Well, yes, quite literally. "And it involves 30 people and they're all angry. Good luck."

Deb Zahn: Good luck. There they are.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yeah, exactly. So I think just being able to say no to proposals. I mean, somebody approached me not long ago, first of all wanting me to have a call for free, so that was my first red flag. I'm like, "I don't work for free." But wanted me to do something that was just so... It really had nothing to do with where I want to take my work. And it was something that I could do, but just being able to say, "No, I'm not really interested in that," that's agency. And you don't have that as an employee, nine times out of 10.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And so knowing your values as you head into it. And I work with a lot of nonprofits too, and there is some work I absolutely will not do because if it isn't ultimately making people's lives better, I only have a limited amount of time on the planet and I know what I'm supposed to be doing with it even as I earn a livelihood. But you got to know what that is and then you got to be willing to say yay or nay to it over and over and over again.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yes. The no part is probably the hardest part.

Deb Zahn: It is. It is indeed. Yeah. Years ago I was trained as a women's self-defense instructor and there was an exercise where we stand in a circle and we all have to say no. And then you increasingly, your voice gets louder until you're yelling it. The most difficult exercise anyone ever did. There were some groups I did it in who were like, "Oh, that's easy," and they could do it, but most of the time it was so hard to do because it just didn't flow off the tongue in the way that you would hope it did. But you better know how to do it as a consultant because you will be asked to do things that don't align with your values.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yes. Yes.

Deb Zahn: So again, another one that you talked about that again, all of these, and you say this in the article, are interrelated, very much so, but this is the one that just made my heart sing: authenticity. Talk a little bit about...I mean, it's you and it's your business, how authenticity comes into play in a way it doesn't as an employee.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Oh, gosh. Well, there's an article and I will share it with you by an attorney named Leah Goodridge who was published in UCLA's law blog. And it talks about professionalism as a white supremacist construct.

Deb Zahn: We'll put a link to that in the show notes.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yeah. Yeah. It's amazing. It's amazing. Everybody needs to read it. And it's not exclusive to the law profession, but the article focuses on that. But it hit home in so many ways for me because I just have a very different upbringing and background and kind of life's path that has made it very uncomfortable for me to be in "professional spaces." I've always felt as if I had to change who I am, change the way I speak, overthink the way I'm dressed. That cultural context of the professional world, and in particular in the large environmental nonprofit space, some jobs have been more aligned with my personal authenticity than others. But in recent years it was really hard. And I was constantly being told I need to change, constantly being told I need to change. And I just don't feel that anymore. I really don't. So far, the clients that I'm working with and the type of work that I'm doing, they see my value.

They're OK with the fact that I speak the way I speak, that I look the way I look, that I'm blunt, I'm direct. I'm from New York, I'm going to tell you what it is. And those are things that people tried to beat out of me, practically. And it didn't work. And even when I tried, even when I really gave it my best effort, I was never going to be on the inside of a lot of these circles. The fact that I am working for myself and the fact that I am being selective about who I work with and the fact that I'm being authentically myself in social media spaces and talking to you right now I'm not overly trying to change the way that I'm speaking. That's going to attract the clients that get me and it's going to repel the ones that want something else. And that's also a good thing.

Deb Zahn: That is a great thing.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yeah. I'm like, I don't want your hyper-uptight corporation calling me, asking me to work for you because it's not going to work out anyway so let's save each other both the time. And yeah, I mean, that's something, you can't get that in most employment situations, unless you are really trained, well-trained, I think, from childhood to be a part of that sort of corporate culture.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Yeah. And you will attract people who have the right values, the right vibe, the right everything. It's true. I don't do consultant speak, corporate speak. I was in corporate. Yeah, no. That's not me. I don't like it. I find it annoying. So I don't do it and I've had clients who are like, "You don't sound like a consultant." And I usually say, "Thanks. I think I know what you mean." And they like it. The ones that dig somebody showing up who really ultimately cares about helping them, helping them do good things where your values are aligned, will like it. And the folks who don't like it can go find somebody who will speak their language and do their thing. And it'll be a shame because they'll keep replicating themselves, but that's what they can go do.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yeah. But you can't save somebody that doesn't want to save themselves.

Deb Zahn: I totally agree with that. I agree with that. So, you mind if we sound into a few more because I'm just loving all of this?

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yeah.

Deb Zahn: So variety, which is probably one of my biggest motivators for being a consultant is my fear of boredom. So talk a little bit about variety and how that shows up as a consultant versus employee.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yeah. I mean, I have been able to create the space in my life to do things that I never thought I would really do. I published this article or story, it was a true story, of my anniversary with my husband, and we're an interracial couple and we went to the beach and then we went to the bay and you can read it.

Deb Zahn: It's really good.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yeah. Encountering racist hostility. And it was something that I never would've dreamed of putting out before. First, I wouldn't have taken the time to write it, most likely. My creative juices have been flowing in the last six months or so in a way that they haven't since I was in college or even before that. I mean, I used to write a lot, but now I've been writing so much more just because I have that mental space in my life. And I didn't know it was something I needed. I was writing for my employer all the time. I would ghost-write things and smack somebody's name on it all the time because that's what my job entailed. But it wasn't coming from the heart. It was policy related, whatever. It was what the company needed me to do.

So that has been that variety; introducing that element of variety into my life has been amazing. And then even with client work, even with the projects that I've taken on, I do some stuff that is heavy academic research and writing and then some stuff that's really not that academically or intellectually taxing, but more related to networking and coalition building and momentum building. So I don't get burned out on one thing. And there's unlimited possibilities as a consultant. I mean, if somebody that you know calls you up and says, "Hey"...This just happened to a friend of mine who's a consultant as well.

She'd never facilitated a meeting in her life. And somebody that she knows called her up and said, "Hey, we need to facilitate a strategic planning session. Is that something you do?" And she's like, "Sure. It is now." And it's not like she doesn't have the skills to do it. She's got the personality, she's intelligent and she's a leader. And so now that's something she's doing. So there's this never-ending opportunity to learn new things, to exercise new things, to pick up new skills, all of that. And like you, I don't do boredom well so yeah, it's important.

Deb Zahn: I love that. And even take some of those highly transferable skills in going into new areas. I know some consultants that I work with who want to get into the sustainability space because the world's on fire, it's underwater; for all of the really good reasons. And they have tremendous skills in the things that they've done. And guess what? You can actually transfer that to new areas of work because people still need those. And you may have to learn a new topic, but they still need those.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: And I would argue, I was looking at your list of questions and you had one question about what makes a consultant excellent. I would argue that we need more of those people. We need more people crossing over sectors. We need to bring people that really have a diverse skillset or their singular skillset is now being applied to something new. Because otherwise you get these stale results. You get these same people parroting these same ideologies and using these same models that produce the same outcomes, and clearly, they're not working. So, I mean, to me, I'd even prefer somebody that's bringing the skills from, let's say, another industry or maybe just another sector; private to nonprofit or vice versa or whatever, so that they have a new lens to look at things because you know what it's like sitting in a boardroom.

Deb Zahn: And you have the same conversation you've had over and over again and nothing's moving. Yes, yes. I know those. I love the cross-pollination. So, I'm a gardener so I think in terms of that. And taking those learnings from other places is going to break up what is often groupthink, which is often, "This is how we always do this. This is how we always approach it." Get in there and shake some things up by bringing new things into the mix. People like it. Most folks who actually want to see good results like it.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yes. People who are benefiting from the current system do not.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right. And they can take their pride. But yeah. So, the next one you talked about was expansiveness, and you had a very particular lens that you were looking at that through. Tell a little bit more about how that works out as a consultant and what you mean by that.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yeah. Well, this is an example, right? I mean, I'm on this podcast right now, which was a result of me doing something different, writing about my experience and putting it out into the world, which you read and approached me. I think expansiveness, I think when I was writing about it in that context, I was talking about the network building. And so I'll give you a perfect example. LinkedIn, when I was an employee, the people on my LinkedIn were almost exclusively from the environmental community because I had only had any reason to connect with people who were in my field. I wasn't thinking about broadening my network. I made the mistake that many women, and particularly women that don't come from a lot of money, make. I didn't think about my long-term vision and where I wanted my career to head and all of that. I thought about how can I do this job really, really well and get myself promoted?

That was my focus. So, I would only connect with people in my industry, and even in the region that I felt was applicable to the employment positions that I was in. And so I missed out on all these amazing people. And so, once I decided, OK, I really want to put my knowledge and my experience in the areas of justice into play, I started connecting with all of these amazing people doing DEIJ work. And not only was it educational, obviously, learning from people, but linking with people that get me and that are in other countries and that are doing things that I didn't even know could be done is just expanding, not just the network, but the view, my view of the world and what's out there and who's out there and what they're doing and what's possible.

And you can't do that while you're on the job, unless...Well, some people can get away with it but I certainly couldn't. You can't do that sitting at your desk while you're on your employer's clock. And by the time you clock out, you're too tired. You don't want to think about your career unless you're a real workaholic or you have nothing else going on in life. And I've been both of those things at different times of my life, but right now I'm not. And so I want to hang out with my husband when I'm done working, I don't want to network. But now, I consider that a part of my work. The expansiveness is a part of the business. And so I take time for that, I make time for that, and I love it, it's great.

Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. And I know, and I want to give a shout because you're in a Mastermind that you give credit to and I want to make sure they get some love. You want to say who they are?

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yes, absolutely. So Katalyst Mastermind Community, it's Katalyst with a K, K-A-T-A-L-Y-S-T. And Kamilah Martin is the owner of her consulting firm. And she convened a group of women, primarily women of color. I think I'm one of maybe two or three white women in there, but primarily women of color. And her whole kind of goal is to help people that are transitioning to consulting, new to consulting, or even more experienced consultants that just want to broaden their network and have support to be supported in that journey. And so she's been a lifesaver.

She's become a friend. And I can't overstate the importance of having a community. And I think I talked about that in the other article about what's hard about consulting; it is easy to get isolated. So actually being intentional about getting into a community that is aligned with what you believe in, which Kamilah and I are on the same page about a lot of things. And showing up, obviously; showing up and participating, getting to know people. Yeah, it's been amazing. Another thing that I never would've had the time, the inclination to do when I was a full-time employee, no way.

Deb Zahn: Right. And obviously, I encourage folks to do things like that because in this new world of greater connectedness, you don't have to do it alone. You really don't. And there's so many benefits to connecting with other folks. So I'm glad to give them a shout out because I saw that in your article, I went and looked them up, and it just looked like beautiful stuff. So I want to make sure they get some love in this. Let's do the last one, if we could, which is voice, which is obviously a huge one because often our voices are taken away at the door when we're employed.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yes. Especially if you work for a government agency, which I did for periods, I've worked in government. Like I said, I'm direct, I'm from New York. I don't pull punches in my communication. I try to be sensitive to people's feelings. Absolutely. I never want to hurt people's feelings. But when I see something happening, I'm going to say what's happening. I call out the elephant in the room. That is not something you're allowed to do, turns out.

Deb Zahn: Apparently not when you're employers.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: I learned that lesson, actually, when I was 21 years old, I learned that lesson, when I made a very clear, very true statement about a program that I was employed to work on, in that it was ineffective, and it was a waste of resources and it wasn't actually giving clients what they needed. I was there for two more weeks after that.

Deb Zahn: Thank you, Elizabeth, for that really

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: No. I was quickly called into the vice president's office. Yeah, it was not good. I was 21, I didn't know any better. And over the years I've learned better and, sadly, I've learned, like many people do and many women do, to stifle my own voice and to bite my tongue and to go along to get along. And that has really damaging emotional implications for anyone.

Deb Zahn: Oh, my goodness. Yes.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yeah. I mean, just since going out of my own and since finding clients and understanding that I can write the truth in a way that... You've seen my writing. I'm not a troll, I don't insult people or anything like that, but I am clear about what I think is right and wrong. And I've found that that's actually attracting the right people to me, which is... The freedom in that is something I never thought I would experience. I thought I would not be able to speak my real mind about things in a open way and in a way that is accessible to anybody that might potentially work with me until I was retired. I just really did not think-

Deb Zahn: Which is a long time.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: It's a long time. I'm 43. Yeah, I've got a long way to go. So yeah, I'm just like, OK, now coming into my own voice again, and I say again because when I was young, I was really outspoken, and I got beat down over the years. But learning that I can actually... Like not just that I can express my voice, but then having people email me or inbox me and say, "Oh my God, thank you so much for saying that. That resonated so much. This is so powerful." I'm getting goosebumps on my head right now. I had someone tell me the other day, she posted one of my articles on her website, my article about making sure that you get paid and charging for your time. She posted it on her website to basically get rid of the people that we're trying to approach her and ask her to do work for free. And I was like, I love that I can give that to someone. So that's something I can't think of any employer where I've ever been able to be as frank as I am now.

Deb Zahn: And I love that one the most because I had the same experiences. I certainly felt beat down after many jobs and to the point where you almost don't recognize yourself anymore. The other thing I would add, voice, and I know you write about this a lot is you still have to speak truth to power. Now you're in a different position to do it and you actually, in many ways, can say things that employees can't, and with that comes a responsibility to do that. And I'm thinking in particular with DEIJ work, particularly as a white woman myself, if I see something, I got to say something, to the CEO, to whoever it is that I'm interacting with because I'm in a position to influence it in a good direction. And I'm not dependent on them for my livelihood and I don't have to show up there every single day and deal with the consequences the way that often employees have to. Everybody needs to speak up, but consultants are in a perfect position to do that.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: That's exactly right. And in this short time that I've been consulting full-time I've had the opportunity, I guess you would say, to actually do exactly what you're saying, call out some behaviors very directly. And the feedback that I got from the client was, "Thank you so much. You helped illuminate and shed light on these barriers," in a way that clearly they couldn't, they definitely couldn't. And then I get to walk away and say, "OK, I did that." It's damaging. I mean, let's be real, if you tell somebody with power, "You're abusing your power," they don't like you anymore.

They're not going to hire you back again. I mean, really they're not. But it's OK because you're not dependent on them hiring you back again. And you've served your purpose. The issues have been exposed. Now, whether progress takes place beyond that, I haven't been in a position to actually advance progress beyond that yet. But at least I know nobody could say that the issues weren't exposed and nobody's worried that they're going to lose their job because they said the wrong thing to the wrong person. And that's like a circular sort of problem, is everybody knows this problem is happening within an organization, nobody really is empowered to speak up against it. If they do speak up against it, they risk retaliation. And so, the wheels just keep spinning. So, I do think that's absolutely a responsibility, and I know that not every consultant takes that responsibility seriously, sadly. Yeah.

Deb Zahn: But dammit, we all need to, we all need to.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: You can only do what you can do, right? I can't control other people's behavior, so if they choose to continue working for somebody, and because they want to have that check rolling in, that's on them, that's between them and their higher power. You know?

Deb Zahn: That's a great way to say that. Well, this is all fabulous stuff. Again, I'm going to have a link to the article. I'm going to have a link to the other article about professionalism that you talked about. Let me hit you with this last question, which is particularly now that you've enjoyed a year as a consultant, how are you bringing balance to your life, however it is you define that?

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: Yeah. I mean, everybody's different in what they need. I know myself pretty well and my work style and I'm a sprinter. You have to know your work style and your needs. So I'm a sprinter, I can take on a lot in a short amount of time and be very high grind, but it has to be a short amount of time. And then I schedule breaks. So, I'm thinking, depending on how everything works out with the move, I'm thinking of taking off the month of December, if the financials work because nobody wants to do anything anyway.

Deb Zahn: They say they do. Do not believe them.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: They schedule meetings.

Deb Zahn: They will not answer your emails.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: They will cancel. Cancel them five minutes in advance.

Deb Zahn: Totally.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: It's just like, stop already. But yeah, I mean, for me, that's what works. And the other thing that works for me, and again, this is really down to not just your personality, but your biology. Sadly, for most nights I wake up 4:00, 5:00 AM. I just can't help it and it's what happens. So I'll work in the early morning hours and get things done and then be like, all right, after 2:00 PM, I'm not doing anything. That is for me, what balance looks like for me is actually working with my biological flow and kind of the way that... Yeah, my biological flow. You might want to edit that out.

Deb Zahn: No, no, no. Please. I'm in menopause. Everything is about biological flow right now.

Elizabeth Silleck La Rue: OK. So exactly, right? So rather than being stuck on, OK, this schedule or whatever, I'm like, all right, I'm up at 3:00. I'm going to get this stuff done and then I'll take off Monday. So I think it's just going with what your body tells you to do is really important.

Deb Zahn: Totally agree with that. I love that. Well, Elizabeth, I have a sense we could talk forever, but this was so great. Thank you so much for coming on the show with me today.

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 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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