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Episode 184: Creating a Rule-Breaking Consulting Business—with Brooke Monaghan

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. So on this episode, we are going to talk about rule-breaking. And in particular, breaking rules that you've heard that you absolutely have to do for your consulting business, and instead, making choices for yourself so that you ultimately end up with a business you truly want to have. So I brought on a really cool rule breaker, she's way cooler than me, Brooke Monaghan, who's going to come on and talk about ways to do that so that you end up with the value-driven business that you ultimately want to have, and a business that makes you happy and fulfills you. So let's get started.

Hi, I want to welcome to my show today Brooke Monaghan. Brooke, welcome to the show.

Brooke Monaghan: Hi, Deb. Thank you so much for having me. I feel like I'm meeting with a celebrity because I've been binging your episodes in the gym for weeks.

Deb Zahn: And you know I've been listening to you while traveling with a chicken.

Brooke Monaghan: That's what I heard. That's what I heard, and I was very excited to hear we're both animal people.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Well, and the chicken is now a fan, so that's even better. Kiki's a big fan. So let's dive in. Tell people what you do.

Brooke Monaghan: Yeah, so I am a coach and consultant, and I work with...I was telling you before we started, I have broken the niche rule big time. So I work with entrepreneurs who are just starting their businesses. I have a mentorship program for them. I do consulting work for entrepreneurs that are growing their teams. I do management consulting with them and coach them on how to not just do the things that they were doing when they were a sole contributor but grow and lead a team. And I also do consulting work with organizations, mostly with project management offices. And that really also focuses...we call it project management consulting, where I really shine is with managing personalities and helping other managers in the organization learn how to manage personalities and build their confidence as leaders.

So I see the through the line of all of it is about learning to trust yourself and letting go of the way that you think things should be done, and really just leaning into your unique way of doing things. But the context that I do it in is a little bit different depending on who I'm working with at the time.

Deb Zahn: I totally get the thread though. The thread makes complete sense to me. So we're actually going to dive into the whole breaking the rules, which I love because I am a long-time avowed rule breaker. So I think that that's fabulous. So I know one of the things that you talk about, whether it's an entrepreneur or organization, is vision, purpose, value, things like that. And that would create a different business or a different organization. So thinking of entrepreneurs who are trying to build their consulting business, what would that actually look like? Paint a picture of how that's different than business-as-usual nonsense that we don't like.

Brooke Monaghan: Yeah, I mean, if you are building a consulting business, my guess is that you for some reason wanted to leave your job probably and stop just going through the motions. And if you want to be running a business where you don't feel like you're just recreating that and going through the motions again, or just doing the same thing to yourself that your boss did to you at your job because a lot of us do that to ourselves, you really need to have a vision of what you want this to look like. You need to have a vision of, what work do you actually want to be doing? What do you actually care about? What organizations do you want to work with, or people do you want to work with? How much do you want to be working? What do you want your work-life balance to look like?

I think that a lot of people leave their jobs because they want to have some amount of personal freedom, and then kind of buy into this idea that if they just hustle to some finish line, then at the end of getting all of the money, then they're going to get the personal freedom, and it doesn't work that way. It does not work that way at all. Trust me. I've gotten trapped in that as well. I'm teaching from experience. So yeah, I think that it's getting really clear on what you want your life to look like, big picture. And I think that your business, if you're working for yourself, your business is just going to be a part of that. And what's the kind of work that you actually find meaningful and impactful?

I work with people who really want to have an impact and they want to contribute to change. They don't want to be going through the motions, feeling like they're a cog in the machine. They want to make a change. What's the change you want to make? Get clear on that. So that way as you build your business, you can move forward in alignment with that rather than just doing what you think you're supposed to be doing. Because all that happens if you do that, ask me how I know, is you wind up in a business that you want to escape the same way you wanted to escape your job and you have to go through the whole process all over again of figuring out what you actually want.

Deb Zahn: That's great. And now you have a really hard boss to get away from because you're it.

Brooke Monaghan: Exactly. I mean, it’s not as simple as just becoming aware of how hard you are on yourself. I think that most entrepreneurs are really hard on themselves. There's a reason why we stick with figuring out how to work for ourselves, and it's because we have really high expectations for ourselves and we're good at pushing ourselves. But at some point, most entrepreneurs that I work with, most consultants that I work with, realize that, "Oh, this is not really serving me and I need to figure out a way to move forward differently."

And as much as I love mindset work and visioning and all of that, you also need to balance that with actually moving differently because, really, you need to act your way into a different way of thinking. It doesn't really work to just try to solve that problem in your head. And so thinking, "I'm going to be such a great boss to myself and I'm just going to give myself Fridays off, and I'm going to..." I have news for you. It is really difficult to be as nice to yourself as you wish your boss was to you when you had a job.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Yeah, I remember when I went independent and then I'm like, "Oh, so interesting, I'm the problem." That's sobering, that I actually wasn't just getting away from a bad situation, it was also what I was doing to myself on a regular basis.

Brooke Monaghan: I don't even know who said this, but I've heard it a bunch of times. It's like, "Wherever you go, there you are."

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brooke Monaghan: If you are killing yourself at your job, I have news for you. If you don't want your life to look like that and your work to look like that, you're going to have to unlearn that.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: Just starting a business is not going to do it for you. So, got on a little bit of a tangent there, but I think that's why it's so important to sit down and get clear on what you actually want things to look like. Because I can't tell you the number of consultants, entrepreneurs in other fields I have worked with who come to me and they're like, "I wanted to start working for myself for these reasons. And here I am working for myself, and I hate it."

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, to me, part of it, and I'd love to get your take on this, is there's the grind culture. I call it sort of bro biz, which is we're supposed to just kill ourselves. That's what an entrepreneur is supposed to be. And you said at the beginning, and then somewhere in the future there shall be that freedom and flexibility that was promised. So the shoulds keep raining down in terms of how you're supposed to build your business. So this is a great opportunity to break the rules. So what are you seeing and how do you help people get out of that sort of should mentality and instead say, "I want," mentality, "This is what I'm building," mentality.

Brooke Monaghan: Yeah, so I have identified that there's this point in the process that most people hit at some point, which is what I call fallout. And it's really not fun for my clients and it's a little fun for me. And I have to temper down my excitement because I know that progress is coming. I call it fallout, and it's basically the point where you realize that just running on all those shoulds is just not going to work. You just can't do it. Sometimes it's burnout, sometimes it's you've been trying and trying and trying. Especially in the online business world, a lot of people buy into the idea that you're going to build this million-dollar business with a funnel and you're just going to set it up, and then you're going to hit play and then it's just going to be dollar signs for the rest of your life. And eventually you realize, "Oh my gosh, no matter what I try, it's not working."

Not for everybody, but typically if you're running your business on what you think you should do and you're not running your business based on some sort of vision of what you're trying to create and keeping yourself very focused by having that, that's what happens. And I find that people hit this point where they're like, "No matter what I do, it's not working." They just throw their hands up and they're like, "What am I supposed to do? I'm just going to do whatever I want then because what's the point in trying to..." Right? And it feels like everything's falling apart. It feels like nothing's working. It feels like maybe opportunities are starting to disintegrate, things that you thought were going to come through are not coming through. But what I have found is that usually when that happens, it's actually making space for you to start moving forward in a way that is actually aligned with the business that you want to build.

And that can be terrifying. But at some point, after you go through, I call... When you're running on what you think you should do, I call that seeking savior. It's like, "If I just try hard enough, eventually I'm going to be saved." You do that for long enough and you get to fallout enough times because, trust me, I have cried on my bathroom floor.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Brooke Monaghan: I have had clients vox me and they're like, "I just cried, and I let myself come down from it before I voxed you." And I'm like, "Yep. Part of the process." It's just the reality I think. But after you've done that enough times, you're eventually going to get to a point where it's like, "I'm not going back there again. So how do I want to move forward to create what I want to create? It's going to be uncomfortable and I'm going to do it." That, to me, is kind of the portal forward for starting to break some rules. And the magic in that is that this trust that you once had in the right way of doing things, now you can kind of shift that trust to yourself. You can start to instead focus on self-trust and trust in the impact that you can have if you went for what you really want to create and the impact that you want to have instead of just going through the motions.

We live in a world where entrepreneurship and working for yourself, being self-employed, being a consultant is painted as a dream life. And the reality is, you're going to get tired. You are going to get tired. So you better like what you're doing and you better have some sort of sustainable way of doing it so that when that happens, it's not like, "All right, well, I'm out. What's the point?"

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah, so I love that so much, and I bristle at the, "And everything's going to be perfect." So I'm one of those people. I became a consultant. I lived the dream, I moved to the country. I got a little mini farm, I got my chickens, I got that life that I want. And it doesn't always work out because I will lean towards the grind and then I will get burnt out. And I remember I did a social media post once where I said, "I have to take a break because my eye is twitching."

Brooke Monaghan: Totally.

Deb Zahn: And people were like, "Oh my God, my eye totally twitches when I get stressed out too."

Brooke Monaghan: Totally.

Deb Zahn: And part of being an entrepreneur is, how do you work with stuff like that? And I love the self-trust as sort of the core of how you work with stuff like that.

Brooke Monaghan: Yeah, and I think for you too, Deb, you even saying, "I got the life that I want. I moved out to the country and I have these things," a lot of people haven't even sat down to say, "I want to move to the country." A lot of people are still like, "I'm going to get the penthouse apartment and be a digital nomad," or something like that.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: And haven't even sat down to be like, "No, actually, you know what I want to do? I want to make just enough money to live this kind of life and work fewer hours." The day that I realized I do not give a (beep).

Deb Zahn: Potty mouth. That's OK, we're going to bleep that out.

Brooke Monaghan: Sorry. Sorry, Deb.

Deb Zahn: I'm writing it down.

Brooke Monaghan: I told you I wasn't going to do that. OK, I'm going to start over.

Deb Zahn: That's OK, go for it. I'm keeping all this in.

Brooke Monaghan: OK. I feel so sorry.

Deb Zahn: No, it's fine.

Brooke Monaghan: The day that I realized that I do not care about being known in the online business world, it was so liberating to me. Because when I first started my business, I started thinking I'm going to grow this big online presence. And at some point I realized that's not what I want. I do not care about people knowing who I am and having a ton of followers. What I care about is having a core group of clients that I'm really aligned with, where I really care about what they're doing, and I can feel that me being there is having a big impact on the work that they do, I can see the impact of that, I know that me being there is making a difference, we value each other, and I am making enough money to have what I need.

And by the way, I have a spreadsheet of how much money that is and what the money goes to. Because if I don't, I am one of those people, I will get stuck on the gas pedal and I will be like, "More, more, more, more, more." And at some point, I realized I don't even want that, that's just an impulse. That's just an ingrained impulse that probably was ingrained in me when I was like three from my family or something.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. No, and I've had people actually say, "Well, diamonds and fancy cars." And I'm like, "So replace that with tractor and now you're on my wave length." And that's only if I have free time to enjoy the tractor, which wouldn't make any sense if I'm killing myself all the time. I love that. So that's a rule that is a good rule to break is the freedom to construct the vision of what you want your life to be looking the way you want it to be. What are some of your other favorite rules to break?

Brooke Monaghan: Well, I definitely think... I mean, I already said I definitely broke the niching rule. I mean, I don't really think that I did, to be honest with you. Because to me, I think there's a clear niche, but from the outside looking in, I don't think that there is. And if you get really specific about what I do, I think it's hyper-specific, but who has time to listen to my entire explainer?

But I think with people that I'm working with in the very beginning, I really encourage them to just experiment. I don't think there's anything wrong with taking opportunities that come through. As long as you know that you're going to be able to do the thing that you're telling people you can do, as long as you know that you can do a good job at the thing that people are hiring you for, who cares?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: And if you do it and you find out, "I didn't like that," great, more information, right? That's how you get the information. Because your vision also is going to change over time, right?

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Brooke Monaghan: There was a time in my business where I really thought I wanted certain things and I did a couple of those jobs and I was like, "Never again am I doing that," right? There are certain things that I've just learned, "I don't want to." But how did I learn that? I experimented and I did some things that were misaligned and I figured out they were misaligned after I did them.

I also really think, and we kind of talked about this a bit in the beginning, but with my organizational clients, I tend to find myself in rooms a lot with people who are throwing around the new fancy thing that they learned at a conference or they just took a training and they learned this thing. And I'm usually the person in the room who's going to be like, "That's all great and everything, but what do we need to do to actually manage the personalities in the room and get people on board? Or what are the pieces of that that we can use that make sense for this? But can we just throw the rest of it out? Because it's not actually even relevant to the organization."

I mean, I have my project management professional certification, which, I mean, some people care about. I can tell you right now, literally nothing that I had to learn for that exam actually applied to the organization that I was working for when I went through and got that certification.

Deb Zahn: No?

Brooke Monaghan: And my job so often is to take people off of focusing on what the process is supposed to look like and just being like, "We're here in the room right now. We're here in the room right now. What do we need to do to actually just move things forward? Can we not focus on the part of the charter that wasn't figured out, and just figure out how we can make that decision now?" Because the right way to do things, it sounds great, but in most organizations that I have been in, the way things are supposed to go on paper is never, ever, ever what I walk into.

Deb Zahn: Wait, are you suggesting that's because of human beings that we get an error involved?

Brooke Monaghan: Right? Right? It's like, "This is the way that things should work." In fact, I was just taking a training for my... Actually, to maintain my certification, and the person was talking about not managing people, managing the circumstances of the project. And qualified and did a good job of qualifying because, in the scenario that we are imagining, we're talking about having really competent, trustworthy people, high-performing people who really care about what they're doing. And I'm like, "OK, yeah. In that scenario, yes, absolutely we can focus on managing the project." But immediately what comes to my mind is, "OK, well the rooms that I end up in, we have very competent, very smart people, who are also burnt out and checked out because they feel like they're not being heard, or there's some sort of politics going on in the room," or something, right?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: So sounds great, but, to me, I find myself always having to remind myself that I can step outside of the boundary of what my consulting work is, quote, unquote, "supposed to look like" from a very technical perspective to just call on the skill set that I have. Some of those things going all the way back to when I was an assistant manager at the Gap.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Brooke Monaghan: Who cares where I learned it?

Deb Zahn: Retail is really, really helpful for learning how to do stuff like this.

Brooke Monaghan: It really is. And sometimes I got to pull that stuff out and be like, "You know what? We're not going to follow the process right now because right now the process is not serving this situation."

Deb Zahn: That's right. And talk about making yourself valuable as a consultant. So again, I see the thread throughout everything that you do, but for any consultants who do anything that involves people, which, I don't know, is probably almost every consultant on the planet, this is the type of stuff that if you learn that... I call it my... I take my toolbox with me, and I show up, and I don't know exactly what the plumbing is going to look like, I don't know if it's electrical, I don't know if everything's going to crash at once, but I got a toolbox and hopefully other people do too. Together, we're smart people, we're going to figure out the right way to do this. And I find that more useful than, "I have project plan. The project plan says do this. And we must do this."

Brooke Monaghan: Right, and I'm trained in this thing and this is what this thing says that I'm supposed to do. I mean, that can be helpful. But I think that oftentimes what's driving that is actually just imposter syndrome or imposter complex, especially if it's one of your first consulting jobs that you've gotten or one of the first times that you're working with a particular person, or maybe it's a different caliper of client and so it's kind of freaking you out a little bit.

One of the things that happens is you don't want to be found out subconsciously, and you're just going to fall back on what the book says to do because that's how you think people are going to take you seriously. Nine times out of ten, it's when you just level with people and just get real with them about what you see in the situation, that's when people are going to be like, "Oh, this person isn't just telling me what I want to hear. This person isn't going to be like the last person that we hired that didn't work out. They are bringing a different perspective." And so that takes a certain level of confidence and self-trust that you really need to foster over time.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And that's why it goes back to self-trust. And by the way, and I'm sure you've experienced this, clients will find it refreshing. And they will tell you that and they will keep bringing you back because you're not just a consultant in X suit. You're actually creative in working with them for the purpose of actually helping them achieve the result, which is awesome and that's what they want.

I want to get back to one thing I know you've talked about in some of your writing, which just is so important to me, which is trauma and mental illness. And so for people who are struggling with that and they enter a work situation that you're helping with or they're an entrepreneur, and we're all just supposed to lock it down and ignore the fact that we're human beings and we have feelings and emotions and struggles happening, I'd love to hear more about your insight about why the rule-breaking in this area is so important.

Brooke Monaghan: Yeah, so personally, and one of the reasons why I talk about trauma and mental illness is just because of my own experience. I'm certainly not a mental health professional and I don't try to treat any of that for any of my clients, that's for sure, but I do bring that lens to things because I have post-traumatic stress disorder. I got all kinds of stuff going on that I'm dealing with every day.

Deb Zahn: We call it the resume. I got the resume.

Brooke Monaghan: Yeah. I'm neurodivergent, I'm dyslexic.

Deb Zahn: Yep, me too.

Brooke Monaghan: And what I find is that so many people who I work with have a similar kind of background. There's some sort of trauma there, or there's some sort of neurodivergence, or there's some mental health diagnosis. And the reason that they wanted to leave their job was because a traditional work environment just did not work for them. It doesn't work. It might be the hours. It might be the way that they're expected to take in information. It might be that they're really triggered by certain dynamics from a particular person who oversees them. There are so many reasons for it. And so for me, if the reason that you are leaving your job and going out to work for yourself and exploring consulting is because that traditional work environment, you know you're just withering away inside, then when you start working for yourself, you need to give yourself the gift of going easier on yourself and breaking the traditional workplace rules.

I watch a lot of people. They start working for themselves and they think they have to be working 40 hours a week. And I'm like, "Listen, when you are consulting, if you try to work 40 hours a week, you are going to burn out so fast. Because the work that you're doing is so creative and there's so much brain power that goes into it, you're going to end up burning yourself out." So I just think that if you are dealing with any sort of trauma or mental illness, you need to learn how to be really patient with yourself or you need to get someone in your corner who's going to be really patient with you.

I have been lucky enough to have a coach who is so understanding and so patient and doesn't try to force me through any process that just doesn't work for me. I try to do the same thing for my clients. And I also think that sometimes you really need to recognize that in some instances... And this can take some therapy to figure out sometimes. Most of the time. Get a therapist.

Deb Zahn: Agreed.

Brooke Monaghan: In some instances, your tendency to go back and do things the way that you, quote, unquote, "should be doing things" is actually a trauma response that you are not going to be able to address simply through listening to a podcast or hearing someone say it one time or even being aware of what you're doing.

I actually worked with somebody who was a consultant who realized at some point she has this, it is a trauma response to say yes to every single thing, even if no one's asking her to do it.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Brooke Monaghan: If she's in a room and she hears someone ask somebody else, "I can do that." And it comes back to bite her every time.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: And that takes a level of care for yourself that simply coaching or educating yourself is just not going to touch. And you can save yourself a lot of despair and money and time by seeing that for what it is and taking care of your mental health first because every other thing is going to hinge on you being mentally well.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Yeah, and also cultivating the self-reflection that comes from working with your mental illness or working with your trauma where you start to notice, "Oh yeah, I'm the yes person, I'm the 'Oh yeah, I can do that.'" My version was I was the fix-it person. So if there's a problem, I'll fix it. I'll fix it. Don't worry, I'll fix it. And then everybody else got used to me fixing it, and they're home having a good time having a glass of wine because I'm killing myself to fix it because that was my trauma response to it is, "That's my role." And I haven't undone my role, so that's what I replicated.

Brooke Monaghan: Yeah, and what sometimes happens is you start to feel some amount of anxiety or something because there's a lot of uncertainty involved in working for yourself. So what do you do to make yourself feel better? You go back to all of those control mechanisms that you once learned way back when. And it will kick you back into that "I have to do things the right way," and it will definitely kick you back into what we talked about before, which is, "If I try hard enough now, then I'll be fine later."

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: Right?

Deb Zahn: That's perfect.

Brooke Monaghan: "If I try hard enough now, then I will be recognized as the best, and I will achieve all of the results, and I will have the clients, and I will have the speaking opportunities, and I will have all of the money, and then everything will be fine, and..." No.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, good luck. I mean, I hate to say it, but good luck with that. Yeah because your life is now.

Brooke Monaghan: Exactly. Exactly. And your business is now. People who will talk about, "I want to have a business that gives me this freedom." Well, where's the freedom today? Because you're in it.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: You're in the business. So I always say, "You can't build a business that is sustainable for you and an integrity to your values and gives you a sense of freedom day in and day out using tactics that are killing you."

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: Unfortunately, I have burnt out. I burnt out three months into working for myself full-time. It did not take me long at all.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Brooke Monaghan: I have had lots of clients who have hit a wall, and it's not worth it.

Deb Zahn: It's not worth it, and it truly doesn't matter how much money you ultimately make. Although, what I find is that folks who just ride that grind wave and hope that it works out later often have a hard time making the dollars.

Brooke Monaghan: Yes. Yes, Deb. Oh my gosh, thank you so much for saying this. So this is the thing that always gets me when I meet with people who are...This comes up a lot with social media.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Brooke Monaghan: So I work with a lot of people who have tried to market themselves on Instagram specifically because it was like "the thing" like, I don't know, however long ago. I mean, it still kind of is, I guess, for the people that it's working for, but that's such a small sliver of the people who are using it for marketing.

And I will say to people, "If you're not getting results doing that, then why do you keep doing it? You hate it. You're telling me that you hate it and you're telling me that it's not working for you, and you want to sit down and problem solve how to make it work for you. Why don't you just try something else?" And the response that I always get is, "Because this is the way that you do it. This is the way that I was taught that you have to do it, and this is the only way to do it." And I'm like, "How do you have so much faith in somebody else's idea that you have been trying for two years that isn't working for you and you don't have even a shred of faith in your idea that you haven't given one shot?"

Deb Zahn: That's right. And haven't experimented. So I was on "the gram" as the kids called it back in the day, or at least my niece made fun of me because I called it Instagram. But I was on Instagram, I was on Facebook, I was on Twitter, I was on LinkedIn. I didn't enjoy any of them to be perfectly honest. I liked Instagram because it was pictures, but I mainly want to show pictures of cats and vegetables and that doesn't really sell business. Well, cats, a little bit.

And here I was killing myself on all of these different channels and the reality is is when I said, "Nope, don't want to do it, this is a waste of time, this is a waste of money. Where is it that my clients are? And I'm going to focus on that, and I'm going to figure out a way to love it by doing it my way," and that's LinkedIn and I think LinkedIn is abhorrently boring, "but I'm going to do it in a way that's not boring," then it impacted... I was going to say it impacted my business not at all. It actually impacted my business positively. I actually had more free time. I actually could focus and concentrate. I actually could think about, how do I really want to do things? But I had gotten into the whole "but this is the way to do it." The reality is is I've been consulting for 12 years. I built my entire consulting business, which is quite fulfilling and quite lucrative, and I never used social media one time.

Brooke Monaghan: Yeah, that's…

Deb Zahn: Probably because I'm old and it wasn't really a thing.

Brooke Monaghan: But no, but Deb, just last week I put a new landing page on my website where you can actually click through and see anything about organizational consulting. Up until last week, I did not have anything about any of that even on my website. I never talked about it on social media. Just last week I did it and the reason why is because I've been doing a lot more just person-to-person, just direct networking, and with opportunities that are kind of coming through it... Honestly, the reason why is it made me feel better. That's the real reason why. It felt like it opened up a door for me to shout about it from the rooftops and be like, "Well, what if they go on my website and none of it aligns with what I'm saying?"

Energetically it just opened something up for me, but I know consultants who were doing great who, if you go to their website...I mean, first of all, they have no social media presence at all, and their website hasn’t been updated and it's not even accurate because no one's even going to it.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, yeah. Or, like me, they don't have one.

Brooke Monaghan: Right, right.

Deb Zahn: And again, that's fine. The world has changed a little bit. I have folks who are going all in on LinkedIn, and that might make perfect sense for what you've chosen to do. And you're going to have that self-trust, which I love that term, to make that decision, but it's not because you should. It's because it's a strategy you have selected.

Brooke Monaghan: Right, and that's such an important thing that you just identified. So I was talking before about you reach this point of fallout, and that is what I see as this gateway to move forward in a way that is actually aligned with what you want to create. I talk about that as agency. I think that that's when you're really in the learning process, you're really able to experiment, you are trusting yourself more than you're trusting some blueprint or something that you think is magically going to, I don't know, deliver... The clouds are going to part and the cash is just going to fall out of the sky. The universe is going to see that you're doing the right things and then just wire you a million dollars. I don't know. Because people do it with mindset stuff too, like the right mindset?

Deb Zahn: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brooke Monaghan: Please. So I talk about that as agency. And eventually, once you've been in that place long enough, and you've done the experimenting and you've really cultivated that growth mindset, where you've allowed yourself to try things that don't work out and try things that do work out, and learn what works for you, and focus on what's sustainable, and really just choose the things that you can be consistent with because that's the key. Anything that you can't sustain long-term is not a real solution. Then, that's when I see you actually being able to approach things strategically.

And so I tell people all the time, "When you first start your business, you're going to be so tempted to jump straight into strategy. But the funny thing about it is you probably aren't actually being strategic because your version of approaching strategy is looking things up that other people are doing, and then doing what you think you're supposed to do."

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: And then just taking that as like what you're supposed to do, and just like blinders on, and moving forward, and not keeping your eyes open to, “OK, this isn't sustainable for me. OK, you know what? With the people that I want to work with, they actually don't care about that. They actually seem to need more of this,'" right?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: And so I don't think that doing things because it's what anyone else said is the most strategic way to do things, is a strategy at all. It's strategic when you are like, "This is what I want to build, this is where I want to go, and this is the capacity that I have and the bandwidth that I have to dedicate to that. And here are the ways that I can get there that I can be consistent with. And let me play with it a little bit and figure out what works," right? That's what you have to do. And nowhere in that is it like, "What does this book say that I am supposed to do to build a..."

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right. And it was funny, I was talking to someone earlier today, a brand new consultant, and she's having a conversation with someone, and she was defaulting to hourly pricing, and she was going to base it on the salary they would pay, which is such old school advice. And I said, "How long you been in your field?" And it's over a decade. And I said, "Wow, you must know your stuff.""Oh, yeah, yeah."

And I said, "So you probably are really efficient, huh?" And she said, "Oh yeah." And I said, "OK, then you'll make half of what someone who isn't efficient will make."

Brooke Monaghan: Yes.

Deb Zahn: Because I've done it. I've made that mistake and got paid less than what the client was willing to pay because I'm really good and fast at what I do.

Brooke Monaghan: Yep, yep. And when I first started consulting, the reason that I started consulting was I was working for a organization and I was leaving and they were like, "Please don't leave." And I was like, "Well, I'm moving across the country for my husband's job, so I'm leaving."

Deb Zahn: It's happening.

Brooke Monaghan: "But I was going to start consulting, maybe you want to hire me as a consultant."

Deb Zahn: Love it.

Brooke Monaghan: And when they did that, I had a conversation with them and I was like, "Listen, I don't need to be working as much as I'm working right now to do the same job. Plus the benefits that you're not going to be giving me." And so I at first was actually doing the same work for them that I was doing in my full-time role, but if you looked at it hourly, they were paying me twice as much.

Deb Zahn: Nice.

Brooke Monaghan: Because I was getting the same thing done. Unless you want to pay me to...Well, I'm not going to say anything about what was going on in the...But do you know what I mean? We've all been in those organizations where you're working 40 hours a week, and people are so tapped out six hours into the day that nothing's even happening for those last two hours because you're not doing quality work anymore.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Brooke Monaghan: And so as a consultant, you're never going to bill clients for hours where you're not doing quality work. And so you have to factor that in to the whole scenario.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: And it's funny because I was just having a conversation with one of my clients yesterday. She was doing the same thing, she was talking about hourly pricing, and I was like, "How did we end up here, where we think that we are the one field where we should get paid less to get something done faster?"

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: In every other field you pay more to get something faster.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Brooke Monaghan: Right?

Deb Zahn: Oh my gosh, I love that you said it. And I never thought of it that way, but that's exactly right. Speed usually is valuable and therefore paid for.

Brooke Monaghan: Right. Exactly. If I can get you in one 60-minute meeting with me to a place where it's going to take somebody else a month to get you, I just saved you a month of your time.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right. And that is most ...

Brooke Monaghan: That's more valuable.

Deb Zahn: That is, absolutely. I love that. I love talking to you. So I'm going to be on your podcast and we got to have more fun with this. And if anybody wants to hear me swear, that's where you go to actually hear me.

Brooke Monaghan: Sorry, Deb, I already dropped one. I feel so bad.

Deb Zahn: No, no.

Brooke Monaghan: I told you I wasn't going to do it.

Deb Zahn: That was nothing. I've had F-bombs that I've had to take out.

Brooke Monaghan: OK.

Deb Zahn: But where can folks find you?

Brooke Monaghan: Yeah, so I do have a podcast that's called Transcend Your Dichotomy. So if you're listening to the podcast, then you're a podcast person so that's probably the easiest thing for you to do. And I am playing around with LinkedIn. So if you follow Deb on LinkedIn, then you can find me on there. But actually, the best thing to do is probably to go to... I have a self-guided workshop that folks can take, where I talk about the five stages, like learning how to break the rules in your business, and you can find that at That's probably the best thing to do because, if you're into it, then you'll keep hearing from me after that and maybe it'll help you along.

Deb Zahn: We will put a link to that in the show notes so people can get right to it. And I'm going to tell people, go to your LinkedIn because you also recently had some pictures taken that are so frigging cool it's not even... And it's a perfect rule-breaking photo shoot, and I want people to go look at it because they're fabulous pictures, you look fabulous, but they're also so fun and so full of personality rather than these really boring headshots that everybody is, quote, unquote, "supposed to get."

Brooke Monaghan: Thank you so much, Deb. It's really funny because at the end of that photo shoot,we were done. We were done. And I said, "Sarah," who was doing the photos, I said, "we did not get a single one of me smiling, looking like a professional." So I got three pictures of me taken where I'm not snarling at the camera or doing some sort of weird, out-of-the-box, wacky pose. So yeah, it was really funny.

Deb Zahn: But they're awesome and people got to go check them out. So let me ask you my last question.

Brooke Monaghan: Yes.

Deb Zahn: So when you're breaking rules, hopefully one of the things that you get out of that is more balance in your life, however, it is you define that. So what does that look like for you?

Brooke Monaghan: Well, balance is actually very difficult for me to be very honest. So it's something that I spend a lot of time thinking about and a lot of effort on because, naturally, it's not something that I'm very good at. And that actually comes back to my trauma stuff that I talked about before. So I mean, essentials are being in therapy, having a coach who I really trust, who knows my patterns. So that if I'm starting to kick into overdrive and work, my business coach will be the first person to tap me on the shoulder and be like, "You need to"

Deb Zahn: Can we give her a shout-out? Because I know who it is

Brooke Monaghan: Lena West.

Deb Zahn: Fabulous, fabulous.

Brooke Monaghan: Yes, Lena West is amazing. She has also been on my podcast, and I advise everybody to go just to Apple Podcasts and just search her name and listen to every podcast she's ever done because she's fantastic.

Deb Zahn: Fabulous.

Brooke Monaghan: So those two things are really important. But I also think the thing, for me, that has been really helpful is thinking of my business as a part of my life rather than feeling like I need to be in balance all the time. Because if I do that to myself, I start thinking about things as 50/50, and that is so not easy to do.

Deb Zahn: That's a test that we will always fail and then feel bad about when we're actually failing.

Brooke Monaghan: Yes, yes.

Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. Well, Brooke, I think you're all kinds of awesome. So I appreciate you coming on the show. I can't wait to be on yours and thank you so much.

Brooke Monaghan: Deb, thank you so much. I have gotten so much value out of your show, honestly. Like I was telling you earlier, I've been listening to it while I've been working out. That's another thing that's very important for balance, by the way, exercise.

Deb Zahn: Exercise.

Brooke Monaghan: I've been listening to it a lot while I'm exercising, and I will let you know that I generally don't listen to business podcasts anymore unless I am preparing for having someone on my show or doing research. Your show has become the only one that I listen to just because I want to because it is just so good. So thank you.

Deb Zahn: Oh my goodness, thank you so much. Well, right back at you because you know I dig yours. And people will see which episode, I'm not even going to tell them what it is because it has a potty mouth word in it, it has a swear word in it, but it's so great, they have to listen to it.

Brooke Monaghan: Thanks so much, Deb. I really appreciate it.

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 you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up in 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.

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