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Episode 36: How to Reassess and Improve Your Consulting Business Brand—with Shaunice Hawkins

Deb Zahn: Hi, I want to welcome you to episode 36 of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. So we have a lot of fun on the podcast today. I bring back my past guest and very dear friend Shaunice Hawkins. She is a principal at Evolutions Consulting and Advising, which is a boutique strategic communication consulting firm. I brought her back because what she talked about in episode 13 was that every year, she does a reassessment and re-tooling of her brand as a consultant. So I thought, as I'm nearing the end of the year, it sounds like a good time to do that reassessment on my own brand. Some things about my brand worked well and some things didn't, so I know I want to make some changes, but I realized that I don't know exactly how to do that. So I was going to give Shaunice a call and say, "Hey can you tell me how to do this?" And then it occurred to me that this would probably be really helpful for you. So I brought her on the show to walk us through the process to take a look at your brand in its fullest flowering at the end of the year and then make decisions about what you want to do in the new year in terms of how your clients view you and experience you. So there’s lots of great information in this episode and also lots of fun because we get kind of goofy with each other. We just can't help it. So let's get started.

Hi, I want to welcome my guest today Shaunice Hawkins. Shaunice, welcome back.

Shaunice Hawkins: Thank you for having me. Hello everyone.

Deb Zahn: I am so thrilled that you’re back because I realized that as I'm heading towards the end of the year and I didn't do things exactly the way I wanted when I planned at the beginning of the year.  I know that never happens to anybody else. I knew that I need to sort of rethink and re-tool things as I go into the new year. So I was going to call you and say, "Hey remember that thing you said in the last podcast about how you reassess your brand as you enter a new year?" I was going to ask you how and then I thought, wait a minute, lots of people need to know how to do this. So let me get this on a podcast. I appreciate your willingness to share your reassessment, retooling, rejiggering strategies with us.

Shaunice Hawkins: No problem. I'm happy to, and I won't even charge you three payments of $19.95 to do so.

Deb Zahn: I would pay that gladly. So let's remind everybody who forgot or who has not yet listened to your first podcast. So what is a brand? What does that mean?

Shaunice Hawkins: So a brand—and I'll try not to get academic—is sort of the image of who you are or what your organization or your consultancy is, and it's what you want to put out to the world. It says to the world who you are, what you want to say, how you want to behave as an entity, and it's basically how you present yourself to your customers, your clients, your salesperson, and the world in general, anyone who's curious about you.

Deb Zahn: That's great. And last time we talked about how important it is to be very deliberate about that because you don't want it to be random or based on your mood or what your clients experience. You want it to be very carefully cultivated.

Shaunice Hawkins: And the main reason is because your brand does not live in a vacuum, does not live in a silo. Your brand has a direct and indirect impact on your reputation, and your reputation is how others collectively perceive you and/or your brand and/or your entity.

So whether it's your products, your services, your programming—whatever you offer, or whoever you are that you present to the world—is under scrutiny, and that's what a reputation is. So your brand you can control; your reputation is uncontrollable, but you can manage it.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And reputation is so critical to consultants because that's how we get our business. And the better reputation you have the less you have to do to get that business.

Shaunice Hawkins: Yes.

Deb Zahn: That's wonderful. Well, this is why it's so important. So here we are, we're heading in toward the end of the year and it's time to do our annual reassessment of our brand. So presumably, as consultants, at the beginning of the year we made some decisions about what our brand is. Now we're going to take a look back at those decisions and what actually happened. So first of all, what are you trying to accomplish by doing that? What's the purpose of reassessing?

Shaunice Hawkins: Alignment. I mean it's really aligning your brand, meaning what you put out into the world with your reputation, what other people are saying about your brand. Sometimes the brand and your reputation are aligned but there are other times when your brand and reputation are misaligned. When there are misalignments there are expectation gaps or experience gaps that will frustrate and disappoint the people you're in service to. So you know me, I always like to use examples of food.

Deb Zahn: I'm right there with you.

Shaunice Hawkins: Think about your favorite burger brand. You see the commercial on TV or, more specifically, you see it on a print ad and it looks beautiful. I mean it's gorgeous. And then you go to the restaurant and nothing. The burgeris sliding off the bun, it's all lettuce, no tomato—you know there's some level of disappointment.

That gap in what you perceived and what you received is a gap of expectation and experience, and those two things have to align. So that's the purpose of doing this reassessment. Making sure that what you set out at the beginning of the year for your brand and what people have experienced all year with your brand and your reputation are in sync.

Deb Zahn: That's beautiful and it's funny because I mentioned to another consultant that I was going to have this conversation and his first response was, "I'm not going to redo my website or my business cards." He went straight to all the visual elements that are part of your brand as opposed to the deeper things you're talking about, which is how do you make sure that alignment exists. So I love that explanation of it. That, to me, explains why you better pay attention and you better do your reassessments.

Shaunice Hawkins: Right. The concept is that a brand is worthless if it doesn't connect with the right audience in a relevant way. So if you're not relevant, if you're not connecting to the right people, sometimes it's not even a matter of your website, it's a matter of who your website is for. And yes, most people go right to the aesthetics of the brand and the easily graspable, that's a word, right? Graspable.

Deb Zahn: Oh, it sounds right.

Shaunice Hawkins: Yeah, sounds good.

Deb Zahn: We're consultants, it's right, it's a word.

Shaunice Hawkins: Yeah, sure. We're always making up words and talking about food on this thing. I think your listeners are going to have their own reputation about me by the time this is all over. But it's really just trying to figure out where the connecting points are and where the gaps are.

Questions to ask yourself include, “Am I as influential as I need to be and how is that impacting my business on the back end?” “If I'm not as influential outside the brand elements, or even if the brand elements are in play, what are people thinking about those brand elements and are they connecting with it in the way I intend them to?”

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Exactly. So here I am, toward the end of the year, and I'm going to do my reassessment. As an introvert, do I get to lock myself in a room and do that all by myself, or do I have to have help?

Shaunice Hawkins: Well the introvert in me would like to say yes to doing it by myself.

Deb Zahn: But.

Shaunice Hawkins: But the real world me—the person who has to be out in the real world—would say absolutely not. Because that's how we generally build our businesses, in a vacuum. It's in our head, we create a concept. And because we're so married to who we are and what we want to say and what we want to do, we have a tendency to emote that, communicate that, express that in a way that resonates only with ourselves or the mirrored version of ourselves—the people who are like ourselves.

As a consumer, I would not buy from me as a consultant because the consultant me—as Shaunice, the introvert—would not be outgoing, would not be otherworldly, would not be her Sancha Fierce alter ego. So that means I have to make sure that my introverted self connects with an extroverted person who lives in that space to make sure that my brand isn't reflecting only the introverted aspects or certain personality types that I am. In Myers- Briggs terms, that my brand doesn’t reflect just the INTJ aspects of me, but also the ESFP aspects I may not have.

Deb Zahn: Oh, we're going deep, we're going to Myers-Briggs already, love it.

Shaunice Hawkins: Right. So you want to make sure your brand is reflecting who you are as a default person, right? Because that's the brand but also the extroverted parts of you, or the external or real-world parts.

Deb Zahn: That's right. So in the podcast I did the other day, one of my guests said when you're working with teams you want to assume the best intent and so I asked my husband, the behavior change expert, because you’ve got to get input.

Shaunice Hawkins: Of course.

Deb Zahn: You know my husband so you know he's going to be honest.

Shaunice Hawkins: I do.

Deb Zahn: I said, "Honey do you think I do that?" And there's this long pause, like way longer than there should have been and he said, "Yeah at the first meeting." But without that feedback, I have no way to really, deeply reflect over what I'm doing. So that's why this makes a lot of sense to me. I sort of knew that answer. As much as I wanted it to be, I couldn’t just take some popcorn and do my own thing.

Shaunice Hawkins: Yeah, doing your own thing. I think you and I do a great job of talking to each other and bouncing ideas off each other. But even connecting with friends is sometimes eye opening because you have friends who will tell you like it is, which you are to me.

Deb Zahn: And you are to me.

Shaunice Hawkins: Thank you. But we're also supportive, so we'll give that critical feedback but we'll also give that rousing support. So sometimes you need someone who has no vested interest in what you're doing to give you that—what we call in management—black hat experience, which is the devil in the details, nuts and bolts, raw experience which our husbands love to do. They love to do that.

Deb Zahn: This is true. And helpful sometimes.

Shaunice Hawkins: Sometimes. Over a pint of Baskin Robbins of course.

Deb Zahn: That's right. So you’ve got to gather those folks who are going to give you that black hat experience. You need it because you want to be successful as a consultant and that requires ruthless honesty with yourself. So okay, I've got my people and I just pictured in my head who a few of them are who would actually say to me, "Huh, that's nuts." Which is what I want. So I’ve got my people. What's the first thing I do? How do I reassess my brand?

Shaunice Hawkins: Well before you even get your people I think what you have to do is have a sit down with yourself and your material. And when I say material, it’s not just the brand elements like your logo, your website, et cetera. You actually have to sit down with the mission statement, the value statement, the vision statement of the brand or your consultancy or your business and really look at what they say.

And then if you have a social media presence, what are people saying about their experience with you and with anything you offer. Your service, your product, et cetera. So what's the experience with those things? Does it reflect on your values as an individual? As a consultant? Or the CEO of your organization? Does your work express your values? Does it align with your mission? Does it align with your vision?

Once you've done that for yourself, once you've gathered the materials, both your own and what other people are saying externally, then you can pass it off. You can make your assessments and then pass it off to your board of directors. Or your accountability board right? As to what they think about these things. And have them give you feedback.

You know, what is it that I should be doing? What is it that you think I should do away with? What are the things you think I should I add? And then also set goals for yourself. What do I want to accomplish in 2020? What do I want to accomplish in 2021? What haven't I accomplished in 2019 and 2018 that I should have—that I stated I was going to do that I did not do?

Deb Zahn: That's right. So let me give you an example, and tell me where that fits in the reassessment process. So one thing that I know, if I were brutally honest with myself, is that I had not included that in my values because, just like you, I wrote them down and I said, "Here's what my value statement is and how I want to be with my clients and how I want them to experience me based on my values." And I hadn't included some of the nuts and bolts of timeliness, responsiveness, etc.

You know, I skipped the less interesting things. I went for empathy and generosity and the big-ticket items, which I think come more easily for me. What comes less easily for me—particularly if I take on too much work, which I  also need to reassess—is that I don't always get back to people in a time frame that I feel comfortable with and that I would want someone to do for me, but I hadn't stated that originally. So how do things like that bubble up and what do I do with them?

Shaunice Hawkins: Well, I think you have to filter those things as what they are. Those are almost, I would say, purpose-driven things which are slightly different than your mission. So your mission is what you want the consultancy to accomplish in and of itself. The purpose is why you exist. And then when you think about your strategic goals you also have to think about your operational goals.

When you think about goals people have a tendency to think about goals in the smart or smarter theoretical framework, right? Everybody goes smart goals. But in this particular context, your goals have to be both operational and tactical. And so your being timely isn't necessarily related to your mission. Because your consultancy isn't about time.

Your consultancy is about content. But one of your operational goals is to be timely with the delivery of your content. So I think, and I know we're getting into the minutia here, but I think it's important to clearly categorize things where they belong because if you don't, it's almost like adding too much to one to-do list.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Shaunice Hawkins: It never gets accomplished. I know for me, I have something called a hot list.  Only the first three items get accomplished in a day. I can add and add and add things to the list. But if I don't categorize? them as to what's mission-critical, what's important, what's a delegation, et cetera, then I don't really get things done. So in this particular piece where you're talking about delivery, that's an operational aspect for you. So that's an operational goal, not necessarily a mission, a purpose, a vision, or a value. Am I helping at all?

Deb Zahn: It's helping a lot because I hadn't thought of including a category of operational goals. I mostly thought of the big-ticket goals I want to accomplish.

Shaunice Hawkins: Oh, BHAGs right? The big, hairy, audacious goals.

Deb Zahn: Exactly, because those are totally fun.

Shaunice Hawkins: Those are sexy.

Deb Zahn: Why not pay attention to just those? But I hadn't been thinking about how I operate such that it enhances the experience or it's a good carrier of the experience for my clients. I hadn't even had that category, so that's really helpful.

Shaunice Hawkins: Let me give you another context for this. So it's something that I try to embed in all of my teachings when I'm in the professor role and also what I try to do with clients. I package goals into bite-sized pieces.

So what's the immediate goal? What can you accomplish in 30 days? 60 days? Never past 60. What can you accomplish in the short term? 60 to 120 days? Or 3 to 6 months? What can you accomplish in the midterm, which is 9 to 12 months. And what can you accomplish in the longterm, which is 12 to 18 months.

The reason I don't go too far, and I think I mentioned this in the last podcast, is because things change so quickly and we also have to think about legacy. A lot of times the BHAGs are legacy goals, but we try to make them our immediate goals and they don't work.

So I say break them down into immediate, short-term, mid-term, long-term, and legacy. Then add a layer of what's operational, what's administrative, and what's sales or business development related? Because how you operate, your administration, and how you are driving the business are three different things.

Deb Zahn: That's right. So this reassessment is really a refresh of a strategic plan for yourself as a consultant. These are all similar to things I do when I do strategic planning with my clients, and it’s part of what you're retooling when you relook at your brand. Explain how that works. So you figure out what those goals are in those different categories and then what do you do?

Shaunice Hawkins: So that's all internal right? It's almost like a SWOT analysis where you're looking at your strengths and your weaknesses internally. Then you're looking outside of yourself and taking input from your consumer, your customer, whomever your end-user is and looking at it from their perspective.

So you're looking at these pieces and saying, "Okay so where is the knowledge gap? What am I doing that my end-user, my customers, my clients don't know I'm doing? That's a knowledge gap. Then I'm looking at my performance gap. What am I doing from an experience performance perspective? Like what am I doing that the client, the customer, experiences the same way or differently than I intended?

So that's an experience gap but it's also a performance gap. The experience gap is more specifically what our clients or our customers think we're supposed to do and then how we are actually doing what they think we're supposed to do. And then the evolution gap, which is what the client thinks or experiences what we're supposed to do, and then what our clients want us to do. I know that's a little complicated.

Deb Zahn: No, no, actually I love it. You know I love categories and what I'm envisioning with that, and I may be getting too far ahead. So it could be that I look at experience and performance gap, we'll pick those two. And I think I'm not doing as well as I want on delivering what I think is a truly excellent product. My question for myself is “Can I get better?” or “Should I be doing it at all?”

Shaunice Hawkins: And that's where the evolution aspect comes in because now you're growing. You're moving. It’s literally the theory of evolution. Are you adapting? Are you growing? Are you evolving?

Deb Zahn: And sometimes you need to lose a fin because now you're going to walk on the land.

Shaunice Hawkins: Absolutely.

Deb Zahn: So I might decide that—and I'm thinking about a particular piece of work which I won't name out loud—that I’ve been doing somewhat reluctantly because a client whom I've worked with for a long time asked me to. I don't think I'm the best person to do it, even though I think I've been helpful. So part of my reassessment is asking myself if I need to set better expectations with clients about what I will and won't do.

Shaunice Hawkins: Yes, absolutely.

Deb Zahn: Okay.

Shaunice Hawkins: And that can be clarified in your Statement of Work that’s attached to your professional agreement. You bring up such a good point, which is related but more specific to the internal workings of the entrepreneur. We are so heavily operational that we don't think about our internal aspects.

The reason we don't let things go is because we’re afraid and we’re afraid of the loss of income. We're afraid of letting go because we built this thing on our own. We're also afraid that the thing that brought us here, the benchmark, our bread and butter that brought us here, is the thing that if we let go, we no longer know who we are without it.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. So you're bringing feelings into the mix. I had hoped this entire process could be void of emotions but apparently, I was wrong.

Shaunice Hawkins: That would be great, but it’s not how that works. Yes, you do have feelings. Apparently, you’re human.

Deb Zahn: Go figure.

Shaunice Hawkins: And so those things come into play. And if you're not at your best self when it comes to this--—and Shakespeare said it right—to thine own self be true. So if you’re not true to what you can do and what you can't do, and what your expectations are, and you're not so egotistical, or your so egotistical that you can't delegate, you're dooming your business.

Deb Zahn: Yep. So you’ve got to decide what to stop, start, or continue. That's got to be part of what the reassessment is, I love that.

Shaunice Hawkins: Absolutely. And be honest with what you can and cannot deliver. Sometimes, however, I had an experience with a client, it was a pretty big client, and it shook me for a minute because everything was in my Statement of Work, everything was in my contract, everything was clear, cut and dry.

I had several conversations clarifying and clarifying and clarifying, and during the engagement they disappeared when I was checking in—you know, "Hey, how's this going? Let me know before I finish."—they disappeared and then came back and said, "None of this is what we want." Then they tried to rush me so they could end the contract.

Shaunice Hawkins: And afterward, I felt horrible. I felt horrible for my team because they'd done so much work. I felt horrible for myself because it was a referral and I had taken it so personally that I was thinking maybe I shouldn't be doing this. Mind you, I had several success stories with other clients larger than this particular client before, but this one seemed to hit me.

I did my analysis in the middle of the year instead of at the end of the year. It's good to do this when you have a bad experience with a client.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Great, great.

Shaunice Hawkins: When I did this after this experience, I realized all the checks and balances were there. Sometimes clients’ expectations are not communicated as such.

Deb Zahn: Oh yeah. All the time.

Shaunice Hawkins: So that being said—and I raise this because as you’re comparing what you're doing to the external experience—be aware that sometimes the customer is not always right. Their wants and demands are not necessarily clear because what they want and demand is not based on what they really want or demand. It's based on an expectation.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And it's funny because that's one of the other examples  I'd thought of for why this reassessment is important. I've had other guests come on who do a tremendously good job of qualifying their clients as to whether or not it's a fit. I can certainly remember situations where I knew this was going to go in a certain direction because the communication right at the beginning just wasn't jibing. It just wasn't working the way it works when you know you can do your best work for a client and that that’s a perfect opportunity to say "No." But I haven't really included that in my criteria by which I say no.

Shaunice Hawkins: Yeah, saying no is hard. And I'm joking about not no because a lot of times we have struggles saying no to clients. I think you and I talked about this last time—that sometimes you have to fire a client because their expectation doesn't align with what your services are. You can become the epitome of the Peter Principle and Murphy's Law and be a victim of Murphy's Law because you're doing something outside your scope.

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

Shaunice Hawkins: So doing this assessment isn't just about calibrating for the client, it's also calibrating for yourself.

Deb Zahn: That's right. I have your zone tool that I give people that helps them describe what they can do, and I have a no-go zone. So part of what I know is that you have to reassess at the end of the year. Did I venture, knowingly or not, into my no-go zone, and how do I remedy that? This is where the reputation part comes back, which is if I spend too much time in my no-go zone, my reputation is going to take a hit because I know I can't do my best work.

Shaunice Hawkins: Well, I love the no-go zone. But what I love about your bringing up this point is this exercise doesn't just tell you where to align or where your misalignments are between expectation, experience, performance, knowledge, and evolution, but it also allows you to create feelings as to what you will do and what you won't do and to reaffirm it for yourself. It's similar to playing a game. I love football, so I'll say football. It's like playing a game of football where the goalposts are constantly being moved, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Shaunice Hawkins: That's not how that works. The goalposts are where they're supposed to be and that's it. Either you make the kick, or you get into the end zone, or you don't, but we're not going to keep moving this because this is what you feel like today. So this exercise also definitely springboards off what you said, which is what is my limit? What is my no-go zone? And how far into that no-go zone should I actually go or not go and also, how fast should I say no?

Deb Zahn: Yeah. But those should be decisions. Deliberate decisions, and that's the problem. If we wait until we're in the moment, the chances of them being responsive instead of reactionary diminishes.

Shaunice Hawkins: My very wise daughter who you know and love.

Deb Zahn: And love, very deeply.

Shaunice Hawkins: You know she's a therapist now and she uses this analogy with her patients. She said, "Mom, you know, I often tell my patients that you don't learn how to drive on the day of the driver's test."

Deb Zahn: Great. Oh, I love that.

Shaunice Hawkins: Yeah. You don't learn how to drive on the day of the driver's test. So in this particular regard, you don't wait until you are faced in a conflict or in crisis to determine what you're going to do. Number one, emotionally and mentally, you’re not clear enough as to what to do, and you're going to make a rash decision.

Shaunice Hawkins: But if you’re clear about your deadlines and your no-go zones, and you’re doing that ahead of time, you’re able to identify consciously what's happening and say consciously what you will and won't do. You're in a better negotiating position. And also this is very helpful, especially when you’re talking dollars and cents as well.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Absolutely, I love that. Okay, so we've gone through all of that. We have greater clarity than we've ever had in our entire lives. So then what do we do?

Shaunice Hawkins: Well, we grab a drink, go to the beach, and call it a day.

Deb Zahn: And hand it to our ruthlessly honest people.

Shaunice Hawkins: Yes. I wish. No that's after, after.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Shaunice Hawkins: Or you could be drinking along the way, but I don't know how that's going to work out for you. But once you've done this assessment, once you've talked to your accountability partners as to what you should be doing, what you shouldn't be doing, that's when you start planning.

That's not when you take the break. You start planning out your next year, the immediate, short-term, mid-term, long-term, and legacy goals and you start thinking about how these things are going to play out in real time and for my specific business.

We can all use the template but we know our own consultancies and our businesses so we know what will and won't work. So that's the time to start streamlining and picking. I'm a number 3 person, I think we remember things in threes and so what three things in each aspect can I focus on?

Deb Zahn: Love it. Make it digestible and doable.

Shaunice Hawkins: Absolutely, and that's when the smart aspect comes in. That smart framework. Make it specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable, timely. That's when those aspects can come in. If you have 10 of those things and you’re smartgoaling each one, forget it. It's like a matrix and it becomes...

Deb Zahn: La, la, la, la, la, la.

Shaunice Hawkins: Yeah. It becomes magnanimous, even in your own eyes. But if you do three, and you focus on three, it makes more sense for you.

Deb Zahn: I love that. I love that a lot. So that's the plan and then it sounds like execution is where the devil is in the details. So talk a little bit about execution and the reassessments that get triggered by things that happen.

Shaunice Hawkins: Well, the execution really comes in once you do the work. So what most people don't realize is that change is ugly, right?

Deb Zahn: That's true.

Shaunice Hawkins: Change is ugly, not only for the person experiencing change but also for the person who has to implement change. But change is actually external, short-term, and quick. If I decide I have dark hair and if I decide tomorrow to become a blonde, that’s a quick change. I'm a blonde.

The issue isn't that I'm blonde. The issue is how are people responding to me being blonde? Hey, it's a PG-13 podcast. And so it's that transitional period. While you're in the process of executing, there's some handholding that has to happen with the people experiencing your brand because we know that clients don't like change.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's why they bring us in, because they don't like change.

Shaunice Hawkins: Exactly. But at the same time, you have to manage your own experience with that change as well. So I would say while you're in the process of planning, start letting people know that change is coming so that they'll be prepared for it. And also make sure you're communicating and—let me pause quickly—giving information is just giving out.

That's literally just giving facts and information. Communicating is getting through, so you want to make sure that you are saying not just what you're doing but why you're doing it. So that people can tie in and buy into what you're doing and jump onboard quickly. You want to shorten that transition period for them because you're going to need them to get onboard quickly.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Shaunice Hawkins: You don't want the Netflix model where your prices are going up in two days.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. Again, because you're also managing your reputation as you’re executing and setting expectations. That's great.

Shaunice Hawkins: Absolutely. So that's what you want to do. And then while you're preparing your clients and your consumers on the back end, you're preparing your team if you work with a team at the same time. You're involving them in the change and in the transition at the same time.

Shaunice Hawkins: And then you want to create goals for them as a client or as a team. Here's your responsibility in this change. It's not just that I'm changing, or my brand is changing; here’s your responsibility. We need you to get onboard with the change and here's how it's going to impact you and why. So it's the planning, it's the doing, and now it's the acting.

How are you now acting as part of the new change? Is it something that's positive? Is it something that's necessary? Is it something that you can execute well and within your wheelhouse, and is it something that your clients or your customers and/or your team can embrace.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. I like that. I also think of going back to some of my husband Scott's behavior change work that he's done in the world. When he was working with folks that were quitting smoking or designing programs for them, part of what he would teach is that you need to prepare before you make the change.

So if you know your weaknesses, if you know that when you tend to want a cigarette most is when you have these types of stresses, when you're in this type of environment, think ahead of time about what you're going to do differently that reduces the likelihood that you're going to relapse.

So part of what I think I would do with this is I know what my weaknesses are. When things get me to say yes when I should say no. They get me to not meet some of my operational principles when I develop those. What am I going to do differently and let's think about that now and again, not in the moment.

Shaunice Hawkins: Yes. It absolutely has to be what am I going to do differently? And going through the scenarios. Going through if and then statements. It doesn't hurt to create your own mind map. You know, decision mapping. If this, then this. If this, then that. I know it sounds sort of elementary but it doesn't hurt to do that.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, for folks who are visual like me it's a perfectly wonderful thing to do because then it starts to get into my being as opposed to some theoretical thing that's floating around in my head.

Shaunice Hawkins: Absolutely.

Deb Zahn: I like that.

Shaunice Hawkins: Which is one of the reasons why there's a call for change—because as you grow there are certain things that you will and won't do as a person. But guess what? Your consultancy is going to reflect that. So you have to reconfigure that, and the more rooted you are in your values, the less willing you are to negotiate those.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Shaunice Hawkins: So the clearer you are the better bargaining and negotiating position you're in. But I will say this and there's a sort of asterisk, this caveat. Sometimes you don't need a change.

Deb Zahn: Yep.

Shaunice Hawkins: Sometimes, you know every year this whole resolution type of thing. Sometimes you don't need to change. Sometimes it's about looking at where you are, looking at what you're doing, looking at what the world needs and what they're asking for, and accepting that you're doing that and you're doing that well.

Deb Zahn: That's right, and that's why the assessment part is so critical because you're not just assessing what you want to change. You're assessing what's working, what's not working, what you're not sure about. Because you don't want to just say, "Okay, now I’ve got to change everything." Because I think that can also hurt your reputation because now it's like, "Oh, who's Deb this year?" That's not really what I want people to say.

Shaunice Hawkins: It's that aunt that comes at Thanksgiving. It's that one aunt who you don't know who you're going to get.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, you don't want to be that aunt.

Some consistency is actually really important because you've spent a lot of time, whether you were conscious of it or not, getting those things to stick out in your market, and you only want to unstick the things that aren't serving you, or serving your clients.

Shaunice Hawkins: Absolutely. And at the same time, you want to create reputational capital.

Deb Zahn: Oh, that's my new t-shirt.

Shaunice Hawkins: Yes. You want to create enough goodwill and this good, solid confirming thought around your brand so that your reputation is strong enough so that people will refer you to other people.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And whenever I talk to anybody about business development, it's that reputational capital that’s at the heart of any business development strategy. It’s building that, cultivating it, loving it, making sure it's well-fed and happy because that's what's going to stop you from having to hustle all the time to bring in business.

Shaunice Hawkins: Absolutely. And the more consistent you are, the clearer you are, the more sincere, the more customer-centric your brand is, and also the more original because it's a very concentrated world. And I mean when I say you, you as the individual and the brand in and of itself. The more of those things that you are, the greater your reputational capital.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Shaunice Hawkins: Because people are buying into trust.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Shaunice Hawkins: And trustworthiness and authenticity and this genuine, clear, pure work and knowledge, they're tapping into that. So if you don't have that, if you're not offering that or you're misaligned in any one of those aspects, your reputation, like our economy, is in flux.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And uncertainty is bad for the market. So you know what question is coming next because I ask it at the end of all of my podcasts.

Shaunice Hawkins: I'm a Leo, thanks for asking.

Deb Zahn: There you go. Although I have to say, part of my brand, I think, should be that I'm a hilarious Aquarius, but I keep saying that to my husband and it's not sticking. I don't know why. So life balance is obviously part of what I plan on reassessing because getting too busy didn't just make it harder for me to deliver at the level of quality that I want to and that I know that my clients well deserve, but it also got in the way of keeping my baseline strong. My baseline is eating right, exercising, enough sleep, all that good stuff. So as you’re heading into this new year and you're thinking about life balance, what are you thinking about doing?

Shaunice Hawkins: Well, I think oxygen mask. Oh, that's my t-shirt, oxygen mask. It's understanding that if I'm not taking care of myself I'm not taking care of my business. And so I have to have both an offensive strategy and a defensive strategy in terms of my work/life balance.

I have to again, this is part of my reassessing my brand every year, assess what is it that I need to do in terms of making sure I'm inking out enough time for myself and the people who I love and who love me but also at the same time, making sure I have a strategy for saying no.

Deb Zahn: Yep.

Shaunice Hawkins: What will I say no to? Who will I say no to? And when will I say no? And how will I say no?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Shaunice Hawkins: Is it a firm no, get out of my face, never talk to me again? A Real Housewives of whatever city, throw a table, throw a drink type of no? Or is it just a soft “No” or a “No, not right now, but catch me in three to six months and let's revisit.” So my strategy for the end of the year is to unplug and literally disconnect from the world for a few days.

I used to afford to take the entire month being unplugged, but I have some projects that I'm launching in the new year so I’m taking a few days and really giving myself time to not think. To just be is important. Because I get paid to think. I get paid to strategize and my strategies suffer when I'm tired and I'm sleepy and my family is looking at me like “What?” We only do this movie-in-the house thing? We don't go out? We don't eat?

So yeah, I have to embed those social aspects into my life because they make me happier, and when they make me happier, it makes my business happier, it makes my clients happier. So that's what I'm planning on doing. I would tell your listeners to create their own defensive and offensive strategy in terms of work/life balance. I know I'm a little scientific with everything, but it does pay off.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And football. So you got football in there too, which is good because those are the only analogies I know.

Shaunice Hawkins: Yeah, my poor husband is like, "Babe lets go on a date." And I'm like, "Can it be at a sports bar, please? The game is on." I was like I can either be really rude and watch it on my phone or I could just watch it over your head while I'm looking lovingly in your eyebrows at the game behind you. Any one of the two.

Deb Zahn: He's living the dream. He's living the dream.

Shaunice Hawkins: Living the dream. I always say, "You knew who I was when you married me."

Deb Zahn: Things I say constantly. Shaunice, you are as always fantastic. I feel like I knew I needed to do this. I didn't know exactly how. You've certainly expanded my vision and understanding of how to do it thoroughly and successfully, so I’ve got to thank you a lot for that, and I think you're going to help a lot of listeners figure out how to do it too. So thank you so much for joining me again.

Shaunice Hawkins: Well thank you very much for having me again, and I really wish you and all of your listeners an awesome 2020. I hope that the last decade brings all of its greatness in the next year, 2020. So 10 years for one.

Deb Zahn: Fantastic. Thank you so much.

Shaunice Hawkins: Take care.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of The Craft of Consulting Podcast. I want to ask you to do three things. If you enjoyed this episode or you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I’ve got a lot of other great guests coming up and a lot of other great content and I don't want you to miss anything.

Deb Zahn: But the other two things I'm going to ask you to do are first, if you have any comments, suggestions, or feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners please include those. And the last thing is, again, if you've gotten something out of this, please share it.

Deb Zahn: Share it with somebody you know who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant and make sure they also have access to all this great content and all the other great content that's . So, as always, you can get more wonderful information and tools at Thanks so much. I’ll talk to you on the next episode. Bye-bye.

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