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Episode 90: Using a Human-Centered Approach to Get the Right Consulting Clients—with Mike Biggs

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. One of the things that you can do in your consulting business to make sure that you're getting the work that you should be getting is to use a human-centered approach when you're seeking business. This is the work that's going to build your reputation in your market such that you're going to attract clients. To make sure that you're actually doing work that you’re not just well-suited for but also really enjoy. And certainly use it when you're actually doing business as a consultant.

Now that's a very specific thing. So I brought on an expert: The Consultant's Consultant, Mike Biggs from Australia. And he works with technical leaders and sales consultants on the human-centered approach itself and how to use that when consulting. Doing service delivery. Doing sales. So this is really applicable to your work to try and get clients in. It's actually a perfect outgrowth of the work that hopefully you did to define your ideal clients so that you know what type of work you should be seeking and with whom.

But he also gets into something really helpful, which is three priorities for consultants when you're talking with prospective clients that are going to tell you whether or not you should actually pursue doing that work. So this is great stuff. Can't wait to get started. Let's go. I want to welcome my guest today, Mike Biggs. Mike, welcome to the show.

Mike Biggs: Thanks for having me. It's really exciting.

Deb Zahn: Let's start off. Tell my listeners what you do because I know you're a couple things. But what do you do?

Mike Biggs: I'm the head of innovation and design at Telstra Purple. A large telco here in Australia. And by the way, we're in two different time zones. That's exciting.

Deb Zahn: Always.

Mike Biggs: And I've become a consultant who kind of hates himself a little bit because I'm overhead. I'm that guy who doesn't do anything for clients, right? So I'm behind the scenes. We've got 1,500 odd consultants and I'm behind the scenes going, "How do we use the best of primarily innovation and design approaches in my patch to be the best consultant for our clients?" I also help…I do a lot of one-on-one coaching outside of work. A lot of workshops and training around how to transition. I've found that the key with consulting is using skills in different ways. So I'm helping people who are in product become more consultant-y. People who are in design become more product-y. People who are very, very technical to become more...sort of bring more of that human-centered design to what they're doing. So it's transitioners who I help with in a coaching and training way.

Deb Zahn: That's great. And goodness knows so needed because it's just that we need more consultants. We need more excellent consultants. So I love that you help them with that. One of the things we wanted to talk about today is that human-centered approach to how you do consulting and run a consulting business. So I know that you have real clear priorities for consultants, and you got three big ones. Let's break those down. What are those three? And then let's dive into them.

Mike Biggs: I do. And it's easier to manage them in the correct order when you're a smaller team. And when you're a bigger team, I kind of need to constantly say, "Hey, sales. Pull back on the thing you think that's important and we'll get to that. That's the last one." So the three are:  Do we want to and can we journey together with this client? And that client you need to think of as an organization, but also as an individual. So they've got their own path externally and internally to go on. They've got their own fears and challenges. Their organization has its own market dynamics and various things. I worked in a previous consulting firm, and we were very, very strict that we wouldn't work with tobacco and alcohol. We wouldn't work with gambling. For our own reasons and that's fine.

I think if you take that, that's quite the abstract. You take that down a little bit further and you say, "Can we really help this person or this organization? Are they interested in working the way we want to work?" Everyone's on the agile bandwagon now. But I don't think it's agile or not. It's more nuanced than that. And do we have the expertise to take them on that journey, which is a different kind of expertise to the second bucket. So that's the first one. Do we want to journey together?

Second bucket. Do we have the skills to deliver on solving the problem? So once we've clearly articulated the relationship between the journey and the problem at hand, how do we prove...firstly prove that we've got the skillset and the expertise. But then how do we actually have the mechanisms? The capability? All of the things to deliver the shiny thing? And that shiny thing, I kind of derive a little bit and say, "Well, if we're building an app. It's the shiny thing who cares because the real thing is the journey. The outcomes and whatnot."

I shouldn't push it down so far like that. But it's to make a point between the three risks actually. How do we manage those risks really, really well? The first one being, if we get high alignment on...sorry, I should go the other way. If we get really high alignment on building a shiny thing, like we're the best. We've got the best team. We're able to solve the problem at like a 100% goodness. I don't know. Statisticians will probably argue with how I'm wording that. But a 100% goodness...legit. But then our journey and the way we've paired and journeyed with that client is at about 70%. That's going to be a foul project, I think. And that's a shame, right? Because we're saying we are the best. But actually we don't know how to work with this organization. With these people. And it's going to be a failure.

What I would like to suggest is maybe we turn the focus around the other way and say, "If we can get really, really high alignment on how we want to work together as two organizations. Two people. A group of people. Are we thinking about journeying in the same way?" Then if we had the skillset to deliver on the shiny thing to about 75% and a lot of purists around solving technology problems will be cringing in the corner over that. But I think, yeah you can drop that a little bit and that'll be a really, really super successful outcome. Because this stuff is less important if you're all aligned.

And then the third risk, "Oh, we don't even. Who cares about this? This is timeline and budget." And so a lot of the conversations we want to kick off with, especially if a salesperson's kind of like, "How am I going to make my target? Is this going to work?" And we might talk about that a little bit later. But if you get the first two really, really right. And you're in the right ballpark, assuming you're in the right ballpark cost-wise and timing and so forth. Then honing in on the timing of the project or the initiative or whatever you're doing. The budget is going to be easier to come to if you've got those first two right.

And more flexible as the provider of the service. Or the way I like to think about it:  less service, more expertise. Us bringing to bear that expertise. We've probably got a little bit more wiggle room to say, "Well, we're not available for two months. Is that OK? We're still going to do the best job. Don't run off and do it somewhere else." And pricing might have a little bit of flex as well. So that's kind of how I think of the three.

Deb Zahn: So all of that makes my heart sing. I'm just going to say that upfront. Because what I often find, particularly with new consultants who are just worried about whether they're part of a team, a firm, or individual. Just worried about revenue getting in. The only risk they often think of is sale or no sale. As opposed to you're ultimately going to build your reputation and, therefore, your pipeline based on excellence. And if you don't have those things in place, you're going to have a hard time doing that. So let's go back to the first one. Should we go on this journey together? I love that that's the first one. How do you know if it's a fit and you should go on a journey together?

Mike Biggs: Well, what is pre-sales, right? So “before and after” is this lens that a lot of the business likes to think about, right? So I think getting out of that mindset is important as well. I think you're saying that, and I think we kind of get that. It's more about, do we understand enough about ourselves? And are we able to front up to our client and say, suggest, give them insights into what's coming for them that they haven't already seen. So I think that's your consultant's core value, right? Having seen patents elsewhere or intuition based or whatever it might be. But being able to predict and then share that with the client. To say, "Look, you're on this path. I can see what's happening." That's one piece. You need to be confident that you can do that.

But the other piece is also to say, "Do we share the same values?" And this is a really wishy-washy piece, right? So when you're hiring from a hiring employees point of view, you want to get everyone in the room. Be chummy and backslapping each other. You can end up with a bit of a samey-samey kind of a thing. So when I say values, you need to be careful that it doesn't bias toward the same cultural background or whatever the case might be.

I think what we're talking about though is, do we have the same attitude and understanding to approaching risk? So if we're trying to come in and say, "Right, we want to experiment. And push into a new space based on learning because we believe that actually we don't know what any of the forces are in the system. Or we don't understand what's happening in this particular market that you need to move into." Then we need to do that through action. But if their whole organization is predisposed to, "No, we need big upfront planning and we won't proceed in this way. And there isn't an individual who's prepared to open up and go on that journey with us." Then that's probably not going to work out. If the mindsets of the two organizations are so different and there isn't an individual willing to bridge that.

And if we deviate and talk about digital transformation for a minute…everyone's on that bandwagon. But kind of the core to that thing if we're not talking about the tech part, the transformation part. One individual needs to make a break and be a courageous first leader to say, "We're going to break away from what we were doing and do something new." That's riskier. But it's something. And if you don't have alignment or someone willing to make the break, there's probably no chance. And so I'd be prepared to say no. I mean, working with a publicly listed company it's hard to say no to money though. So there's other forces, depending on where you work. If you're independent and you're a smaller organization, you would probably have a lot more control over what you say no to.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And yet probably some significant reticence to do it too, actually. Say the word “no” out loud. But I like that because I've certainly met with potential clients before. And the ways that we work are so different. They just want to leap into action. They don't want to have a strategy. They don't want to think through it, or on the other side. All they do is process. They never get to action. For those in the U.S., you know I just described East Coast and West Coast differences right there. But unless it's a fit. Because I'm largely hired for strategy. So unless they want to do strategy and they like it and they don't actually hate it, which some people do. All we're going to do is frustrate each other. And so why go on that journey together?

Mike Biggs: Totally.

Deb Zahn: I love that. So the second one. Let's dive a little bit more into that because I actually very much agree that you. Often you will be the absolute best. You're the absolute right choice. And if the journey matches up, then it's as golden as you can get. But I've certainly been tremendously successful in engagements myself and with teams where we showed up. We were in the ballpark. We were 70%. We were 80% there. We needed to figure out the other 20%. But we were so aligned in other ways that it works. So how do you tease out? When you're in front of this prospective client. You figured out that the journey makes sense to go together. How do you tease out whether or not you're in that ballpark for skills?

Mike Biggs: I think the way I described this in a previous conversation to some of my consultants. We have a weekly thing similar to this where we talk about stuff and whatever. And it sort of came out in the conversation that what I'm thinking about is gravitating to the biggest risk for that client. So in that pre-sales phase, they'll present with, "Well, this is our problem. And we want you to build a shiny thing or deliver or something. Or change. Manage. Whatever." And my goal there is to use human-centered approaches and get through conversations and maybe workshops. And we might put Post-It Notes on the wall, and-

Deb Zahn: You know consultants love their Post-it Notes.

Mike Biggs: And we love that stuff. But I kind of make a joke of it because if you're not familiar with what we're doing, it kind of looks superficial. But there's that stuff to kind of trick people in and be a bit aloof and, "Yeah, OK. So we're going to do stuff." And the goal is to gravitate toward the biggest risk that they're facing. But they might not realize. So what I was saying before is being able to see what's coming and what's important. So of those three buckets we'll say, "OK. Do we see any problems around journeying?" We're kind of sensing, understanding that. We're sensing and understanding. Is there a meaningful fit between your hard problem and our hard skills? Soft as well, but probably more of the hard in the middle risk there.

And then the third one. Are we likely to come unstuck around terms? Are we likely to come unstuck around timing, which might be linked to capability if we have certain teams doing things at different times. And so it's about using those human-centered approaches. Having conversations and early on it's about asking the right questions and getting the client to tell the right stories back. So they'll tell you not the requirements, but I'll run an exercise. One that I call sense-making by narratives or something like that. And so basically we sit around the campfire and we're telling stories back at each other. It's not an actual campfire. I have a digital campfire…

Deb Zahn: I'm really disappointed now. I wanted a real campfire.

Mike Biggs: Exactly. I mean, the social distancing is probably OK. We can get outside and…

Deb Zahn: Yeah, yeah. That works.

Mike Biggs: It's very hot here. I don't think I should start a campfire because we have to get a whole country of…

Deb Zahn: Definitely not.

Mike Biggs: So we sit around and tell the stories. And so instead of the boring requirements that they may have, using their analytical brain articulated, they'll be able to tell a story of, "OK. This is what's going on. This is what's meaningful." And in that the risks we're able to sort of start extracting. "OK, here's where there's a problem. Here's where there's a risk." And so we can hone in on, are we actually going to be able to anchor in the journey? Sort of supported by the rational stuff in the timeline and budget? And in the middle, are we able to form these meaningful...I'm writing too, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. That book. And I can't get on a call without telling everyone you have to read it. And I made a guy read all the way to the end and hated it. And he said, "I hated it but I finished it. I can't believe it."

And I think about the yin-yang kind of mental model of what's going on here. In the middle there you've got this problem solution fit. Or you can call it product market fit. Or you can call it whatever you want. You can call it harmony. That's what's happening. We've got the journey type of harmony. But in the middle is, are our skills and are your problems well enough articulated to connect in sort of a micro level?

If it's a big level problem, you won't be able to interrogate it enough. We've had clients come in and say, "We want some cloud or some Agile." And I'm like, "Yes." Or we want to go faster, right? We want to go faster to help chase new propositions or whatever. So we'll have some agile please. And I'm like, "Hmm. Can you tell me a little bit more? Because a big chunk of Agile and a big chunk of ‘I want to go faster.’ They don't go together in any meaningful way." So that's kind of what I would...The kind of process and the thinking that I would go through to gravitate to the biggest risk. And then whatever that biggest risk is. We'd want to solve that first.

Deb Zahn: That's great. And I like the point you're making that they don't always know. So whatever problem they show up with is not necessarily the problem, which is why it's not a half an hour conversation to figure out if it's truly a fit.

Mike Biggs: It's not. And there's another piece to that. A lot of the firms, us included, we've got a lot of talented people. By the way, I'll talk about individual merit for a second, in a minute. That gets a little bit arrogant. I'm included in that. You walk in, I know what's going on here on one. So you need to really pull back. And so the human-centered approaches in facilitation really, really helped with pulling back on that. And sometimes the client doesn't know. But sometimes they do. And for us to say, "You don't. How did you come to these assumptions? You're so stupid. We know better. Let's redo all of that." The arrogance of a consulting firm to want to come in and do an inception for a protracted period of time or a long discovery to rediscover the things that the organization already knows is pretty ridiculous.

Now, most of the time you probably need to do some of that work a bit better than they've done or in a different way. But it's a bit rude. Even if it is needed to say, "You guys don't know what you're doing." So there's a real subtlety to unpacking that. So I think the human-centered approach is a kind of the way you get everything open in the room and you kind of come in from the side.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And I like the mix of interrogating where it makes sense but respecting where you need to respect. My husband just had this happen with a consultant that came in that had none of that respect. And he won't stop talking about it. And just know that other people are going home and doing the same thing because of how you walked into the room and how you engage with them. So I like the “you got to be subtle and approach” way. I actually want to dig in more into the human-centered approach. So explain for anybody who doesn't know what that is. What is that? And what's the utility of that? I think we've teased out a little bit, but let's say it explicitly. What's the use of that when you're a consultant?

Mike Biggs: Yeah. Human-centered design gets thrown around a lot. I mean, it's sort of almost synonymous with the sophisticated user experience approach. Or service design. Or any of these more...I mean, they're quite well-established now, but more modern practices that designers or design-led approach are leading. But I'll go right into what I think it is. And kind of we'll leave some of that. The verbatims you'll be able to read around town.

I kind of think of it in a really, really simple way, especially in our space. There are two humans that we're talking about. They're the same person, but it's kind of two roles. Two places in time. Two hats to wear. One is there are humans who we are designing for. And that's a customer. A client. An employee as someone who needs to work within a system that we're building. Because remember we're building products and services and organizations, which are systems. That's what they are. We're building a system and people live within those systems. And so there are employees. There are operational folk. There are frontline people. They're all humans of the first kind. There are people who are customers and all of that. So that's kind of they're the target or the subject of our design work. We want things to be great for them.

Cool. Then the other group is the humans who are doing the designing. So when we talk about human-centered design, it's not just human-centered as a target. It's human-centered in the approach to which we design. The way we learn about ourselves. The way we draw upon intuition. Lots of information that exists within the organization. You know, sometimes we think of the process as driving what we need to do. Say a design-thinking process. If that's not really human-centric, and it should be, we might follow the five steps of design thinking and we're like, "OK. We're going to do this. We're going to do this." That's not human-centered because we're following a process that isn't really following the way people would naturally move through problem solving.

So the people designing are again, probably a lot of those employees. But different hats on. And then you've got leadership as well. Maybe experts from outside. And that's kind of the two ways that I think about a couple of different human type roles. And then in the middle. So you've got just the recipient of stuff we do. The creators of stuff we do. And sort of a black box of technology and process in the middle. But yeah, the tech folk that I work with. I'm like, "You guys live here. Hah, it's boring and not important." You've got a human here and a human here. Very important. But I kind of want to make the point that actually, don't forget there's these multiple human roles.

And there's kind of...we've all heard this. I'm totally showing. There are probably young people here who don't remember when Rumsfeld was saying weird stuff when the second Gulf War was on about unknown unknowns. So how does it go?

Deb Zahn: I can remember that.

Mike Biggs: Unknown unknowns. What is it? Unknown known. Anyway, whatever. And then the fourth one I think he's never spoken about. There is a fourth one. And it's, "Things that we know, but we don't know that we know."

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Mike Biggs: I think the human-centered approach is a really, really great way to draw out a lot of that. Our clients aren't dumb idiots, right? They need you. But there's so much great stuff in there that maybe they don't know how to extract or articulate. And another great way to describe that is a bit less about humans, but more about the information and the data. So many clients have annual research budgets of millions. And they've got the research and they're like, "We've got all these data on our customers. We don't know what to do about it." And my response to that, actually I've stolen it from someone else. But I don't want to call him out here. He says straight to the client, "You don't know what to do with all that data because you don't give a crap about your customers. You don't care about your customers."

And I think that's true. And so you need to care is the first thing. So if I could redesign every organization, instead of thinking about it in this dialectic about problems and solutions for providers and customers. I want to think of it as an overall system in which multiple individuals can care for one another. So a system of care. That's my organization that I want to create. In fact, I've got a template going where maybe I can create multiple humans in a care structure. So we'll see how that canvas works. We've all seen the business model canvas. Let's see if I can create the care canvas. I don't know if it's going to work.

Deb Zahn: I love that. Because it's also, when I think in terms of how consultants orient themselves to their clients, then that's a perfect application of that. I think a lot of times clients think of...or consultants think of their clients as sources of revenue. Which of course is dehumanizing. And yes, you still make your living as a consultant. So using that sort of caring model, what's the right orientation that good consultants who achieve good things actually should have towards their clients?

Mike Biggs: It starts to get a bit real and a bit practical. Because I would say, "Well, you need to spend time and understand them. And there's a long lead time to a sale and all of this sort of thing. But sometimes you've got to make some money and hit a budget now. And you've got to eat. That kind of thing." So I haven't quite managed that. I don't have a silver bullet, right? But I think maybe it's a two-speed piece. Don't use linear prioritization to say, "I'm only going to focus on the high value, lower effort, and short-term wins." And one bad thing I think that agile has done to the world is that effort value spectrum piece. Because it's a linear prioritization. And so you end up with the top one and then some following in a backlog. And so I think that's a big mistake.

I think more in a portfolio approach where you need to have a split and a blend of the real future. The midterm and the now. Sort of that McKinsey three horizons in your work. I don't know if everyone's heard of that, but basically spend sort of about 10% on the super far future. About 20 or 30% on the middle term. And about 70% of your insistence effort time, whatever, on the now. And so that would be transactional stuff. And then these other two buckets would be about building relationships and longer term pay off. I think, and what that looks like in practice is not going out and asking about problems. Not any of that.

It's you going out with an opinion. You going out and saying, "I've noticed this. What do you think?" It's just that human thing. You don't say to your friends, "Hey, you know what?" Those annoying friends are always giving you really strong advice here.

Deb Zahn: Oh yeah. Them.

Mike Biggs: You should break off with him. Or you should do this or that. That's not a great friend. But a friend who is saying, "Oh, I noticed this about myself and I thought this thing. Or have you ever...can you give me some advice?" Asking for advice often is so reciprocal because it's showing that you're open and you care about that person's opinion and they'll want yours. And so you'll have this fertile ground.

Sorry, the fertile thing has triggered me off. I've been trying to grow some garden flowers out the back, and that's been going pretty well, surprisingly. In the past that hasn't, but it's going alright at the moment. And I think gardening is a super fantastic metaphor for growing well consultants. But also the relationship with the client. You need to put the things in and it's constant work and you can't scream at it and say, "Right, give me some flowers…

Deb Zahn: Hurry!

Mike Biggs: ...give me some tomatoes or whatever." It doesn't work. You need to just constantly be fertilizing. And then someone else will say, "Oh yeah, that's the BS," but that's no, no…

Deb Zahn: It isn't. And I have a mini farm, so I can tell you what you're saying is true. And you have to think about what you get most immediately that you grow because you want to get fresh vegetables and what takes a much longer time. So I planted my garlic in the fall, which I will get in August. And I plan ahead for that. But I don't wait until I can eat in August. I do things ahead of time that have a much shorter horizon.

Mike Biggs: That's right. So you've got other stuff going. And so I think maybe you say, "Alright. I've got some transactional clients over here and I've got some longer-term ones here." What you don't want to do is pollute your long-term relationships that you're building with transactional hassles. Like I'm trying to build this thing, but also, "Can you give me some money now as well?" It's gross.

Deb Zahn: It's tacky.

Mike Biggs: And so we'll probably both talk about the high-minded approach and go along and a lot of people and people listening saying, "Yeah, but I want to make some money." Yeah, you can do both. But just don't pollute them and have a portfolio approach. I think this is probably the way I think about it.

Deb Zahn: I like that. And I like that cycle. I almost think of it less like the care cycle in which everybody gets something different. And I think your point of not polluting it is right. Because if you show up for some of the long-term clients that are potential clients that you're nurturing, or just people in your market that will potentially be helpful to you, and all you do is ever try and sell to them, most of them will leave and will not return your calls. So there's a very practical reason not to do it as well. So I love this and now you promised me a marshmallow analogy and I'm just dying to hear what that is.

Mike Biggs: Yeah, this is perfect now. So it's exactly this. So I don't want to throw anyone under the bus, but I've worked with salespeople over the years. And most of my work is innovation and design in a technical space. There's a bigger chunk of things that can be sold. So, "Hey, Mike and team. We want to buy some cloud. It's a million dollars-worth of cloud." And so then the sales folk will go, "Yes, I want to sign off on some big cloud." And I'm there going, "Hang on. Yeah, but do they really understand why they need the cloud thing? Or what does it do? And can we just spend a bit of time understanding. By the way, instead of a million dollars, can you charge them $50,000?"

Deb Zahn: So they think you're a buzzkill.

Mike Biggs: They're like, "This guy is going to...there's more risks now." So I've got to do the same sales job multiple times to get to the million. And there's risk that the client will deviate off onto something else. Because quite frankly, Mike and the design gang might say, "Cloud's not your thing. You need paper-based. You need something else." Because of some reason. And that's a risk. So that's the marshmallow analogy. We heard this in the 60s or something. There was an analogy done...sorry, an experiment done on toddlers three or four years old to see how much staying power they had really, I guess. So they would give them one marshmallow. Put it on the table in front of one or maybe two little kids. And they would say, "Oh, sorry. I've got to go out of the room for a minute. You can have one now. But when I get back, if you wait and don't eat this one, you can have two." They don't know how long it's going to be.

And so the adult goes out and the camera's on them. And some of them are there. They're like, "Oh my. I don't know what to do." And they're licking it and they're biting little bits off. It's OK. I can still have my cake and eat it so to speak. And so they all behave really, really differently. But the way I would, let's come back. And so some of them make it and some of them don't. Some of them just fall for it. Some of them are like, "Yep, I made it I've got two, yes."

If you are able to hold your nerve and sell the smaller thing. Not a smaller piece of cloud, but a smaller strategic piece of work. A human-centered engagement that says, "We care about you. We don't want to force a thing on you. We want to understand your risks and we want to help you on the journey. And it's probably going to be design-led and lead to innovation as well." Generally what we see is a one to five sort of ratio between that work and the next step of work in value. So if we do a portfolio of one value here, it turns into a portfolio of a value of five there. That's not bad. And that's excluding scaled technology such as telco networks and things because we're connected to that. This is really just the next step of development streams. Or technology streams. Whatever you want to do.

So what that's saying is, "If you can hold your nerve and do the good work you're actually going to have far more pull through on meaningful work." And by the way, design tends to connect to the organization further up the chain and further back in the clock face of the sales conversation. Compared to if you're connecting in with IT at the moment. And that's not everyone. Some people are stuck in IT and others might not be if you are our listeners, but that's kind of what we've found. And I've told some people that, and I think some don't want to hear it. Because it's kind of offensive for me to say, "Hey, the marshmallow thing," but it kind of is that. Now what's interesting is some sellers are just, they just get design and they really understand. OK, if we go through this thing, I don't know how I'm going to bridge to the next step but I'm confident that it will happen. I trust that process.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And I like it because again, going back to the fact that there's human beings involved. You're not just selling to a business, a company, an organization. You're selling to human beings. They will respect that. I've largely built a very successful consulting business on that approach. And I love marshmallows, but I have built it on that approach. Which is, it's about what they truly need, and we'll help them achieve what they need to achieve. Do they come back? Yeah, most of the time they do. Most of the time I will uncover other things I can do for them. But if they get a whiff of overselling, it can destroy their relationship within minutes. So I love that. I love that.

So let me ask you one last question because the world is still a little wacky. Maybe in the states just a wee bit more right now. But I do think life-balance, however it is that folks define it is important. And I'm curious. How do you bring a sort of human-centered approach to your own life and create whatever you think balance is?

Mike Biggs: Oh, that's super tricky. And by the way, this is a constant problem we're trying to solve for our clients. We sell the technology to do all of that. We're like, "OK. You can work remotely now." What does that mean? We're trying to work it out. You know, I've got views. OK. So I think what it is is just flipping the whole thing on its head and saying, "I'm stuck in this work thing at my house. But what would it mean if I were to try to do home from work?" Because what's happened is work has come to my house already and I'm stuck there. So what specific actions do I need to take to be able to do home-y things when I'm at work. And what comes to mind actually is my favorite book ever. (No, it's not. That's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.) But the book Reinventing Organizations. I don't know if any of your readers have read this thing. It's about organizational change and moving to a more progressive management leadership structure. I really recommend it. But there's one thing it talks about in there is why on earth don't corporate offices have proper kitchens? They've got these grungy little microwaves and a sink. And that's not eating for one. That's not food. And then beyond proper food, it's the community. How cooking and eating together is an important thing if we're meant to be truly a family-like entity at work. And I think it's a thing we've missed because we're probably, I don't know, gas cooking or whatever. It's compliance and someone might die or whatever. Fair enough. But that's the concept that I think of. OK, so work has come to my house. What do I need to do to make sure I'm doing home here?

And that's the way I ask any questions. So I kind of just turn it off sometimes. I'll make sure I don't...I actually try not to sit around the house too much. So for me it's, it only happens in this room here. For others it might be different. When I go to a physical space, it's a lot easier because then the time doesn't matter, which time it is. I can go in. I can come home. Whatever. That's a really helpful separation. But I'm a really present person. I need to be in the room. I need to be present doing it. I'm not able to sit and write code. I can't write code anyway. But I can't sit and write code separately. I need to be in the moment. This is why I do workshops for people and all that sort of stuff. Where I can come in the room and just tell my stories. Like this. This is perfect, right? I could never have written a book version of this…

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Mike Biggs: ...without the interaction and catalyst. So for me that was that presence. That physical presence isn't real. I'm having to build really specific barriers of time and space. So I don't really let the work leave the room if I can avoid it.

Deb Zahn: That's great. Now we're going to have this in the show notes for everybody, but where can people either find out more about you or get help from you?

Mike Biggs: Yeah, the best place is I'm on Twitter and all the things. But probably the website There's links off the back of that. It'll talk about my events that I've got running. Workshops at various times. And for your market I'm happy to run different time zones. So just reach out. I'm really happy to set those up to work. Because by the way, it's 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning for me right now, which is fine. And there's also one-on-one coaching. So if you like this kind of conversation, I'm happy to do that through text and through video chat and whatever. So they're kind of the ways to reach out and have a bit more fun with me.

Deb Zahn: Wonderful. And Mike, I got to tell you, there was so much richness in here. We could have gone down any of those paths. So I would love to have you back and let's go deeper into some of these topics. Because I think some of what you're talking about is the key to success for a lot of consultants.

Mike Biggs: I'm really keen. And just as a teaser for everyone I've got my offerings for my clients as records, right? So here's one here and I've got some great tracks that I can talk about. Not now, but later. Campfire Love and Customers are Not Sausages. Do yourself a favor, come back, and listen to those.

Deb Zahn: OK. That is the coolest promotional thing ever. I love that. Well, Mike, thanks again for being on the show.

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

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

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

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