Setting context on The MECE Muse story

In episode 2, Christie discusses basic rules of the podcast show, provides context on the various formats available on the show, and shares highlights from a recent podcast interview she had with Stone Payton & Lee Kantor on High Velocity Radio from the BusinessX Radio network.

Listen to the Episode Here:

For episode two, what I wanted to do was quickly go through some of the key rules of the podcast show and wanting to have various different guests join us on the show. I’m going to go through a couple of formats that we are going to be using, at least initially, until we get our footing. I’m actually going to share a recent podcast interview that I did about my book and a little bit about myself. I did it with Lee Kantor as well as Stone Payton on the High Velocity Radio, which is part of the Business RadioX network. I want to share that interview just to give you a little bit more context that was not provided in the first episode.

Let’s delve right in, starting with the rules. For people that are interested in in the show, whether it’s sending us questions, being a guest on the show, we’ve got two big rules. If you’re a consulting, you’ve heard these before. Rule number one, we will not be disclosing any consulting firm names and rule number two, we will not be sharing any client names. We’re going to have to be true to these two rules. The goal of this show is to help individuals become great consultants and help them along that journey. We don’t want to get into the business of bashing firms or bashing clients, and if you’re a consultant, you get it. I just want to make sure we put that those two rules out there. Other than that, the show’s flexible. We called it unplugged for a reason. We’re going to have all types of guests, so just be prepared. We want to have that type of flexibility. That’s the rules of the show.

I want to quickly delve into some of the formats and interview format that you’re going to be hearing on the show and let you know what to expect. We’ve got seven formats that I’ll typically use and they may merge or change in the future. We’re starting out with these seven, and some of the future episodes you’re going to be hearing will fall within those. Since this is a variety show, we want to make sure you have that context upfront. The first interview format we’ll be doing is called Ask Me Anything, AMA. If you’re online and you read different forms, you’ll see this. You’ve seen the AMA is before. This is in essence a virtual fireside chat. This is where I bring in a seasoned consultant. They come and share how they got into the consulting profession and what they believe makes a great consultant. I ask them just various different questions which are similar questions to what I asked leaders that I interviewed for my book.

The interview type interview type number two is called Drama in the Team Room. This is where if you have an issue with your manager or with a peer and you want to figure out how to solve that, we’d love to have you as a guest on the show. You come and talk to us through your dilemma. If it’s something that happened to me in the past as well, you want to come and share lessons learned for people that may potentially go through the same scenario. Let’s talk about it. Would love to speak to you about it. Interview format number three is When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong. This is where if this is awkward situation that happened at your client’s site or with your team in the team room at your firm or whatever it is, we’d love to hear your story and hear your lessons of what happened would be great.

Walk Me Off The Ledge. This interview format, this is for individuals that maybe thinking about leaving consulting. They want to talk it through with a seasoned consultant and a mentor type. I would again love to have you on the show if you want to come in. I’m in the business of saving consulting careers where it makes sense. If you want to create a sustainable career, before you walk away, let’s talk through it and I’d love to have you on the show to share that experience with others that may be in a similar situation.

Crossroads is my fifth interview format and this talks about crossroads. If you are, for example, in college wanting to go into consulting, you’re in consulting, you want to leave, you want to go get an MBA, you want to a business or start a family, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about what makes sense and how you can prepare for that next stage in your life. I would love to discuss some options with you.

Where Are They Now, is the sixth interview format. This is for what I call rock star consultant, the past rock star consultants that I used to work with. If you’re in consulting, you’re going to understand the scenario as I explain that. Have you ever worked with a colleague, either currently or in the past, and they were nailing it? Clients love them, the firm love them, your colleagues love them, your partners love them, and they were just on fire. They were doing everything and then all of a sudden you get a text message or call or an email, they’re leaving the firm. It’s always surprising to me for some reason when rock stars leave because they’re going to be a rock star wherever they go. They’re just that type of person. In this business, we work with so many amazing smart people. Sometimes our favorite ones leave, and so I created Were Are They Now. That was my excuse as a way to reconnect with some of the amazing rock stars that I worked with in the past. I want to hear how they’re doing, how do they feel that they’re consulting experience, was how did it help them for the next stage in their career, and what are they up to now.

That’s that segment, and then my last one is Quick Wins. Quick Wins are on helping people know about different trends in the industry. If someone has a new technology or process or industry trend they want to showcase that’s relevant to consultants, we’d love to have you on the show. We’d love to provide that platform to you for this audience. Those are the formats of the show now. Given based on the feedback loop they talked about in episode one, we may merge them. Any change, I’ll keep you posted, but this is what we’re running with. I’ll start every episode talking about which format is going to be in the show, in addition to storytelling and career guidance. Send your questions to me or your stories MECEMuseUnplugged@gmail.com. We would love to share your story or give you guidance. It’s real-time consulting that we do on the show as well. That’s all I have for new information about the show to give you that context. I’m going to now pivot to a recent episode of a podcast interview that I did. It was my first podcast interview that I’ve ever done, so I hope you enjoy it.

Interview with Christie Lindor

Welcome to the High Velocity Radio show, where we celebrate top performers producing better results in less time. Stone Payton and Lee Kantor here with you this afternoon. Lee, this is going to be a fantastic segment. Please join in welcoming to the program, Christie Lindor. How are you?

I am fabulous. How are you doing?

We are doing great. Christie, can you share a little bit about what you’re up to?

There’re so many different things. I think the big one right now, I wrote a book and my book is called The MECE Muse: 100+ Selected Practices, Unwritten Rules, and Habits of Great Consultants. I’m super excited about the book. It talks about my journey over the last sixteen years in consulting. I cannot wait to share it with the world. I’m in the throes of the publishing process and we’re excited to share it soon.

MECE 02 | Setting Context
Setting Context: The MECE Muse : 100+ Selected Practices, Unwritten Rules, and Habits of Great Consultants

What does the word MECE mean? What does that mean?

I am a consultant. It’s the type of work I’ve been doing for sixteen years. In consulting, we have a technique called MECE and it stands for Mutually Exclusive Collectively Exhaustive. It’s one of many techniques that we typically use to get to the root cause of a problem because when clients usually hire us, they want to solve complex business problems. What we’ve typically found in a lot of cases is that some of the patchwork or Band Aid solutions that are in place look at the symptom. They don’t get to the crux of the issue. MECE is a way for us to think about a problem and be able to get to that root cause. That’s how the book’s name came about.

I’ve never written a book, this is my first time writing one. I just said, “I don’t know what to do, but it’s in my heart to do this,” so I just started writing. I spent about a year or so every day writing something. Some days I write a page, other days I wrote a couple of sentences, some days I was able to bang out five pages. In that process, I was just writing whatever came to mind as I remembered experiences or anecdotes or advice that I had over the course of my career. After doing that for about a year or so, I amassed hundreds of pages of content and I said, “How am I going to organize this stuff?” I hadn’t even thought about things. Then I had to reverse engineer. I created sort of think about bucketing things and chapters and categorizing and moving stuff. When I was going through that process, I was saying to myself, “This is not MECE enough. I need this to be a bit more MECE.”

That was the way I would do it. I would think about, “Here’s something I want to add here, or here’s another element I wanted to include.” At the time when I was writing the book, if I can tell you, I didn’t know what the topic of the book was going to be about. I didn’t know what the angle was. I just said I’ve had all these amazing experiences and I feel so blessed at the point in my life that I am now, and I want to start sharing that. It just overtime organically came to me, and I decided I’m going to call the book that MECE Muse because I literally used that technique to organize my thoughts. Then I know some people that may be reading the book, they may not know what the word MECE is. I added in the subtitle, “100 plus selected practices, unwritten rules and habits of great consultants,” just to codify it a bit more. That was how the name came about.

When you were doing the writing every day or on a rhythm, was that stuff that you were writing privately or were you publishing it on a blog publicly?

I was writing it privately, so I just had a Word doc open and as I was writing it would come to mind. It then became a lifestyle which actually ultimately led to me starting a blog believer or not. I started writing and like I said, just whatever came, I wrote it down. Then there’d be times, let’s say if I’m at the gym or I’m at the supermarket or at the airport, things will come. I’ll remember things. I can’t write this down, so I started recording bits and then going back and writing them in. That was the process. In hindsight, I don’t know if that was the most productive or efficient process. I typically am a very organized and very structured logical thinker, a logical type of person. This is a very creative way and it actually taught me a lot about myself and about what I can do. It was a great experience in hindsight.

What is it that you got introspectively from going through the process?

You always challenge your thinking and not get caught up in just one way of looking at something. I say that because I would write different things and then their interactions, whether it’s with clients or with my colleagues, they would say something that was a little different than what I was thinking for something that I wrote. It actually made me rethink about it and refine it. I ended up doing a lot of refining, obviously with the book. It’s my baby. I refined significantly. In the past when I’ve done things, I usually like to put something out there and make sure it works. It challenged my worldview. It challenged how I looked at doing things and how to be different. I think the other part is it helped me figure out what matters most. That’s when I started to figure out who my reader was and what is it that I was trying to say because writing every day, there’s a lot of stuff that you may add that may or may not be applicable to the narrative you’re trying to create. It helped me to laser focus in on who this book was about and who this book is for.

Who is the book about and who is it for?

MECE Muse, it provides an inside scoop on the unwritten rules of the consulting world. I focus on giving readers the real deal insights on how to become a great consultant. This is not one of those, “Here’s the mechanics of consulting and talking to the basics.” If you want to make an impact for your client, you want to create an amazing career, you want to be great, this is the book for you. I wrote the book from the lens that I had. Growing up, I knew since college I wanted to be a consultant. I just got exposure to that line of work in different internships. When I came into consulting I learned quickly that being a first generation American, I’m the first college grad, there were a lot of resources and information I didn’t have access to. You got to consider back then, Google wasn’t prevalent. That whole world was not happening, resources were not as accessible.

The first five years of my career, I didn’t really have a lot of mentors. I had colleagues and clients and work in things to do, but I didn’t really have someone that was taking me under their wing to say, “Christie, here’s how you do things.” Because of that, I did struggle. While I had good experiences, it’s just not the same. You don’t have someone that’s taking you under their wing. Fast forward in my career, I do have mentors and guys and I’m just at a good place now. I’ve learned from so many different opportunities. I said, “I want to write the book and the voice of a mentor.” I could be the mentor that I wish I had, the mentor that sees your drive and take you under their wing to mentor that helps you with a presentation or a project. A mentor that, when you’ve had a rough day, you can call and give your thoughts and they can give you some words of encouragement and help you see another day. I still strive to be that in so many people’s lives today. This is my pay it forward book.

When you were titling the book, did you consider calling it the MECE Mentor instead of Muse? 

Actually I didn’t. That’s actually a great idea. When I put the book name together, it was based on the journey of how the book was written. That’s actually maybe a nice name for a second book. I’ll have to definitely consider it for sure.

Now when you were in college and you were thinking, “I’m going to get into consulting,” and you pictured consulting a certain way and a consultant behaving a certain way and serving a certain way and then you did it for a while and now you’ve done it for a pretty long while. What were the differences and what would you tell young Christie about the business?

I think a lot of young consultants fall into this trap where the first thing is you struggle with the definition of what a consultant is in the beginning. Even if you think you know, you’re still not sure what that means. I didn’t realize how much of me trying to figure out the definition was important to the foundation of my career. I say that because in the beginning of my career, I wanted to make sure that I worked hard and I focused on creating a credible brand. I did it in a way that was transactional. I didn’t focus on building relationships or having people get to know me personally. I was in an environment where I was usually the only female and sometimes the only person of color. I felt like I had to always show that I knew what I was. I would have proven whether that’s real or perceived, but that was the way that I operated.

I operated from the mindset that I have to be smart and I have to be hardworking. I put so much emphasis and effort into the technical part of my role more as opposed to the relationship and the personal part of my role. That’s something that later you get it. I’ve added that element to my brand, but that’s something in hindsight that I think a lot of young consultants don’t realize how important it is to remember. It’s not about the deliverable that you create, it’s about the experience and the friendships and the colleagues and the relationships you build with your client. That’s what people remember. They don’t remember how fabulous your PowerPoint presentation was. That’s something I wish someone taught me and I’m hopeful that in my book I bring that to life in a lot of different ways.

Can you share a story that illustrates the difference between how you would transactionally relate to a client and then how, once you are more confident in your self-worth and the in the relationship, that you can then add that extra layer of value?

I think about one story. I had a client, she was probably an executive director level. My manager was out sick. I was very close to the data. I had done all the research for this data when our team got together and talked about who should do this presentation because we had this meeting scheduled and the manager got sick. It was decided, “Christie, this is a great opportunity for you to start.” I’m just super nervous. It’s my first time I was having this face to face interaction with a senior. My client comes in into the room. As I’m going through the motions, she seemed a little distracted but I didn’t think about stopping and pausing what I was talking about as to ask for why. In my mind, “My manager is out. I’ve got to give this message. This is important, we’ve got to get this done.”

I walked in with a very narrow-mindset and I didn’t have that deep relationship to feel comfortable to ask her questions like what’s going on. It turns out, I find out after the meeting that one of her children had actually been hit by car and she found out on the way to work. The only meeting she actually honored was our meeting because there was a contractual obligation to it, but then she was going to be gone for the rest of the day. Of course everyone finds out and feel bad. We were just making sure that she’s okay. I felt bad. I said, “I was just blindsided.” I didn’t stop and say, “Christie, you can tell something was wrong. Why didn’t you ask her is everything okay or just give her the space?”

Because I felt like in hindsight, if I had walked into the room knowing what I know now, if I had walked in that same room and I saw the look on her face, I wouldn’t even started the meeting and talked about what I came with. I would’ve put that aside and said, “You look uncomfortable. What’s going on?” Give her the space to say here’s what’s going on in her mind. We would automatically schedule. “We’re not having this conversation. I’m surprised you’re even in the office. You need to go home and take care of your kid.”

You are human. That’s how humans interact with humans. That’s a great example, Christie, because it shows you were in your own head and you were looking at her being distant and may be making assumptions about why, and the real why had nothing to do with you or anything you were talking about. She had bigger problems than anything you were talking about. A lot of times people make those kinds of assumptions based on their own internal dialogue rather than truly understanding the other person and truly being empathetic to the other person’s situation. If you’re dealing transactionally, those are the ways you would think in transactional terms.

Whereas in this case, if you were able to have a deeper relationship, it’s like you said, you would treat her totally different. You would say, “What’s wrong? Something seems amiss, is everything all right?” She would probably tell you because you’re treating her peer to peer, human to human. Then you would say, “No, you’ve got more important things than this meeting,” then you would give her the freedom to leave. That’s a great lesson for everybody, to not second guess yourself. You sensed something was amiss, but it was just so early in your career you weren’t confident enough to say, “I’m going to say something about this. I’m not just going to check the boxes that I have this obligation that I have to get through this presentation.”

I felt so bad about that and I didn’t have anyone to talk about it. Anytime I walk into a client meeting, if I’m presenting or if it’s my team or whomever, the first thing I’m going to do from now on, I’m going to just take a quick poll to see where the energy level with my clients. Are they happy or sad? What’s going on with them? I’ll adjust the message accordingly. Unfortunately, that had to happen in that manner, but that’s one example of something I had to learn along the way. Those moments matter and they can make the difference in a client relationship or the way you handle that. I let younger consultants know that type of information. You got to have balance between professional and personal, but those moments matter.

Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, don’t ignore it. There could be something wrong. As part of your book, it’s not you just waxing eloquent about these real life anecdotal stories about your own life. You also interviewed some leaders. Is that right?

MECE 02 | Setting Context
Setting Context: If you want to be successful, you emulate those who are successful.

I did. I think that was part of that MECE process that I was going through. It was good for me to have my story bring this to life more. I have my own personal principle. If you want to be successful, you emulate those who are successful. That’s something I always abide by. I’m going to start reaching out to partner in consulting. In a traditional consulting career path, usually people move up over a course of fifteen to twenty years into the pinnacle of a career to becoming a partner, which is a similar model like a lawyer in a firm. That’s the pinnacle. I’m going to start reaching out to the partner. That gave me an opportunity to connect with a lot of partners I work with. In the book, I shared 22 interviews. I was able to connect with about over 50 partners across every type of consulting firm you can think of.

Some of them I knew and I have worked for and I love, and others were referrals when I ask people who have some great leader. The other thing that I made sure is that I didn’t just take anyone that was just a partner. They had to be what I called first-class leadership. They had to emulate the principles of being a great consultant, which is as I mentioned, it’s bigger than the work. It’s about the people and people that have that type of empathy. That was some very important criteria. Partners are extremely busy people. I was very thankful for those that made the time, interviewed with me, each one I spent about an hour speaking to them, which is amazing. Others didn’t have the time to interview, but they sent me books or articles or resources or little antidotes that they want to be part of this project. That was very surprising to see how much support I got from leadership. Mind you, I worked for a very large consulting firm work. Some of these are competitors and they told me, “Christie, I’ll help you out, but I can’t have my name tied to this because you work for a competitor,” but that show how amazing they were. They understood what the project and the mission was and they believed in it so much. They believed in the consulting profession that they didn’t let the fact that I worked for a competitor deter them from contributing. That says a lot about somebody.

The writing process you learned some stuff, what did you learn from the interviewing process?

I think the biggest thing was patience. Chasing partners is like chasing celebrities, honestly. They don’t have a lot of time and you got to catch them when you can. Try to do that on top of my day to day work. That was a very extremely challenging process, but very rewarding. When I wrote the book, I actually learned a lot myself and just speaking to them, learning about what brought them to the career, what they believe a great consultant is, and what are some of the lessons that they’ve had and hearing their stories. I’ve been in consulting my whole career. When you’re in the career for so long, you’ve built up what I now call urban legends. What you think success should be or what the mental map of a consulting career is. Those interviews completely dispelled almost every myth that I had and I share those in the book because I know it’s not just me. There’re even some partners I spoken to that abide by some of the myths that I was able to dispel. I think it’s going to be a great read for anyone that is either looking to becoming a consultant or a consulting and want a different perspective.

I heard a rumor that you might be putting together a podcast to compliment the book.

Thank you for mentioning that. It’s called the MECE Muse Unplugged. What’s nice is in the book I mentioned I speak to a lot of consulting partners and I took a top down approach, speaking to leaders and them sharing their feedback. With the podcast, I call it like a pop-up. I haven’t decided if it’s going to be weekly or biweekly yet. I’m still thinking through the frequency of it, but it is going to be more of a bottoms up approach and more of a variety. Still using the concepts and the framework that I shared in the book, I’ll have different people interviewing, having people share their stories, if they’re looking for advice there are experts in the field coming in and providing some insights for consultants for emerging trends. Just a variety of different things from the voice of a mentor.

While I’m still going through the publishing process, let me have this pop-up podcast series. I’ve covered the different concepts throughout the entire book. I think I’ll end the show so I don’t have an end date for the show, but I’m super excited. I mentioned the idea to a number of people just within my close circle and I got well over fifteen interviews lined up. People are super excited. They think it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’ll have fun. It’s the MECE Muse Unplugged. If you want to learn more information we’ll have information up on MECEMuse.com for people to check it out.

Before we wrap this, I want to talk a little bit about both of us got a chance and we met through the altMBA program. Can you talk about your experience at that?

The altMBA, this may sound cliché, but it was life-altering. It is the best four weeks of time, as chaotic and as intense time that it was as a leadership development program. I’ve learned so much and it allowed me to let a lot of my personality shine more. If you’ve been in a field for over a decade plus, I think I realized through this program that I had to conform to some of the traditional elements of being in corporate. I realized there’s a lot of things that I used to love doing when I was younger that I stopped doing, and I in this program made me questioned why. Anyone that’s looking to level up in their career or their life want to look at something differently, get feedback and meet amazing people, I highly recommended it.

Is this something that you told your company about? They said, “Christie, go for it. We’re going to fund it. This sounds like a wonderful program,” or was this something you did on your own?

This is something I decided to do on my own. The company that I worked for, it takes a while to get off. This is something that would be outside approved. It will take a while to go through the approval processes, so I just said, “For me it was something I wanted to do. It was just the right season in my life to do it now. I didn’t want to wait,” so I decided to go for it. My team knows. They’re super excited to hear about my journey.

Are you going to that in your work or are you doing it where you live? Is it online? 

It’s going to be virtual. I decided to hold a virtual session for about fifteen folks. I think I’ve got twelve people signed up. It’s. People are hearing about all altMba and I think the word is getting out and it’s worth it. I think for anyone who’s interested in programs like that, it’s what you put into it is what you get out of it. You’re not going to have people dinging you for missing deadlines or dinging you for not doing work to the best of your ability. It’s all on you, and it’s creating that level of self-accountability that’s critical for us to be successful. I think it’s a great, great exercise and a great opportunity for those that want that.

Christie Lindor, it’s been absolute pleasure. If somebody wanted to get a hold of the book again, the website?

They can check out my website and my blog, ChristieLindor.com. Once the book is coming out, we’ll send out announcements and we’ll going to set up some freebies on the site. If you’re interested in podcast as well, you can go to MECEMuse.com and I can be found on LinkedIn. I’m a big LinkedIn person so you can follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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