In the mid-90’s I went through a development program focused upon internal consulting – i.e. how to act like an external consultant while working a staff job. Great stuff, drawing from Peter Block’s masterwork: Flawless Consulting.
There are lessons from that program that have stuck with me for two decades, some factual, but many personal and adjacent to course material. Things such as:
- Resistance to change is an emotion that has found no means of expression
- The 3-strike rule: the third time you hear the resistance, name it and deal with the underlying issue
- I have a gift for insight and vision, a dissatisfaction with the status quo, and deep capability to navigate conflict – and that corporate life a) desperately needs that; and b) will resent me forever for it (yes, that was feedback I received!)
- Internal consultants want to be external consultants; external consultants want to be internal consultants
This last one has always struck me as interesting – I think it was shared by the facilitator rather than direct from Flawless Consulting
[though I may be wrong on that, I haven’t revisited the book for a while]
and now that I’ve lived and worked outside of my corporate self for 7 years, I think I’m finally gaining some insight into the statement, and the understanding that my gut instinct at the time was pretty close to accurate. Here’s what I see:
- External consultants get to work with little to no accountability for downstream repercussions
- Internal consultants will still be around when the proverbial hits the fan
- External consultants operate on a system
- Internal consultants operate within a system
- External consultants’ vested interest is in billable hours, viewed virtuously as client satisfaction, and non-virtuously as sucking up to the deepest pockets
- Internal consultants’ vested interest is in corporate survival, viewed virtuously as not rocking the boat, and non-virtuously as sucking up to the boss
Put simply, my gut said that this was all a matter of the perception that the
grass is greener on the other side
and, as I say, that’s pretty accurate.
We are relentless dissatisfaction machines. We live within self-limiting beliefs. We inhabit unhealthy negative identities. We fall easily into Amygdala shock: fight, fright, flight. We are at the mercy of adrenalin, dopamine, serotonin and a host of other biophysical entities.
It’s so easy to become tired of our reality, and to view that grass over there as so much greener. And, because we are all living within the paradox of the perfection myth, at the same time we’re making sure that our grass looks pretty darned-well green to anyone else looking at us; many of us, many more than we want to believe, are clinging onto that illusion by a thread.
We know where satisfaction lies. We know the times we’ve overcome limiting beliefs. We know the places in our lives where we are, or have been, fully empowered and in flow. We know what it means to be in balance with ourselves and the universe.
We know that it’s possible to flourish, even amidst the panic of our everyday; we just don’t want to believe it.
Indeed, admitting this is one of the hardest things to do, for three reasons:
- We would be admitting that we chose to be “less” – and that carries with it mourning, shame, embarrassment, sadness, and a whole host of other negative baggage
- To turn away from our everyday, and step into an empowered future can be terrifying – what if I’m not enough? What if I lose the love of those I hold most dear?
- There is a system and context of the world that isn’t built to support this shift – the world of work, finance, politics and society at large – how can you step off, when everyone around you says it’s impossible?
And, of course, all of these are reasons… Or are they explanations? Or excuses?
You see, I’ve been an internal consultant and I’ve been an external consultant, I’ve known the angst of being within the system
[screaming emails with breakfast anyone? Anyone?]
and I’ve known the angst of being outside the system
[Ladies and Gentlemen, we are floating in space]
It’s nothing to do with internal or external. It’s ALL about the angst. And our choice to create it regardless of the situation; even to engineer situations precisely to create it.
Knowing that sets us free. We have a choice and it is really, really simple:
This moment, will I continue to act like a perpetual angst machine?
It really is that simple, though the work of weaning can be hard, and the commitment to sustaining our choice exhausting in our early experiments.
But it is simple.
And it is doable.
When you’re ready, let’s talk.