️Episode 020 – The Surprising Skill Required to Succeed As An Independent Consultant

Have you ever heard someone say that emotion and business don’t mix? I heard this a lot in corporate. As a matter of fact, I was the queen of masking my emotions to maintain my poker face. 

The thing is that burying your feelings is not effective as an independent consultant. Not managing your emotions will backfire. This isn’t to say it’s useful to start crying or yelling in meetings. What I’m talking about in this episode is how mastering your emotions will enable you to make faster progress in your consulting business.

Your success as a business owner is directly tied to how well you manage your negative emotions. To help you succeed, I’m sharing with you exactly why managing negative emotions is so crucial, and how you can manage through and continue working in spite of the negative emotions.

If you want help figuring out this strategy and how it could have worked for you. I invite you to apply for a strategy call with me and we’ll dive into your business and get clear on your goals and your challenges and determine how we can apply this method to you and your business so that you keep moving forward. To get on my calendar, please visit www.consultmelisa.com

In this episode,
[04:38] How our corporate background has taught us to treat emotions
[09:47] Why the corporate approach to emotions will backfire on us as ICs
[18:09] How to leverage your emotions as a strength to make faster progress in your IC business


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**note: This is an automated transcript, so please ignore spelling errors and grammar mistakes*


Welcome to the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. I’m Melisa Liberman, a fellow IC and business coach. On this podcast, I teach you to become a consistently booked independent consultant without becoming a pushy salesperson or working 24/7. If I can do it, you can too.


Listen on to find out how. Today on the podcast, which is episode 20, by the way, I can’t believe it’s been 20 weeks so far, it’s so much fun. And I love having you here. So tell your friends, your consulting friends. But today in episode 20, we’re going to talk about the surprising skill that’s required for you to succeed as an independent consultant. A little bit of a mouthful there, right? The surprising skill that’s required for you to succeed as an independent consultant. And by surprise, I have a feeling you’re going to be surprised. So stay tuned here. What’s that skill? It’s a skill that almost every independent consultant doesn’t really realize they need to master. I know I didn’t, at least not overtly. And that skill is managing emotions. And you might not right now be thinking what is Melisa talking about? I thought she’d say sales is the most important skill to master or maybe a marketing. No, Mastering your emotions, is that number one skill. And I know for sure that there was a time in my life and up until probably very recently, in fact, where I would have rather died than talk about feelings in public. So just bear that in mind. I’m not just telling you that mastering emotions are a number one skill. Because this is something that seems so obvious, right? Isn’t most of us, especially if we’ve come from corporate, which I’m sure you have. It is exactly the opposite emotions have no place in business, right? That’s what we’re taught. So today, I really want to share with you this idea of how important it is to manage your emotions, as an independent consultant and business owner, in order for you to reach your business goals and your personal goals for you to feel fulfilled and to build a business that you love. Not just consistently whip yourself into doing whatever it is that you have to do. Alright, so hang with me, I’m going to explain this. I know if any of my former colleagues from corporate days are listening to this episode, they’re probably falling off my chairs that I’m talking about feelings right now, as it relates to business, but I cannot tell you how critical this skill is. And I can’t wait to share with you why and how you’ll how you can implement it for you and your business. So today, we’re going to focus on three main areas. Number one, how our corporate background has taught us to treat emotions and why we might be at the place we’re at already. You know, right now. And then number two, why this corporate approach to emotions is going to backfire on us as independent consultants, it might already be backfiring on you without you even knowing it. And then thirdly, I’m going to teach you how to leverage your emotions as a strength to make faster progress in your consulting business. And it’s going to be a different twist on how to leverage emotions and what you might be imagining. And I’m going to teach you how to create more motivation, for example. So stay tuned to the end as well, because I really want to teach you how to implement this in your business. That’s the purpose of this podcast is to give you resources and strategies for you to implement in your business. So that’s what we’re doing here today. So the first thing I want to give you is a little bit of a caveat, you’re going to hear me use the term negative emotions throughout this episode. It’s just a shorthand for emotions that you really don’t like or really don’t want to have, like fear or doubt or uncertainty or inadequacy. These aren’t bad or negative emotions. They’re just part of the human experience. But I’m just using the word negative emotions, the term negative emotions, so I don’t have to use the whole long thing of emotions that you would rather not have. Okay? So bear with me. Nothing’s gone wrong. Nothing’s bad. No one did anything wrong. I’m just using the word negative emotions because it’s shorthand for we don’t want to feel that way. All right. So let’s first talk about how we’re trained what’s ingrained in us as an employee and oftentimes how we transfer that into the work that we do as an independent consultants. Just because we’re used to it right. It’s something that has become a habit. That is that as employees we’re taught that feelings have no place in business. Honestly, I really feel Like the first employee handbook that I had probably said something to this effect, along with there was, it was the craziest handbook. It was like, I don’t know, 25 pages or something. And I think at least five of them were what you were allowed to wear and not wear at the client site. And then the office if you were on the bench, like, and this isn’t in the 50s, this is in the 2000s, one of the required, I’m a little on a tangent, but if you were wearing a skirt and needed to be knee-length, and you needed to wear hosiery with it, I think the women’s section of this handbook was like five pages and the men’s was like half a page. Anyway, I digress. My point is that, basically, this is everywhere, right? When we’re corporate feelings, have no place in business, don’t show your feelings, hide them, suppress them, or mask them unless you’re happy. But sometimes don’t even show that you’re happy, because then that’s going to take your negotiation, for example, keep the poker face on at all times, right? Essentially, that’s what we’re taught. And for me, when I was an employee, there was a phase where, you know, at a startup, it was after I left Accenture, a startup, and it was incredibly pressure-filled, not that Accenture wasn’t. But anyway, it was incredibly pressure-filled. And, you know, I was on the tip of the spear for revenue and just a lot of pressure. So anyway, I just, there was a period of time, I think I was just always on the verge of tears, to be honest with you. I mean, I don’t like to tell you that, especially as a female in business, it’s not really something that is looked well upon, but it’s the truth. And I would go into meetings that I knew was going to get tense. And whenever I noticed emotion bubbling up, I would literally take a paperclip and shove the end of it into my hands to like create a diversion of physical pain to keep me from crying and focused on performing in the meeting, right. And I tell you that because you’ve probably, I don’t know if you’ve stabbed yourself with a paperclip, but we go to so many ends to keep our emotions at bay, incorporate, that’s what we’re taught. And I’m not saying you should go around crying in meetings, obviously. But at the same time, having no emotion. And not being able to manage negative emotions is going to slow you down as an independent consultant. So I’m going to talk about that here in a moment. But first, I want to kind of finish out what this corporate structure is, or this corporate mental framework is that we get right? We know that whether you’re, you know, stabbing yourself with a paperclip or you are leveraged, you know, so if you’re not doing that, then you’re probably you know, leveraging other people in your organization to help you manage through those negative emotions, whether it’s, you know, having a sounding board to go to and really kind of work through whatever might be creating self-doubt for you, or frustration or anger or whatever it is, sometimes we’re able to delegate things that we just don’t want to do to other people. So we can just really just put it off our plate and not fix the root cause that way. Other times, we can do things like avoiding self-doubt by creating teams or committees, right to accomplish the goal versus it all being on our shoulders. So the point here is that in business, we’re taught, that emotions have no place in business. And we create these coping mechanisms and catch nets to kind of make sure that we succeed at that philosophy. But as an independent consultant, it’s different, right? You’re all on your own. And so unless you can, you know, you’ve got a really sound sounding board. And even in the case that you do, these negative emotions are going to come up. So there’s very little place to hide, let’s, that’s a great way to say it, there’s very little place to hide as an independent consultant, you have no one to lean on, necessarily, unless you have a coach like me. But even then that negative emotion comes up, you know, 10 hours of the day. As an entrepreneur, it’s just magnified. As a business owner, it’s magnified because of the pressure on you, you’re creating your own paycheck. You’re the one at the tip of the spear, usually delivering for your clients, you don’t have anyone else to rely on if things aren’t going the way you want them to. Right. And so that’s why with this magnifying glass, it’s so important that you’re able to manage your emotions, it becomes so critical. It’s all on you. And as a result, there’s nowhere else to hide. And so this skill that’s so important for you to build and implement and executes is managing your emotions, the negative emotions especially. And so I want to give you four examples here that kind of highlight the impact of these emotions and how there could be slowing you down in your business, making your business plateau making your business stall Just not to like dig a fork in it, that’s not the word like twist the knife. That’s what I was thinking, twist the knife, not to twist the knife here. But I really want to highlight why the emotional management side of being a business owner is so critical and key to your success. So let’s talk through these four specific emotions that might be impacting you if you are not able to implement the strategies that I’m going to give you here at the end. So, for example, if you’re feeling self-doubt or inadequate, and you suppress it, it ends up leading to what? Procrastination right. If we don’t feel like we’re going to do a good job, we just kind of keep kicking the can down the road until we’re forced to do it by some deadline or something else. Or maybe we undersell because of this inadequacy. We go after projects and clients that are like slam dunks versus really going after high-value clients that pay us what we’re worth. And so the reason why we’re letting this self-doubt or inadequacy create the procrastination or the underselling is simply that you haven’t yet trained your brain to continue working, to continue pushing yourself, even though you feel that self-doubt. And you wait to feel more competent or expertly, which I will tell you, my friend, waiting to feel more competent or expertly is not going to happen. Your brain is designed to find all the reasons why you’re inadequate, so it just keeps piling on. So that’s what slows you down in your business. Another example is if you’re feeling resistance, like you might be changing your mind or making plans and then committing to them, or creating processes and then not executing them. And you might be thinking that having that resistance to doing the work is some kind of a sign that you shouldn’t do it. When in fact, it’s literally your primitive brain, your brain that is not operating at its highest level waiting, so that eventually it can avoid the change. It’s like causing you to change your mind. So you just go right back to your old patterns. And that’s what it’s designed to do, without getting weighed down in the weeds of brain science. Okay, so that’s an example of if you’re feeling resistance, how it can ultimately lead you to stall and plateau in your business. Another example, if you’re feeling really overwhelmed, you’re feeling really overwhelmed. And you’re letting that emotion run wild, you end up wasting time on busywork. Believe me, this is where I fall a lot. I fall into this category a lot. It’s like okay, well, if I could just get my list shorter, then maybe I’ll feel less overwhelmed, right? Focusing on busy work versus the high-value high-impact work. The reason why we do this from an emotional perspective is that we think the overwhelm is caused by all that number of things on our list. And if we make the list shorter, that overwhelm will go away. But that’s not how you control overwhelm. Because you end up just causing a different problem, right, you end up creating overwhelm somewhere else because you didn’t work on the work that moves the needle and then you have a problem somewhere else. It’s kind of like Whack a Mole. Right when these emotions like self-doubt or inadequacy, resistance or overwhelm are left unmanaged. That’s how this equation ends up creating a stall in your business. The last one I’ll give you is if you’re feeling uncertain, or sure you’re not sure how to market or sell your business, for example, you’re not sure what your niche should be, you’re not sure what your target client should be. You’re not sure if you want to keep going as an icy whatever it is, that creates the overanalyzing over complicating indecision. And ultimately, as a business owner, you don’t recognize that you’ll never be 100% certain that waiting for that negative feeling to going away to make a business decision and move forward. You’re going to be waiting forever.


The feelings are what’s causing you to slow down. Not whatever created those feelings, right? It’s the feelings of self-doubt and resistance and overwhelms and uncertainty. And you waiting to feel better, in order to take the action that you need to take to make a successful business to propel your business forward. waiting for it to feel better, ends up wasting half of your time. Because generally speaking, we feel good 50% of our life, and 50% feel like shit, right? Some form of feeling really bad. So if you’re constantly waiting to get into the 50%, where you feel happy or motivated, you’re missing out on all the time attached to all of those negative emotions. And so that’s why it’s so important to be able to manage through and keep going, even if you don’t feel like it, even if you have a negative emotion. So as a business owner, you’re not going to stall out, you’re not going to hit a plateau, or at least as long if you’re able to manage through those negative emotions and keep doing the work, keep progressing forward and not have so many feasts or famine cycles also. Okay, so now that you see the impact of your emotions on your business success, success, let’s talk about what to do next. So what to do next, you don’t have to stab yourself with that proverbial or liberal paperclip, like I did to manage the emotional ups and downs of being a business owner. Not gonna have to hire people to lean on, you might want to hire people to spread the workload, but we’re not hiring them because of trying to abdicate negative emotion, right? It’s actually the opposite. Your success as a business owner is directly tied to how well you manage your negative emotion. Let me say it again because this is so important. Your success as a business owner is directly tied to how well you manage through and continue working while you’re in negative emotions. Another way to say this is the speed of your results is dependent on you feeling bad and moving forward anyway. If you can execute your plans, both business development plans, and client delivery plans, and you know everything involved in being that 360 business owner. Even if you’re feeling overwhelmed, inadequate, incompetent or incapable or self-doubt, or resistant, whatever it is for you, you’re going to have a tremendous recapture of time, efficiency, and forward progress. And by the way, a huge leg up on your competitors, who are operating from that old mental model, discard the feelings, change the feelings get away from the feelings, no, it’s like going into the feelings overwhelm, go straight in versus waiting to feel better, somehow fixing it changing what you’re doing in order to fix it. No, you go straight into it. So what I’m telling you is that these negative emotions aren’t going to go away. And so we really want to make sure that you can proceed forward with doing what you need to do, which you know, is going to move your business forward or you think it is you might have to test it out. But you think it is, regardless of if you’re feeling motivated and excited and happy or overwhelmed and inadequate and resistant. And so that is that key to success that I wanted to share with you today. negative emotion is always going to be part of the deal, especially as a business owner. And so the sooner you learn to manage through and in your business, having that negative emotion on board, the faster you’re going to succeed and reach the goals that you may not have even realized are possible for you.


Okay, so let’s wrap up with how to put this into practice. I love ending these episodes on what to do next. And this usually involves three steps. So today it does two, just to recap, at a high level. Number one, you actually even recognize and acknowledge the emotion and that you’re able to move through and execute your business plans. Regardless if you’re feeling that negative emotion versus falling into the traps of procrastination or delaying or changing your mind or overanalyzing. Okay, so that is the overarching lesson from today, the overall arching strategy from today, and the three steps to put this into practice for you are number one to acknowledge that emotion, instead of hiding it, or brushing it under the carpet, like we’re taught to do, it’s really acknowledging it Oh, wow, I notice I’m feeling really overwhelmed today. My normal pattern is to go checking off a bunch of stuff for my to-do list that really doesn’t move the needle, but I just feel better because a bunch of things has been checked off. Or I’m just in a bunch of meetings, and I’m just gonna go do them all because I don’t want to push back or feel bad that I’m saying no. And so I’m just going to go do all of the things right. The first is just acknowledging whatever that emotion is. And the second is to get curious, like, what triggered that emotion? What’s creating the overwhelm, for example? What’s creating the inadequacy? Why are you not feeling like an expert or a thought leader for some reason? Why are you feeling like an imposter? Like, ask yourself, What am I thinking about myself and my capabilities that are creating this emotion? And by the way, usually, it’s not even true, but you know, we’re just, we’re always looking for the negative in ourselves, right? So figure out what’s creating that emotion And then do whatever it is that you had planned to do anyway. So instead of trying to make the negative emotion go away, again, you’re never going to get to 100% positive emotion. So instead of trying to fix the negative emotion, you’ve got it as a business owner, train yourself to do that highest impact work, even if you don’t feel like it, even if you feel incompetent at the moment. And one thing I’ll just tell you before we wrap up here, a lot of times people’s things say to me or I even thought this myself in the past, well, I don’t have time for that I don’t have time to like, take a step back and figure some of this stuff out. I’ve got other stuff to do, it’s actually the opposite. Investing a few minutes in this kind of a process, especially when you’re really noticing the overwhelm or the inadequacy come up, ends up creating that awareness, and your ability to implement the tools to go forward and work anyway, versus getting stuck down into that emotion. And the normal trap of procrastination, or overanalyzing now is this paralysis, right? So I promise you by someone who basically prided herself in zero emotion and really worked around, try to avoid all of this work for a really long time. It’s so important. And so by spending a little bit of time acknowledging and getting curious, and going forward through the negative emotion and doing the work anyway, it ends up saving you so much more time than that allowing the negative emotion to change your plans. Alright, so that is the surprising skill required for you to succeed as an independent consultant. If you want help figuring out the strategy and how it could have worked for you. I invite you to apply for a strategy call with me and we’ll dive into your business and get clear on your goals and your challenges. And determine if this is a good you know how we can apply this method to you and your business so that you keep moving forward. So if you’re interested in finding a time on my calendar, we will put this link in the show note but it’s consultingmelisa.com Consult Melisa I’m missing a letter. So only one s.com. Okay. Great to talk with you about feelings today. And I will see you again next week. Have a good one. Thanks for joining me this week on the Grow Your Independent Consulting Business podcast. If you like today’s episode, I have three quick next steps for you. First, click Subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to make sure you don’t miss future episodes. Next, leave me a review in your podcast app so other independent consultants can find a benefit and finally put the ideas from today’s episode into action. Head over to Melisaliberman.com for the show notes and more resources to help you grow your consulting practice from your first few projects into a full-fledged business. See you next week.

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