We often hear a lot of people say, “This is my truth.” The truth of the matter is, there is only one truth, one source, and one universe; all other things are perceptions. Joining Ben Baker on today’s podcast for a discussion on reality versus perception of reality is Donna Kayarian Chiacchia of Advantage Consulting, LLC. She explains that truth has no version. The versions of the truth as we know it are actually our perceptions of it. As a consultant, Donna disrupts the status quo consulting by making a company’s vision an actionable activity so that it gets done. She shares how, as an outside source, she brings people together and empowers them to take charge of what they need to take charge of to get things fixed.
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The One Truth With Donna Kayarian Chiacchia
I’ve got another great guest and her name is Donna Chiacchia. What Donna has got is a company called Advantage Consulting, LLC. What she does is to disrupt your status quo advisory consulting. Let’s get into it.
Donna, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Ben. Thanks for having me. I appreciate and respect your endeavors in pronouncing my last name. It’s Italian. It’s a gift from my husband. We will eliminate me from pronouncing my maiden name. I used to drive those together because no one knew who Donna Chiacchia was and I said, “Donna Kayarian.” It was Donna Kayarian-Chiacchia.
That’s a mouthful. It’s like my grandfather’s name when he came from Poland which was Bukharovich so Bukharovich became Baker, but I kept threatening my wife because my wife is Feldstein that we were going to hyphenate it. We’re going, “Feldstein-Bukharovich.” We’re going to go back to her maiden name and we’re going to give carpal tunnel syndrome to our kids.
You’re right about that. It wouldn’t have fit on the paper easily.
You’d be looking for that second piece of paper to get that last name in there.
Either that or you have to hold it horizontally instead of vertically.
Get that extra width of the paper so you can get that full last name in there. I love listening to names, I love finding out where people are from, where they come from, where they are, and where they’re going. Let’s get into that with you. I want to get into this. I love this disrupt the status quo consulting. Tell me a little bit where did this come from, where are you now, and where is this company going.
When I started Advantage Consulting, I did it based on a premise that I was going to go about this in a different way than the traditional big four whatever. I am not going to come in, advise you, and make up this beautiful perspective. The strategy document would say, “There you go. Now you’ve got it. We’re good. Let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.” In fact, there is because there’s this project manager or group of people that are given the advice. Here’s the advice from the experts. The expert is somebody from out-of-town so I said, “That’s not satisfying to me. That’s not enough so I would go in.” I would listen to the vision but I wanted to make it into actionable activity so we could get it done. It’s a wonderful plan but are we going to do it? Are we going to read about it and dream?
That’s what was disruptive. It’s like, “We’re going to do it.” I’d say, “Absolutely.” I would ask myself, Ben, when I was writing all these strategies out and everything, I’d say, “Remember, Donna, what if they said, ‘We’d like to make you a permanent full-time employee. Why don’t you stay here and do this? Would you, Donna?’” The answer was always, “Yes. Of course, I would.” When I was writing out the strategy, I already had the execution in mind and it would be suggested. I would say, “That’s great. We’re going to go from the C-level right down to the frontlines and implement this now right alongside them.” That was disruptive to the traditional business model of advisory consulting. It’s like, “We’re going to give you some advice.” “That’s nice. Are you going to stay here and do it with us? Are you going to execute?” That’s what we specialize in.
I love that because somebody told me that there’s a stat that 60% to 70% of strategies that get created are never implemented and that’s a big reason why. I see consultants do this all the time. They come in, peek around, create this 500-page binder, they pass it over, their bill is on page 1 or page 2, they walk out the door, and that’s it. It’s like, “I’ve given you my report and my findings. These are my recommendations.” The problem is, people may know that underline, they have a problem but they have no idea how to roll up their sleeves and fix it.
A lot of the time, that’s where the real magic is. It’s our ability to be able to sit there and say, “Here’s where the holes in the dike are. You put your finger here and I’m putting my finger over here. Somebody go out, get some cement. I’ll show you how to mix it up for you. I’ll show you how to fill those holes and we take their fingers out of the dike one at a time. In the end, we have a dike with no holes in it.”
That’s the thing that tends to be missing in the consulting world. Everybody is sitting there going, “You’ve got a problem. Goodbye.” As consultants, as outside experts, as people that are coming that people want to know, like, and trust, we need to be willing to roll up our sleeves and say, “Here are some ideas how to solve this problem. Can we help you solve these problems?” What you’re doing is it’s not disruptive. It’s required and necessary. My question is, what led you to the belief that it wasn’t the report, there had to be that implementation that went along with it?
What led me to that specifically and the part that is disruptive is as we’re writing this report, we’re observing what’s going on. We are saying, “The status quo is not working and it needs to be eliminated.” The horror of horrors. It’s like, “Do you know what you said? Miss Jones has been here for fifteen years. We’ve always done it that way.” It’s like, “It was easy when you wrote it down on paper.” Have you ever written that letter, Ben, that you never mail but you got it out on paper and you say, “I feel better now?”
That’s the thing with the strategy. You get it all down on paper and you feel better that you said, “This isn’t working anymore. We should do something about it.” The disruptive part is the consultant saying, “This doesn’t work anymore and we should do something about it.” “The consultants are going to stay here and make sure we do something about it.” That’s the disruption. That’s usually the executive levels. They’re like, “Somebody’s got to be the good cop and somebody’s got to be the bad cop.” I say to them, “Guess who you’re going to be? You’re going to be the good cop.”
I get to be the bad cop. I like being the bad cop at times.
When everything goes right, you’re the genius. When everything goes wrong, the consultant messed it up. This is the approach that they’re offered so that there’s an ease for them. They’re like, “My risk is being minimized.”
What you’re doing is you’re enabling them to create a process of change where there’s minimizing the risk to them whether it’s them personally, a department, or the company itself. They do realize that they need to change. Day number one, they don’t know how to do it themselves, they truly don’t or else they would have done it, or they were too scared to do it because they’re worried if they do it wrong what the ramifications would be.There is only one truth, one source, and one universe; the other thing is perception. Click To Tweet
When you bring in an outside force that enables you to be able to have a rallying point, focus point that allows someone who’s done this before, is not doing this the first time, and guessing, that’s a powerful thing and it allows people to go from the point saying, “We’re terrified of change. We know we need to change, but we’re not going to do it because the risks are insurmountable.” You have somebody that says, “They’re going to take me by the hand, lead me through the process, help communicate this change back, and put the processes in place to be able to make us better.” That’s a comforting thing, not only for a CEO but for a company.
I have a theory that I documented, it’s called The Rhodium Circle Theory. Rhodium is the highest level of metal, even higher than platinum. It coats white gold and everything to protect it to ensure that it always has its luster and all that. That’s why I chose the word rhodium for this circle. This is premised upon the fact that everything needs to be acknowledged, understood, and accepted. We premised all of our advice, recommendations, and strategies on that. Everybody will be uniquely empowered to do their best work. Everyone will be and we will stay here with you to do it with you because we believe in it and your ability. This empowers them, this raises them up. This gives them a clear pathway to take charge of what they need to take charge of.
They’re going to stand up and say, “I own this and I’m going to make it right. He’s going to make his part right. She’s going to make her part right.” We make all these parts right and we fuse them together into this hole that’s protected by that circle of trust. Every one of the bricks was made with that premise. You were acknowledged, understood, noticed, accepted, not agreed. This was accepted based upon your premise of what you believe is true about your work and what you need to do to make this whole.
Also, to raise that to the level of excellence that is enjoyed by the corporation, the community, and the customers. Everybody excels. All of the strategies are based on that. They’re all unique and getting to them is all unique. There’s no cookie-cutter program, if you will that we come in with. We plug it in and change. Your problems are solved. This is going to take deliberate and intentional action on your part but it’s uniquely defined by you.
There are two different directions we can go and I’d like to explore both. One is doing things for people versus doing things with people. The other thing is truth versus perception of truth. I leave it up to you, which way do you want to go first?
I would like to do it in the order that you outlined it.
Let’s talk about doing something for people versus with people because that was a poignant part because too many people are sitting there going, “I want it done.” People want stuff done for them. They’re at a stage of their lives where if I can give somebody some money, they’re going to take care of my problems for me. They’re like, “I pay Ben. He trains my staff for me.” “I bring in Donna and she’s going to fix stuff for me. I don’t know how, but she’s going to do it.” The problem is, by doing stuff for people, the solution is temporary versus doing stuff with people enables them to pick up that torch and run with it. I want to hear your thoughts on that.
It’s a matter of creating demand and appetite for the project. It’s like, “We’re going to do this project. It’s going to be great. Here’s what we’re going to get.” “I want to do that, I want to get that because if I get that, then my life is going to be good.” The next thing is, “Who’s going to do what?” They’re like, “I don’t know if I can do that.” “Let’s lay it out and see.” We lay it all out and talk about it. We say, “I’m going to do this part for you. Would you help me with these parts? If you help me with these parts then the part I’m going to do for you will go faster.” “It will? Okay.”
That’s how you get the buy-in.
You need to keep your promises. They’re like, “I did mine.” They’re like, “Go ahead. You can do yours now.” What they don’t realize is by having done all theirs, they’ve already done the part where I said, “I’ll do that for you.” While they’re into it, going, being cheered on, being groomed, honed, and fine-tuned to get their piece right, at one point in time, they say, “Donna, excuse me. Could you get out of our way, please? We did it ourselves. We can do this ourselves.” “Sure, you can.” I always knew they could but you can’t start off with, “Come on, guys, you can do this yourself.”
“First of all, I don’t want to do it.” “Why don’t you want to do it?” “I don’t understand it.” There’s no buy-in so you have to go through this. The adage, you give a man a fish, he eats for a day, you teach him to fish, he eats for the rest of his life. This is the same premise. It’s all Old Testament and New Testament with me. I’m a simple person. It’s those simple rules. That’s the difference between doing something for somebody and doing something with them. They own it. I don’t want any ownership of that. It’s not mine, it’s theirs. You give without expectation. You freely give so they can partake and make themselves strong to forge the rest of the way. That’s what you’re there for.
That’s so important. We live in a world where everybody starts off by saying, “I can’t. It’s too difficult.” It’s insurmountable. They see the entire hill in front of them and say, “How am I ever going to get up that hill?” If you could help them and say, “If you do this, do this, and you do this,” breaking it up into small little parts that people can accomplish and people have a sense of worth and feel that they have ownership. First of all, they come together and make these different parts work together to be able to accomplish the task but it becomes theirs.
All you’re doing, as an outside source, is to be there to be the encourager, to help bring people together, and allow them to realize that it’s not insurmountable. By doing that, they become better, they’re able to take the torch and run with it. It’s an overlooked view of the world. People sit there and say, “There’s a hill. We’re going to take it.” How are we going to do that? You do it step-by-step. You bring people together, build coalitions, build teams, you enable people to have successes, and you empower them to succeed. I love all that.
There isn’t anything greater than what I call leading from behind. You are the foundation by which they are going to build their dream and you’re the foundation. This is how it must be in order to receive the greatest benefit for everyone.
I call it leading from the middle. Some people need a gentle push and be dragged behind a little bit more, but most people want to see you side-by-side with them. They’re going to do all the work. They want to know that you’re within earshot and not envision. Let’s get on to that second point because I’ve been waiting for this for the whole conversation because I love this comment. It’s about reality versus perception of reality whether it’s families, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, companies, church groups, synagogues, mosques, or whoever there is a differentiation between what is reality and what is the perception of reality. I want to get your thoughts on this.
I often hear and a lot of people hear this expression, “This is my truth.” Is that right? I have some news for you. There’s only one truth, one source, and one universe only. The other thing is perception. The truth has no versions. The versions of the truth happen to be Ben’s perception, Donna’s perception, Sally’s perception, or whomever. That’s our perception of it. At the end of the day, there is still only one truth, but you have the free will to have this perception and what you’re going to do with it. You are also responsible and accountable.
I can tell you that all project managers reading this are going, “She’s going to do a RACI chart.” I’d rather have a root canal than do the RACI chart. It’s Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. Everybody thinks responsible and accountable are interchangeable. It’s not. It’s two completely separate things. This one truth that exists and your perception of it, which also equally exists, will be responsible and accountable.
There will be people that need to be consulted and informed about the ramifications of your perception of this truth, but it all goes back to one source. It’s only one. We see this in our society. When so-and-so steps up to the mic because that person is X, that has to be the truth. That’s a person’s perception. We either buy-in or we don’t. In the Rhodium Circle, we acknowledge, we understand it, and we accept it. We didn’t say we agreed. We have the free will to agree or disagree. I don’t care what your perception of the truth is.A confused mind always says no. Click To Tweet
I’ve got two things I need to talk about. One, what is your differentiation in the definition between responsible and accountable? Let’s talk about that first.
Responsible is the doer. That’s the one who’s going to do it. The person accountable is the person who ultimately has to live with and sign off on what the doer did. I was responsible to get this done. I could also be accountable for the ramifications of it being done the way it was done. The buck stops with me or not. There’s somebody else that is accountable. Donna is the doer and she’s going to get this task done. Ben is going to be accountable for what Donna has done. Ben is going to checkmark that it was done appropriately according to the needs of the whole. When you’re accountable, the buck stops with you. You are the authority over what somebody was responsible for doing. You have to consult your boss, let’s say, and inform the other teams. This is a distinction between responsible and accountable.
My next question, and probably going to be one of my last questions because we could talk about this all day, is incomplete information the major contributor to the differentiation of perception?
I remember this was something that I asked about at a peer group and I said, “When somebody intentionally withholds information, are they lying?” I’ve got several different answers. The bottom line is there’s only one answer. If you are not telling the truth and giving the whole story then you’ve lied. You haven’t been forthcoming therefore someone’s perception of which they have the free will to form and are accountable for. When someone says something to you and you say, “Okay,” something inside you says, “Is that all there is? There’s more to this than that. I’m going to find out.” You peel back the onion in and you’re like, “Okay.”
There’s always a motivation for not telling the whole story. Sometimes we don’t tell the whole story because we want to sell the sequel, but the thing that we want to be sure we’re doing is to provide information so people can make informed decisions and people have to decide if they’ve received enough information. A confused mind always says no. Their perception of what you’ve said is like, “I don’t know if Donna got the whole picture here.” “Donna, you’re a great girl but I don’t think you have the whole picture.”
At that point, it’s up to me to decide, “I don’t have the whole picture. This is all the information I have about the topic,” or “I do have some additional information that I should give you.” I have a choice at that point to either confess that this is all the information I have to offer or this is all the information I have to offer at this time and there is more information that I would like to give you about this, but I’d like to do it one-on-one or let me continue so you won’t be confused.
It’s a good place to end but to summarize that, to bring it up, and there might be one question that comes out of this is the fact that we may only have as much information to give based on what we perceive other people need to know at that time. We may only give as much information because that may be all that we know at that time. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re lying. It means that we’re not divulging all the information that we have or all the information that the person needs to know in order to make an informed decision.
It is up to each and every one of us to gather the information that we’ve been given amalgamate it and look at what reality is or our perception of reality is based upon the new information given to us. We need to take a look at that. We need to sit there and go, “Where is reality? Where is our perception of reality? What information do we know? What information do we need to know?” We all need to be curious because when we’re curious or not taking everything at face value, it’s not perceiving that somebody is lying, it’s the fact that their perception of reality may be different than our perception of reality.
There’s a difference between purposely withholding information and not providing all the information simply because you don’t have it. At the time that you’re having a discussion about something, it is okay to say, “I am withholding certain elements of this conversation until we get to this point and the rest of that information will be pertinent.” If we splay all of the information right now, people are going to be like, “Wait a second.” There needs to be context as we dole out the information but there is such a thing as purposely withholding something. That’s not being truthful. It’s harsh to say that you’re lying but it’s not being truthful.
There’s a difference between the two of them. Let’s leave the conversation there. I’m going to make sure everybody knows how to get in touch with you. I have one last question that I want to ask you before I let you go because it’s a question I ask everybody before they walk out the door. When you leave a client, you get in your car and you drive away, what’s the one thing you want people to think about you when you’re not in the room?
She made my life better.
That’s awesome. That’s all we can ever ask, people’s lives are changed because of the work that we are able to do for them. I love that it’s your answer. Donna, thank you for being on the show. Thank you for being such a wonderful guest and for your wonderful insights.
Thank you, Ben, for having me. It was such a pleasure.
About Donna Kayarian Chiacchia
Donna began her consulting career with a privately-held consulting firm in New Jersey. Since that time, she has distinguished herself as a high impact, passionate player, consistently delivering millions of dollars in savings and high percentages of productivity and profitability improvements for a wide variety of Fortune 1000 clients. Donna brings this experience – including several systems and toolsets she has authored and successfully implemented to clients and employers to provide a nimble, efficient and highly effective alternative for their companies.
BUSINESS FORMATION & TRANSFORMATION PROGRAMS
Donna is a mission-based, solution-driven leader with a proven track record in the management consulting industry. She is an expert at taking time-honored business management traditions within her areas of expertise and blending them with 21st-century vision.
Clients receive value with Donna because she produces flexible and cost-effective business formation and transformation programs, hand-tailored to her client’s needs. Donna distinguishes herself by successfully repeating these practices for every client. Her commitment to excellence for her clients is unwavering and her notable list of references will validate her superior skill set.
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