Three of our members – Renoulte Allen, Trudi Perkins, and Kelly VanBrouwer – participated in our Process Consulting Training 101 together this past winter, and we had the honor of interviewing each of them for this blog. Read on to learn about their experiences with Process Consulting and our PCT 101 course.
Thanks so much for sharing your words and time with the Process Consulting community! Let’s start with your background and how you found your way into Process Consulting and the PCT 101 course.
Trudi: I was a K-12 English Language Arts teacher for 16 years and got caught in that COVID limbo – I was in the process of returning to work from medical leave, just subbing here and there while also defending my dissertation. Once that was done, there I was with my EdD, and I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with it! I started thinking about how much I enjoyed doing adult consulting, and how I wanted to expand my dissertation work on racism awareness development beyond a teacher education focus and into the world of corporate America. Around that time I was introduced to Deanna Rolffs, and that’s how I found my way to the Society for Process Consulting and Design Group International.
Kelly: I’ve spent my entire professional career caring for people and places. Ten of those years were in the health care setting working as a Chaplain and in Administrative Pastoral Leadership, and the remaining years were in non-profits and religious organizations. Over the last 10 years, I’ve been invited to help both individuals and organizations better understand their unique journeys and next steps. I was introduced to Design Group International just a year or so into re-building a prominent non-profit that had fallen under very poor leadership, and I felt very rooted and called to that work at the time. My friend Deanna Rolffs and I talked a few times over those years about how the consulting community of Design Group International might be a good place for me at some point, so I took that step when it made sense.
Renoulte: I’m currently employed as an higher education administrator. However, my start as a consultant began a couple of years ago when I was invited to partner with two other individuals to assist a college in improving their retention efforts. As a result of that experience, I discovered that my unique perspective on student retention opened the door of opportunity for me in consulting. One of the challenges that I face is balancing my responsibilities as an administrator and my client work. Finding the community of Design Group International and the Society for Process Consulting has helped me to be more successful in balancing my responsibilities as an administrator and entrepreneur.
How do you feel your professional background and life experience relate to the practices of Process Consulting?
Trudi: The school I taught at was a critical design and gaming school, so all the courses were taught with that focus and theory. Rather than being a “sage on stage,” we really let our students’ ideas guide the learning. That’s why Process Consulting spoke so much to me. The learner – whether a student or a client – is the one with the ideas, and it’s my role as the educator or facilitator to walk alongside and help them find their answers, using my insights and knowledge to guide that path. Process Consulting also connects to speculative methods, which is about moving forward with a focus on intrinsically motivated progress instead of a scripted end result. Process Consulting meshes well with that because you are helping clients articulate where they want to go and then walking with them, maybe not knowing whether you’ll go right or left in a given moment, but asking the right questions in order to keep moving.
Kelly: In addition to Process Consulting’s natural intersection with my professional experience, my own health journey has informed so much of my desire to do this work. I was born with a rare and often invisible disorder that affects my joints. It didn’t really keep me from general life, but was always recognized as something not quite right even though none of the countless doctors I saw in my adolescence could diagnose it. When it was finally identified well into my adulthood, having a name for it was so empowering and has provided me with a community of others with the same disorder. This experience has informed how I am in the world and propelled me into a career of creating spaces to walk WITH individuals and organizations rather than doing TO or entering into relationships with already prescribed outcomes.
Renoulte: I work with a fair number of students one-on-one to reach their educational goals in my role as a higher education administrator. I have learned over the years, and I use this concept with my teenagers, that execution is always better when it’s their idea. If it’s my idea, not so much! It’s about having a posture of listening, gaining understanding of what they’re saying before offering suggestions for consideration, and giving them the opportunity to think things through for themselves. The Process Consulting practices make me a better consultant, coach, and administrator. Recently, I have been attracting entrepreneur accelerator programs for underrepresented populations who want to secure my consulting services. Our partnership is based on creating an impactful educational experience for their students. I am blessed to be able to marry my passion for education and entrepreneurship to help institutions provide a better experience for their underrepresented participants. It is exciting and rewarding to be a part of the life changing opportunities that are created for the students who enroll in their programs.
Focusing in on PCT 101: what were your top takeaways from the course? What did you find most valuable?
Trudi: The most valuable thing for me was just having the space to learn. A lot of PCT 101 took me into the very unfamiliar territory of marketing and sales – teachers don’t have to worry about concepts like that – and that was so important for me because I could make my little mistakes and clear up my assumptions in a safe space. Mark was so patient and so thorough in teaching the information, and that was big for me. I can’t yet say I’m fully comfortable about going into the ask, in particular. I’m about to publish a book, and I have a fear of jumping into that arena of sales. I’m so glad I’m able to go back and look at the resources from PCT 101. I could use an extra shot of bravery, but at least I have a guide! And I have Mark’s voice in my head saying, “You’re not selling anything. You’re offering something that helps people.” It helps when I look at it like that.
Kelly: At one point during the PCT 101 course, I said to Mark that Process Consulting feels like an extension of my very way of being in the world. Curiosity, presence, questions, walking with, listening, helping, learning. It has been and continues to be my life’s work to create spaces for individuals and organizations to recognize missteps, learn from them, integrate that learning and confidently move forward into a better future. Finding out that the name for that is Process Consulting was so affirming.
Renoulte: PCT 101 helped fill some vital gaps for me. For instance, it provided effective strategies to identify future clients by developing and cultivating relationships, creating a partnership rather than gaining a customer, where both the clients' and my own expertise are used to create lasting and impactful solutions. The concepts taught in PCT 101 represent how I intuitively like to do business and it gave me a practical framework and process to demonstrate that in a meaningful way to my clients.
The class gives you a systematic approach to think about your business, brand creation, and your services so you can be consistent in your marketing. Moreover, Mark helped me to think through the value that I would bring and to establish pricing structures based on the type of interaction with my clients, e.g., compensation for remote strategy conversation vs an in-person engagement vs a full-scale project. Another strategy I learned was to identify what area I could establish myself as a content leader and how to generate interest among those who live in that “universe”. Also, I was provided with a set of activities that would allow me to consistently have clients in my pipeline, so when one partnership was ending another would begin.
Anything else you want to make sure to say to our community, or to people just starting their Process Consulting journey in particular?
Trudi: Find a good mentor. I may have the necessary experience in education, and a background in corporate America and systems development, but having a strong mentor to run things by is invaluable. Surround yourself with a community of people who can help you grow, and who you can share your knowledge with too! Also, the types of things that I learned in PCT 101 about building sales, structuring a contract, they were foreign to me. I couldn’t have thought my way through those technical pieces, so having them presented to me was so helpful. So take courses that build your consulting knowledge base! Identify the gaps you need filled in order to be successful, and find the resources and people that fill them. I hate to sound like I’m making a plug, but join the Society for Process Consulting, for example! It’s a great community with great resources.
Kelly: I, myself, am at the beginning of this journey, so I’m not sure I have any recommendations aside from this: find a community to support you. I can’t imagine having to navigate this all on my own.
Renoulte: If they have any questions about the investment they need to make to take PCT 101, I’d just tell them that it’s worth the time and the money. They’ll learn so much. During the course I was engaging with clients the next day, applying what I’d just learned from the class, and I was getting results right away. Essentially I got the money I invested back already.
Also, I’d tell them to really trust the process. Process Consulting is about removing the power differential in relationships. The client and the consultant are both working towards the same goal and getting mutual benefits from each other’s expertise. That relationship helps you accomplish a common goal. I hope PCT 101 participants and new process consultants in general can learn how much more meaningful and productive their relationships can be through walking along that process.