|Update: Here’s what happened!
June 6, 2019 – Thanks to those of you who weighed in on social media and offered thoughts based on your own experience to this post.
I wanted to make sure I delivered an update to close the loop and share a pretty interesting lesson learned – one I wasn’t expecting from this situation.
Normally, in my work, if a group is searching for a way forward, I would recommend some sort of consensus-based solution which sometimes feels like a compromise. In this case, as I write below in my original post, my own advice probably would have been to get both people to try and find common ground and act in good faith as they both moved more closely toward it.
In fact, in this scenario neither I nor my fellow consultant had to really give anything up or change the way we do things.
Instead, we just worked hard to keep our sections separate and define our scope and goals for the audience. I think the saving grace really was that we had discussed it beforehand and realized that the value, outcome and skills we were offering to the client were different.
So, we told them that! The consultant explained she was there to review and aggregate data, draw out insights and offer advice from her lens of experience. I explained that I was there to help the group explore the content, discern patterns, generate insight and draw their own conclusions.
Together they determined their next steps.
The consultant and I kept our sections separate and never interfered or interjected during each other’s activity – knowing it could confuse the crowd if we did.
We both had plenty of time to work with the group, and the client’s support, to let our skills shine. And, it turned out to be a great pair of workshops – for all involved.
Overall, the client was happy we were able to accomplish separately for her what she needed us to do.
What would you have done in this situation? Feel free to tell me in the comments below.
Behind the scenes: A facilitator’s dilemma
I have written recently on a topic that I have plenty of experience with. Infighting, or a sense of competition between teams in the workplace, and how either a facilitator, or a group leader, can work to resolve it.
But here’s the thing. Even though I’ve got lots of helpful answers for those facing this morale-dampening corporate squabbling, these types of situations can be pretty stubborn to solve.
And even though I like to think I’m pretty good at what I do, I don’t always have all the answers.
When it comes to opposing positions, things aren’t always black and white. And even professional consensus-builders like me don’t get a pass.
Here’s a recent example that has led me to follow all my own advice – and hey, I’ll admit, it’s tough work with no easy answer. Here’s the scenario:
I was recently paired with a professional consultant to tackle a project for a valued client.
Because of the very different nature of what we both do, we almost immediately had a clash of approaches.
It makes sense: a consultant is hired to bring the answer to the table.
Meanwhile, a facilitator’s job is to bring the answer out from the group of participants.
A consultant formulates opinions and shares their work, a facilitator discerns the opinions of the group.
A consultant provides content, the facilitator provides process. A consultant is hired for what they know, a facilitator is hired to help the group bring forward what they know.
So, she and I continue to go back and forth on how we want to run our joint session. Her job is to offer her insights and gain the approval of the group and mine is to discover what the group thinks and enable them to agree with each other.
Honestly, I am not entirely sure how we will resolve our distinct approaches. And please stay tuned to hear how it ended up.
But I will tell you, in the meantime, it has reminded me that when you’re coming at a problem or opportunity from different mindsets, even if both have some willingness to compromise, the final outcome may not look like what you wanted or hoped it would be going in.