Being a facilitator comes with a host of challenges. From last minute hiccups to unexpected debrief expectations, we have to be prepared for everything. And no matter how well we manage all these unpredictable obstacles, sometimes the end result is just not up to our expectations. This also rings true for many situations in life – both personally and professionally. However, the key to growing is to learn from every such experience and moving on.
Recently, we conducted a workshop for one of our clients, who happen to be an IT industry giant. A workshop that was meant to be conducted on-site, situation demanded that it be done virtually. It was a brave decision. And, I would like to applaud our team’s fast paced adaptation to the virtual demands of the learning and team engagement industry. The objective of this workshop was for the participants to have fun, and for us to enable them to step outside their comfort zone. The wheels were set in motion by our client advisory team. The usual process followed – the client received the proposal, the timeline and the flow was discussed and our team got to work. Post delivery, we felt we had done a good job, received an encouraging feed-forward from the client, and moved on to other projects we were working on.
Changing tides & unexpected results
However, when the post workshop rating arrived from the client’s end, the execution team was completely taken aback. We had received a number just under 5, which for us was simply not acceptable. What followed was an in-depth internal team discussions to figure out the kinks in the chain and hopefully shed light on the blindspots. Post our internal discussion, we decided to reach out to the client with a happy or free offer. This workshop was supposed to be one in a series of multiple workshops meant to be conducted over a period of the next four months. Our client asked us to plan the next one, which involved taking the same set of participants through a simulation. A strong debrief around teamwork was also expected.
Our client advisory team followed the protocol of pre-program connects with the client and the date was finalised. When it came to choosing the members from the execution team, ideally the thought would have been,
“let’s not get the same team tagged for this one because of the previous experience”
Yet, we went with the same team. The former lead facilitator was called to brief about the workshop, and as you would expect, had some apprehensions about leading this workshop. Cut to the present day, it’s been a couple of days since delivering the simulation-based workshop. And, we received a highly encouraging testimonial from the client. This testimonial was much needed and lifted our collective spirit. More importantly, it was an unbelievable learning journey for the facilitator – yours truly.
If I were to take you through the range of emotions experienced through the first expression, it would be similar to the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle:
Denial : “But we had a good workshop! Client said so too!”
Frustration : “Why would they say so and give us scathing feedback?!”
Overwhelmed : “Don’t think I’m cut out for this.. I don’t want to deal with this again..”
Bargaining : “Let me reach out to others for help”
Acceptance : “Let’s try giving this simulation workshop a shot”
If you noticed, post the Overwhelmed stage, it’s was an uptick for me. But did it come easy? Not at all. Here are a few things which stood out for me –
Regardless of the context, it can always be a tough position to overcome if finger pointing is the path that is followed. In the context of this workshop, we looked at the whole process thoroughly. We looked back at the first workshop ( during the process we call check-out) made sure we learnt from it, and never repeat it. This was in the sync with AAR (after action review) process the navy seals follow.
Do not judge
It would have been easy for us to blame the client. Be it miscommunication or a lack of clarity on their end, excuses are available dime a dozen. But we chose to take a pause and introspect. We took a step back and tried to look at the situation from all possible points of view. Why did they respond the way they did? There must be something we had missed. And we also felt grateful for the risk they took in giving us a second chance.
For me, it’s easy to get into a shell and not want to listen to anyone post a bad day. But, I’m glad that I fought through this approach. One of the team members called me up, and encouraged me to fight through it, and even urged me to be the facilitator for the second workshop, as well.
“What’s happened has happened, I have complete faith that you will do an awesome job here and move forward”
– he said.
A huge lesson for me for which I’ll forever be grateful.
There is this beautiful documentary style series on Netflix called, “The Playbook – A Coach’s Rules For LIfe”. It’s from the coach’s point of view of different sports. In one of the episodes of a basketball team coached by Dawn Staley, he talks about a rule called the 24 hour rule. As per this rule, Win or lose – any game, any season, any championship, choose to bask in it for 24 hours. And then, you move on.
In this case, my inner voice kept urging me to avoid the workshop. Ask for someone else to run it. But, here’s where I worked hard to need to find our balance. Regardless of the outcome of the workshop (“happy or free” or a testimonial), I reminded myself of how the only thing that I can do, is give my best. And, most importantly, like Dawn Staley says – you move on.