I’ve been umming and ahhing about writing a post like this for a while, and I’ve never been sure how to start it, until I checked into a client office earlier in the week. It’s common place for the front desk to take a photo of guests for ID purposes, and the pic above is the ID photo that was on my pass. I expect and hope the one stored on the system looks clearer (otherwise what’s the point right?) and this odd picture tipped me into writing about the facilitation and consulting parts of my job.
Put very simply, I think a key indicator of a facilitator’s best work is when they are hardly noticed. I helped to run an event recently and afterwards one of the guests, Ian, came up to me and said, ‘I loved the way you facilitated today for us, it felt like it was all about us and unlike most facilitators, you didn’t try and insert yourself into the day at all. It wasn’t about you.’ Ian’s feedback is very kind, I appreciate it very much, and as a facilitator I’m disappointed that he felt this experience we shared was not normal.
The same goes for consultancy. The art of a great consultant (and I’m not one yet – though I’m trying and striving every day to be the best I can and to improve), is largely to show genuine interest and curiosity and belief in people, and awaken these things in others too with as light a touch as you can possibly manage. I find it helpful to ask myself and people I work with questions like, ‘What’s the least I can do today to make a positive impact?’ I believe Busyness is a curse, and yet there’s no substitute for effectiveness, which takes quiet practice, determination and hard work.
From my experience in corporate life this approach is also very tricky. A typical organisational hierarchy begets a certain amount of pressure to ‘make an impact’ and often this is interpreted as how much more impactful (is that a word?) you are when compared to your peers.Without care it can end up as a bit of a slugfest, and I don’t think a battle of egos is particularly helpful. Think about the best people you work with and for, and the chances are there’s something barely visible about them too. They’re thinking about you and them and how that interaction can deliver something useful for you, for the customer, for them too.
The weirdest bit about all of this is overcoming the natural uncertainty that if you come and go, somewhat ghost like, people won’t remember you. And if they don’t remember you, how can they ask you to do other things with them, how can they recommend you? It feels counter intuitive, and for sure there is a danger of taking this philosophy too far. I gave a talk for the CIPD at one of their conferences earlier in the year and omitted to tell the audience who I am and what I do. I’ve been ribbed about it ever since, quite right too. Barely visible and invisible are two completely different things.
You might like to think about what’s the least you can do today to make a positive impact? I hope so, and I hope to see you again, barely, very soon.