Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ever Do What You Said You Wouldn't?



I was recently asked if I could facilitate a workshop intended to help align an executive team that had gone through an enormous amount of change. Almost half of the dozen, or so, team members had joined the organization within the past six months. 

I said I could facilitate the process and provided a proposal that included a team alignment workshop. 

They hired me.

Oh, the workshop happened. But, I did anything but facilitate.

You see, I had just re-engineered my content. I had a new workbook full of new stuff that I couldn't wait to share with everyone. That "stuff" included information, activities, and videos all identified, crafted, and assembled to facilitate a new process through which a team could become aligned in a way that would be meaningful for the organization and to each individual.

Then, a funny thing happened.  I started talking.

I started sharing my pearls of wisdom and the gold verbal nuggets I'd thought up in the previous weeks while I was developing this "new and improved" team alignment process. 

Apparently, I liked the sound of my voice so much...I kept on talking...and sharing...I felt so generous!

What I Planned To Not Do

My client didn't need me to talk and share so much. He needed the people on his "new" team to talk and share.

He gave me a few signals throughout the afternoon. He tactfully urged me several times to get to the part where his people could start to define the reasons why they would want to connect with each other. He wanted them to discover why they might start to develop trust so that some day they'd love working with each other enough to ask more of, and give more for, each other when they really needed to.

But, by that point, the train (a.k.a. my mouth) had gained a lot of momentum. I'd gotten far and deep enough into the minutia of most of the concepts that I was compelled to take them the rest of the way despite his polite and respectful signals. 

So, when the afternoon was almost over and we only had about a third of the time needed to start the process I had planned to facilitate I put myself in a position where I had to make a choice: Start the process at the beginning knowing it won't be finished? Or, skip a few steps and get to the heart of the process?

I chose the latter. It didn't go well. 

I tried to pull everyone straight to the climactic point in my process where they would all join hearts and hands and make up a team song, or something. Meanwhile, they struggled to build a framework on top of something they hadn't had a chance to build a foundation under. Thanks to me, they knew everything there is to know about the building materials for that foundation, but I didn't give them a chance to put their hands on them.

What I Said I Wouldn't Do

I didn't facilitate a workshop! To facilitate is to "make easier or less difficult," "to assist the progress of." I didn't do that. I didn't make it easier for my client's team members to progress in the development of connection, trust, and love. I didn't make it harder for them either...but that's not the point.

Instead, I did what I'd always said I didn't want to do if I were going to get into this kind of business: regurgitate. I puked "wisdom" all over them. Not once, not for a short period...for several hours!

How I Felt About It After

I felt like anyone who, drunk on his own wine, threw it back up on people he wants to be his friends- Disgusted and dissatisfied with myself. 

When the workshop ended, at first, I wasn't sure how well it had gone. As I was driving home after the workshop, I kept asking myself, "Are they even going to have me back?" The inquiring voice was my subconscious trying to force the question to a conscious level. Was I successful at facilitating the workshop? Did I give them a reason to continue the conversation? I just didn't know. I felt terrible as if I'd broken a promise. The truth of the matter was, I did not do what I'd said I'd do. Not completely anyway.

I'm glad I listened to that voice and heeded the subconscious signal...or else I'd still feel disgusted and dissatisfied with myself today.

What I Did About It

First, I had another workshop with another client five days later. I changed my whole approach. I followed the plan I'd envisioned but didn't prepare well enough to execute in the previous workshop. I could tell by the level of engagement, the animated conversations, the singing (OK, there wasn't any spontaneous singing...but it would have been really cool if there was!)

Second, I went back to that first client and I told him the truth about my dissatisfaction. I said, "I apologize if my learning curve compromised the value of the day in terms of your team's ability to align with its newer members. I know I could have done better. I recognize I wouldn't be able to live up to my own core values of serving, being trustworthy, supportive, seeking, creative, and courageous if I didn't reach out to communicate these thoughts with you, even if doing so is difficult."  And, yes, it was really difficult.

In the end, I thanked him for his patience and for the grace he showed during the workshop and told him I looked forward to seeing where the relationship might progress. 

What Happened Next

Well, so far, nothing. I haven't heard back from him. Not yet. Maybe never, although I am eager to see whether the "relationship might progress" from here. 

But, it's not always about the results you get. I feel better. I'm still not satisfied with the way I conducted myself during that workshop, but I can't turn back and change that. Instead, I created the possibility for the truth to become a part of the conversation and I followed a path from failure to values-driven success:

1) I felt like I'd failed and paid attention to the signals which indicated so. You see, I gave a workshop. It would be easy to call it a success.
3) I asked why it felt like I'd failed even though it appeared I'd done what I'd been hired to do. It's difficult to argue with success, you know.
4) I determined what I could do better the next time.
5) I did it better the next time.
6) I told the truth. I admitted that in that workshop I did not perform like the expert I said I was...that I did not act like the facilitator I've been for others countless times before and should have been for my client that day. 
7) I found satisfaction in my actions regardless of the results and the conviction to keep moving forward...even though it's really hard.

"Success is getting what you want. Values-driven success is getting what you want and being the person you want to be. Here's the catch, you can't get what you really want if you are not first, the person you want to be." (from Finding Success).

I may not be as self-aware as I need to be in the moment...I'm human...but I'm thankful to be willing and courageous enough to hear the voice I often want to drown out with self-served "atta boys;" the one that tells me I could have done better. Shame cannot be overcome without facing it.

Onward; full of fear and imperfection. Yet, I go.

What Did You Plan to Do and Didn't...or Not To Do and Did?

Ever not do what you'd said you'd do even though, technically, you could call it a success? What happened? What did you do about it and how did that change things for you for the better...or worse? 

I'd love to hear your story and so would everyone else, so why not share it in the comments section, below! What's the matter? Afraid we'll laugh at you? It's hard to laugh at what we see in the mirror.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tom Eakin is the author of Finding Success and the Success Engineer at BoomLife. LEARN MORE ABOUT TOM...