Over the past few years I’ve been developing an alternate approach to facilitation, which I call “shadow facilitation.”
Shadow facilitation allows my clients to benefit from the expertise of a professional facilitator even when their budget cannot cover a fully facilitated retreat, strategic visioning or team-building session.
Here’s how it works: I listen to and work with the manager or director and a small planning team to plan the design and flow of their retreat or meeting in a way that aligns with their objectives and internal skills and styles. We verify their objectives and I coach them in facilitation methods, drawing from the wide range of process ideas, activities and tools I have to share. Then they facilitate the day themselves.
A federal government client who used my shadow facilitation services found this approach was not only cost-effective, but an excellent way of building the internal capacity of her team.
“I work in an organization where contracting for coaching, team building or facilitation services is difficult,” she wrote. “Even when I have money and a good business case, the maximum amount I can personally authorize is $5K for a sole-source contract. When it comes to coaching and facilitation, I always want a sole-source contract… [but] $5K doesn’t buy a lot of time from a highly skilled and experienced coach/facilitator.”
Understanding the depth of change desired by this client, we worked out a strategy of interventions to get at the desired outcomes. I worked with the mini planning team, helping them decide on the exercises and flow based on their own skills and interests that aligned with the team’s needs. I offered one-on-one coaching to a few team members, while staying within the budgetary constraints of my client. I was available to provide ideas and coaching over an extended period of time as the team tried out new behaviours.
“This approach also helped us build up skills in our team, making us more capable of self facilitating,” my client told me. “We took more responsibility for our own group dynamics than is typically the case when an outsider facilitates. The results we achieved were very satisfying to the team and have made a lasting positive change.”
Often a conversation with an outside resource can help reveal new perspectives and possibilities we don’t see when only looking from the organization’s viewpoint. As you plan ahead for what support you and your team or organization might need, I encourage you to talk to me about shadow facilitation as an option.