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The Facilitation Partnership 156

How can an external consultant ever be seen as the constant?

May 27, 2024 Posted by: Ben

The power of facilitation and its stability in an ever changing landscape.

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By Ben Robinson

As ‘external’ facilitators, one of the joys in our world is connecting with the same group of people over a lengthy period of time and not just supporting a one-off meeting.

(For the purposes of this short article I’m going to use the word 'external' to describe the services we offer as neutral facilitators)

From a personal perspective, I do enjoy a strong client connection which grows over months and years of working together. Relationships strengthen, familiarity grows, and our facilitation supports the work delivered to a more efficient, successful, robust conclusion. Clearly we never truly feel truly part of the group - and rightly so - we should always keep our neutrality.

However, I was working with one of our clients this week who I’ve partnered with over the last year, amongst other topics we were discussing future work. Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate his business, but I also believe it’s important to be transparent with clients and act as a thinking partner. With this in mind I suggested that he might not need TFP for each of the quarterly meetings we were discussing as I imagined his team could effectively takeover as we make a quiet withdrawal.

The client turned to me and said something which changed my perception of being an ‘external’, as I’d never heard it before. I’m paraphrasing, but this is effectively what was shared…

Listen Ben, you might not appreciate this, but as an external consultant who only comes into my team for this quarterly meeting, you are the person providing stability and continuity for this complex network of business partners”.

He then continued to say:

“Over the coming months, I've got one vacancy, I’m helping Ted get his next role, I imagine Eve will be promoted, there will be other churn in the team too, but not you. You will soon be the only person who will have been there from the beginning, providing that constant cultural steer for how this group understand the legacy and history, perform in the moment and behave moving forward”.

As an ‘external’ who partners with multiple teams it was fascinating to hear this honesty from my client, but I also felt a shift in my own mind-set. 

I visualised a lighthouse…‘external’ support providing a consistent, constant navigational support in an otherwise shifting, changing landscape.

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