Adopt and adapt professional support roles

in Agile, Business Analysis, Business Analysis, Business Analysis, Consulting, Digital Transformation, Human Resources, Management, Project Management, Project Management

This is the concluding article in our enlightening series on the three pillars of change support: facilitation, coaching and consulting. Throughout this series, we’ve explored each of these roles independently, examining their unique functions, methodologies and the significant impacts they can have on organizational success. From the nuanced approach of facilitation, which focuses on guiding without directing, to the empowering practices of coaching and the strategic interventions of consulting, we discovered the distinct yet complementary nature of each discipline.

This article can be enjoyed on its own, but for a more complete understanding, the first part on facilitation is available here : The three pillars of support: Facilitation, Consulting and Coaching.

Our attention turns to a skill that links all these roles: the ability to adapt the right posture to situational needs. In the dynamic landscapes of companies and projects, the lines between facilitation, coaching and consulting can often become blurred. A leader may find himself having to change roles fluidly within a single session or project phase to respond effectively to evolving challenges.

We’ll explore practical strategies for adapting in the moment, and discuss how to manage the internal conflicts that arise when professional instincts-such as the desire to solve a problem directly-must be tempered in favor of facilitating group processes or empowering, enabling and enabling team actions through coaching.

Changing postures

It’s essential to start each mission in the posture specifically requested by the customer. If I’m hired for coaching, that’s the hat I have to wear initially. However, the reality of an organization’s needs can often differ from the client’s initial perception. Not infrequently, in practice, the client is not entirely clear about what the organization really needs, putting us in a position where adaptability becomes crucial.

The ability to switch from one role to another is therefore an inherent skill in supporting change. Active listening is essential to pick up on verbal and non-verbal cues that may signal a need to change posture. This attention allows us to grasp subtleties and unspoken points, indicating whether the group would benefit from a change of approach.

The use of strategic questions also helps to clarify the group’s expectations and needs. This allows me to determine whether I should keep up the momentum or adjust the approach to better serve the group. Having a flexible action plan, ready to adapt to changes in direction during the session, is also crucial. This preparation allows me to navigate more easily between roles without losing sight of the session’s objectives.

Encouraging continuous feedback from participants and customers offers instant insights into the effectiveness of the chosen approach and any adjustments that need to be made. This open dialogue encourages the real-time adaptation needed to respond effectively and appropriately to group dynamics.

It is also important to maintain constant self-awareness and self-evaluation. Acknowledging my own reactions and emotions can be the signal that a change in posture could be beneficial, not only for me but also for the whole group.

This adaptability not only enables us to respond more precisely to customer needs, but also fosters a more responsive and engaged environment, essential for navigating the complex and dynamic challenges of the modern business world.

Techniques for changing posture on the fly

The ability to change posture with agility during meetings or sessions is key. This requires an understanding of the dynamics at play, so as to be able to intervene effectively and appropriately.

To this end, I develop and maintain a series of techniques that facilitate these fluid transitions between the roles of facilitator, coach and consultant, depending on what the situation requires.

Developing acute sensory acuity

My first technique is to develop acute sensory acuity. This means paying close attention to small signals within the group, whether verbal or non-verbal. For example, a change in participants’ body language, such as crossed arms, averted glances or a drop-out in participation, may indicate unease that could benefit from a more facilitative approach to opening up dialogue.

Integrating flexibility into working methods

I design my working methods to be flexible. I go into each session with a structured plan, but I’m always ready to modify it according to the group’s reactions. This flexibility allows me to adopt a more consultative stance if I perceive that the group is stuck and needs more specific directions to move forward.

Using verbal transitions

Using verbal transitions is another key strategy. When I feel that a change of posture is needed, I often introduce a transition by asking an open-ended question to reassess the group’s needs. For example, I might ask: “How do you think we could approach this challenge differently?” This question may open the door to more directive coaching or specific advice, depending on the group’s response.

Signpost illustraton

The importance of flexibility and responsiveness

Flexibility and responsiveness are Essential Knowledge qualities in these roles. Not only do they ensure that sessions are productive and that objectives are met, they also help to create an environment where participants feel listened to and valued. This attentive approach builds trust and encourages more open and dynamic collaboration.

In situations where group dynamics are complex and expectations are high, being able to adapt quickly and effectively can make the difference between a session that stagnates and one that produces tangible, satisfying results. The key is to always remain attentive, ready to adjust your approach as the situation evolves, ensuring that every intervention is as relevant and impactful as possible.

Navigating internal conflict: consulting vs. facilitation

In my practice, one of the most complex challenges to manage is the internal conflict between the desire to provide direct solutions, typical of consulting, and the need to guide the process without direct influence, characteristic of facilitation. This tension can arise in situations where, as a consultant, I can clearly see a solution, but my role as facilitator forces me to hold back to allow the group to find its own way.

Understanding the tension between roles

This tension between consulting and facilitation is not just a question of choice, it’s also a question of long-term efficiency. In facilitation, the aim is to encourage group autonomy and commitment, which can be undermined if I start imposing my own ideas or solutions. As a consultant, however, my role is to provide expertise and advice, often in the form of direct solutions. Balancing these two aspects can be tricky, and requires constant reflection on the best role to adopt depending on the context.

Managing impatience

My impatience is the aspect of internal conflict that I often have to deal with. It can be frustrating to see a clear route to a solution while having to wait for the group to reach a similar conclusion on their own. To deal with this impatience, I’ve developed several techniques

  • Taking a moment to breathe deeply and refocus can help manage impatience. This allows me to reassess the situation with a fresh perspective and decide whether or not intervening is in the best interest of the group.
  • Reminding myself of the session’s objectives and the importance of group autonomy helps curb the desire to intervene prematurely.
  • Rather than proposing solutions, asking questions that guide the group to think more deeply can satisfy my need to guide the discussion without impinging on the group’s autonomous learning process.

After each session, I take time to reflect on the dynamics that have taken place. This helps me to identify when I might have influenced the group too much or too little, and to adjust my strategies for future sessions.

Navigating this internal conflict is not just a question of choosing between being a consultant or a facilitator, but rather of knowing when and how to adopt the right role to maximize both group learning and intervention effectiveness. This ability to juggle the two postures is what, in my opinion, defines a truly competent facilitator and consultant.

From facilitation to direct intervention

During a critical solution evaluation session at a software company, I was initially hired as a facilitator to help structure and moderate the discussion. Very soon the discussion began to go off the rails: exchanges became increasingly animated, with participants arguing in circular fashion without reaching a consensus or practical conclusions.

Faced with this dynamic, I realized that my moderation alone would not be enough to effectively channel the debates towards a constructive outcome. At that point, I decided to move from the role of facilitator to that of consultant, assuming a more directive and interventionist stance.

To regain control and structure the conversation, I first interrupted the proceedings to refocus everyone’s attention. I then introduced a systematic method for evaluating the solution, introducing an analytical framework that I had already used in other situations. This framework included a list of clear, objective evaluation criteria, enabling the advantages and disadvantages of the solution to be measured in a structured way.

This change of stance calmed the initial storm and helped focus the discussion on the objective, with tangible results. By taking on a consultancy role, I was able to contribute directly to the session’s conclusions, factualizing decision-making based on structured analysis rather than emotional, disorganized exchanges.

My passion

In my work as a facilitator, coach and consultant, every day is a new adventure, full of challenges and discoveries. This multi-dimensional role constantly demands energy from me at all levels: the Course details (the content of what we deal with), the how (the methods and approaches used) and the meta (the reflection on how the interactions unfold). Despite the complexity and energetic demands of these roles, I find deep satisfaction in this diversity.

For me, operating at the intersection of these different facets of professional support is not just a job; it’s the best place to be. The variety of situations, from neutral facilitation to direct intervention as a consultant, offers a range of enriching experiences that make each project unique and captivating. Every session is an opportunity to learn, even when the subject of the project is not really interesting.

This dynamic environment ensures that there’s never a dull moment. There’s always a new problem to solve, a new group dynamic to navigate, and a new opportunity to make a difference to the way organizations operate and evolve. The satisfaction of seeing a group reach a consensus, a team adopt a new process, or a company transform a strategy into concrete action, is what motivates me to continue and to commit myself fully to each mission.

Ultimately, the role of facilitator, coach and consultant allows me not only to contribute to the development of others, but also to continue to grow personally and professionally. It’s a journey that demands a lot, but offers even more in return – in terms of satisfaction, learning and impact. For all these reasons, I couldn’t imagine a better place to pursue my passions. Just like Steve Jobs, who said: “I want to put a ‘ding’ in the universe”…

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