Let’s talk about some common mistakes that a facilitator makes when dealing with clients.

Mistake 1: When the client makes their first phone call, I need to introduce myself and my achievements in detail to impress them.

Don’t waste the client’s time discussing yourself. Instead, use the precious time you have with a client to ask questions. Many clients don’t have many opportunities to discuss their challenges with someone who can offer an objective view. I attracted a client with questions one time. He extended the meeting from one hour to two and a half hours. He just loved those questions!

Mistake 2: The client knows what process they need.

The client knows their business, their people, even their pain points. They may not know what process they need to fix the situation. As Einstein famously said, “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” That’s where you come in as a facilitator.

I was once approached by a client about facilitating a vision workshop. After some conversation, it became clear that there was a compelling vision already in place, but the team was not aligned on how to achieve it. I worked with the team through a facilitated conversation to deepen understanding of the vision, adjust alignment, and tweak their strategy to achieve it.

Mistake 3: The client’s pre-planned schedule cannot be changed.

Clients hold many assumptions about the time required to complete projects. In my experience, time to completion is only one variable, and often not the most important. One of my clients wanted a completely new 3 year strategy, and was willing to allocate a single day to complete the work! They hit a wall at the first step. The assembled strategy team barely knew each other and low levels of trust across different functional teams led to a cantankerous one day session that produced little in the way of strategy. Coming into the process at this point, I was able to design several sessions that took into account the needs of the team to bond and develop relationships, and at the same time, they produced the new strategy. The results were a better strategy and a team that was committed to achieving it.

Mistake 4: The facilitation work starts only when the workshop starts.

The facilitation work begins when the facilitator starts discussing the problem and designing the process with the client. Even if there is only one person involved, experienced facilitators invest time and energy, understand the client needs, design a process, meet those needs, and even follow up after the facilitation is complete.

Final thoughts…

For many facilitators, the most difficult thing to sell is their professionalism. Since we are good at asking questions, why not use questions to establish and deepen our relationship with the client from the first phone call? Since we are process experts, why not use the process to involve clients in the entire process of problem exploration and events design?

Our Facilitative Client Collaboration (in person or live online) course will teach you how to build a good relationship with clients. It will meet all your expectations and help you turn your clients into partners!

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