The Journey and Being The Tour Guide

June 11, 2018

As I say frequently and fully believe, when I conduct workshops I learn as much from my clients as they do from me.

One of the analogies I will give, when discussing my role in the workshop, is I am the tour guide.  I believe, when you are trying to influence others (and this would include external and internal selling), your role is to be the tour guide.  The minute we shift to strictly our own agenda and try to “convince” others things go sideways.

I personally got a moment of clarity around my role as a tour guide with respect to helping companies understand how to create an entrepreneurial workplace.  I try and share things in a way that can become clear for my audience.  But first it has to be clear for me.

I just completed a series of six workshops for a client on my Leadership philosophy and process of Creating an Entrepreneurial Workplace™.  The goal is to create ownership and empowerment throughout the organization.  To recognize that Change Management needs to occur through those closest to the situation because they have both the greatest understanding and are the ones most impacted.

For this client, we conducted half day workshops for two different groups.  We’d have a morning session and an afternoon session.  My key contact and sponsor graciously attended all of the workshops.  What he got a chance to see and experience was how different the morning and afternoon sessions were.   Also through his sponsorship and support, we were able to brainstorm to discuss how to maximize the experience for both teams.

My agenda for the morning and afternoon sessions were essentially identical.  This was because we had the same desired outcome.  But because of the needs of the attendees, the agenda may initially be the same but the journey may be completely different to get to that desired outcome.

That’s why my role is the tour guide.  I need to figure out what the tour will look and feel like to get them to that desired end state.  Because of that, even though the agendas at least started as identical, the morning and afternoon sessions varied dramatically.

The moment of clarity for me came when I realized it wasn’t every workshop that was different.  Four of the six were quite different.  There were two that were close to the same for both sessions; the first workshop and the last.

That’s because the tour started in the same place.  We also knew we wanted to end in the same place.  Because I conduct workshops and not trainings, these half days aren’t me clicking through a bunch of slides telling them what they need to do.  They are highly interactive conversations with the participants.

That helped me shape the tour.  I could see the needs of the two groups were different.  To get to that desired end state, they needed to take divergent paths.  But, the desired outcome was the same.  So those paths converged again as we got to the last workshop.

This pattern had never really hit me before.  And it made me think about how any journey of influence could have a very similar pattern.  What you thought the path would look like may be completely different than the path you take to achieve that desired outcome once you fully understand the needs of the other.

There is another key learning from me that I profess but I don’t do often enough.  We are so busy doing we don’t take times to just be and think.  On the plane ride home from this engagement, I had a lot of time to think.  And this moment of clarity hit me.

I think this is an important concept to not only understand but embrace.  We get locked into our agenda, trying to convince people and not asking questions and engaging to determine what the tour needs to me.  I believe in most cases, a mutually agreed upon desired outcome can be discovered and agreed to up front.  The path to get to that desired outcome can easily and frequently differ.

Your ability to be flexible, to go with your audience on the tour they need to go on, to really think about what that journey needs to be and to act as the tour guide helps you get to that desired outcome.

I believe, while we could have had good results if I just took both groups down the same path, their experience was enhanced because we went down the paths they needed to go on.

And because we had a mutually agreed upon outcome, and these groups were highly engaged and committed to achieving that outcome, I think we had fun on our journey.  Plus, when we always go down the same road, it gets a little boring.  Part of the fun for me is I don’t know where the journey is going to lead.  And when I get to work with engaged attendees as they were, it’s fun, inspirational, motivational and even heartwarming as well as an honor to go on that journey with them.