Would you consider yourself an impact-focused consultant? Most of the consultants I speak with on a weekly basis claim to be. Meaning, they aren’t just about the event in the room, they’re focused on making a true difference for the people that are in the session.
If that describes you, fantastic. This is the future of this industry. It’s what clients are buying more and more – they’re buying impact. They don’t just want folks who are going to show up and inspire and entertain but who are also going to make a lasting impact on their participants. (Which just feels better as a facilitator, too, doesn’t it? You’re not an “edutainer”. You’re here to create impact.)
However, when I ask these consultants how they structure their sessions I get a different picture. As an extreme example, if they have a 90-minute session they’ll put 85 minutes of it toward content and the last 5 minutes towards discussing the one thing participants will apply – and that’s a wrap. Everyone completes their obligatory smile sheets and leaves the room. On to the next thing.
How is that driving lasting change?
“I don’t do one and done’s…I do 30-day engagements”
We work with a consultant named Jonathan. He came up with this phrase a couple of years ago and he said, “I don’t do one and done’s. I don’t do one day sessions anymore. I do 30-day engagements”. For some, this might be a nice thought but not something that is truly put into practice. Jonathan, however, means it. And every client he works with knows it.
Jonathan is still doing the half or full-day session with his participants as his live intervention. However, the “normal” session isn’t the entirety of the offering, it’s simply the first step.
In that session, Jonathan deliberately weaves in the accountability and commitment to enable 30 days of application following the session.
He uses a very specific playbook, whereby he frames the application focus at 3 specific points in his session: at the beginning, at the halfway point, and just before the end.
Here’s how it looks in practice:
- Beginning: At the beginning of the session Jonathan will explain to participants that they’re going to unlocking new learning; much of which is likely to inspire action. But that it will all be for nothing, if the learning is not actually put into practice. He lets them know that – at the end of the session – he’s going to challenge them to identify the one thing that they’ll want to put into practice in the weeks to come. He informs them that he will equip them with the tools and support to make that a reality.
There are two things to draw your attention to that Jonathan does well in this portion of his session. First, he tells participants right at the start that there will not be any impact if the change they desire isn’t put into practice. Second, he reminds session participants that this is an autonomous choice. They need to select something that matters to them from the content. There’s a good body of scientific research that shows if they don’t really care about the one thing they want to work on, no amount of external motivation will keep them on track with the application of learning. It needs to land for them, personally.
- Middle: Halfway through the session Jonathan will take a moment to pause and ask participants for a reflection. He refers back to his call to action at the beginning of the session and asks participants; “At this point in the session what is one thing that stands out most for you? Something that – if you were to practice regularly, would have a positive impact on your work or life?” He gives them 3-5 minutes to think about it, write it down, and share it with someone at their table.
This check-in not only cements the learning to that point, but also reminds participants they will be encouraged to action something around the learning by the end. It helps them to keep this top of mind as they continue their learning and think about what will have the most impact for them.
- End: Jonathan takes the last 20 minutes of the session time to focus on application. It’s during this time he invites participants to revisit the one thing they had written down earlier and, if it still applies, begin to create a plan around implementing change to support it. He then proceeds to share the proven systems and support they can use to realize this change in their life.
Time and Attention on Application
I hear what’s happening in your head right now.
“20 minutes? Are you kidding me? I can barely get through all my content as it is! The client is pushing for more and more in less time, and I’m already borrowing time from discussion in the room!”
There’s a mindset shift required here, to be sure.
Ultimately, it comes back to our question at the top, “Are you an impact-focused consultant? Or are you here for entertainment?”
If you’re focused on impact, you know that impact only happens when participants put learning into action.
And participants only put their learning into action if they have time to find their own personal “why” and have the time (and tools) to properly frame their commitment and think through the practical realities of changing behaviors back in the flow of work.
The attention and time spent on application is just as important as the content of the session
How much time is the right amount of time?
From the 1000+ session analysis we recently conducted, there’s a “sweet spot” between Content and Context.
Content: The new information you’re providing to participants.
Context: The questions you ask and time you provide for them to determine relevance.
At a minimum: If you are running a 90-minute session, the last 20 minutes or so should be spent on a discussion around the application of content covered.
Which means, you’ll almost definitely need to make adjustments to your existing content. As you explore what that might look like. I challenge you to cut instead of squeeze.
Instead of trying to squeeze all of your content plus time for reflection and application, cut out something in favor of adding this important application piece.
When building out your session, it can be helpful to identify what is the one thing, that if applied, would be most impactful for participants? Start with that kernel and add layers to it. That way you ensure the most important pieces are covered while still allowing for reflection and application.
If it helps, we created a worksheet and micro-training course to help you adapt your content to this format quickly. Access it here, for free.
Supporting Day 1 Through Day 30
By implementing these three pieces into your sessions you are moving away from offering those “one and done’s” to true 30 day engagements.
You’re giving participants a system by which they can reflect on their commitment and have check-ins with an accountability partner or a group.
And then what?
The true majesty in focusing on 30-day engagements vs one-and-done’s is that it provides you an obvious and easy way to stay connected to your client for a longer period of time.
Are you supporting your learners during those 30 days? Are you capturing insights around what they’re applying, where they’re getting stuck, and the impact their efforts are having?
You should be.
What would it look like if you could call up your sponsor 21 days later and say “Hey – I have some insight for you on your learners and how their change efforts are going. Would you like to see it?”
If there was an easier way to continue the conversation around how you might help the organization achieve their development goals, I’d love to see it.
If you are positioning yourself as an impact-focused consultant, ask yourself, “what am I doing to support that claim?”
“What am I doing from a structural standpoint to demonstrate I am focused on impact?
“Am I giving my participants the tools to create that impact?”
Looking for a proven playbook to extend your client engagements?
Actionable is on a mission to help boutique consultancies scale their business by giving them the tools to prove and amplify their impact.
If you’re serious about focusing on impact, we’d love to show you how we can help. Book a time to talk with us.
We can’t wait to meet you.