The following sample scenarios and interventions are based on a four dimensional cyclical model: (1) open contracting; (2) raising awareness; (3) facilitating movement; (4) enabling closure. They can provide a useful basis for role-playing and practice for L&D practitioners acting in internal consulting mode.
Phase 1: open contracting
Group Leader. “I’ve prepared a list of training courses that I’d like you to provide in the coming year.”
Team Leader. “I’d like you to come and talk to my team about how to get better at sharing learning between us.”
Team Leader. “I find myself too busy to prepare and follow up learning plans with every member of my team. Perhaps you could do this for me?”
Team Leader. “I’m not sure that you and I need to meet together, do we..?”
Team Member. “I’m not getting on at all well with my team leader. What can you do to help me?”
Always Be Contracting. Consulting is a process of on-going negotiation. Sample interventions (not in any specific order):
Tell me more about what you’d like from this meeting.
What would you most like to gain from this time together?
What would be the best outcome of this meeting for you?
How would it be if we were to start by…
Might it be helpful as a starting point if you tell me something about…
I think I’d find it useful if you could say a little more about…
I find it sometimes helps if…
What are your greatest concerns about this time together?
What are you fearful might happen or not happen as a result of this meeting?
How would you like to use this time so that it will be most helpful for you?
How shall we do this?
What role(s) would you like me, you (and others?) to play during this meeting?
What I can offer is…
What sort of basic ground rules would make this time work best for you?
So what we’ve agreed is that you will… and I will…
I’m not sure that I fully understood that part. Would you mind if we spent some time… before moving on?
We originally agreed that we’d use this time to look at X, Y & Z. It sounds like there’s more to X than we had imagined. Would you like to stay with X for the time being or move on to Y & Z as planned?
Time is moving on and I’m conscious that we only have 10 minutes left for this meeting. How would you like to use this last 10 minutes together?
Do you think it would be helpful if we were to meet again?
Before we meet again, I think it would be helpful if you could… and I could… How does that sound to you?
Phase 2: raising awareness
Group Leader. “To be honest, all this emphasis on learning plans etc. simply places added pressure on my team leaders.”
Team Leader. “I can’t think of any training needs for my team. I think we’re OK really.”
Team Leader. “There are so many negative people in my team that there’s no point in looking at learning and development issues at this point in time.”
Team Leader. “I just can’t imagine another way of doing this. It’s always worked for me until now.”
Team Member. “I think I need assertiveness training.”
You are concerned with raising your own awareness as well as that of the client. Listen to your own ‘internal consultant’. Notice your feelings as well as your thoughts. Sample interventions (not in any specific order):
That sounds really exciting. Tell me what most excites you about it.
Is this the first time you’ve experienced X with the team?
How long has the situation been going on for?
Who seems to be most affected by X?
In what ways are the different parties you’ve described being impacted?
Who stands to gain/lose most from this proposal?
When you’ve faced similar challenges in the past, how have you dealt with them?
I noticed that when you described X you sounded really excited but when you moved onto Y you suddenly sounded very flat. Tell me more about how X differs from Y for you.
It sounds like you’ve made excellent progress there. What is it about how you’ve handled the situation that’s brought about such positive results?
I wonder if there could be a connection between… and…?
When you described that situation just now, I suddenly felt really anxious inside. Are you feeling anxious too?
I think if I were in that situation, I would feel very annoyed about it. How does it make you feel?
What would your dream solution be?
If you were to draw the relationships you’ve described on a map, what would the map look like?
I find myself feeling quite overwhelmed by what you’re presenting. Do you think others might feel a little overwhelmed too?
If I were to ask X, Y and Z about the same idea, what do you think they would say?
Who else would need to be behind this initiative for it to work well over an extended time period?
Are there others that you need to consult with before moving ahead?
What other ways might there be of achieving the same, or a similar, result?
What actually happened when you..?
I’m feeling quite confused about all this. Let’s look for where the confusion might lie in what you’ve just described to me.
What else may be happening around that time that’s likely to have an impact on what you’re planning?
What’s the most important thing to preserve in this situation (i.e. what is non-negotiable)?
Will the benefits really outweigh the costs?
Phase 3: facilitating movement
Group Leader. “The benefits of this new arrangement are so obvious that I’m sure staff will have no objections.”
Team Leader. “I’m trying to balance so many pressures and priorities at the moment that I’m not sure how to fit all this learning stuff into my calendar too.”
Team Leader. “I’m a bit stuck to see where we might go from here.”
Team Leader. “I think what we’ve discussed makes very good sense in principle, but I’m a bit nervous about how I might introduce it all in practice.”
Team Member. “I’m clearer now about what I need to work on. What would you advise as the next steps forward for me?”
You want to help the client move forward at his or her own pace and in his or her own desired direction – insofar as that direction coincides with your own ethics..? Sample interventions (not in any specific order):
Do you feel ready to start some sort of action-planning to help you move forward from here?
How would you like to go about doing this?
Describe where you’d like to be one year from now and let’s see what steps would be needed to take you to that place, bearing in mind where you are now.
Let’s brainstorm possible ways forward, without being too concerned about practicalities at this stage.
What would your preferred option(s) be?
What else would need to happen to make your preferred option possible?
Where you are sitting at the moment represents where you are now. Walk to a place in the room that represents where you’d like to be and tell me how things look and feel from there. As you look back, what do you notice about where you are now that needs to change most?
Who else would need to be involved in decision-making?
How about we use post-it notes to see if we can arrange the different action points we’ve discussed into some sort of time sequence.
I’ve noticed that some people find it helpful to… Would you like to have a go and see where it takes us?
What’s already working well that you could build on?
What problems do you anticipate and how will you overcome them?
What’s the worst thing that could happen?
What are the ‘critical success factors’ that need to be addressed as priorities?
What quick wins could you achieve with minimal effort that would help build confidence and momentum?
What will you do when you leave this room to put things in motion?
Would you like to explore how you might learn and evaluate progress on route?
Have you thought about what you could do practically to celebrate when you achieve each milestone?
Some people find it helpful to draw up a project plan. Is that something you’d like us to do together?
What matters most to you at this stage – tacking the immediate problem or finding some way to achieve a longer-term result?
Would you like us to role-play the situation first so that you’ve have opportunity to practice?
On balance, is leaving things as they are the best option at this point in time?
Do you need more time to reflect on this?
Would it be wise to do more research before moving forward?
Phase 4: enabling closure
Group Leader. “Thanks for your help. I think we can manage on our own now.”
Team Leader. “I think I’ll miss meeting together like this.”
Team Leader. “I’m sure you’ve influenced my thinking but I’d struggle to explain how.”
Team Leader. “Could you give me some feedback on my leadership style?”
Team Member. “Could we carry on meeting, e.g. monthly, to continue this conversation?”
Closure is the end-point of contracting. It’s an important opportunity to reflect, learn, clarify and maintain relationship. Sample interventions (not in any specific order):
Let’s use this time to reflect on where we started and where we’ve got to.
Is there any outstanding business that we need to address?
I’ve really enjoyed… and found… particularly challenging. I’ve learnt that… and think next time I will… How about you?
How would you describe what we’ve done together?
What have you noticed about how we’ve worked together?
What I’ve most valued about you is…
What I’ve learnt about myself is…
If we were to do this kind of thing again, what would you say we should do the same next time and what should we do differently?
What have I done that’s been most helpful to you in this process?
On reflection, what could I have done that would have been more helpful to you?
I think in future I would…
Would you like any feedback on how I’ve experienced working with you? If so, what kind of feedback would you find most helpful?
What next steps do you think you might take from here?