I was sitting at my desk yesterday, belting out an email.  Catching up on admin is not my favourite task in the world, but it sure felt good to have a day “back office” to do it.  My team has been flat-out busy lately so this window of time felt unusually precious.


I heard a sneeze and a sniffle, and when I glanced up I saw my colleague sitting down to eat his lunch.  “Paul, I’ve been sick for a few days, and I’m going downhill fast.  I’m worried about my workshop today.  Can you fill in for the afternoon?”.


I was really happy to hear that.  So often it is the lot of the facilitator to struggle on through a workshop whilst ill, and I know I’m guilty of it on many occasions.  Sometimes it is pure pride, sometimes the thought of all the participants who have travelled in a long way, sometimes the notion that there is no-one else to step in.  And whilst my colleague knew I was available, I know how hard it must have been to ask.


We both went back to the training room for the hand-over.  I had taken over multiple-day workshops before half-way through, but never during a single day.  My colleague was very self-effacing, I made a lame joke (‘imagine we are both wrestlers, and I’ve just hopped into the ring’.   What!?!  Oh well, it was the best I had…) and that was it.  What to do now though?


What immediately helped was the engagement of the group.  Everyone seemed really relaxed and up for the afternoon (it didn’t surprise me, because my colleague is our best facilitator IMHO).  Also, it was on time, and no content from the afternoon had been covered in the morning.  No loose ends to tie up.  So in a nanosecond, I treated this as a gift rather than a chance to fail.


I asked the group of 10 to quickly introduce themselves and share what they loved from the morning and why.  Their answers gave me a chance to respond each time with context and further questions about where the conversation had led them.  It felt important to not try to imitate my colleague’s facilitation style, but I really wanted to reinforce the points that he had made.  In a weird kind of way, it was like following my colleague’s vapour trails around the space that afternoon. 


The irony is, the workshop is about leading through change, and so resilience and personal energy management are naturally a big part of the day.  In the wrap-up, one participant noted that my colleague had employed great energy management himself.  I agree, and even from a workshop stand-point, it was sensible; the facilitator’s energy levels are mirrored by the participants.  It wasn’t selfish, it was selfless. Neither of us had any reason to apologise, so we didn’t.  It felt good to be part of a team facilitation effort to run that workshop for the day.  Or should that be tag-team?

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