On the Fly vs. Script and Structure

Posted by on Jul 3, 2017 in Blog, Featured | 3 comments

On the Fly vs. Script and Structure

Recently I was asked what the primary differences in skills were required between a consultant and a trainer. I thought about it and told this story…

I was once scheduled to facilitate some team building at Pepsi. My client and I had met and had set up a two-day offsite. Unfortunately something came up and I called my client to see if we could re-schedule the session. When I asked him if we could push it back, he said, “John, if we push it back, we’ll never do it. Could you see if you can find another consultant in your firm? I trust you to find a good one.”

So, I scrambled to find someone. All of our consultants were booked for those two days. The only person who was available was a trainer from our training side of the business. He was a skilled trainer and a good person and he quickly agreed to conduct the team building at Pepsi. I gave him all of the information about the team, their goals, the planned agenda, and issues to be aware of across the team.

I talked first with my client following the team building. He was excited and pleased about the session and felt that they had made progress. He was complimentary about the facilitation and thanked me for finding a strong replacement. And then I called my training friend to hear how it had gone. To this day, I’ve always remembered his words, “ John, don’t ever ask me to do that again. I was scared to death. Your world is so different than mine. I constantly had to decide when to intervene, when to offer my input, when to change the agenda. In my world, everything is orderly. I know exactly what’s going to be going on throughout the day. I have a planned script and everyone is looking at me for structure and instructions. In your world, nothing is really planned. I had to make decisions on the fly, to think out loud, and I was always anxious about losing control or making a fool of myself.”

In that moment, I understood some of the differences between training and consulting. He was a wonderful, skilled trainer but he was out of his element conducting team building. I would have been the same way if our roles were switched and I went in to teach his workshop. I would have struggled. Very few of us are equally balanced and have both sets of skills. I enjoy the anxiety of not knowing. He enjoys the predictability of knowing. My guess is that it was a good experience for him to get out of his comfort zone. He probably learned a lot. But I’m sure that he relished getting back up in front of a class once again….in control, leader’s guide open in front of him, and in charge.


  1. I can relate to your beautiful story. like you, I cannot function in a strict prescribed structure, and would feel stressed and anxious.

  2. Interesting essay John. I feel in my ex-world as a freelance photographer I needed both skills…indeed I had to learn them.

  3. As a small-group facilitator in my church’s women’s Bible study, there is a lot of homework and reflection required. Typically, I answer and research every question, then read commentaries and think as deeply as possibly. But when I get with the group I often leave that foundation and let the Holy Spirit lead me where He will. Quite the adventure! Especially since there are often touching personal stories and hot tears.

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