How to Set & Manage ECD Workshop Expectations

By Lotty Roberts & Steve Hargreaves

Before considering how to manage expectations, it's essential to clarify why you should emphasise expectation management upfront:

As a facilitator or consultant who may use the ECD as part of your practice, there are key benefits for paying attention to and being transparent with the client on expectations – these are:

  • The opportunity for ongoing business with a leader or team is optimised if you manage client expectations well (and maybe even exceed them).
  • The leader is more likely to recommend you and provide testimonials on you and your offering, which is the best marketing you can have. Think 'Delighted', 'Connected', 'Inspired' and 'Supported clients.
  • Not setting expectations can trigger 'disappointed', 'confused', disheartened, undesired feelings is not good for your potential for ongoing engagement with that leader or client or recommending you to others (see points above).
  • The ECD is a highly versatile tool you can use in many ways. When you don't understand and manage the expectations around the deck, you will be less likely to tailor an ECD session that best meets the team's needs. This is good practice and probably bread and butter for most consultants, but it doesn't mean it's not worth emphasising.

Here are the nine main tips we discuss in this latest episode of The ECC Conversation Series:

1. Have a conversation upfront and find out as much as you can about the client - about their business context, environment, current challenges, team cultural dynamic, priorities and constraints. Go into this meeting with a set of bullet points and questions so you can get as much rich info as possible.

2. Find out and get as clear as possible on what the client hopes to achieve from the ECD session. Building on the above – be clear on what outcomes the client wants to drive. This will help you start to think about how you specifically tailor the session to their needs.

3. Identify if the clients 'WANTS' match their 'NEEDS'. The client may have some very grand expectations around what they want included in the session and how they want the session to run. 

However, it's vital that based on your discovery of their business situation and experience, you consider if what they want will achieve the outcomes they are driving towards. If it doesn't, then it's up to you to be bold and communicate this. They may ask for a workshop around leading others with the ECD, but as a team, it's clear they need to work on and map their own desired emotional culture first. They are engaging you as much for your expertise as your ability to facilitate an ECD session.

4. The ECD is not a silver bullet – as much as the ECD is a diverse tool used in many ways and situations, it's not a 'cure-all ills' silver bullet. Clarify upfront what you and the session can and can't deliver. Talking about what can't be delivered may be hard as you potentially don't want to risk losing the business. But, the alternative is to provide a session that doesn't deliver the clients desired outcomes, and they feel it was a waste of time and money. Alternatively, you could refer them to someone who is a much better fit and builds goodwill with the client.

5. Clarify what will be explicit and implicit during the workshop – many of the outcomes achieved from running workshops with the ECD are more implicit rather than explicit. 

For example, building psychological safety and trust are an outcome built through using the ECD to discuss emotions and learn about each other; however, this is implicit. There isn't a particular part of the workshop agenda that says 'BUILD TRUST' – yet it starts to unfold in the background, the same with safety naturally. Alternatively, explicit parts of the session for 'SELF AWARENESS', 'IDENTIFYING TEAM DESIRED EMOTIONS' etc. It can be helpful to explain the difference between explicit and implicit outcomes of ECD workshops.

6. Leaders need to lean in and be prepared to be vulnerable. Although the ECD makes it easier and more accessible to talk about emotions, it will still potentially be vulnerable for participants. Having leaders lean in first and share their desired and undesired emotions cards is a great way to get others in the workshop to feel more comfortable disclosing theirs. Have a conversation with leaders to discuss their appetite for this and explain the importance so that they are prepared to share their vulnerability first and lead the way.

7. An 'Emotional culture deck workshop' is not the same as a 'values workshop' – there is sometimes confusion between identifying and mapping emotional culture versus identifying and mapping values. This comes down to wants and needs again. The ECD is a great way to get clear on what values are essential eventually, but the desired emotional culture – i.e. how people do and don't want to feel comes first. E.g. if the outcome is to get clear on values, this warrants a conversation on the journey to get there. As part of client conversations, it's worth defining the difference between emotions, behaviours and values to set the context.

8. Adapt to the environment – 'there is nothing so constant as change', so ensure you regularly check in with the client to ensure that their environment and needs are the same. Sometimes, a pivot is required if there have been some client situation changes since your first catch up. If that happens, it's essential you determine whether the session you had planned is still fit for purpose or you need to adapt. Don't freak out – it could be as simple as changing the up-front question.

9. Discuss and clarify long term journey – rather than short term bandaid. You need to understand the clients long time appetite to do the work and follow up actions – to ensure they keep momentum and sustain positive change.


– This is taken from the latest episode of our video podcast called The ECC Conversation Series with Lotty Roberts & Steve Hargreaves. This video podcast is available to all Emotional Culture Club Members.


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