When everything moved online this past year, I thought it would be easy. My one-to-one coaching conversations have been on video for over five years and are as impactful as when in person. Now, I deliver leadership learning online. A year on, I may just be getting the hang of it (kinda).
Technology aside, (most applications are pretty-user friendly and intuitive these days and I learn by trying things out), my real learning is to make an online group session as ‘human’ an experience as I can. My key insights so far are:
- To stop ‘trying’ so hard to make it work perfectly. When I shifted from feeling responsible for making the technology work correctly, I could admit that things might be a bit clunky. Then I relaxed more, slowed down and took my time. I’d explain exactly what I was doing, which buttons I was clicking and why and I’d ask aloud if they could indeed see the screen I thought I was sharing. I’d warn people I was likely to get some things wrong. I felt much more ‘me’. By default, I was modelling vulnerability, being ok with failure, and showing resilience in how to bounce back from what are, at the end of the day, non-life-threatening errors. My sessions became more real. Everyone can empathise with encountering similar glitches. And of course, those glitches become rarer when I’m more grounded and relaxed about everything.
- To adopt a ‘less is more’ approach to each learning session. My first attempts had too much content to get through in the limited time online. Despite my best intentions to give people breaks from the screen to stretch, breathe and re-hydrate, I found myself cramming too much in and talking ‘at’ the screen too much. Smaller group sizes and less, more focussed content, meant I could listen more intently, could pick up on questions and comments and be more engaged and facilitative with my participants. Less rushed conversations, lead to more impactful learning.
- To open sessions with more ‘human’ activities. I don’t rush into the lesson now. Just like I would if I was sitting in circle with people on a learning retreat, I open with a question on a personal topic and invite everyone to take a few moments to answer it. It’s amazing how one small question often gives surprising insights into people’s life stories. It’s priceless in these virtual times for people to hear each other in this way. Teams are constantly finding out small titbits about each other and this replaces those informal coffee-room chats we’re missing by not being in the same office space together.
- And lastly to pay attention to the closing of the learning session. I’ll close the session on a light note with a fun activity (such as inviting people to share a story of a ‘nick-name’ they’ve had at some point in their life) and it brings forward fun stories and further glimpses into our real lives. People leave the session with a good feeling and a lighter heart around the deeper learning we’ve also covered in the session.
These small, subtle techniques are, in themselves, examples of how to create engaged and inspiring leadership and learning cultures. The experience we have when we’re learning about ways to stretch, learn and enhance our working life, can be replicated outside the ‘virtual class-room’ and practiced in every meeting, conversation, planning or strategising session in our work.
Your Turn: How are you opening your virtual or your real meetings to create human connection? What are you listening for in your meetings? How are you creating a positive experience for all your participants? How tense, relaxed or ‘ trying to be perfect’ are you as the meeting leader? What might you let go of, in order to share a more collaborative, inspiring experience for everyone? #Lead Boldly #Live Fully