I have been asked by a number of clients recently to consider how one might do the sorts of things I do in a world where we might never really fully return to doing face-to-face workshops. I found this thinking an incredibly useful way of getting my head around this topic, so I am very grateful to those of you who asked me.
At this stage I am simply capturing some ideas and thinking. My ideas are naïve, not well thought through, experimental and, hopefully, provocative. Of course, some of them are things you have probably known and have being using for ages while the luddite in me has been wrapped up in face-to-face stuff. I would be so grateful for any further thoughts, ideas and feedback and, if you found this helpful in your own thinking, a note of anything you do find useful and experiment with would be so welcome.
I would also be delighted to pull a few senior people together on-line to talk through ideas and your best practice. You would all be people I know well and really respect. Please let me know if this is of interest.
The ideas that come to mind are:
- Lean in. Make an assumption this is the way forward, this is the right thing to do, this will give an even better outcome than in the old ways. That way you will have some sense of victimhood and it will close down your thinking.
- Take less responsibility for teaching and hand over responsibility for learning to the leaders and key influencers in your organisation. Instead of providing all the content (and often the process), collaborate on what needs to be learned (and why) and then get participants to gain that learning for themselves, to share with you and each other (maybe using a ‘what, so what and now what’ structure) and, once confident, get your leaders to teach it to others either one-on-one or in small groups. Reward/amplify/acknowledge new thinking, new sources, new ways of learning and teaching. Also get their help in developing shared material. I have a collaborative process called ‘Why work on your leadership?’ which would work very well both in setting up shared development goals and a coaching frame and in setting up a viral change approach which I would be delighted to share with you. There are a number of tools like Medium and Pocket that could be really helpful. There must be so much content on sites like Ted and Youtube and you could create your own database of really useful material.
- Have content scouts – the people really interested in developing themselves will likely be constantly scouting the various ‘literature’ sources for material. Encourage them to capture and share the best material in some sort of pre-arranged structure in the organisation’s shared drives. This might include videos, book reviews, blogs, ideas for ways of running team events etc.
- Challenge everything that you think should be done face to face. List every single aspect specifically and give really clear reasons as to what that must be done face-to-face. Then brainstorm other possibilities and choices and see what emerges. Right now, I believe the focus for any rare face-to-face opportunities should be on relationship building and fun. Most content can surely be done online. The only big exception to this, in my mind, would be where your leaders do good work in areas of the world that need social development. I cannot, right now, work out how that would move to remote and not lose significant value to both parties.
- Do everything in bite-sized chunks. Try short (60-90 minute) sessions on a regular – but not too frequent – basis giving opportunities to practice and research in between sessions. Using the same essence as above, experiment with getting your participants to teach others as soon as possible after their learning, perhaps through an action learning or buddy system. Gaining feedback from the buddies as to what they learned from the process adds to the additional learning and is a great way of seeing how a learning frame can be developed throughout the organisation and in ensuring that your participants actually do take the teaching seriously and fully understood what they were learning.
- Adapt as you go. The beauty of bite-sized chunks is that you can constantly be adapting depending upon what people really need. You can deepen, you can stretch, you can flex, you can change the order of things and you can gain constant feedback about what they need next and adapt to it.
- Don’t forget coaching as a significant leadership development, team and change support tool. Coaching can easily be done online or by telephone. In fact I find telephone coaching very effective as it allows me to really listen without worrying whether or not I look like I am listening. For many years I have been coaching people all over the world and almost all of it has gone really well – with all sorts of different personalities. You could teach people to coach with remote as the default and highlight role models whom others can learn from. Off the back of your coaching you could establish a supervision model which also captures the trends and themes where more development is needed and how your leaders are experiencing the learning they are getting.
- When working in teams, if the team is greater than about 6 people experiment with constantly shifting and mixing small groups before you bring the whole group together to summarise. For those of you that might have worked with me, the market stall approach to work up ideas is an ideal process which can be used in Zoom or other mechanisms. It is worth remembering that most teamwork happens in daily interactions in pairs or sub groups – very rarely does the whole team work together all the time. In those instances where they do, then an agile scrum system might be worth considering for the way the team works together. I am developing a team self-assessment tool and will make sure that it works effectively for the remote situations and will happily share it with you when I have got it to a good enough state.
- Again when working in teams, consider the various elements of team work and how they might work in a remote environment. For example:
- Purpose and meaning work could easily use an adapted World Café approach that would work very well on Zoom
- Radar context analysis is easily adapted to small groups working remotely together
- A decision-making frame might even work better in short bursts with a proper setup and review process per decision (I have developed a process over the years which I would be delighted to share with you)
- Co-coaching works very effectively remotely
- The deeper work of really getting to know each other well might require a discipline (which in itself might provide psychological safety) but there are so many tools that are available online which could support this. The beauty of bite-sized chunks is that it could provide effective breaks for reflection and setting participants up for real listening.
- Problem solving could use a solutions focus approach which is ideally suited to be done remotely and on-line
- Challenging conversations…teaching team members to have challenging conversations online, where building of psychological safety first would be critical. I would like personally to get my head around the particular aspects of this that would make it work powerfully but I am sure it could be done.
- As far as change leadership is concerned…if you move from a lean-in position that is based on ‘this is the way we will work from now on’ all engagement and leadership behaviours could support the context powerfully. Mastery in change leadership programmes could easily be run virtually, using action learning sets as the basis for reflection, support, challenge and embedding. All the key concepts including resilience are easily worked together on-line and the very practical application of these concepts in different ways across organisations could be shared between your leaders as learning frames. I would be delighted to talk you through a mastery approach I ran very effectively face-to-face which I would be excited about adapting for remote working – and which most of you who are reading this would be able to run yourselves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeremy Keeley is an Aziz executive coach, team coach and experienced business leader who supports senior leaders individually and as part of a team.