Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Facilitating Effective Virtual Meetings

Patrick Lencioni said it really well - "Death by Meeting". How much time have you spent this week in meetings? How effective have they been?

Chances are, you have probably been on a couple of conference calls or virtual meetings. Where did your attention go?

Here are seven tips to keep in mind when considering facilitation of your next virtual meeting:

1. Send out an agenda a few days prior to the call, asking for feedback and input (by a specific date). Follow the agenda during the call.

2. Make the purpose of the meeting explicitly clear so individuals can gauge their need for participation, and what they may need to bring or do prior to the call.

3. If possible, keep it conversational or interactive. Research from virtual learning indicates that virtual participants need to be engaged every 5-7 minutes. Whether it is throwing a question out to the group for discussion, comments (by email) or written reflection, engagement is key!

4. Summarize key decisions, action items and agreements throughout the call. It is easy to "get lost" without the visual cues of a face to face meeting. Summaries along the way will help to keep everyone on the same page.

5. Encourage group members to "bottom line" their comments. As a facilitator of the call, keep an eye on process and keep the call moving. It is easy to get sidetracked and have long-winded stories. Establishing some process guidelines to keep the conversation moving will be very useful.

6. Follow up with a BRIEF summary of the call after wards..

7. Ensure that there is a circling back to check in on action items/commitments as appropriate.

What other tips would you suggest to ensure that your virtual meetings are most effective? Any good resources you know about?

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts below

Warm regards

Jennifer Britton
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010)
Potentials Realized - Leadership, Teamwork, Retreats

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Leader as Empowerer

"People under the influence of an empowering person are like paper in the hands of a talented artist" - John C.Maxwell

As a leader or professional, what do you do to empower others?

What do you do to provide space, as well as support, for others to do and achieve their goals?

Empowerment is a term that is often bandied around these days, with those empowering and team members who are supposed to feel empowered not always being on the same page. Empowerment without trust and respect may not be construed in the way it was intended.

In order for empowerment to really work it is important that people are given the tools and resources to do their work, as well as the authority and responsibility to make decisions.

As you consider empowering your team:
  • What barriers might they smack up against? 
  • What tools and resources do they need? 
  • Do they have the authority and responsibility to get things done? 
  • What additional support, feedback and resources might you need to provide for them?

When groups and teams have what they need in order to do their work, and the space to do the work, it's time to step aside and as a wise colleague of mine says "micro-monitor, not micro-manage".

Have a great week,

Jennifer Britton
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010)
Potentials Realized - Leadership Development  | Teamwork | Staff Retreats
Phone: (416)996-TEAM (8326)

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Leadership - The Art of Questions

In my former work I had team members in ten countries. I learned very fast that the best skill I could have as a leader/manager was to ask great questions. Today I spend a bulk of my time in coaching conversations with leaders. Regardless of how long you have been a leader, the art of questions is critical.

I really enjoy the parts of my work that have me face to face with new leaders, whether I am leading a training or group coaching process with them. Time and time again, we come back to the basics - communication.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind with respect to the art of questions:

- Great questions are related to what is being said. That really means that we have to listen to what the person is saying to us, not thinking about what question needs to come next. Next conversation you have with a staff, really listen and trust that the right question will come. If not, pause and think about it.

- Great questions are short, sweet and to the point. When did you last get lost in a question someone asked you?

- Great questions are often open-ended, inviting someone to elaborate. Is your question designed to solicit input or is it designed for something else?

- Why questions often put people on the defensive. Why questions however are loved by "why" learners - those that learn through asking the Why?

- How questions will put people into process and may limit creativity and innovation. Try starting with a WHAT question around creativity/innovation and then move to a HOW question.

Next time you are in a conversation, reflect on how you did, AFTER the conversation (not during it). What did you do to really listen and ask great questions?

Have a great week,

Jennifer Britton
Potentials Realized
Coaching, Training and Consulting Services - Leadership, Teamwork, Performance
Phone: (416)996-TEAM (8326)

Monday, May 07, 2012

Virtual Mentoring Tips

Mentoring across distance is becoming much more common place. Last week I delivered a mentor training program to a new set of mentors in the financial services industry. A couple of mentors were surprised that mentoring could work over the phone. In fact, I increasingly hear that virtual mentoring may work better for some parings than face to face meetings.

Here are a couple of tips to get the most out of virtual mentoring:
1. Set a clear agenda for the meeting. What is the focus of the conversation? What does the protege/mentee want to explore? It may be useful for you to have an agreement as to how this is communicated - ie. before the session or at the start?

2. Spend some time building your relationship. Sometimes mentoring at a distance is the only way due to geographic concerns. If you can, it may be useful to meet face to face, even via skype. Mentoring relationships can be strengthened when time is spent getting to know each other, and having discussion around what expectations exist around meeting (where/when), focus areas, type of support etc. Five - ten minutes spent on this can help to keep the process moving for the length of the partnership.
3. Understand each others styles. Virtual mentoring may be more comfortable for t
ose who are more reserved or introverted. Consider how virtual mentoring may support, or not support, your unique styles.

4. Mix it up. If face to face and virtual options are possible, consider how they can be used for greatest impact. You may notice a different "feel" to a call, lending itself to explore certain topic areas.

5. Make it regular. Just because you are not seeing each other face to face, out of sight does not mean out of mind. Together as a mentoring partnership determine how frequently you want to connect. Shorter touchpoints, more frequently may be of greater benefit.

In closing, consider how you can strengthen your mentoring process through the inclusion of more virtual meetings.

Have a great week,

Jennifer Britton, MES, CPT, PCC
Author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010)
Potentials Realized - Leadership and Teamwork 
Coaching, Training and Consulting Services
Phone: 416-996-TEAM (8326)

Would you like to reprint this post? Please do so with the following: As a former global leader with the UN and other international organizations, Jennifer has always led in "unusual times". Today, Jennifer works with teams and organizations to think outside of the norm, building capacity and solutions which are innovative and flexible. Jennifer is the author of Effective Group Coaching (John Wiley and Sons, 2010), the first book to be published on the topic of Group Coaching globally. She continues to work with clients across Canada, the US and globally, leveraging technology to close the gaps. Her corporate training retreat work has taken her to deliver programs in more than 18 countries.