Working Virtually: Is it really a “great equalizer?”
Many are hailing the shift to virtual work as a silver-lining of the covid-19 era. Historically, it has been assumed that the online environment is more conducive to work/life balance, the emergence/honoring of introverted voices and increased inclusion across global teams.
Some have theorized that the pandemic’s disruption of “normal” will automatically shift established team dynamics to be more equitable and inclusive.
We only wish we could be that optimistic. Our own observation, our clients’ experience, and research is showing quite the opposite. In general, the power dynamics of the workplace based on position/privilege and identities are magnified in the virtual space. In addition, the ability to focus and participate in work activities can be more difficult due to varying circumstances. While some single parents are balancing distance learning for their young children, some of us live alone and feel isolated, others have health conditions or are supporting someone with them. The impact of living everyday as Blursday, with all aspects of our lives commingled, is differential depending on income, living situation, access to health care, and identity.
The global health crisis has only illuminated the horrific inequities we see in our workplaces, our communities and most dramatically in our healthcare systems. Those on the margins are contending with acute stressors due to the differential impact of the virus on their members, and anti-Asian backlash is an ever present threat for individuals who “look Chinese.” Although we may be weathering the same storm, the boats we ride in are significantly different.
So what’s to be done?
Like most things, it starts with you…widening your lens, opening your heart, and challenging your assumptions. If you are the team leader, what do you need to understand about your team members? How can you apply empathy to lean into their reality and co-create solutions to reduce stress, create a healthy work-from-home environment and mitigate inequities of participation? Notice who you tend to connect with most…ask yourself whose voice is not fully included.
And the most important question of all: where is your privilege creating blind spots that are harming others?
Next, acknowledge the differential impact of working from home. Situations vary from comfortable, well-equipped home offices to folks working from their bedroom floors with small children and/or other family members or roommates coming and going. Even if you can’t fully address these differences, you can acknowledge them and work with employees to encourage contribution and focus by:
- exploring individuals’ concerns/circumstances and working with them to problem-solve. This ranges from paying for a better work-from-home set up if needed (e.g. supplying a desk, ergonomic chair, upgrading WiFi, etc.) to individualizing work schedules for employees to support their work/life balance.
- holding regular individual check ins focused on connection and support vs. just tasks
- promoting and modeling self-care, making sure work demands are reasonable and allow time for stress relief
- using collaborative but asynchronous tools to allow folks to work on their own schedule (e.g. Google sheets, Slack etc)
When it comes to virtual meetings, a recent study from Stanford reveals inequities in participation and points at the need to proactively remove barriers and promote inclusion of all voices.
You can do this by:
- providing pre-work and an opportunity to prepare in advance
- co-creating and upholding norms/agreements for participation, e.g. turn-taking, listening, not interrupting, etc.
- starting with a check-in, a chance for everyone to say how they are doing professionally & personally (hot tip: model vulnerability when it’s your turn)
- pausing discussions to give individuals a chance to write or think before weighing in
- collecting written input during meetings (via Chat, etc.). Take time in the meeting to synthesize and honor all the voices
- rotating facilitation
In the end, the only way to equalize our work processes, whether in person or virtual, is to apply an equity lens, identifying the unique barriers different people are facing…and mitigating or removing them. If you’d like to go deeper, contact us for a self-assessment and debrief on how to be a more inclusive leader.
And we’d love to hear from you about your challenges, best practices, and questions. Drop us a line!
As we “zoom” into the pervasive use of online meetings, we are also learning how to use and trouble-shoot the tools. This is my favorite way to learn, but it can also be a bumpy road leading to the school of hard-knocks!
One particularly concerning discovery from this week is the new craze of people crashing Zoom meetings, creating unwanted and sometimes offensive distractions by writing in the chat dialogue, taking their phones off mute, and even sharing their screens with offensive messages and videos.
There has been a public outcry to Zoom, demanding the company immediately make their tool more secure, but you don’t have to wait because there are a few settings you can adjust right now that will make your meetings safer from unwanted zoom-crashers.
11 Steps you can take to prevent Zoom crashers:
Here are some additional resources to help your learning keep pace with your use of zoom:
Join Enact’s completely virtual leadership program…
with proven results
Experience a 3-month long digital learning program with a cohort of other managers. You can complete at your own pace and personalize your learning, as well as share and learn from your peers and expert facilitators.
Emerging Leader Experience includes:
- A state-of-the-art digital platform experience
- 3 virtual sessions and ongoing conversations with Master Facilitators
- Practical tools, activities and a personalized action plan
In just 60-90 minutes per week, past participants have improved measurably in critical leadership skills such as coaching, tough conversation, building relationships and giving feedback.
This course gave me real skills and concrete methods to use in
Enact is offering two open enrollment sessions!
- June 1 – August 31, 2020
- September 9 – Dec 11, 2020
I was struck by the comment last week by a senior executive in a San Francisco high tech company. “The corona virus is a forcing function.” The new way to greet people is to touch elbows. People will wash hands to “Row your boat.” And now that companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Amazon etc. are having their employees work from home. One aspect of the ‘forcing function’ is that organizations are going to need to hold more virtual meetings.
Given this environment, I decided to reissue and update my bright idea blog on how to create virtual excellence. The question I get when I teach meeting effectiveness is “What is the secret to having effective virtual meetings?”
There aren’t any magical skills needed to lead a virtual team or work remotely, you just have to be excellent and holistic in applying the skills you do have.
You have to do all the things you normally do but with focused attention and increased skill on the softer management skills. The ‘work’ you are focusing on during a virtual meeting is important, but is not everything. While you are intent on execution – going over action items and making decisions–true “virtual excellence” is achieved by taking time to intentionally build relationship, apply intuition, create safety, give feedback, set norms, develop their skills, and coach. In addition, during this stressful period, it will be important to make time to check-in with everyone.
- Allow for social time at the start – for people who are extroverted, they may not enjoy the forced solitude
- Allow people to share how they are feeling, are they anxious? Just expressing this often helps defuse the feelings.
- Be sure to check-in with your team regularly with any updates (even if there is no change), this helps create transparency and dispel rumors
- Use video as much as possible to keep people engaged and make a personal connection
Take this free Self-Assessment to add virtual meeting skills. This assessment can help you to identify where you need to close the gap in your ‘Virtual Excellence.’ The good news is that by being forced to work this way you can improve in this important skill area.
If your organization would like to sign up for a virtual training (webinar) on how to lead effective virtual meetings contact me at Lydia@enactleadership.com
Bright Idea: Creating access through clothing
Megan Dalessio, Senior Manager Equality and Belonging for Gap Inc.
My current role leading equality and belonging efforts is particularly motivating for me because I’ve loved expressing myself through my style since before I could fasten my own buttons! Clothes have the unique ability to broadcast our identities and stories to the world and can be a joyful expression of who we really are. At Gap Inc., we have the privilege of getting people dressed for their lives every day and, with our 7 brands and global scale, an outsized ability to shape the narrative around who gets to participate in fashion.
Like many leaders in the field, I regularly make the business and cultural case for equality and belonging efforts, so I was excited to contribute to Enact Leadership’s research paper on the full range of rationales for investing. When I read the results, I was surprised there were six distinct cases to be made, but then realized I do use most of them!
The moral case, or “the right thing to do”, has long been a part of Gap Inc.’s DNA. Our founders, Don and Doris Fisher, were very clear that “we do more than just sell clothes” as evidenced by our social impact programs through Gap Foundation, our global sustainability efforts, and, recently, our Color Proud Council, which takes aim at embedding inclusion throughout our product.
The business case shows up a lot as we explore expanding our product and marketing to include people from a broader range of sizes, skin tones, abilities, and ages. Not only does this open new markets by addressing the needs of often overlooked consumers, but it also conveys greater care to all customers who, with so many options, choose brands that align with their values. Amplifying inclusive storytelling has the ability to increase our market cap, while positively impacting the broader brand perception and, ultimately, business results.
I often take a blended approach as recommended by Enact’s paper. The values case means continuously re-activating our company focus around inclusion, for example our inaugural Product Inclusion Summit that brought together Product, Marketing, and Inclusion leaders from within our company and across our industry to collaborate on new ways to create more inclusive apparel. I make the improvement or neo-instrumental case that we will be more adaptable, resilient, and transparent as we bring a growth mindset to our culture. And the social norms approach where I engage internal champions, helping diverse employees in the business develop their own unique journeys.
Click here to connect with Enact Leadership and learn more about this important research.
Would you invest in a digital program that got 93% participation? What about an 89% completion rate?
And what if it yielded consistently high engagement throughout the program?
‘Great!’ you say, but how?
The answer is simple: pay attention.
Pay attention to: #1 the person #2 what matters #3 the data
Learn all about this success story by clicking to participate in our 2/27 webinar.
Organizations are moving towards more digital learning. In our global organizations, distributed teams and the need to scale learning, the digital solution seems like the answer. But how can organizations overcome some of the downsides of traditional digital delivery such as lack of participation, engagement and completion? The answer is to focus on what engages and motivates learning in real life, connection and application to real challenges. I know, because I made it happen.
One of the benefits of digital learning is the vast amount of raw data on usage it provides in real time. Sadly, broad-scale digital learning gets lackluster results. Academic MOOCs have an abysmal completion rate of 3-15%. Engagement drops 90% by the end of the course. And only 30% of people sign up for another catalogue course. It is therefore not surprising that organizations are hesitant to invest in going digital.
Would you invest in a program that got 93% participation? What about an 89% completion rate? And maintained consistently high engagement throughout the program? ‘Great!’ you say, but how? The answer is simple: pay attention. What increases engagement and motivation in the digital space is the same thing that matters in life. People want to feel a connection and want to feel what they are doing makes a difference. I recently achieved these results with a client, you can see the results in our case study or watch our webinar.
#1 Pay attention to the person:
The best digital platforms have multiple ways to interact with the user and draw them in. You can use quizzes, polls, discussions, chats, etc. This is critical to keep focus and attention. But it is more important to make them feel that someone is listening to their digital voice. That they are having a conversation and are connecting with others. As an online facilitator, I felt as if I got to know the participants both individually and as a whole. My online interactions had to reflect that. This wasn’t difficult, time consuming or expensive.
- Answer the person: I found myself using my ‘coach voice’ in conversations and reflecting back what I heard. “You showed great insight about the difficult balance between empathy and being firm in your question.”
- Reflect group themes: Identify the underlying themes from the group discussions. If everyone is mentioning trust, you should talk about that. You can quickly create a message and put it on the platform. I created several 2 minute ‘pop-up’ videos that started with “Many of you are talking about…”
- Talk to them: I have emails that go out twice a week. They can easily be customized to real data. “Here are the point leaders.” “To help you prepare for your annual review conversation, use the guide.”
#2 Pay attention to what matters:
Leaders are very busy, and organizations are looking for short, impactful training. Leaders want “snackable” content that is personalized to them. The design has to be focused on meaningful situations they can relate to and activities they can apply immediately. This will be the difference between a generic session that presents a feedback model and one that actually builds capacity and confidence, leading to actual learning transfer into the real world.
- Allow for personalization: Participants in our program had a Leadership 360, aligned with the program. At the beginning of each module they knew exactly where they needed to focus.
- Practice, practice, practice: The design had to not only provide exercises, it had to encourage people to actually do them. They could then see how to transfer it to their lives. Digital learning platforms are designed for this. We had more points for missions, we added badges for gamification and completion. If you really want to encourage practice, assign small groups to hold them accountable.
#3 Pay attention to the data:
More than just pay attention. Do something with it. And not at the end, when it is too late, but throughout the program. My client asked for regular engagement updates and then followed up on the data.
- Participation: I provided content updates to executives so they knew what leaders were learning. They included questions to ask participants about what they were experiencing. Early on, senior leaders followed up with every person who was not participating to encourage them. We achieved the 93% participation rate early on.
- Engagement: We found out early that not all participants were doing the application missions. We added badges to the program at the midway point so that participants had to complete the application exercises to get a badge (gamification rules!). Emails were reframed to focus on the experience of the application rather than just the content.
- Completion: How could we get the medium users to greater completion levels? At a town hall, the CEO recognized those who had completed the program. The organization gave digital awards (to put on emails and social media) for completion. We allowed access to the site past the ‘facilitated’ program time. We saw an astounding 89% completion rate 4 months after the end of the program.
For more tips and our recent success story, check out our 2/27 webinar.
Yes, that’s a provocative statement. But in the 60 years since Kirkpatrick developed his 4-point scale to assess leadership development, we have been chasing an efficient yet effective measure of impact. I actually accomplished this feat recently in one client engagement so I can speak from experience. (click here to sign up for our webinar to hear the full story later this month). We have always had the knowledge and justification for investing in leaders, so why do I, along with everyone else feel the need to measure it?
We’ll do it anyway…
While I was going down a rabbit hole on the internet, I saw an article about the ROI of leadership development programs that said basically “It doesn’t really matter if we can prove ROI, organizations need leadership development. We will do it anyway.” Following trends over the years reveals the same message. Organizations need to provide consistent leadership development support to all levels and at critical transition points. Leaders need it during times of challenge/competition; senior leaders need highly tailored development; and everyone needs it during times of change (these day, that’s 24/7 365!). Newly promoted managers need it the most. According to Ken Blanchard, 60% of new managers don’t achieve performance expectations. Finally, the best results come from “soft skills” training, since those are actually the hardest skills and the ones most important for leaders to master for the future.
“You know it when you see it”
If we aren’t able to analyze ROI easily and effectively, the question becomes what makes impactful leadership development? And who decides? The answer comes from a breakthrough in measurement from studying creativity. Teresa Amabile developed the Consensual Assessment Technique as a way to measure complex ideas. This premise says creativity in any field can only be judged by experts in [each] field…they define what is unique in each case.
Those of us who have been in leadership development for decades know what good leadership development is. Organizational L&D leaders and other experts can clearly define what is needed and can probably predict the program’s degree of impact. Research shows that:
- Impact comes from soft skills development that is customized around the work, culture and pain points of the organization.
- The design must be interactive, engaging, focused on practice and draw participants into the stretch or learning zone.
- Skilled facilitation is the difference between a generic session that “presents” a feedback model and one that actually builds capacity and confidence, leading to actual learning transfer into the real world.
- Far-reaching impact is achieved if the organization goes all-in, with sponsorship from executives, support from managers, alignment with HR, and every leader participating in some way in the learning. Our partner/client told me, “If you are learning a new language, you have to practice with other people to reinforce it. All-in was the only option for us, so that we are on the same page.”
The barrier to investment is often that great leadership development is not a one-time event. Doing it right is a heavier lift than programs that check the box. It takes thought, time and experience to achieve that. So LD experts understand that being able to articulate the ROI really becomes the justification for the spend to get it right.
“Yay! It works.” Now what?
Now to the promised results. My company developed a blended digital learning program for new managers with our client/partner and tested the impact of the program. As I was waiting for results, I described the process we went through to a friend at Harvard Executive Education. Baseline pre-test using a 360 instrument that aligned with the skills taught in the 6-month blended digital learning program, and the retest 15 months later.
“Wow! If that works, that’s the Gold Standard of Leadership Development.”
We did it! The Gold Standard. We achieved statistically significant behavioral improvement in all success factors from building powerful relationships to conducting tough conversations and building an inclusive team culture. I am THRILLED! EXCITED! I am shouting it from the rooftops!
However…..as an expert in the field, I pretty much knew it would have this outcome. When I got the results it was (almost) “Okay so now what?” Truly though, most of my excitement came from the fact that I LOVED being a part of the program. The content is outstanding since dozens of expert colleagues contributed to it. The program translated key leadership soft skills into digital format and uses a start-of-the-art platform. The client/partner was all-in on their side with support from the top down, and all managers participated, not just in the digital world, but in real-world “wrap arounds” like action learning and other projects.
I grew as much if not more than the participants! This was leadership development done right! It just took 18 months, coordinated effort, a great program, and a separate evaluation process. Oh, and now I have the ROI and the example for those needing proof!
To hear the full story, join me and my colleague Rebecca Matthews for a webinar hosted by Intrepid. https://blog.intrepidlearning.com/resources/enact-leadership-webinar-2-27
Already out of the starting blocks and racing full throttle into 2020?? You might want to slow that roll since research from both Harvard and Quartz show that retrospection and reflection are key to personal/professional growth and happiness. Use the following steps and the simple but powerful downloadable IKIGAI tool to integrate your path with your purpose.
1. Reflect back on accomplishments as a great way to bring a practice of gratitude and appreciation. Your stories of accomplishment can also fuel your performance review, development planning, perhaps even build a case for your own advancement and promotion.
2. Think back on 2019, what was a challenge you were able to face? What skill did you master, what relationship were you able to strengthen? What impact did this accomplishment have on your life/work/team?
3. What 3 small wins and/or new behaviors contributed to this accomplishment?
4. Who was instrumental in supporting you? Consider writing a note of appreciation to the people who advocated, mentored, and coached you in this past year.
As you project your energy and plan for goals in this new year decade, what is motivating you right now? Do your 2020 goals align with: your strengths? Your passion? Organizational needs? Your well-being?
As you launch into this new decade, consider spending energy and time getting clear on your purpose, which is also known in Japan as your IKIGAI or reason for being:
The Japanese IKIGAI is this beautiful venn-diagram of overlapping circles. The intersection of what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for are IKIGAI or what we would call our purpose, or reason for being.
Consider carving out the time to think about yourself and your life through each of these larger circles to build awareness of what is really important for you right now. When you are clear about your strengths, preferences, and values you are likely to make better decisions about your work, life, and goals.
The more you can live and work in alignment with your IKIGAI, the closer you will be to your purpose, or reason for being.
Click here to download your own DIY IKIGAI template to explore your reason for being.
This time of year can bring potentially difficult conversations. After all, this is usually when we tackle high-stakes discussions like: end of year reviews, budgeting, and giving feedback. Have you ever avoided having tough conversations?
What gets in your way? Is it the potential relationship impact, fear it won’t make a difference or that you’ll learn something or get some feedback you’d rather not hear?
Can you relate to this leader’s story?
Here are 3 ways to build your skill and will to conduct tough conversations:
- What triggers you? Build self-awareness by understanding and identifying situations and behaviors that cause you to react. Why does this happen? What are the deeper values and experiences that can get in the way for you? By better understanding your own emotions, values and triggers, you can work on preparing yourself to respond with intention when your emotions get triggered.
- Learn to evaluate emotions in others by reading cues in body language and facial expressions.
Take this free facial expression recognition quiz from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and test your skills at noticing emotions in others.
(Note that learning to recognize emotions is not an invitation to label someone’s feelings, but rather an opportunity to ask about what might be going on for them. A best practice is to ask, don’t assume.)
- Learn how to de-fuse defensive behaviors. Download this handy set of tips to add to your toolbox.
Above all, don’t put off tough conversations, even though they may never be completely easy for you. The reason they are tough is that they are often really important! Delaying the discussion means the issue goes unresolved, may get worse, or taint the relationships through lingering feelings and thoughts. Instead, consider putting your energy into building on strategies to strengthen ability to conduct tough conversations with competence and confidence.