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Effective Teams, Leadership

Leading effective virtual meetings

I recently led a webinar about leading effective meetings. At this point in the pandemic, the novelty of virtual meetings has worn off. I hear people talk about missing the “in person” experience that occurs through informal conversations, reading body language, and personal connection. 

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

I offer some thoughts on virtual meetings that I hope are helpful for organizations: 

  1. Is a virtual meeting necessary? We have all sat through in person and virtual meetings that were unnecessary. I find virtual meetings to be most effective for group problem solving, team building, gathering outside input, and collaborative projects. Before you schedule meetings, consider the purpose of the meeting and whether the work and/or communication can take place in another format. There may be other ways to communicate or collaborate, such as video messaging (Loom), team communication (Slack), or project management (Trello).
  2. Thinking like an “event planner”: When event planners prepare for conventions, weddings, or special events, they are very intentional about focusing on the experience of attendees. We could all benefit from reflecting on what experience our virtual meeting attendees will have. 

In my experience leading virtual meetings, I recommend the following best practices:

  1. Provide instructions when people log in: As soon as people log into a virtual meeting, it can be helpful to share expectations on the screen or in the chat. For example, you can welcome attendees and let them know when the meeting will begin. You can also ask them to share information in the chat or mute themselves. 
  2. Build community: With virtual meetings, we often miss out on the community building that occurs naturally during in person meetings. Begin meetings with an icebreaker to help connect people. 
  3. Establish ground rules: For larger meetings, we need to be more formal with ground rules. Be sure to explain the system for responding to questions or participating in the discussion. You can ask people to stay muted when not speaking or explain expectations for staying on camera.
  4. Breakout rooms: Breakout rooms are a great way to foster engagement during larger meetings. They can break up the time and make meetings feel quicker and more productive. 
  5. Frequent breaks: “Zoom fatigue” is real. I recommend including frequent breaks during virtual meetings. For longer meetings, you can meet for 50 minutes and then take a 10 minute break. Giving the group a stretch break every 25 minutes can also help. 
  6. Shorter meetings: With in person meetings, it is not uncommon to meet for several hours. I think we should set a maximum of 2-3 hours for virtual meetings to avoid “Zoom fatigue” and maintain engagement.
  7. Waiting for responses: There is value in giving group members time to respond. For example, after asking a question, count to ten before moving on. Internet speeds, slowness of finding the unmute button, and taking time to think can cause a delay in responding during virtual meetings compared to in person meetings. 
  8. Debrief: Virtual meetings are still relatively new to us. I recommend spending a few minutes at the end of each meeting asking questions like “What went well during this meeting?” or “What could have gone better?” We can take this information into consideration as we plan future virtual meetings. 

We have all learned a lot about virtual meetings in recent months. I welcome your input or suggestions on how we can make virtual meetings more effective. 

How can we help your organization?

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

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How are you setting a vision for 2021?

When the pandemic first began, I never imagined it would last this long, and yet there is no definitive end in sight. Many of us have found ourselves cursing 2020 for all of the bad things that have happened, but we all hope 2021 will be different. In our personal and professional lives, we know that we will need more than “hope” for 2021 to be better. We need to start setting a vision for 2021 and begin working towards it. 

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

I used to pride myself on my ability to multitask, and I was surprised when I started reading articles about the “myth of multitasking.” You can Google that phrase and find many articles that discuss the negative consequences of multitasking on productivity. One particular article can be found here.

As I have learned about the advantages of clear focus, my personal productivity has significantly approved. I try to start each day with key priorities in mind, and this approach allows me to spend my limited amount of time on what is most important.

Many organizations are guilty of multitasking. We take on numerous goals, initiatives and tasks and struggle to focus on what is most important. It is too easy for us to get caught up in our day to day responsibilities and ignore more strategic items. A survival mindset prevents us from looking at the big picture and setting a vision for where we are going. I think the survival mindset has been particularly prevalent in many organizations throughout the pandemic.

In The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling, the authors urged leaders and organizations to set a clear goal and provided a framework for executing it. They wrote:

“MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller says, ‘Trying to concentrate on two tasks causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity…Particularly when people try to perform similar tasks at the same time, such as writing an email and talking on the phone, they compete to use the same part of the brain. Trying to carry too much, the brain simply slows down.’ If this is true of simple tasks like processing emails and phone calls, think of the impact of losing focus on the goals that could transform your business.” (2012, pp. 25-26)

The pandemic has certainly changed how we do business and live our lives. Does your business or organization have a clear vision for 2021 or are you merely in survival mode? Have you spent time focusing on what is going well and what needs to change? We often neglect to carve out time to discuss some of the most important business discussions. These questions might include but are not limited to:

  • What successes have we experienced?
  • What lessons have we learned?
  • What opportunities exist for growth, better services, and new products?
  • What is one area that we could focus on to improve our business or organization significantly?
  • Where are we going as an organization?
  • Where should we be going as an organization?

Setting aside time to bring together employees and/or other stakeholders to discuss these questions is a valuable investment to set clear priorities, develop buy in, improve as an organization, create accountability, and learn from others.

These discussions often take place in the context of an extended strategy meeting or retreat. Utilizing an external facilitator can ensure all employees and/or stakeholders are able to fully participate in the discussion and not be worried about running the meeting process. After the meeting, we can provide a report with key priorities to consider. T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is trained and experienced in facilitating these types of important discussions and are now scheduling facilitated team retreats and meetings for the end of the year and early 2021. Facilitated meetings can take place in person or virtually. 

Please contact us to schedule an initial discovery conversation and learn more about how a facilitator can help your organization plan for success in 2021. We offer customized retreats and meeting facilitation in various time formats and locations. In addition, we can include team building activities to enhance the cohesiveness and effectiveness of your team.

If you are looking for a way to establish a collective vision and focus for 2021, please contact us. We wish you a safe, happy, healthy, and successful 2021.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

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How design thinking can help your organization

In today’s rapidly changing world, organizations are challenged to work collaboratively to accelerate innovation more than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced many organizations to adapt how they operate. Design thinking is an approach to creativity and problem solving that is utilized by some of the most innovative organizations in the world, including corporations, non-profits, universities, schools, and healthcare organizations. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Design thinking is a non-linear human-centered approach to creative problem solving. It can help us better understand the experiences of others, define complex problems, and develop innovative solutions. As we prototype and test solutions, design thinking can be an iterative process to build on and modify solutions. In addition, it can help redefine problems as we empathize with people. Design thinking can help us solve problems that users need and want us to solve. 

I will apply the five steps of the design thinking process as taught by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (the d.school). More information about design thinking can be found at the d.school.

Empathize

Empathy helps us understand the problem of the user by setting aside our own assumptions. Users are those we are trying to better understand. In a sense, we walk in the shoes of an individual or group of people to better understand their experiences. We can practice empathy through observation, interviewing, and empathizing with the needs of others. 

Define

Once we have spent time empathizing with the user, we begin to define the user’s problem. It is important to ask, “What problem of the user am I trying to solve?” Einstein is quoted as saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” I recommend divergently exploring problem statements and then begin to narrow them down. Min Basadur recommends using the phrase “How might we…?” to define the problem as described in this Harvard Business Review article

Ideate 

We can begin to ideate on possible solutions after defining the problem. During the ideation step, we want to “think outside the box” and divergently explore solutions before we begin evaluating them or narrowing them down. Most of us are familiar with brainstorming which can be used during this step. At the end of this step, we will have a solution ready for prototyping. 

Prototype

For those who do not have experience with prototyping, this step can seem intimidating. Prototyping is the process of developing a quick and inexpensive representation of the solution. The prototype might be a physical object made out of inexpensive materials, a drawing, or an experience map. Maps can detail the steps of a customer experience when receiving a service, an employee’s journey from looking for a job to getting hired and promoted, or the experience of a student looking for a college to enrolling. This process brings the solution to life that the user can see and experience.

Test

After a prototype has been developed, we test the prototype by gathering feedback to determine its effectiveness. It is important to show the prototype to users and allow them to share whether the prototype solves their problem. This step can be an iterative process with improvements to the prototype. 

We provide workshops that allow hands-on opportunities for participants to apply the design thinking approach in their professional and personal lives. Participants will learn how empathy, ideation, and experimentation are foundational steps of the innovation process. Prototyping will be introduced and practiced as a way to experiment developing physical objects and mapping experiences and services. Participants will walk away with an enhanced understanding of design thinking and how these skills can be applied within their organization to improve products and services. If you want to learn more, please contact us.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

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I’m worried about the winter

As I write this blog, I’m hoping the content will be irrelevant when winter comes. I ran across this article on CNN last month: “Americans need to ‘hunker down’ this fall and winter as Covid-19 pandemic will likely worsen, Fauci says.” Most of us in the United States have been fortunate during the pandemic to enjoy good weather during the spring and summer months that has allowed us to spend time outside. 

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

For me personally, I’ve spent more time outside this spring and summer than normal. The weather has allowed me to take regular walks and responsibly socialize with people. These activities have helped relieve some of the stress and anxiety related to the pandemic. When the winter comes, there may be days, weeks, and months when that time outside will not be possible. 

As I said at the beginning, I’m hoping the content of this blog will be irrelevant when winter comes, and we will have a vaccine. In my work with scenario planning, I know that hope is not a good strategy. We need to plan for different scenarios. 

I’m concerned about people this winter. In my work as an organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant, I regularly help develop successful leaders and create plans for future success. We all know that our employees are critical to organizational success, and their personal lives impact their professional work. I encourage employers to develop a strategy to ensure you are ready for the winter. 

Here are some ways to support your employees and be ready for the winter:

Strategies for combating anxiety: My friend Dr. Jim Schroeder is a psychologist, and he recently wrote an article titled “We can do this.” He suggests three strategies for combating anxiety, and I encourage you to consider how you can foster these mindsets in your workplace. The first mindset is gratitude, and he describes how the act of being thankful has a positive impact on our health and happiness. The next tool is empathy. When we embrace empathy, it helps us focus on someone other than ourselves. He concludes by discussing the “discipline of challenge versus despair.” This mindset helps us focus on opportunities and allows us to convince ourselves that we can get through this challenging time. 

Promote physical fitness and a proper diet: There are many studies supporting the benefits of exercise and healthy eating on our mental and physical health. This might be a great time for your organization to explore ways to encourage activities that promote physical fitness and a proper diet. 

Focus on employee engagement: I’ve written about Gallup’s research on employee engagement in previous blogs, and I think this is a time to really think about engagement. As Gallup shared in their book, It’s the Manager, the role of the leader is extremely important. Clifton and Harter (2019, p. 12) found that “70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.” Leaders have an opportunity now to ensure their employees and teams are engaged. Gallup’s (2019) research has led to identifying “The 12 Elements of Great Management” that can be answered by employees to determine the level of engagement of individuals and entire organizations:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. 
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow. (pp. 286-300)

As many organizations have moved to virtual work and adopted social distancing practices, I think many of these elements of employee engagement have been neglected. I encourage managers and leaders to wholeheartedly commit themselves to ensuring their employees are engaged. It could begin with a discussion or survey around these elements followed by a plan to enhance employee engagement. 

Coronavirus anxiety resources: I ran across an excellent website with resources related to virus anxiety. If you are looking for tools, I encourage you to look at this site: Care for your coronavirus anxiety.

Leaders have a tremendous opportunity now to make a difference on the lives of those around them. I hope you can apply these ideas now or create a plan for the winter. 

If you need help enhancing your organizational leadership or develop a strategy for success, please contact us. 

Reference:

Clifton, J., & Harter, J. (2019). It’s the manager. Gallup Press.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

Leadership

Three ways leaders can use feedback to improve employee performance

Providing feedback to employees can be one of the most challenging responsibilities of a leader. There seem to be two extremes: 

  1. Some managers completely avoid giving feedback. 
  2. Other managers provide feedback that upsets employees in a way that is counterproductive.
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

In my leadership coaching practice, I frequently discuss giving feedback with my clients. The goal of this blog is to provide three ways leaders can use feedback to improve employee performance. 

Providing feedback immediately after something does not goes as well as expected:

In this video, The secret to giving great feedback, cognitive psychologist LeeAnn Renniger provides a four step process for delivering difficult feedback:

  1. “The micro-yes” helps the feedback receiver know feedback is coming. The feedback deliverer asks a question such as “Do you have five minutes to talk about how that last conversation went?” The micro-yes commits the feedback receiver to the conversation.
  2. A “data point” is a specific description of what was observed. If an employee has missed a deadline, the leader might say “You were supposed to turn in the report by the end of yesterday, and I still haven’t received it.”
  3. A leader should “show impact” by describing the impact of the data point. For example, the leader could say “As a result of not receiving the report, I could not begin the proposal for a customer who expects the proposal today.” 
  4. The leader should “end on a question” such as “How are we going to move forward?” This approach can make it a two way conversation and create buy in. 

This five minute video is a must-watch for anyone who has to deliver difficult feedback. The approach can also be applied to providing positive feedback that is very specific in nature. At the end of the video, Renninger also mentions the importance of leaders asking for feedback from those around them. 

Providing regular, ongoing feedback

Marshall Goldsmith has suggested a six question agenda for meetings with direct reports that includes the following questions:

  1. “Where are we going?”
  2. “Where are you going?”
  3. “What is going well?”
  4. “Where can we improve?”
  5. “How can I help you?”
  6. “How can you help me?”

Goldsmith suggests the manager ask the questions of the direct report and then the manager can provide additional comments. For example, when the manager asks “What is going well?” the direct report may share information that the manager is not aware of. The manager can add areas that he or she has observed are going well. The “Where can we improve?” question allows an opportunity for the direct report to share some ways to improve, and the manager can agree or possibly add another area of improvement. This approach allows the manager to develop an excellent rapport with direct reports and remain informed of efforts throughout the company. 

Providing feedback from multiple sources

There is value in gathering feedback from multiple sources. We often use a 360 degree feedback process to gather information from direct reports, supervisors, customers, and peers. The input is compiled into a single report to provide confidential feedback. This approach allows those providing feedback an opportunity to be open and honest with their comments. Simple questions such as “What is this person doing well?” or “What changes do you suggest this person makes?” can be used. The questions can also be more specific based on the type of position. After providing feedback from a 360 degree process, I recommend developing a growth plan for the employee. Giving the employee an opportunity to select an area of improvement is a great way to develop buy in for the improvement process. Companies might consider utilizing a 360 degree feedback process on a regular basis such as once a year or every other year. 

I hope these suggestions are helpful. Please contact us if you would like to discuss leadership coaching and training options. 

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Are you ready to learn how we can help develop your leaders?

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) Certified Practitioner.