It’s been close to a year now of working within the online corporate playing field. As a whole, we have done remarkedly well in moving our day-to-day operations online, and despite the enormous adjustments we have had to make, it’s been a great example of how adaptive we humans can actually be, when push comes to shove.
While there are clearly drawbacks to not being able to come together in person in group learning environments, here’s some of my insights on how to enhance and harness some advantages of online learning and delivery.
Online learning in bite-size chunks
Whilst delivering my online leadership workshops, the focus has shifted from a process of whole-content download to one of application and report back. Pre-Covid, I would have held a multi-day interactive group program, where candidates would have received all the content over those few days and all learning would happen within the course of the program. While no one can deny the energy and bonding that happens during these programs, participants can often leave feeling a slight sense of overwhelm. To adapt to the online platform, I have delivered online learning in two-hour timeslots over a series of weeks. I find this is the magic formula that seems to suit the online platform the best. Each week, we cover a small part of the content and then apply it over the course of the week and report back and discuss at the following week’s session. By delivering it this way, candidates have remained engaged and have reported the added benefit of being able to apply the learnings for each week and revisit them the following week. We can discuss the learnings and clarify or fine tune them depending on what issues arise. It’s proven to be a very effective way of putting learnings into practice and reinforcing them.
Framing up meetings
Another thing I have noticed is that it is really important to frame up my role and the role of everyone participating in the session up front. “My role here is to get you to lift your game, yours is to allow yourself to be stretched further, to up the ante”. It’s also beneficial to establish permission to ‘coach in the moment’ as we move through group discussions, or push back on something that arises. By framing the meeting in this way, as I do intervene or ‘coach in the moment’ I have found participants to be much more responsive to my coaching or nutting out issues as they arise. If I don’t get their permission at the beginning, they can be more defensive when I do jump in. I even remind participants of our original agreement. This process of framing things up allows me to get a better result, quicker, while coaching online and I highly recommend it to others. Another good framing-up discussion could be asking permission to identify when and if we go down off-course and down any rabbit holes during the course of the online coaching. There’s even more potential to go down rabbit holes in the online space. In real life meetings, someone may begin to say something and someone else interrupts them and it’s much easier to steer people back on course. There’s a natural eb and flow to real-life group discussions. Online, we tend to let people finish what they are saying and wait our turn or cue to talk. This can lead to people becoming disengaged and conversations going off course. A good mediator needs to recognise this and not be resistant to jumping in when needed. It’s much more acceptable to interrupt someone and ask the question of whether this is a rabbit hole if you established permission to do so up front.
Check in with participants
I have a rule that participants have to have their camera on during sessions. Coaching needs to be interactive and everyone needs to be engaged. By having the ability to see all participants is the next best thing to having them there in the room. After nearly twelve months online, I have become pretty good at picking up on cues such as facial expressions, eye rolls etc, and I quickly step in to address that, or capture someone else's reaction to another person talking.
Implement an initial check in
One of the things we lose in the online coaching session is the chatter and connections that happen just prior to the session kicking off. In order to try to bring some of this back to the online space, it’s a good idea to check-in with everyone prior to commencing. A good way to do this is to ask an open question such as “at work at the moment I am currently feeling..” and then let everyone have their turn to answer. A great way to greet everyone and get everyone engaged.
There’s been a shift toward more need for follow up. When we are face to face there’s more of an element of ‘we were all there and know what the net steps are’ but there seems to be more of a need to send email follow-ups to confirm outcomes of meetings which has generally been more effective.
Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.