What has been your experience of online versus face-to-face?

One of the benefits of this last year has been the shared experience we have all gained from moving into a virtual space for all our work.

Prior to Covid, we largely thought leadership training and development had to be done face-to-face. And while the benefits of actual human gatherings for such purpose cannot be diminished, we have been able to adequately get things done without having to gather together in person. Pre-Covid, people talked about how it would be possible to do things remotely, but no amount of good argument convinced us that we could make the shift completely.

Why? Because people don’t make the transition in their attitude until they actually experience it themselves. There is something really powerful in the experience.

In the 1950’s behaviorist Benjamin Bloom, defined three “domains” of learning that have since become standard. People learn through the integration of knowledge, skills and attitudes, and it’s a good way to look at our collective working from home experience.

Knowledge: The cognitive or thinking domain which includes facts and information. We talk about how we can do things online.

Skills: The psychomotor or “doing” domain, which refers to physical performance. Thanks to Covid, we quickly learned the practical skills around how to hold online meetings, using IT in order to do so and how we navigate our way though both collective and one-on-one online meetings.

Attitude: The affective or feeling domain. Attitude is shifted by experience. Having a personal experience of working from home and holding meetings/ workshops online has helped our attitude to change.

Even though we knew it was possible to work from home, and meet collaboratively from home, without the actual experience of doing it, our attitude overall was that face-to-face was a far superior, preferred option and too much could be lost. It’s been incredible to see how we have adapted to making it work for us. In my last article, I talked about the things I have tweaked to make the most out of my online coaching;

  • Long leadership workshops are better divided into bite size chunks or 2-hour timeslots over several weeks
  • Prior to launching into your meeting/ training session, frame up your role and the role of everyone participating in the session
  • Give yourself or whoever is facilitating the meeting, the permission to jump in/ coach in the moment
  • Implement an initial check-in prior to commencing the training session/ workshop allowing everyone to say hi, or answer a common question
  • Follow up afterwards with emails, phone calls etc
  • Make sure participants are indeed participating, with their camera on and encourage active engagement/ giving everyone permission to speak

What have we lost in the move to online learning and development?

One of the things that has been a privilege to do with face-to- face groups over the years is to create a shared experience where we ‘do’ something together that creates a story amongst only those who were there.

When these experiences are well constructed, they can shift attitude, open minds and prepare people for learning in a way that rhetoric is rarely able to replicate. This will continue to be a challenge for online learning.

When you have a group of people together in the same place for a few days away from the office you build a level of relationship that is difficult to do online. This depth and richness of shared experience can mean that when we work with each other online after the event the relationship remains strong and reduces friction. The ability to build this level of working relationships is much more challenging to achieve in a virtual environment.

Another challenge in online forums is the problem of engagement and participation (or lack thereof). The temptation to sit back and slip into non-engaged mode is strong – I suspect many of us have the experience of signing into the online meeting, being present for the first few minutes and then checking emails, responding to other messages and doing other work.

While online sessions work well for dumping information, lecturing and even small group short conversations with clear tasks (“Report back on…” “Reach a consensus on …” “Collect the group’s thinking on …”), taking poorly designed courses, development, meetings and conferences and dumping them into the virtual world doesn’t move us forward. Bad systems just become bad electronic systems. We need to adapt to the way we facilitate online meetings in order to get the most out of them and the participants.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about moving away from the virtual space and “back to normal”. And people remain divided. Some want to get back in the office, others have discovered a rich layer of benefits to working from home that they don’t want to give up. Many companies have either moved their employees back to the office full time, or are working towards a gradual process of having everyone back two days a week, three days, five days. We have gained so much from being thrown into the virtual space in a sink-or-swim fashion, now is a great time for leaders to get together to see how that has worked for their business and employees and weigh up what their ‘back to normal’ might look like.

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.

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