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  • Writer's pictureLata Hamilton

Change FAQs: How to Lead Your Virtual Team Through Change

On Thursday 5 August I partnered with the cool kids at General Assembly to bring a brand new webinar into the world: How to Lead Your Virtual Team Through Change. We had 270 people register from across the world... so I'm guessing this is a pretty hot topic right now!

Sparked by recent wave of lockdowns hitting Australia, we knew that even those cities and countries enjoying more freedom at the moment would face the same issue: how do you create engaging experiences to shake people up and wake them up through Organisational Change when they are working virtually or remotely?

So that's what the webinar was on. And it was amazeballs. Because I peppered it with stories and real-life examples of things I've done to help bring change activities to life and create immersive, shared experiences, even when people are joining via a computer screen from a hundred different locations. In fact the webinar, in and of itself, was just one such experience. I designed it to be so, and the feedback suggests I hit the mark.

Here's a few choice comments from the attendees:

"Always lovely to join your sessions"

"Thanks Lata, good advice!"

"Great energy, Lata and very engaging. thanks"

"Thank you, excellent presentation - love your positive energy!"

Lata at desk with mic and light

Now if you registered for the webinar but couldn't make it live, definitely keep an eye on your inbox as the recording will be coming through from General Assembly over the next week. Be sure to download the worksheet which has copies of all the tips and tricks.

If you missed the whole thing completely, then you might need to wait in case I run it again with General Assembly... but you're in luck because I've got my free Change Tools Masterclass coming up on 19 August and that's going to be just awesome. Register your free spot here:

Now to the FAQs. I always love to share a blog post after a webinar with the question and answers because on the webinar I'm often strapped for time. So I've put more detail into the responses below, and also added in questions that came from the chat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Would you encourage people to have video on so it feels more connected, or do you mind if they keep it off?

I always encourage people to have their video on for any change activities or teams events, it helps the facilitator know they're actually engaging and this is critical for change because you want to know that it's actually landing with people. That's really hard if you can only see profile photos. It also helps the facilitator to maintain their own energy - there are other tricks, like using the chat to engage, but otherwise it can be hard being the facilitator of the training or the workshop or the conference to keep that energy high. Video call platforms have done an impressive job reducing barriers to people switching on their video, including lighting, virtual backgrounds, blurred backgrounds. So our people are now more used to needing to have video on. However... it is draining, so make sure you've broken your session up, mix it up and have agenda sections where people can turn off the video, or do a phone call, or have a break.

Q. How did you measure the success of the online events, trainings, workshops?

You can do this in a few ways - verbal or written comments that come to you, send them a feedback survey afterwards, gauge their engagement and involvement on the session. For training, I always try to get a confidence rating from attendees so you know that the training landed well. Even attendance full stop can be a really powerful measure of success: how many people registered or were invited vs how many people showed up. If it's recorded, how many views did the replay have? This is actually a bit of a trick question because you need to know what your measures of success are, to then determine the best methods for understanding if you achieved them!

Q. Do you have tips for how to make discussions less structured, so people feel like there's more freedom to speak up, but then avoid people speaking over each other or having awkward silences?

Great question! The big challenge with virtual for a free-flowing conversation or discussion or brainstorm for change is that online we often miss the visual cues that someone wants to jump in to speak. These are the non-verbal cues, and can be as subtle as someone touching their hair from the corner of your eye that you will pick up an energy of anticipation. And in fact, many of these cues are unconscious! You don't even realise you've picked up on that. But via a glowing 2D screen in front of you that only picks up one person speaking and may only show a handful of people at one time the size of stamps... yeah, good luck with that.

Some ideas:

  • Use breakouts to break up big groups into smaller groups of 5-8 people - big enough to ensure there can be a discussion and anyone drops off, small enough that people don't feel super-exposed if that's a problem.

  • Use the non-verbal cues like thumbs up, hand up, etc or the chat for people to request to be called on.

  • Have the facilitator call on a batch of people and spotlight them and others watch the conversation of a smaller cohort and use the chat.

Remember that you might need to manage your expectations - just because you want them to interact doesn't mean that they are going to. And that's where the power of an expert facilitator can come in - to give people or build the confidence of people through the session to then go into those breakouts and being willing to participate.

And finally - awkward silences. Use them! Sometimes people need to think about what they want to say, or they're being polite. Get everyone to take a deep breath in and out and enjoy the break in the conversation. You might need to ask the question again, and that's ok.

Q. How do you keep your energy up as a facilitator?

Maintaining a high energy level as a facilitator comes down to a few key factors:

1) knowing your stuff, which gives you confidence, which shines through

2) preparing yourself ahead of the session (we call this "priming" or "anchoring" in NLP)

3) designing a session that is engaging.

Think of it like an exchange of energy... as a facilitator, you'll feel back what your people are feeling and then you recycle that energy back to your audience. But you gotta start pumped, especially on virtual. You have to bring it, wake people up and shake them up, and then that energy cycle takes over. Again, that's the power of sometimes hiring in an expert facilitator - you can get great traction really quickly!

Q. Any tips on how to talk to people who are distracted on video?

Set the expectations at the start of the session - explain that "to get the most out of the session, we all need to be present and focused and is everyone ok to commit to that?" If someone is still distracted, I'd be polite and contact them privately - shoot them a little chat message, ping, or mobile phone text. If you've got a good relationship with them, you can call them out in front of people and make a joke, but you'll need to judge that situation. Sometimes there's a good reason people are distracted so give them the benefit of the doubt and reach out privately.

Q. What are your top tips for lockdown fatigue?

Move things off the screen! Get people walking, moving, dancing, swaying. Humans are active creatures who thrive on movement and motion as well as social connection. So whether it's virtual gym sessions, walking meetings with phone calls, dance offs from your seat... encourage people to move and get that blood flowing.

Some great tips came through from Phil on the webinar for social ideas: Set up a social channel for the team separate to a work related channel. Post photos of breaky and lunch or pets. Set a weekly team lunch - remind colleagues drinks don't count (Cuppa soup maybe).

And remember we're all in this together - some days you might bring the energy and ramp up your team or stakeholders, other days they might play the cheerleader for you. That's what team trust and bonding is all about... and there's never a time it's needed more than during Organisational Change!

These activities were really just the cream on the top of great change. Join me on my upcoming Change Tools Masterclass and discover for yourself the power of bringing change into your work, projects and life. Spaces are limited - register your free spot here:

Lata Hamilton is a Change Leadership and Confidence expert and talks about herself in third person at the end of her blog posts. Join her upcoming free Change Tools Masterclass - more info and registration here:


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