Guided Insights

Seriously, Here’s How Improv Techniques Can Liven Up Any Virtual Meeting

Can you picture yourself in any of these scenarios? You’re about to launch a virtual conversation where everyone’s perspectives are needed, and you look out to a screen full of pixelated faces that reflect skepticism, boredom, fear, frustration, or any combination. You’ve designed a virtual learning program where deep conversations are required to build needed …

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Virtual Strategic Planning: The Silver Lining

When news of Covid hit about eight months ago (or was it eight years ago?) many of us thought we’d be back to “normal” within a few months. Workers would be returning to offices, groups could meet again in person, and conferences and events scheduled for 2021 could go on as planned. But of course, we were …

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Energize Your Next Virtual Meeting!

The very word “energizer” can scare some people away. (Typical responses: “Energizers? Nah, our teams hate those things.” Or “We don’t have that kind of time to waste in our meetings.” Or: “Too risky. If it backfires, I’ll be blamed.” Or, “We have a bunch of introverts. Energizers are just too painful for them.”) Now …

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Virtual Meetings: Why Bother Showing Up If You’re Not Really Present?

You’re trying to pay attention to your third video meeting in a row, where your colleague is making an impassioned case for getting the team much-needed resources. Despite the fact that you’re desperate for this request to be approved, you’re struggling to focus. In part, it’s because you didn’t bother to review the documents she sent so …

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The Dangers of Empathy Unexamined

The tension in the room was palpable as people waited for the meeting to begin. Some perched on the edge of their seats silently staring ahead. Others fidgeted nervously. It was a first. More than 25 people from seven countries had gathered together in one room for this planning session, convened to determine the strategic direction …

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Adapting to a New Culture Takes Curiosity, Humility and Patience

You’re eagerly awaiting the start of your overseas assignment. You’ve learned enough of the language to be passably proficient. You’ve studied films, books and articles to understand cultural norms and nuances, and you’ve even interviewed a few native-born colleagues to find out where the cultural landmines might be hidden. Things go smoothly, at first. Your …

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Can’t We All Just Disagree? Reviving the Lost Art of Civilized Disagreement

Imagine you’re part of a group coming together to agree on a make-or-break decision. Which of these scenarios would you prefer: 1) After an amicable (and blessedly) brief conversation, everyone easily agrees to go along with the majority or 2) A heated debate ensues, with people from opposing viewpoints passionately arguing their respective positions? If …

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Want Virtual Learners to Stay Engaged? Insist They Multitask, and Other Big Tips

Just about all of the participants who took one of my recent Virtual Leadership workshops gave it high marks. Most reported that the combination of video, verbal conversation and electronic flipcharts kept them engaged the whole time and helped them to learn a lot within a short time. All except for Mark, who reported having …

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Head Off Problems Up Front, Before Cultural Differences Can Get in the Way

What are the toughest challenges you absolutely need to conquer when it comes to leading global teams? That’s what I asked a few of my clients, all seasoned leaders of cross-cultural teams, as I sat down to create scripts for a series of training vignettes I was about to deliver for a national training firm. …

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Coping With Travel Restrictions: When Meeting Face to Face Matters, and What To Do When You Can’t

When the stakes are high and pressure is on, I recommend in-person meetings. That’s because we forge connections more easily with people we can see. But the reality is, meeting in person isn’t always possible. Business travel often gets dropped, due to pandemics, weather, budget, politics, injury, family, or other pressing priorities. Joining me in …

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Make Better Decisions with Less Pain, Virtually

People across the organization are counting on your team to meet an absurd deadline that you reluctantly agreed to. It’s become apparent over the last day or two that you made a promise that you simply cannot keep. You’ve called an all-hands meeting with your virtual  team to make a critical decision: Do you let …

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Prove You’re Trustworthy – Here’s How, and Why It’s Critical to Make the Effort

When I see a provocative headline, I check the veracity with at least two reputable news sources before I accept it as at least a close approximation of the truth. (And even then, many major news outlets often fail to report the really important news, which undermines their credibility, in my book.) I am not …

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Why Conversations Sometimes Feel Impossible and How to Bring Them Back

The kids in our high school were shattered when news spread last month that a popular senior took his own life.  Everyday life for these kids screeched to a halt as they struggled to process how such a tragedy could have happened to one of their own. This was the first time many experienced the …

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Stop Squandering Time With All Talk and No Action

True or false: If a meeting ends with no actions, you didn’t really need the meeting in the first place.  My vote: Mostly true. Although some meetings may be held simply to cross-pollinate information or brainstorm new ideas, the goal of most meetings is to get something concrete accomplished. A resulting list of actions is …

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Combat Rude Behavior with Radical Civility

Everyone knew that Jim was a real jerk. With an arch of his brow or the curl of his lip, this senior VP could reduce anyone to tears. And he did, frequently. As a junior staff writer at the time, I was a frequent target of Jim’s scathing derision. One day I decided to confront …

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To Get People Talking, Try Asking the Right Questions

It’s happened to all of us: You pose a carefully-worded question, pause and wait for someone to respond. Anyone. Please? And then you hear nothing, other than an awkward, prolonged silence. You start to panic and make assumptions like: “They must be multitasking! Maybe they’re all on mute. I guess no one cares about this …

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The Impossibility of Designing a “Perfect” Virtual Meeting in a Multicultural World

When I run my “Leading Engaging Virtual Meetings” workshops, I can’t always tell when certain concepts resonate with participants. That’s because most of the time I deliver my workshops virtually. Last week, however, I delivered my workshop in person to more than 100 savvy marketing consultants and analysts from more than 25 countries around the …

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Fire Up Your Communications Mojo in a Virtual World

John has always been great at playing to the crowd. With just a subtle arch of his eyebrow or a sly half-smile, John can bring the house down or rev people up. He’s a communications superstar who knows exactly what every audience needs to hear and delivers it perfectly. John is justifiably proud of his …

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Managing Performance from Afar Made Easier: 10 Tips for a Happier Outcome

It can be awkward to give someone tough feedback when they’re miles away. And that’s the least of it. Without visual cues, the delivery of even the most well-meaning and thoughtful performance feedback can have the opposite effect. It can damage relationships, erode trust, sap motivation, and in reality, it can actually weaken performance, instead …

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It’s What People Aren’t Saying That Leaders Most Need to Hear

We’ve seen many leaders win promotions simply because they excel at managing upwards. You know the type: They grab the plum projects for themselves, doling out the routine work to others. Since they want to demonstrate their effectiveness to their managers, they pressure team members to achieve performance targets at any cost. They spend little …

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Just Because You’re Silent, You May Not Be Really Listening

Chances are, you probably think you’re a pretty good listener. Most of us do. We aren’t the type to interrupt our colleagues, trounce on someone else’s ideas, or whip out a mobile device in the midst of a conversation (at least not in plain view!). So we must be good listeners, right? Well, maybe not. …

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Flip Your (Virtual) Meetings – Learning from Our Best Teachers

To stave off boredom and stimulate learning that lasts longer than a class period, my kids’ teachers are experimenting with “flipped classrooms.” Rather than lecturing at kids with a bunch of PowerPoints during the precious classroom time, the teachers assign the content in advance, usually by having the kids view content online, whether in the …

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Using Technology to Transcend Cultural Barriers

“I followed every best practice about running great virtual meetings, and bam! The whole thing still blew up in my face, and I have no idea why!” My client Jim, a senior leader for a F500 oil company, left this panic-stricken voicemail right after his kick-off meeting to launch a major new global project. I …

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How to Create a 12-Month Plan in Just Two Hours

There’s something about the blank slate of a brand new year that makes it a perfect time to get your group together and lay down plans for the next 12 months. Sounds like a good idea in theory, but it can be near impossible to persuade people to hunker down in a meeting room for …

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7 Tips for Avoiding Another Epic (Project) Fail

I really hate it when one of my projects doesn’t exactly go as planned. Happily, this rarely happens, so when it does, I tend to obsess over it, replaying the events ad infinitum. When a recent project seemed to fall short of expectations, I devoted countless hours (okay, maybe a few days) to understanding what …

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10 Tips for Uber-Efficient Meetings – Making Every Minute Count

No question: We waste a lot of time in meetings when we could be getting more important work done. But sometimes there’s just no substitute for real-time conversations. Emails, instant messages and shared portals can only take you so far, especially when you’re pressured to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. How we …

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10 Tips for Overcoming Facilitation Fears

If you’d rather walk through fire than facilitate a virtual meeting, you’re not alone! (Come to think of it, leading virtual meetings can actually feel a bit like walking through fire!) Whether you’re a project leader, group manager, subject manager expert, or individual contributor, sooner or later, you’ll lead a meeting where some or all participants are …

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The Real Costs of Persistent Multitasking: 9 Tips to Minimize Damage

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who can’t concentrate when people around me tap away on their tablets as though no one else at the meeting notices. Do these people even realize how distracting and disrespectful their behavior can be? Or do they just not notice or care? Or maybe I just don’t …

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8 Steps for Facilitating Constructive Conflict, Virtually

Your team is under pressure to make a decision that will make or break your big project. You are shocked when all of your colleagues agree to what you believe will be a disastrous decision. When you regain your powers of speech, everyone is waiting for you to weigh in. (Thankfully, no one can read …

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10 Tips for Picking the Best Tech Tools for Your Next Virtual Meeting

With so many ways to connect virtually, you’d think we’d all be experts by now. In fact, the opposite may be true: Because we have so many choices, finding the best combination of virtual collaboration tools has actually become tougher. And even when we are convinced we’ve chosen wisely, participants inevitably show up unprepared or unable to make …

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