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Are you bummed your organization’s leadership retreat isn’t at your favorite 5 star resort this year?

I am.

You are probably bummed you can’t meet in person. Even if you could, you are still worried about the safety risks of catching COVID-19.

I am too.

The thing is you don’t have to sacrifice the outcome of having your incoming leadership be misinformed, disconnected, or out of touch with what’s going on. You want every person fully engaged because the future of your organization depends upon it whether it’s virtual now or not.

You can choose to talk about the trends of business today or you can demonstrate how virtual business gets done. Leading by example with more engaging alternatives builds other leaders up who will align with your vision, communicate your vision, and will act as a steward in other virtual meetings. This is why it’s mission-critical for business leaders to assess how they can collaborate effectively in a virtual environment and not let any one technology get in the way.

Aside from the team-building exercises and review of your strategic objectives, you must engage leaders differently. That means acquiring new skills. New skills that require a new process. And a new process that involves new tools.

For example, you can’t pull out a flip chart during a Zoom meeting and expect everyone to be able to read your handwriting with the off-color marker on the paper glaring from the lights. You need to #1 have a digital whiteboard #2 know how to use it and #3 be fast at soliciting and framing input into the whiteboard to gain conceptual agreement with the team.

Let’s expand on this with other types of virtual leadership skills to acquire and transfer:

#1 Facilitate asynchronous assignments

If someone gave you an assignment, would you find an excuse not to do it or the right resource to help you take action? If you looked for the right resource and were still stuck, would you ask for help or pretend not to know the answer? It’s hard for leaders who are not familiar with operating new programs and have a strong resistance to completing tasks on their own without the support of IT. Those willing to experiment in completing new assignments with new technology and create their own helpful examples can be great internal case studies to show change is possible with the approach.

I’ve used Airtable to create this exercise as an example. If you complete the exercise and submit the form, I will be able to receive your input along with anyone else who wishes to collaborate. This is 100 times easier to collect 100 videos than receive 100 emails each with a video as an attachment.

#2 Whose got talent?

If you asked your entire leadership team to record their own video in 5 minutes or less explaining why someone should join your organization, what type of file would you expect to receive?

You could get:

  • A video testimonial captured from an iPhone.
  • A screen capture video of the organization’s website in the background with the speaker reinforcing its values.
  • A video promotion talking about a new service with a video background with the organization’s logo appearing in a spiral pattern.

Videos are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.

Doug Devitre

#3 Write creative non-fiction

If you can’t tell your own story, others aren’t going to follow you. Creative non-fiction is a way to share your narrative on the facts, series of events, or experiences that can benefit others. Think of this exercise as your personal opportunity to author copy that is going to sell others on why customers should buy from your group, why the best talent works there, and how others have succeeded by affiliating with your organization.

When you outline your thoughts in writing, you are able to:

  • Become more confident in the language you use during virtual meetings and live video.
  • Humanize the message to build trust and sustain relationships.
  • Worry less about winging it when it’s your turn to go speak up in a virtual meeting.
  • Recruit others to support the goals of the organization much easier.

#4 Social media channel engagement

If you don’t follow, like, or subscribe to the social media channels, how can you expect others in your organization to do the same too? It’s confusing when you speak up passionately in person and then go dark when it’s time to support the campaign on social media. While it’s unrealistic to like, comment, and share every message, it’s important to regularly review all communications going out in order to add commentary or support the organization if someone challenges its integrity. The organization should have a consolidated list of links to each social media channel, lists of strategic partners and their social media channels, and the competitions’ so each member on the leadership team has their ear to the ground.

Example ways to organize social feeds:

  • Web page with a list of social media channels
  • List of supportive hashtags
  • Facebook Page favorites
  • Blog feed widgets
  • Twitter lists
  • YouTube favorited channels

#5 Virtual interviewing skills

Every Zoom meeting represents a marketing opportunity for your organization. When you think of how many Zoom meetings you are on right now or can schedule, you can be more places in less time without having to travel. Learn how to host your own interview to create valuable content that can be used to support objectives internally and externally with customers. When you are the host of a virtual meeting, you don’t have to have all the answers to create a successful recording. Each guest, subject matter expert, or influencer does. Hone your virtual interview skills by learning:

  • The nuances of scheduling on-time virtual meetings.
  • How to troubleshoot audio/video issues upon the meeting start time.
  • How to build rapport with new acquaintances and esteemed guests.
  • How to ask provocative questions to help analyze the critical aspects of the business and help avoid risk.
  • How to make transitions from one key point to the next.
  • How to record, save, and transcribe your video interviews.

Set aside some time to during your virtual leadership program to conduct an interviewing exercise.

#6 Quick access memory test

You’ve been on enough Zoom meetings to know that if the host or presenter cannot find the website or the file they are looking for fast, you will probably get distracted and focus on something else. The time to recapture attention and align on the task at hand suffers each time this happens. Sadly, it happens more often than it should.

When leaders are charged with leading internal or external meetings in the field, their quick access memory will be put to the test.

What are the most important web links, documents, and images that you need to access and share at a moment’s notice?

Example files/websites, images, and files for quick access memory:

  • A most current version of the strategic plan.
  • A most current copy of the financials.
  • A copy of the bylaws and operating procedure manual.
  • The web page that shares the culture, mission, and vision statement.
  • The web page of the current leadership team.
  • The web page that shares how others can get involved.
  • The web page outlining the value proposition, key benefits, and highlights.
  • A web page or PDF of most recent industry trends.
  • Web page(s) of direct and indirect competitors.

It’s usually one person’s responsibility to know where those files exist. That needs to stop. It’s everyone’s responsibility on the leadership team to be competent in retrieving these resources quickly. Honestly, if you can’t find them, how is anyone else supposed to find them? Furthermore, when these leaders break away to their own teams, their quick access memory skills will be put to the test.

#7 Digital whiteboard facilitation

No. I cannot read the paper flip chart to the side of you in your Zoom meeting. When you try to facilitate by typing notes on the screen, we are focused on the small typing error you have made and lose sight of the big picture. It’s hard to think strategically when I’m reading your premade PowerPoint presentation too.

Paper is best for facilitating discussions. However, in virtual meetings, it’s not practical. You really need a digital whiteboard AND you know how to use one. That takes time. The plethora of video meeting tools making it difficult to learn the ins and outs of each whiteboard feature, making it harder to transition your whiteboard skills between one.

#8 Testimonial Graphic Templates

Language used by influential leaders is a powerful tool. Add sound bite text to a graphic made in Canva alongside the image of the leader and it will amplify the message. Nailing the right sound bite, designing the most captivating image, and getting it ready to share can take weeks with the wrong process. With the right process, you can quickly produce testimonial graphics and have them ready to share.

Choose from this list of steps. Skip any if they don’t apply:

  1. Search for the right size dimensions to create a template.
  2. Add branding, font type, position text layout, and theme styling.
  3. Host a recorded Zoom meeting
  4. Review the transcript.
  5. Search for juicy sound bites.
  6. Copy the sound bite and paste into text inside template.
  7. Add graphic of leader as a placeholder (with background remove).
  8. Rename file ______ Template
  9. Create Canva share link for template.
  10. Share the template with those responsible for creating social media images.

If you have someone representing your organization on social media, they are looking for the right message to go out. Having a leaner process that cost less will not only help you reinforce your message, you will attract new leaders who can see themselves saying the same thing in the future.

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Doug Devitre

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