A Dozen Handcrafted Leadership Practices

Apr 22, 2020 | Notes from

A Dozen Handcrafted Leadership Practices

Adapted to a Virtual Workspace

The Big Conversations …

When was the last time you put your whole system in one room…from the receptionist to the biggest corner office?  If you do this at least three times a year and you have just done one virtually, skip this part.  If you haven’t done this in a while you may be in system deficit.

The Analog Talk Suite … Ted Talk, World Café and Talk Show

Let’s say you want to put something important into your whole system…perhaps a new policy, program or initiative. This new three-part tool asks you to imagine a shift from the standard often canned talking head presentation with individual Q & A’s to a more engaged package that has three core elements.  The three include a focused TED type talk, followed by an audience engaging World Café in which the fourth-round grabs unanswered questions from the system rather than individuals.  The third piece has these questions come back to the speaker in  a Talk Show format.  You can do this in 60 minutes and you can do it virtually with a tech platform that has breakout capability.

The OpenSpace …

If you are feeling the need to tap into the zeitgeist of these times with your whole organization or just want a little basic intel on where things are at; the best tool ever, in my mind, has been the brilliant OpenSpace designed by Harrison Owen.  Starting simple with an open-ended question such as…”In order to assess the “working from home” impact on productivity and morale, we need a conversation about…”  This rigorous but engaging practice would require at least two hours, a good facilitator and a platform with breakout capabilities.

The Press Conference …

This little tool is a responsive tool in that allows you to put something important into the room in a talk or presentation with the need to fully engage the audience in a unique Q@A. format.  You put the audience into groupings after the talk and each group is given a highlight of the talk to discuss and come up with the best journalistic questions.  You will get a deeper level of questioning than you often get with individual lineups of single questioners.  Again, for virtual, you need the breakout feature.

Everyday Communication …

Daily Stand-up …

I would suggest that if you are not doing virtual Stand-ups every day with your team or special working group, you are in communication arrears.  The stand-up is dead easy in real time or virtual and has a rigour of timing and consistency that requires firm leadership.  Easily adapted to virtual work.

Check-in/Checkout …

This is a fine practice in these times as it asks the question…What do we need to know from you, the participant, before we get into what we need…the agenda?  Essentially you are giving first voice to the people who show up to make good things happen rather than first voice to the authority that called the session.  By also giving them the last voice, you are initiating almost a cultural practice that respects peoples time and effort.  Easily adapted to virtual work.

Problem Solving …

The Workout …

One of the old school tools for problem solving usually had us striking a committee.  These committees often took two meetings to get their mandate straight, a few months to research discuss and write some recommendations and then it got sent to the 20th floor where most committee reports go to die.  Ok, a bit harsh, but what if you had a practice that put the right people in the room for a day or so, their recommendations were then reviewed and responded to the next day and often implantation happened within weeks. The Workout Model, adapted from GE, is a focused, high prep and quick response tool that will forever change how your organization tackles problems.

The Bucket List/Matrix Combo

One of the sweetest tools ever to get a room full of people to identify the challenges we face on an issue, then priorize the top four challenges identified.  After your people have created this real-world agenda the Matrix uses an interview technique to get all those in the room a full chance to identify possibilities and solutions to all four issues at once.  It is an amazing tool for focus, time management and 100% room enagement.  Again, a breakout feature will be required for virtual work.

Accountability …

Spider Tool …

If you are like the majority of us at work, you might have one common beef…the follow up.  Especially in a virtual work where everyone is nice and intense on the screen and then we all disappear and wonder, is anybody taking care of that?  The Spider is a lovely little practice that ensures no one goes anywhere until they have worked that little five-legged arachnid out first.  Taking decisions, possibilities and crazy ideas further down the road, the Spider does not take up much time and is easily adapted on line.

The After-Action Review …

Critical at any time but more critical in crisis management the military built and practised this little tool for years.  So, after you make something happen, or something happened to us and maybe nothing happened when it was supposed to…you need to know why and you need to know really quickly before all the players forget.  This is where you put the right people on the line or in the room and find out what the hell we just learned.  It must happen immediately after what happened just happened.

Post Script Riders …

To make these tools work virtually as well as we know they work in a room these are some really important basics.

  • You need the best technology available to you and a skilled tech person to turn the knobs.
  • You need to refresh both your leadership and your staff on these tools , how they work and why they work.
  • You need a skilled facilitator to guide the process and keep everyone engaged…this is not a job for a chairperson, you need a facilitator to bring the rigor, focus and energy to a session. This is especially critical in a virtual space where virtual spacing out has been known to happen.
  • You need to actively practice the tool with colleagues before using it in key work issue.
  • Don’t discount old school tech … I have often found higher and more close enagement in a basic telephone conference call that was run like a Radio Show with interviews, open lines and hot button issues than with a few fuzzy bored face webinars that made me want to run to my email.