How to facilitate a virtual leadership development program

Last week, in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic, Bendelta and Health Education and Training Institute (HETI) worked together to deliver a completely virtual 2-day Leadership Development experience. In one week, what was originally an immersive two-day face to face experience was developed into a digital transformative event.

The experience was part of a 9-month long intensive program for Senior Executives working in NSW Health. This program was recently awarded Gold in the Best Unique or Innovative Leadership Program category for the International Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence Awards, alongside other Gold winners, Harvard Business School.

This transformational HETI Senior Executive Development Program develops leaders to be at their best in times of complexity and challenges leaders’ ways of thinking, feeling and seeing the world. Has there ever been a more complex time for leaders in health? NSW Health doubled down on leadership support to those who have given so much to others, and will continue to do so in these unprecedented times.

On Thursday and Friday, we had the opportunity to take participants into the virtual world and hosting the 2-day experience digitally.

Despite the change in modality, we stayed true to the original agenda, which included the following components:

–      Key speaker presentations with whiteboards and slides

–      Entire cohort discussions and reflections

–      Small working group breakouts to work on strategic challenges

–      Immersive visits to virtually ‘meet’ and get to know clients

–      Presentations back to clients

Here are a few of the lessons we learned:

Have the right equipment

It sounds simple, but having great technology to support a virtual delivery is a must. At HETI we had speakers for high quality audio, as well as microphones in the ceiling, touch screens for white-boarding, large screens so we could see all the participants at once, and high-quality cameras. The lecture room was set-up so that the facilitator could stand and move. This added both an element of familiarity (that’s what it would have been like if they were in person) as well as an element of movement to the experience.  

Design and deliver for inclusivity

We have all attended an offsite where the same few voices are heard over and over again or where power in the organisation determines how much someone shares. Virtual meetings offer a wonderful environment for non-hierarchical interactions, where every voice can be heard. Host functions (including ‘mute’!) can invite and sustain individuals’ voices without a risk of others talking over a person. Breakout room features are another great way to get people to connect with each other and having meaningful conversations in small groups throughout an experience. A technical tip, however; make sure each participant has their own technology (even if they are in the same office) so they can be put into various breakout rooms throughout the session.  

Get people moving

As well as the facilitator, it was also important to get participants up and moving. For HETI, this was achieved by encouraging learners to move during breaks. The facilitators also integrated ‘state-changing’ movement activities and body language prompts. This was as simple as asking people to show how they are feeling using a word and a body shape, or to agree on a range of hand signals to demonstrate a response (e.g. ‘I agree’, ‘tell me more’). This is important since you want to avoid everyone contributing at once through the audio channel.

Ensure visuals to add richness to the experience

Enable the visual functions in your experience, such as video, virtual backgrounds and photo sharing. For example, HETI participants started using the background image setting to show how they were feeling about the program throughout the experience and as a way of checking out at the end of the session. Sharing visuals added richness to stories and quickly built personal connection in an online environment where affinity connection might have otherwise been traditionally be low.

Make use of share features

Share screen features are a common feature of many digital platforms; these can be used for much more than presenting slides. Share live polling platforms to invite multiple voices into the space. Put up a word puzzles for participants to work on together while they are waiting for everyone to come back from the breaks. Don’t underestimate how 2-minutes of waiting online seems so much longer than in a bricks and mortar room. Whiteboard features can be annotated on by multiple parties at once, so you can use it for much more than capturing themes. These tools can also be an effective way to replicate a continuum line check in (e.g. ‘on a scale of one to ten, how do you think today went?’).

At Bendelta we are working with our clients to transfer face-to-face programs into highly enjoyable and impactful online experiences so that they can continue to move at pace, work as high performing virtual teams and deliver on their strategies in this uncertain context. We are able to do this so quickly because we are leveraging our experience in virtual delivery with the likes of Telstra, HSF and Sports Australia.

This article was written by Christie Little, Principal Consultant. To learn more about our virtual delivery offerings contact us here.

2020-03-20T18:32:25+11:00March 17th, 2020|
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