How to Demonstrate Your Leadership Potential Right Now

How to Demonstrate Your Leadership Potential Now

You know you’ve got leadership potential.

But, how do you get others to see it? Particularly, now. After all, your boss has bigger fish to fry than talking about your career.

But this crisis could go on for a while.

And you care about your future and want to make a bigger impact.

In-person visibility is at an all-time low. The company off-site where you would normally have some great hallway conversations is now virtual.

But the good news is that in some ways it’s even easier to emerge as a leader and get noticed for your leadership potential.

Because you know what your company needs right now?

Great leadership at every level.

If you’re stretching out of your comfort zone, contributing what you can, truly caring for the people around you, making the tough decisions, and prioritizing what matters most—you are bound to get noticed.

5 Ways to Demonstrate Your Leadership Potential Now

This is your moment.

New leaders always emerge in times of crisis.

Stay focused on adding value, making a consistent contribution, and worry less about who gets the credit.

It might not happen right away, but trust me, there will be a point that people look back and say, “Who made a difference during our time of crisis, what did they do, and why did it matter?”

You want your name at the top of the list.

Here’s a start.

1. Connect deeply.

Everyone is struggling in their own way right now.  Show up with deep empathy (and a bit of vulnerability) and work to connect. Influence starts with trust and connection. And you know what else? It feels good! For you and for them.

2. Keep your cool.

Grace under pressure is by far one of the hardest leadership competencies to teach. And, it’s one of the most important leadership competencies needed right now.

When everyone’s freaking out about a fast pivot, or visibly oozing pandemic stress onto everyone around them, the people who can provide stability and calm stand out.

Just like stress, calm is contagious.  Anything you can do to help the people around you stay grounded will add huge value. Be the one who helps the team stay focused and productive.

3. Consistently contribute I.D.E.A.s to improve the business.

And not just any ideas. Bring ideas that are strategically aligned with what your organization needs to do to thrive in the next 18 months.

No one has all the answers. That’s your invitation.

Show that you get what matters most and bring ideas about how to solve a big problem, and in the next 9 box review, your boss will be sharing how resourceful you are with excellent critical thinking skills. You can use our I.D.E.A. model to vet your ideas and then make your case.

4. Be sure every meeting you attend is better because you were there.

Leading remote teams resource pagePeople are Zoomed out. Everyone we talk to is sharing that remote work is leading to more meetings, not less.

You don’t have to be in charge of a meeting to make it better.

Check out our FREE remote team’s resource center for ideas on how to lead remote meetings, run better remote one-on-one and more and work to make any meeting you are a part of better. Suggest alternative ways to communicate, including asynchronous communication.

5. Lead a team to solve a problem.

There’s no shortage of challenges right now. Pick something that’s really frustrating you, that’s within your ability to make better. Find a few like-minded people and work on it. Don’t do it because you need visibility. Do it because you care and want to make your organization better. Every leader I’m talking to right now is looking for more gung-ho, solutions-oriented people to help.

Be the person others see as working to make things better.

Your turn.

What ideas do you have for someone looking to demonstrate their leadership potential right now?

9 Mistakes That Sabotage Collaboration

9 Mistakes That Sabotage Collaboration and Destroy Trust

You’re working hard and want to win. So do your co-workers. You think, “we’re all on the same team, so why does everything we do seem to sabotage collaboration?”

Ironically, it’s usually the well-meaning, high-achievers that inadvertently sabotage collaboration.

When you’re that focused on winning, it’s tough to remember that the competition isn’t in the guy in the left Zoom window, it’s mediocrity.

If you’re a manager of rock star managers who are all driving one another crazy,  start by ensuring you have truly interdependent goals, and eliminating stack ranks that pit peers against one another.

Much of the time when collaboration breaks down, it’s because everyone is playing the game they’ve been told to win—which actually is a zero-sum game. If your structure says I have to lose for you to win, don’t expect your high-performers to collaborate.

Beyond that, we’ve found the next best way to jump-start collaboration is to make it safe to talk about what’s sabotaging it and what to do instead.

9 Mistakes that Sabotage Collaboration

So if you’re struggling with your peers, or have a team of managers who like one another well enough, but are competing instead of collaborating, try addressing these common mistakes that sabotage collaboration.

See what resonates and talk about a path forward.

It might surprise you how quickly people fess up, “Oh, that’s me. I’m definitely the guy with unbridled tenacity.”

1. Thinking Your View is THE View

When everyone is heads-down focused on getting things done, it’s easy to see lose sight of other people’s perspectives.

We see it all the time. HR sees compliance training as the most important thing—with lots of good reasons. Sales thinks HR has lost their mind to even consider doing training at a time like this. Customer service needs sales to stop making promises they can’t deliver on.

Everyone’s right, everyone’s frustrated, and everyone’s finding it hard to accomplish their most important priorities.

2. Over-advocating for the Home Team

Of course, advocating for, and defending your team, is generally a good characteristic. Your team wants to know you have their backs. It’s also important to keep a realistic and balanced perspective.

Sometimes the best person for that coveted special assignment isn’t your box nine candidate. Sometimes it’s YOUR team that screwed things up and the best next step is to apologize, not defend.  And yes, sometimes the bigger bonus needs to go to the guy on the other team who knocked it out of the park—even though your team has been working hard too.

3. Hoarding Talent

When you’ve spent significant time developing your team, it can be difficult to let them go to another team or department—even if it’s in their best interest, or for the greater good of the organization. After all, who wants to be the farm team for the rest of the company? But when you keep talent to yourself, you limit opportunities for your people—and overall performance suffers.
How can we encourage more collaboration for talent development and staffing?

4. Shutting Down Ideas

Because We Have Always Done It This WayIn our Courageous Cultures research, 67% of the respondents operated under the notion that “this is the way we’ve always done it.” And those same managers just as likely to shut down ideas from a peer.

5. Unbridled Tenacity

When you know you’re “right,” it can be tough to figure out how to also be effective. When you disagree in front of an audience, particularly if that audience is your boss, even if you’re right, your peers may feel like you’ve thrown them under the bus.

6. Not Spending Enough Time Together

It’s easy to under-invest in coworker relationships. Leaders tend to focus on their team and boss first and hope the peer relationships will evolve naturally. Just like any human interaction, coworker relationships take time and energy to grow properly. In addition, peer relationships are naturally tricky since you’re often competing in a stack rack, for resources or for senior leader attention.

7. Not Asking For Help

When you know your coworkers are slammed, it’s hard to ask for help. But if no one asks, how do you know how to be most helpful?

8. Not Acknowledging One Another’s Contribution

Okay, suppose they did help you. And now you’re getting praise for your great work, but forget to mention their support. Now they’re ticked off.

9. Withholding Best Practices

Often high-performers will share ideas and best practices when you ask for them, but are too busy (or competitive) to do so proactively.

Or they don’t share because they don’t want to look braggy. Meanwhile, people are wasting time spinning their wheels because they’re unaware that a coworker has already figured it out.

Talking about these common problems that sabotage collaboration (even in the abstract) can help you find a better path forward to better teamwork to take everyone’s performance to the next level.

See Also: Fast Company, How to Deal  With Toxic High Achievers

Leaders share about innovation and imagination

Frontline Festival: Leaders Share about Innovation and Imagination

In this month’s Frontline Festival, top leadership experts share their perspectives and insights on innovation and imagination.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors.

We’re also delighted to feature Chip Bell, who talked with Karin about how to include your customer in your innovation process.  Congrats, Chip, on your latest book, Inside Your Customer’s Imagination.

Part 1

Part 2


Innovation and Imagination with Your Clients, Customers, and Platform

 Dr. Artika Tyner of Planting People Growing Justice Leadership shares The Future of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Not only will organizations benefit immensely from the cultivation of inclusion in the workplace, but society as a whole will also reap the benefit of being immersed in the future of innovation. Research has demonstrated how diversity makes us brighter by opening our eyes to new dimensions of thinking, creating, and building together. In addition, diversity positively impacts performance and drives revenue because diverse teams generate better decisions and yield superior outcomes. Follow Artika.

Julie Winkle Giulioni

Julie Winkle Giulioni of  shares Risky Business: Strategies to Encourage Employee Risk-Taking. With innovation and imagination, there are risks. Employees are only able to bring forth their most creative selves, novel ideas, and ground-breaking work if they know they have the support of their leaders. This article offers actionable advice on how to cultivate a culture that encourages risk-taking and innovation. Follow Julie.

Rachel Blakely-Gray

Rachel Blakely-Gray of Patriot Software asks, Are You Using Imagination and Innovation in Business? In business, nobody likes the same-old-same-old. Add a dash of imagination and innovation to your business to keep your customers’ interest, adapt to the pandemic, and so much more. Follow Rachel.


Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership gives us Innovation: Ultra-Thin Slices at Sargento. Ultra-Thin Slices were a breakthrough innovation for Sargento. They had to re-think the challenge and show some courage. Follow Wally.


Eileen McDargh of The Resiliency Group provides Trader Joe’s Rocks Resilience (with Innovation.) Consider how a business can respond differently to stand out from the crowd. Trader Joe’s has always done that and now- in the COVID-19 world, continues to do things differently from other grocery stores. She also shares The Power of Telling a Journey Story as a way to view difficult times without giving into despair. Follow Eileen.


Innovation and Imagination with Your Team and with Yourself


Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership shares Why Leaders Should Empower their Employees to Bring Their Dreams to Work. Discover why leaders should be encouraging workplace environments that empower employees to bring their dreams to work to drive growth and success. Follow Tanveer.


Paul LaruePaul LaRue of The Upwards Leader provides How to Reinvent Your Leadership. Our styles of leadership can get stale over time. Here are some methods to keep your edge fresh while changing up your approach. Follow Paul.


John HunterJohn Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog shares Technological Innovation and Management. Technological innovation brings great opportunities for improving results and our quality of life. But transforming potential benefits into real results comes with many challenges. Follow John.


Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership advises Don’t Make Lemonade: A Better Approach for When Life Gives Us Lemons.  When the lemons of life come our way, some will tell us to try to make lemonade. This approach is well-intended but falls short of what we could be doing. If we look hard enough, we may find that those obstacles hold the key to something even better. Follow Ken.

David GrossmanDavid Grossman of The Grossman Group gives us 7 Tips to Follow as You Reboot Internal Communications Through COVID-19. The pandemic forced us to go back to the fundamentals of communicating and leading (in most cases) – and the lessons we learned (and continue to learn) should remind us of what’s important and the things we don’t want to lose. Here are 7 tips and reminders for leaders and communicators as you reboot communications for the long-term. Follow David.

Jon Verbeck of Verbeck Associates shares Inspired to Innovate where he reminds us not to get too comfortable doing things the way they’ve always been done. Follow Jon.



Shelley RowShelley Row of Shelley Row Associates  gives us Challenge these Five Assumptions for More Innovation (or, Learning from UFOs.) You may not have UFOs in your office, but insightful leaders know the importance of challenging assumptions. Follow Shelley


Beth BeutlerBeth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited offers this perspective: Your personal productivity rhythms should be evaluated and “tweaked” regularly. Just like racing pit crews continually practice and find ways to cut time to accomplish the essentials, wise professionals think about where their time is going in the everyday minutia. What can you reduce or eliminate altogether (such as email subscriptions you don’t read?) so that you can free up your imagination for high-level opportunities and service to others? Follow Beth.

S. Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture provides a Culture Leadership Charge: Refine Your Desired Culture. Companies who want to live out a strong, trusting culture will often need to refine it regularly – such as every two years. This is a form of ongoing innovation that is vital to the health of the organization. Follow Chris.



Are you a leadership writer? We’d love to have you join us with your articles, videos, podcast episodes, or simply your best thinking on the topic (even if you don’t have additional content to link.) Our topic for October is culture. Click here to submit your thoughts and content!

make training work - every leader's a teacher

How to Make Training Work: Every Leader’s a Teacher

Make Training Work by Involving Leaders at Every Level

Do you get frustrated with training that wastes time and money, but doesn’t change behavior? Yeah, us too. Your leadership development (or any type of training) should be practical, focused on your business, and get results. But how do you make training work and achieve a good return on your investment?

3 Common Training Mistakes

We’ve worked with organizations around the world and have seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to high-ROI training programs. When it doesn’t work, you’ll often encounter one of these critical mistakes.

1. Lack of Executive Sponsorship

This is one of the most common problems with training initiatives. A well-intentioned executive asks their OD or HR team to find or provide training for a particular issue. But then the executive doesn’t engage with the training, doesn’t model it, and soon concludes that it was bad training – or worse, that all training is a waste of money.

The poor results were entirely predictable. Everyone watches what senior leaders actually do. This is the core of your culture. Telling everyone it’s important, but then ignoring it, is a guaranteed path to wasted time and money.

2. Outsourcing Training to HR

We have worked with incredible human resource professionals who ensure that their people are equipped to do transformative work. But no matter how exceptional your team might be, you can’t outsource training to HR and expect it to stick.

Your HR team isn’t in the meeting with clients, following up on the new procedure, or watching your leaders coach in a one-on-one. They can ensure that skills are taught, but that’s only the beginning. Observation and accountability for how and when people use those skills are critical to make training stick.

3. Using Training to Address Broken Systems

Another common problem that sabotages training before it begins is using training as a fix-all for other problems. A common example is when two department leaders have competing KPIs that affect their team’s compensation. Conflict is guaranteed as each department’s leadership team squares off to defend their people and paycheck.

Frustrated executives complain that their people can’t get along and need training.

But no amount of communication training will fix the broken system. The leaders might get the message that senior leadership doesn’t appreciate their conflict and they might even keep quiet for a bit, but the underlying dysfunction is still there. It’s just a matter of time before it erupts again.

Include Leaders to Make Training Work

One solution to make training work and address all three of these common training mistakes is to incorporate leaders at every level as teachers and sponsors of your training initiatives.

This doesn’t mean that every team leader must literally teach a unit (though in some cases, that might be a great idea.) Rather, the principle of leaders as teachers means that:

  1. Every leader models, reinforces, and helps trainees succeed with the training. This is critical for the success of every training program. Participants need to hear their leaders say “This is important. Here’s why this matters and how it works.” Then trainees need to see those words lived out in leaders’ daily actions. This is the most critical aspect of leaders as teachers. To go further and ensure success, the leaders as teachers principle also means that:
  2. The training program has an appropriate level leadership sponsor who commits to partnering with your OD / HR team or external partner to develop the content.
  3. The sponsor either attends the training or, if already versed, commits to modeling key behaviors and reinforcing through their 5×5 communication.
  4. Sponsors look for, highlight, and celebrate successful implementation of trained behaviors (you get more of what you encourage and celebrate!)
  5. Leaders facilitate action learning activities.
  6. And, they consistently follow up with trainees on what they’re learning and how they’re using it.
  7. Leaders facilitate learning discussions. Your leaders may not have the skills to teach or train effectively, but they can facilitate discussions, ask participants about their experiences, how they’re using what they’ve learned, and share their own insights about how to make it work in daily practice.
  8. Leaders celebrate success and hold their team accountable for lack of follow-through.

Your Turn

When training lasts and becomes a sustaining part of the culture, leaders at every level invariably embrace, use, and expect others to use the learning.

We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and share how you incorporate leaders to make training work in your organization.

For more information about our leadership development programs and how we work with leaders as teachers, contact us at or give us a call at 443.750.1249.

how to be compassionate without destroying consistency

How to Be Compassionate Without Destroying Consistency

The other day, “Joe” reached out with a genuine dilemma. Throughout this crisis, he’s encouraged his supervisors to be compassionate.  Because, like you, he knows that everyone is dealing with their own set of challenging circumstances.

Like you, he’s focused on doing the right thing for the human beings on the team. Which, of course, means an extra dose of flexibility.

This compassionate, flexible approach worked great—at first. But, now, half a year into this work-at-home reality, with no end in sight, people are complaining about consistency.

And frankly, a few folks are taking advantage of the loosened expectations. The results could be better. The supervisors who try to reign things in look like the bad guys.  Frustration abounds.

How to Calibrate Compassionate Consistency

So what should Joe (and you) do? How do you reset expectations without being a jerk? How do you create compassionate consistency within and across teams?

It starts with setting parameters and calibrating with specific examples.

We find it helpful to think about decisions in three buckets: hard lines, soft lines, and your lines.

Hard Lines

These are areas where employees don’t have much discretion. Think compliance, ethics issues, or even brand standards. Your people can’t bend a rule like that without coming to you.

And, you’re not likely to budge either. Being really clear about your hard line parameters saves time and frustration—for everyone.

Soft Lines

Soft lines are decisions that have more discretion.  People are free to make the call, within certain boundaries. This is where calibration is vital.

For example, suppose you will bend your attendance policy, giving people an extra chance for extraordinary family circumstances during this time. What does that actually mean? It’s likely that your managers will have different interpretations of what constitutes “extraordinary.”

Start by identifying what decisions fall into your “soft lines” bucket, and then play with some imaginary “what if” scenarios, and help the team collaborate and discuss what they would do. It’s far easier (and way less emotional) to calibrate on what compassion looks like in “pretend” situations. And, having already had a similar discussion makes it easier when the time comes to make the tough call.

Your Lines

And if there are areas where your team truly has discretion, be very clear about what those are.   For example, if you only need people in “the office” (working synchronously) during certain hours, say so. And give them the flexibility to manage the rest of their schedule around their life. Or, perhaps you’re requiring every manager to hold a weekly one-on-one with each member of their team, but exactly what that looks like is up to them.

It’s surprising how often people feel overly constrained in areas where they actually have discretion.

The antidote to uncertainty is clarity. The more clear you can be about who owns the decision, and calibrate on what a compassionate response actually looks like, the easier it will be for your managers to make the right, and more consistent, call.

A Practial and Free Way to Get Great 360 Feedback

A Practical and Free Way to Get Great 360 Feedback

Do you know where you stand with your boss? Do you have a good sense of what your peers really think about you? Has it been a minute since your last formal 360 feedback review? Or, is a 360 Feedback something you’ve heard about, but your company hasn’t quite gotten there yet?

You don’t have to wait for HR.  You can build your own Do It Yourself (DIY) 360 Feedback Process to get the feedback you crave.

We often include DIY 360 Feedback in our long-term leadership development programs. Participants frequently tell us they like this approach even better than a fancy on-line tool because it pushes them to have much-needed, real-deal, one-on-one conversations with their boss, peers, and direct reports.

The upside (or downside), depending on your perspective, is that it’s not anonymous.

But if you start with a foundation of trust, really listen, and respond well, you will not only get the feedback you need but also build a foundation for future dialogue.

Start Here To Get The 360 Feedback You Crave

At the end of this article, we’ve included instructions for a DIY (Do It Yourself 360 Feedback) that we use in our programs.  But before you go there, here are a few simple foundations to consider.

1. Ask for the Truth

Set up some time with your boss and peers to really ask for feedback. Avoid the generic, “Do you have any feedback for me?” Or letting them off the hook, by accepting “You’re doing everything just right.”

Ask questions about areas you’re specifically looking to improve.

“What specifically do you think I could do to run our project meetings more effectively and efficiently?”

“I’ve been under a great deal of stress recently, and worry that I might be rubbing some people the wrong way. Is there anything I can do to improve the way I’ve been communicating with you?”

“If you had one piece of advice that could really help me take our team’s performance to the next level, what would that be?”

2. Say Thank You

When someone shares a hard truth, especially about you, thank the person for having the courage, taking the time, and caring enough to share it with you.

3. Respond

If you ask for input, take the time to respond. Even if the ideas aren’t actionable, when you acknowledge that the ideas were heard and considered, you increase the likelihood of hearing more in the future.

4. Never, Ever Shoot the Messenger

If someone has the heart and courage to bring you a difficult truth, even if you vehemently disagree, keep your cool. If you attack them, they won’t bring you another concern.

5. Find Your Truth-Tellers

There are people who understand their team, environment, or processes and are willing to voice their observations. Find these people, keep in regular communication, and let them know you value their observations.

6. Check Your Behavior

If you suspect you are not hearing the truth from those around you, it is time to examine how you are interacting with others. Be sure your paying attention to the items on this list.

If you are struggling to see it, ask others for input, find a mentor, or consider a leadership coach.

7. Model It

The best way to get people to tell you the truth is to build a reputation as someone who tells other people the truth. Start from a place of deep caring with their best interest at heart. If you want more truth-tellers, be a truth-teller.

How to Get Started: A DIY 360 Feedback Tool

Do It Yourself 360 Feedback



See Also: Why The Best Leaders Crave Feedback

What Employees Are Yearning For in Their Remote One-on-Ones

Burnout to Breakthrough – Interview with Eileen McDargh

If you’ve felt burned out over the past few months, you’re not alone. In this practical and hopeful episode, Hall of Fame Speaker and esteemed author Eileen McDargh gives you the tools to identify and overcome the main causes of burnout for you and your team. You’ll want to take notes and be ready to playback sections as Eileen helps you move from Burnout to Breakthrough!

Get Eileen’s book:

burnout to breakthrough book

Connect with Eileen:

Twitter: @macdarling




online meetings that don't suck your soul

Beyond the Basics: Online Meetings that Don’t Suck Your Soul

We don’t hate online meetings – we hate soul-sucking wastes of time.

After months of online meetings, video conferences, Zoom, and Teams meetings, you’ve mastered the basics:

  • You’ve got light in front of you (not behind you) so we can see you.
  • You look into the camera to connect with your team.
  • You’ve got a list of everyone attending and you call in each person to take part.
  • You found a decent microphone so your team can hear you and you don’t have to yell.
  • You invite the least number of people to make the best decisions.
  • At the beginning of the meeting, you summarize the purpose.
  • Your agenda is short, snappy, and people don’t drift and start checking emails.
  • At the end of the meeting, you check for understanding and schedule the finish by asking “Who’s doing what, by when, and how will we know?”
  • And, vitally, you’re not holding a video meeting when a phone call or email will do.

You’re doing these things, but online meeting fatigue persists. What now?

Why Online Meetings Wear Us Out

Online meeting fatigue is real. There are a couple of reasons it happens and, when you know why, you can do something about them.

Remote Energy Drains – It takes energy to look into that camera and convey your support, encouragement, urgency, or concern. And then, you’re putting that energy into the camera, but you don’t get it back.

Your brain is built to work with the verbal and nonverbal cues you get from other people. Without those cues, you spend more energy in the form of anxiety, trying to figure out what’s happening. Much of this is unconscious, but it’s happening and it wears us out.

Seeing Yourself – Imagine a traditional face-to-face team meeting. Now imagine holding a mirror in front of your face while you’re talking. You would become hyper-aware of your facial expressions, posture, the tilt of your head, that fly-away hair that won’t behave, asking yourself “Should I move that way, no-wait-I’m-mirrored-go-the-other-way. Oh dang, that looked dumb, argh …” the list goes on.

The default “see-yourself” settings in many video meeting platforms create new awareness. For some of us, this isn’t bad—we needed the help. But this awareness of yourself consumes yet more energy – energy you never had to expend in a face-to-face setting.

People Become Less Human – One of the challenging aspects of our humanity is that it’s easier to see people close to us as fully formed persons with complex lives and a range of interests. The farther away a person is, the easier it is to reduce them to their role, a number, or even a problem. Online meetings can reinforce this tendency if we’re not careful. (Fortunately, they can also help to humanize one another if we’re intentional about it.)

How to Invigorate Your Online Meetings

Get Personal – One of the most effective and easiest ways to reinvigorate your online meetings is to show up with (and invite others’) full humanity. You can set a different tone and create meaningful connection by starting with the people, rather than the business.

Get past the friendly banter and start with meaningful, but safe, self-disclosure. For example:

  • Ask everyone to share an inspirational quote that’s guided them through challenging times.
  • Have every participant show an object that is meaningful to them and explain why.
  • For a lighter tone, you might start by asking everyone to share the most humorous regret they have during the pandemic.

Add Drama – What made Tiger King such an early pandemic phenomenon? Perhaps it was the lack of new alternatives, but at its core, that show had drama. (I wasn’t a fan of the show, but every minute had you wondering “What the heck will happen next?”)

Now, I’m not suggesting you threaten your competition or accuse a colleague of murdering their spouse (and if those references don’t mean anything to you – you didn’t watch the show, and that’s perfectly okay)—but, you can add drama to your meetings and make them more interesting.

There are several ways to amp up the intrigue, drama, and curiosity.

Start by making interesting decisions. Start a decision-making discussion with a clear definition of what’s at stake, why the decision matters, and what their choice will accomplish.

Not making a decision? Use a classic pre-commercial television technique: the teaser. “When we return, will our hero save the day or will she face crushing failure?”

In a business meeting this might look like, “Today we’re discussing a new process that will reduce our headaches and give us a chance to catch up on …”  Assuming you’ve told the truth and the process really does those things, now I’m leaning in, paying attention, and wanting to get to the good stuff.

Another fun way to add dramatic tension is to use tools like the Wheel of Names to review content, summarize action items, check for understanding, or choose someone to answer questions. You don’t want to overuse it, but people almost hold their breath waiting to see where the needle lands.

Finally, you’ll introduce more drama as you vary the other techniques in this article. Your team will constantly wonder what might happen next. That positive anticipation alleviates fatigue and boredom.

online meetings fatigue

Collaborate – One of the best advantages of online meetings is the ability to collaborate quickly, discuss critical questions, and regroup to share analysis, conclusions, and solutions. We’ve been so proud of the speed with which large teams can quickly identify strategic solutions and move to action when given the chance.

Use your breakout rooms, whiteboard tools, collaboration platforms like MIRO, and your public chat room to take advantage of all the thought-power on your team.

Bottom line: if you hold a meeting and don’t have participants talking with one another about critical issues, you’re wasting everyone’s time.

online meetings fatigue

Think Outside the Screen – It’s only natural – we zero in on the camera lens with an occasional glance at the video images on the screen. Before long, your world—and the world of your teammates—has shrunk to the rectangle in front of you.

Ease online meetings fatigue by thinking outside the screen.

  • Get people moving. Stand up. Dance.
  • Have a yoga practitioner on your team? Have them lead a 60-second yoga break.
  • Do an agenda-related scavenger hunt – “In 30 seconds, find an item that best illustrates [the problem we’re addressing] or [the future we want to achieve].”
  • Communicate key messages outside the screen in ways no one will expect (check out this article for a fantastic list of ways to communicate off-screen.)

Build, draw, tear—almost anything you’d do in person, you can adapt for remote meetings.

live online leadership development

Remove Energy Drains – Once you’ve got your camera set up and you know you framed your backdrop the way you want it, in many platforms, you don’t have to keep looking at yourself. Here’s how to hide your video from yourself in Zoom.

What about that energy drain of not getting reactions?

Depending on your platform, you can use thumbs up, claps, emojis, chat responses, or visual cues (think jazz hands) for real-time feedback. Create a culture of engagement and people will naturally interact with one another’s comments, feedback, and presentations. No, this doesn’t replace the real-time nonverbal signals we’re accustomed to, but over time it will help.

Your Turn

Some of the most fun moments over the past few months have been talking with leaders about the fun and creative ways they run meetings and engage their teams. We’d love to keep that spirit of creativity, fun, and team engagement going here.

Leave us a comment and share: What is your best suggestion to alleviate online meeting fatigue?

How to Get More Creative in Your Remote Team Communication

How to Get More Creative In Your Remote Team Communication

Want to be more creative in your remote team communication? Start here.

If you’re like most managers we talk with, you face the perfect trifecta of remote team communication challenges.

First, you’ve got A LOT to communicate.  With so much change, keeping your team informed can feel like a full-time job.

Second, your employee’s heads and hearts are full. The fast pivot, the emotional strain, and concerns for the future all create distractions that compete with your messaging.

Third,  Zoom fatigue is real. People are tired of all the meetings and are looking for a way to mix it up.

So how do you find more creative ways to improve your remote team communication?

Communicate What’s Important Five Times, Five Different Ways

Let’s start here.  If a message is really important, communicating once on a Zoom call is not enough. To get past the distraction, you want to communicate five times, five different ways.

When we work with managers to build their strategic communication plans, we always start by asking, “What do you want your people to think, feel or do as a result of this communication?”

For example, suppose a key message for your team right now is, “Work-life synergy matters. We need to find a sustainable pace that keeps us all emotionally and physically healthy.”

Note: We chose this example because it’s emerging as a theme in almost every organization we work with (including our own company.)

Message: Work-life synergy is important. I care about you as a person. I don’t want you to work all the time.

What I want my team to think: That I’m serious about this and will put actions behind my words. I am a role model for this.

What I want them to feel: Valued and supported. I want them to feel they can exhale.

What I want them to do:  Talk to me about finding a workable schedule based on their unique needs. Schedule some white space on their calendar between meetings so they have time to think. Find a routine that gives them the renewal they need.

Five-by-Five Communication Plan 

  1. Virtual town hall
  2. Video message
  3. Discuss each person’s approach in their one-on-one.
  4. Yard signs (yes, one of our clients actually did this.)
  5. Care packages sent to each employee’s home with a note from you reinforcing key messages.

How to Build a 5x5 Communication Plan
















Help Your Team Find More Creative Solutions: Five By Five, in Five With Five

We’ve been doing a quick exercise in our live-online leadership training to help managers get more creative with their communications. We call it  5×5 with 5 in 5. We break the group into breakout rooms of five people and invite them to spend five minutes to come up with as many “realistic and creative” ways to communicate with their teams.

A spokesperson for each group then shares their ideas, and the other groups cross off anything another group said.  As facilitators, we type all the ideas into the chat box so everyone has a visual record of the ideas.

The group with the most original ideas “wins.” Of course, everyone wins, because they have new approaches to get creative in their remote team communication. And have more strategies to mix into their 5×5 communication plan.

Just a Few of the Fun and Creative Ideas That Emerged From This Process

  1. Play “telephone.” Start with a key message you need everyone to pay attention to. Tell one person on your team and then ask that person to call one other person, and then that person to call the next down, etc. Challenge them to deliver the message with no distortion. People will pay extra attention because they don’t want to be the person who screws up the challenge. Then have the final person share the message they received in the next staff meeting. This “check for understanding” gives you another way to reinforce the message.
  2. Send a personal note to their home (or a thank you note to their significant other, or kids.)
  3. Use topic-based asynchronous communication channels for both work-related and human interest conversations (one team was really digging their “healthy recipe” channel.)
  4. Leverage your virtual backdrop to visually reinforce key messages.
  5. Turn your message into a song or skit.
  6. Use Cameo app to send a personalized message from a celebrity.
  7. Send the team a tee-shirt about the key priority.
  8. Do a drive-by parade with a sign on the car.
  9. Use Gifs.
  10. Produce internal podcasts.
  11. Conduct weekly town-halls.
  12. Recognize strategic behaviors.
  13. Host friendly competitions.
  14. Make individual phone calls.
  15. Write Sharpie messages on your arm to show on Zoom calls, conveying “This is how important it is: I’ve practically tattooed it!”
  16. Have another leader share/reinforce the message.
  17. Use Peer-to-peer messaging.
  18. Give it a theme—brand it.
  19. Throw a virtual kick-off party about the message.
  20. _______________________ What would you add?

Your turn.

We would love to hear your thoughts. What are your best practices for more creative remote team communication?