As we close out 2021, we have much to celebrate in the Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL). Looking back on the year, we are grateful for our community of transformational leaders: students, graduates, faculty, and staff working to create a more sustainable and compassionate future during these challenging times.
We have done a lot in ITL this year. We are so pleased to share these highlights:
ODCCL – The Organization Development Consulting & Change Leadership (ODCCL) program has a new name and has been redesigned to meet the moment – where concepts of work and workplace are being reimagined, where diversity, equity & inclusion and OD have become inextricably intertwined, and where OD learning and practice can be maximized via multiple modalities.
Health & Wellness Coaching – The Health & Wellness Coaching program continues to train pioneers in this emerging field – now accredited by both the International Coach Federation (ICF) & the National Board of Health & Wellness Coaching (NBHWC). We are also launching an important partnership with the Georgetown University School of Medicine using health & wellness coaching to empower unhoused populations in DC to make progress towards better health.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) – The ITL DEI program completed cohorts 12 & 13 in 2021. We piloted new content on polarities as a way of offering students another lens through which to view DEI work. This highly sought-after program teaches the leadership skills and insights needed to support a strategic, sustainable approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion management while utilizing knowledge of oneself as an agent of change in the workplace.
Facilitation – Our Facilitation program is leading us into the complexity and opportunity of facilitating in the hybrid workspace in addition to creatively designing for and facilitating human connection both in person and virtually.
Leadership coaching – In 2021, we trained 5 cohorts of Leadership Coaches while launching a redesigned curriculum that prepares coaches to support and develop leaders to lead in the complexity of today’s world. This year we partnered with multiple organizations as a key part of a strategy to create a culture of coaching from government agencies to nonprofits and foundations.
Faculty Training – We partnered with Georgetown’s Elizabeth Stanley, PhD, author of Widen the Window, to learn about how trauma might show up in our classrooms and how to teach and facilitate in a trauma-sensitive way.
Events- We celebrated the graduation of 760 students representing 31 cohorts across our five certificate programs, and the ITL Network convened our graduate community in a dynamic and moving virtual conference in November.
Partnerships & Training – We showcased our expertise in Leadership, Coaching, DEI and Organization Development through partnerships with the Department of Veterans Affairs Whole Health, AARP Purpose Prize, Georgetown University School of Medicine, USAID, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators.
As 2021 comes to an end, we wish you much love and peace!
This fall, we have a fabulous lineup of workshops designed to meet the needs of leaders and practitioners as we navigate the complexities of 2021.
Culturally Competent Communication
Effective communication is built on one’s willingness, desire, and ability to share information with another individual. Culturally competent communication goes one step further by offering a form of empathetic, unbiased, and respectful communication when interacting with an individual who may be different from oneself. This program is designed for anyone who seeks to understand how cultural beliefs inform behavior and how to show sensitivity to those beliefs through communication. Learn more.
Entrepreneurial Leadership Capacity
This workshop captures the skills and mindsets of high performing entrepreneurs and presents them in an easily digestible method and playbook. It is designed for (1) an early stage aspiring entrepreneur desiring to develop their entrepreneurial mindsets and skills in order to move their project/startup forward and (2) an intrapreneur leader desiring to develop their entrepreneurial mindsets and skills to innovate in their current role within organizations. Learn more.
Courageous Leadership in Action: No One Said It Would Be Easy
This dynamic workshop is designed for individuals who are interested in exploring aspects of courageous leadership in the face of adversity. The 2-day in person or 4-module virtual workshop explores courageous leadership through the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) lens. The workshop is designed to be inclusive and encompass new and mid-level managers, leaders, coaches, consultants, and facilitators. Learn more.
From CDO to COO: The Business of DEI
The work of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is more than a mindset or focus on people – it is core to how a business operates. However, nearly all corporate DEI positions reside within Human Resources, executing activities and delivering goals geared towards attracting, growing, and retaining diverse talent. To drive systemic change as well as disrupt and reinvent systems to eliminate oppression and bias, organizations need to embed the mental models and best practices of DEI into their business operations. This program is designed to provide foundational business and DEI knowledge to participants who will then use this knowledge to co-create strategies for integrating DEI into the core business operations of an organization. Learn more.
Body Intelligence: Leadership’s Untapped Resource
The body is the most direct and fastest route to change. The vast majority of our behavior is generated on autopilot because it happens outside of our consciousness. Body Intelligence in Leadership is designed for individuals who are looking to develop their natural inner resources to navigate the complexities of today’s world. Based in neuroscience, biology, and physiology, this 6-module highly experiential program explores models and theories related to the intelligence of the body. Learn more.
Building Inclusive Workplaces through the Lens of Women’s Leadership
While the entire landscape of work is getting an overhaul, how are leaders going to adapt to attract and retain diverse talent? What new tactics are being used to drive diverse and productive teams? How do we create belonging and connection for everyone in virtual, hybrid and in-person workspaces using an intersectional lens? Building Inclusive Workplaces through the Lens of Women’s Leadership will explore these questions and use peer learning to uncover how companies and organizations can tap into the values and potential of all workers and leverage opportunities that help them show up at work as their full self – which research has proven fuels creativity and innovation. Learn more.
LENS: Creating a New Normal on Race, One Conversation at a Time
No matter where you are on the spectrum of unconscious bias and race awareness, in America you are swimming in it 24/7. Anchored in facts about our U.S. history that most of us never learned in school, this 2-day intensive workshop is an experiential, personal exploration of race and its impact on our perspectives that is guaranteed to give you an experience of diversity, not just a discussion about it. Targeted for leaders and professionals who are wrestling with how to embody genuine inclusion in order to respond authentically to the cultural shifts after 2020’s racial protests, this approach, tested over 5 years, unlocks a depth of connection and learning unprecedented in mixed race company. Learn more.
Long before COVID-19, businesses around the world were grappling with a problem — how do you run a meeting when some participants are on the screen while others are in the office? Typically, the divide reflected headquarters vs. satellite, regional, or international offices. The problem was not restricted to the meeting itself, but also to the well-known phenomenon of “the meeting before/after the meeting”, i.e. the discussion and free-form exchange of ideas that takes place when those on the screen are muted or offscreen. Anyone working in the “other” office is familiar with frantic calls, emails or text messages to people “in the room,” asking what they missed. And so, a key challenge of the hybrid became the office version of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
When the pandemic thrust us all onto the online format, it created enduring difficulties for businesses and organizations. However, in this area, it seemed to provide an unexpected solution. Suddenly everyone was equal. Suddenly everyone, regardless of title or geographic location, had to fit into the same box on the screen. Participants were using the same tools to be heard, to participate, or to contribute. And now that we have all gotten used to this format, we face our next evolution: with vaccines rapidly increasing, we seem to be headed back into the office at some point in 2021. Great news! Well, not exactly.
Going back to the office does not mean going back to how it used to be, nor should it. We now recognize the benefits of remote work. This means that offices will be smaller and many people will not return. When a meeting is convened in the future, the division of room to screen will not be based on location. Every office and location will be divided between remote and in-office workers. Arguably, this is even more complicated than us all being remote together. How do we ensure that meetings are structured well and that collaboration and teamwork are not diminished?
We can view the return to a hybrid model as a problem we need to fix, and many are doing just that: trying to “solve” the hybrid “problem”. We would like to argue the opposite: the hybrid model is not a “problem” but an opportunity, and it should not be “solved,” but rather explored, designed, and ultimately celebrated. What we have learned is that hybrid is no longer the problem, it is the solution. Giving presentations, running meetings, gatherings, and brainstorming sessions can actually be better in this hybrid mode.
We anticipate that, as we emerge from COVID-19, more people will have the choice between working from home or returning to the office. While some companies have decided to shift to remote on a permanent basis, the majority are trying to get a handle on a hybrid working environment. This type of situation would see some employees working remotely while others will continue to work in the office.
Allowing employees to work from home also ensures that each person can work from his/her place of greatest potential. It also allows us to tap into a global workforce, save on the carbon footprint, and is ultimately more equitable.
But Not Easy
We acknowledge that it is really difficult to engage people virtually and in-person at the same time. But it is inevitable — it’s going to be happening more and more. Instead of going “back” to how we used to run hybrid meetings, primarily focused on the people in the room, we encourage companies and organizations to use a design cycle to imagine and realize the most productive and effective hybrid meetings — the meetings of the future.
Here are some concrete tips to increase the likelihood of successful hybrid meetings:
It is crucial to dedicate a specific person or group of people to take responsibility for the design and facilitation of the meeting. Too often, no one is thinking about and working towards ensuring the meeting’s success; this is often an afterthought. It is crucial to ensure that it is someone’s job to design and run the meeting. The first step in designing effective hybrid meetings is to appoint someone who is trained to design effective ones.
Ask yourself: why are you meeting? Make sure the answer really makes sense. Do you really need to meet? Prioritize asynchronous work — have fewer meetings — and use meetings to be creative and do something together, rather than to simply share information.
Prioritize the design cycle to figure out what kind of meeting to create to achieve your purpose. Immerse with the participants in advance: what might they need to feel included? Ask yourself and them how might you best leverage their talents and perspectives? Frame the purpose of your meeting and be clear on what it is meant to achieve. Imagine creative ways to engage the participants and connect those who are in the room with those who are virtual; and Prototype — test different ways of gathering rather than getting locked into a predictable structure.
Manage meeting time and attendance thoughtfully. Who needs to be in this meeting and why? The answer to that question is different from who needs to be informed about what happens in the meeting. Be selective and deliberate about who attends. And think about the metaphor of interval training for meeting times: your meetings should be short and intense — they should get your heart rates up! They should be followed by breaks. Avoid death by meeting.
Normalize digital meeting tools. Technology is an essential part of hybrid meetings, but it shouldn’t be looked at as something for the remote employees only. Instead, normalize the use of digital meeting tools for everyone. Yes, this includes adding video conferencing links to invites, but it goes well beyond that. Instead of using whiteboards and post-its for brainstorming, use virtual tools such as MIRO or Mural by default. This allows thoughts and ideas to be recorded and accessed after the meeting. Instead of taking physical meeting notes, take them in a collaborative Google doc. That way everyone can see them immediately and add notes or questions for others to share.
Virtual/physical teams. When assigning working groups or teams, ensure they are made up of people who are in-person workers as well as those who work remotely. Make hybrid collaboration the norm rather than the exception.
As we transition out of this difficult time, we encourage you not to try to “go back” to the way things were. Instead, embrace the changes that have emerged. The world, technology, and the office environment never “go back” to anything; they always go forward. Start thinking now about your new office environment and how it has already been transformed during your absence. The rapid scale-up and improvement of work-from-home technology is not going away; in fact, it will continue to change and evolve long past the current lockdown. This should be thought of as exciting, not daunting. Therefore, use this time remaining in the pandemic to think through strategies that support hybrid configurations and the various ways in which this type of working can make your organization stronger, more diverse, more efficient and ultimately, more successful.
The original version of this article can be found here.
Maya Bernstein is an independent consultant working in the areas of innovation, leadership, and creativity. She is a faculty member at the Georgetown University Institute for Transformational Leadership and co-director of the Executive Certificate in Facilitation program.
As 2020 comes to a close, we want to take a moment to honor the work the graduate community of Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership has done this year to support our leaders, our organizations, and our communities.
To our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) practitioners, you have helped us see a way forward as individuals, organizations and as a nation as we grapple with injustices and inequalities. Your knowledge and skill has been called upon to assess organizations and propose strategic solutions to long-standing issues that prevent all employees from thriving and succeeding. You have invited us into difficult conversations and encouraged us to stay with the discomfort of this work as we examine our own biases and role in oppression. You have used yourself as an instrument of change sharing your personal journey for the greater good.
To our leadership coaches, you have supported leaders through the most challenging of times. You have been there as leaders have been tested in ways that dramatically exceed the scope of any prior situation. You coached them to think differently, act boldly and lead compassionately. You helped them build the resilience necessary to sustain themselves and their organizations for the long-term and helped them learn about themselves and leadership along the way.
To our health & wellness coaches, you supported health and well-being during one of the most dramatic and stressful changes of our time. You have helped clients adapt to the realities of this year by helping them to align their daily choices in this new environment with their personal values. You have served as pioneers in a field that is emerging as a critical component in empowering patients to actively participate in their own care.
To our Organizational Development (OD) professionals, you have paved the path for how OD will be done in the future. The year has necessitated new ways of leading people, managing teams, and working with data. You have exercised creativity, resilience and supported organizations in re-imagining what is possible. You have brought optimism and compassion to help sustain organizations well into the future.
To our facilitators, you have created a new standard in how to lead virtual gatherings. Your design skills have been tested as you reimagined business events that connected participants’ ideas while also tapping into their bodies, spirits and emotions. You have been called upon to design and facilitate intimate personal events from honoring individual milestones to end-of-life celebrations that were once unimaginable in the virtual space. While physically apart, your creativity, presence and grace has brought us together in meaningful ways.
Because of all of you, leaders are more reflective, compassionate and in tune with their personal wellness, organizations are better positioned to see themselves and create lasting change, our virtual gatherings are more engaging and inclusive, and individuals and systems are starting to see prevailing inequality and injustices and making strategic moves to promote diverse, equity and inclusion. Please know that the work you do, especially in 2020, has made a difference as we all work to create a more sustainable and compassionate future.
Many of us made a wild, frantic leap from our familiar, in-person meeting models to a totally new, untested, all-virtual model of gathering and working together. We’ve “zoomed” into this involuntarily, and the unspoken hope is that this situation will end as soon as possible and we will “go back to normal.”
I don’t think we are “going back” any time soon, and, our current reality is going to shape and transform our immediate and long-term future. Part of our incredible challenge now is to shape and form that future with imagination, creativity, and humor, even in the face of fear, uncertainty, and loss.
Though it may seem relatively insignificant, the way that we meet and work virtually is crucial. Our best thinking happens when we bring diverse people together. That is inevitably going to be happening primarily online in the coming months, and will impact our assumptions and practices about how we work in the future. As we transition into week after week, month after month, of coming together online, we must bring more mindfulness and rigor to the way in which we convert in-person meeting experiences to effective online gatherings.
These tips are meant to serve as a guide and reminder for anyone gathering and facilitating learning and meeting in the endless maze of virtual rooms we are all currently haunting:
Acknowledge the loss. It is critical to name that we are in a frightening, upsetting, uncertain situation. That is the reason we are all gathering virtually instead of in person. If we do not name or hold the loss, it will hold us. In moments of extreme change, we must let go of certain things that we have held dear. It will be important for your participants to spend time talking about what you must let go of, or at least put on hold, in order to continue on in today’s reality.
Design for the Heart – We tend to focus our learning on heads and hands. Here’s what the participants need to know – these skills, these concepts. Here’s what we’re going to have them do – make this, sell that. But we are all sitting in a storm. The bravest amongst us is terrified. We don’t know what tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year will hold. Make time and space to name this, to talk about it, to share feelings. This isn’t “tangential” to the meeting; it is at the core of it. The work of holding and naming and shepherding people through this turbulent time is a crucial part of a facilitator’s current job.
KISS – Keep it short, stupid. We all run out of steam more quickly in virtual environments, and we weren’t in such great attention-span shape before this all started. Don’t talk at participants for more than 10 -15 minutes without engaging them in some way. Keep meetings shorter, if you can. Less is more.
Purpose – Be very, very clear on purpose. Name it. Here’s what we’re going to accomplish in the next little bit together. This is what we’re going to do in our meeting today. Name it and keep to it.
Engagement is Key – It is much harder to keep everyone engaged in a virtual environment. Duh. It’s hard enough in person. My advice, perhaps counter-intuitive, is to direct the multi-tasking, since they will be multi-tasking anyway.
Doodle – require that participants doodle through the meeting. Doodling has actually been found to relieve stress and increase attention. At the end of the session, ask everyone to share their doodles. You can even give doodle awards…
Graphic facilitation is a unique and cultivated skill, but anyone can do it crudely. Ask participants to take notes that include sketches, abstract drawings, different colors – some way of capturing the arc of the meeting in a visual way. Again, share out at the end.
Good old fidget toys. Ask them to keep their hands occupied – play with play dough or silly putty; squeeze a stress ball; spin a fidget spinner; build with lego, etc. It’s actually quite soothing.
Back to that Attention Span – icebreakers, brain teasers, and movement activities are wonderful ways of hitting “reset” and renewing energy. Some of my favorites:
Crazy 8s – ask everyone to stand up and shake their right hand, left hand, right foot, and left foot, in that order, first 8 times, then 7, then 6, down to one, shouting the numbers out loud as they go.
This is Not a Pen – each person holds up a pen. Take turns – you can play one or two rounds – saying: “This is not a pen, it’s a…” and imagining it to be something different – “a rocket ship for termites; my magic wand; a toothbrush…etc.” Everyone gets to participate; everyone is forced to be just a bit creative and playful. Then get back to business as usual.
30 Circles – ask participants to print this out in advance – have them turn each circle into a different object in 3 minutes. Then share!
Brain Teasers – quick, how does 5 + 5 + 5 = 50? Lots more where that came from.
Breathe/Meditate – You can change the energy of the space just by asking participants to stand up, or close their eyes, and do a short breathing or visualization. The “reset” will be helpful for you too. This can also become part of a regular opening or closing.
Windows – Think of this as a virtual (healthy) cigarette break. Ask participants to walk away from their screens. To consciously leave the meeting, and go to a window. Instruct them to stand by the window with full awareness. What do they see? What do they hear? Ask them to take three deep breaths and return; share either in the chat or invite a few participants to share what they noticed and how they feel.
Ritual – in times of uncertainty, rituals, established, meaningful, predictable patterns, are even more comforting and important than they usually are. Think about ways to meaningfully and predictably begin and end each meeting. And then invite participants to lead these rituals, once they have become established.
Embrace your inner performer – Practice singing in the shower. Practice your most extreme facial expressions. Get silly. You’re on camera. All the time. You need to exude even more energy than you normally would. Think like an actor – think about your “set” – what is your background like, what does the space around you convey? Think about your “costume” – what are you wearing? How does it connect with what you’re discussing that day? What kind of energy does it inspire? What is your “script?” You need to be tighter and better-scripted online. And finally, don’t do it alone. Bring in “guest teachers,” celebrities, movie clips, home videos, photographs, songs, works of art, poetry; think about a ratio of at least 15% of entertainment to 85% content.
Embrace your Authority – In times of stress, people tend to become more dependent on authority. We need direction, protection, and order because we feel directionless, unsafe, and the world has descended into chaos. As facilitators, we must play an important authority role for our participants. The more clear you are on the structure of the meeting, the start and end time, the topics you will be discussing, the work that needs to get done, the more your participants will relax and settle into the task. The reins need to be tight now; make sure you prepare appropriately and methodically.
Distribute Leadership – That said, there is a danger of people becoming too dependent on authority figures at this time. We regress when we are frightened, and we want to be taken care of. Part of your responsibility is to simultaneously hold and direct people, while also challenging them to play an active role, to trust themselves, to help do the work. Don’t hold them too much. One way to ensure this in meetings is to distribute the leadership. Request that participants lead different parts of the meeting. Set that up in advance and work with individuals or small teams so that they are prepared.
None of us is ever fully prepared for, or wants, involuntary, difficult change. We are in a situation we hope will soon pass, but we also know that this pandemic will have a long tail, and that we will be altered inevitably as a result. Even as we mourn what was, we have the opportunity to adapt, gain new tools and techniques to inspire people, and to gather them so they can contribute in meaningful ways to the world around us.
Maya Bernstein co-directs the Executive Facilitation Certificate program at Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership; is a co-founder of UpStart Lab, which supports innovation in nonprofit organizations; and teaches leadership in the U.S and abroad.