How do you shape a remote meeting – whether it’s a video call or an old-fashioned phone conference – when it’s not ‘your’ meeting? It can take a bit of courage!

I was introducing my ENGAGE model of remote facilitation at AgileDayRiga last week and this emerged as one of the top challenges.

By the way, most of the people there seemed to agree with me that as skilled in-the-room facilitators and coaches, we need to get this remote thing sorted. The fact is that we are working and meeting remotely nowadays. Whether you think we should be or not is pretty much irrelevant.

We’re doing it – so we’d better get good at having the conversations we need to have, remotely.

Using Judith Glaser’s model of three levels of conversational quality can help us clarify the challenge. Here are her definitions:

  • Level I: Tell-Ask. Transactional, exchanging data and information
  • Level II: Advocate-Inquire. Positional, working with power and influence
  • Level III: Share-Discover. Transformational, co-creating a successful future.

Experienced coaches and facilitators are typically leading lots of Level III conversations in person. They just need to take that remote. Using my ENGAGE model will help them to do that.

But how can you guide a remote meeting towards being a Level III, transformative conversation when it’s not your meeting?

My answer begins by asking you, “How would you do that in a co-located meeting?”

You’re looking to build psychological safety and reduce groupthink. Some effective things I’ve seen include:

  • Make sure everyone’s been introduced, and that the rules about confidentiality are clear. If  that hasn’t happened, it’s not unreasonable to ask! “Before we start, can I just check…”
  • Invite divergence. Be willing to ask questions like, “Is there anyone who’s thinking something different?” or “I wonder if there’s someone here who has a unique perspective on this?”
  • Model curiosity and ask lots of questions about what people say. Try the 2 Lazy Jedi questions, perhaps.

Is there any reason why these couldn’t also work online?

Clearly, for this to be really effective (and not career-limiting), the person who ‘owns’ the meeting needs to feel psychologically safe, too. I’m not recommending that you push the chair to one side and take over!

Try explaining what you’re intending to do, perhaps before the meeting. How could you work together to create a higher-quality conversation?

Remote meetings can be planned for maximum effectiveness, just like in-person ones. They don’t have to be based around rigid agendas. They don’t have to have a cast of thousands. And you can talk to other attendees ahead of the start, just as you would in person. It just needs a bit of forethought.

What needs to happen for you to do this for your next remote meeting? What other ideas do you have? Please comment below.

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