Category: Leadership Coaching

How Leaders Can Facilitate Engagement During Virtual Team Meetings

Woman in a virtual meeting When was the last time you were part of a virtual meeting? If you asked me that five years ago I would have had to stop and think. Today, the answer is easy, I’m either leading or participating in a virtual meeting almost every day of the week. The recent pandemic has definitely had an impact on the number of virtual meetings being held and we all may be experiencing a bit of “zoom fatigue.” 

This trend towards virtual meetings isn’t like to change anytime soon, even when social distancing becomes a thing of the past. In fact, researchers at GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com estimate that we will see 25-30% of the workforce working at home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. The advantages of virtual meetings are that they allow you to develop broader connections, especially within Communities of Practice. Yet, we’ve all experienced some of the disadvantages. For many of us, it feels far easier and more natural to engage with others when you’re at an in-person meeting.

There are practices that leaders can use to promote deeper engagement during virtual meetings. In fact, you might be surprised that some of the results end up exceeding your expectations!

Here are three key practices that will make a difference in the level of engagement your participants will experience:

  1. Focus on outcomes. This is important for every meeting, but when it’s virtual it’s even more important because it can be all too easy to disengage. As a leader, you want every participant in the meeting to feel connected to the outcome. It’s best if they understand the big picture, beyond their area of personal responsibility, so they’re fully engaged in finding the solution.

Make sure to communicate, in advance, the anticipated outcomes, or focus, of the meeting. This can be done by preparing and sharing an agenda for the meeting in advance. You can also co-create outcomes at the beginning of the meeting. The first ten minutes or so of a meeting will often be about the question: Why does this matter? If this hasn’t been clarified by the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, things can quickly break down.

  1. Facilitate dynamic personal engagement. As the facilitator of the meeting you need to avoid the pitfall of hogging the spotlight! This means encouraging communication between team members. If every question or comment is always addressed to you as the leader, you’re not really functioning as a team. Instead, allow for, and intentionally include, opportunities for people to speak with one another.

How can you do this when you’re meeting virtually? I’ve seen it done in various ways effectively. In some team meetings, we go into smaller breakout rooms within the virtual meeting for 15-20 minutes to brainstorm and discuss strategies. Then we come back and report our findings to the entire group. I’ve also had meetings where the facilitator will take a short break and set it up for participants to text each other in dyads or triads to help seed the conversation and maintain engagement.

  1. Keep fine-tuning your efforts. Here’s the most important key to encouraging deeper engagement. Leave a few minutes (I recommend ten) at the end of the meeting to discuss what’s working and what’s not. We are shifting into this new norm together. 

While some groups have more experience than others, let’s not take the old model and wedge it into this new experience. Take this as an opportunity to explore, invent, and discover new ways of engaging that can sustain us whether we work in separate locations or have the opportunity to work in co-locations.

This level of engagement is going to require more effort from you as the team leader. However, the reason for meeting together is to build and tap into the collective wisdom of the group. This cannot be accomplished if your participants are distracted and disengaged. You’ll find that as they engage more fully, you’ll be making better joint decisions that your entire team is excited to implement.

I would appreciate hearing from you about the quality of your virtual team meetings. What’s working well and where are you still struggling?  Please contact me or connect with me via LinkedIn.

Equity-Centered Leadership—Change and Self-Care

A team working with equity-centered leadership. “One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment.” — Robert E. Quinn

Would you like to be viewed as a guardian of equity?  The kind of leader who doesn’t create an environment that’s simply “accommodating,” but is actually brave enough to transform the environment.

This is easier said than done. In order for this to happen, we must transform how we operate and learn to acknowledge everyone’s voice. What’s your situation? Whether it’s a classroom, office environment, community event, or some other location, we all struggle with sustainable change. How can we as leaders play our part?

The answer: become an equity-centered leader. That was the topic of my last two posts, where we covered three steps in the “equicentric” leadership model. There are five processes to this model: name it, activate self-awareness, remember the past, commit to change, and schedule self-care. 

Using this model you can become a more adaptable leader. The “equicentric” leadership model was created by Laura Aguada-Hallberg and me with the goal of empowering leaders as they take their journey toward becoming a more equity-centered leader.

Let’s discuss the fourth and fifth steps in this model.  

Step Four in the Equicentric Leadership Model: Commit to Change 

Committing to change in equity-centered leadership.Too often, we’re unknowingly shaped by others in ways that don’t serve our higher purpose. Author Zaretta Hammond, in her book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, says that we each carry an array of narratives that can act like “software” in our brains. These narratives are in place to tell us how to behave in different contexts. 

According to the book, these narratives are often dominated by what she calls a “master narrative,” that is, society’s idea of how a person should act.  Hammond says that everyone needs to form a counternarrative, based on their personal identity and experiences, that rejects any misconceptions in the “master narrative.”

That’s why, in this step, we ask leaders to construct their own counternarrative that acknowledges how their experiences might inform their actions. At this point, we also ask that they make a commitment to lead with equity as their goal. We check in with the leaders over a six-month period to see how their counternarrative has evolved.

Step Five in the Equicentric Leadership Model: Schedule Self-Care

Self care in equity-centered leadership.It’s impossible to be an equity-centered leader without a consistent schedule of self-care, without it, you will only find yourself frustrated and burnt-out. Do you feel like your health, personal relationships, or workload are unsustainable? If you do, then that’s where you need to start. 

Be sure to schedule a time for self-care in your calendar, and honor that time. It should be non-negotiable: that time is sacred. Finally, you should know that the work that you put into your self-care ensures that you can be there for your community in the long-term. How can you encourage others to believe in their self-worth if you consistently neglect your own?

Moving Foward 

In my experience, leaders are often left with very little time for self-reflection, which leaves them constantly in a reactive state. To my mind, that’s the true value of this model: it forces us to think proactively about equity. 

It’s only when we can learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, even when that discomfort is the awareness of our own biases, that we can begin to challenge, and with any luck change long-standing systemic inequities. It takes time and focused effort to learn how to be an intentional leader. 

Equity-centered leadership coaching is an integral part of my work at the Center for Learning Leaders. If you’re ready to make changes and lead with intention and integrity please contact me. 

As leaders, we all want to play a part in creating sustainable practices that have the power to transform our communities. 

 

Equity-Centered Leadership—Self-Awareness and Remembrance

A woman thinking about equity-centered leadership. “Self-awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.” – Debbie Ford

Have you ever wondered, “How can I be the type of leader who asks all the tough questions, challenges the status quo, and call out biases, even when it’s uncomfortable?”

The answer: become an equity-centered leader. That was the topic we covered in my last post, where we reviewed the first of five steps in the “equicentric” leadership model. There are five processes that fuel this “equicentric” leadership model: name it, activate self-awareness, remember the past, commit to change, and schedule self-care. 

I believe that, through the effective use of this model, you can become a more dynamic and adaptable leader. The “equicentric” leadership model was created by Laura Aguada-Hallberg and me with the goal to empower and support leaders as they take their self-reflective journey toward becoming a more equity-centered leader.

Let’s discuss the second and third steps in this model.  

Step Two in the Equicentric Leadership Model: Activate Self-Awareness 

Self-awareness in equity-centered leadership.There’s an old truism which points out that in order to change the world you first must change yourself. This is something that all effective leaders must understand at some level. However, before there can be change, there must be self-awareness, and that’s where the second step of the model comes in.

In this step, leaders name their biases and reflect on how they affect their power, privilege, and behavior. In order for leaders to transform a system, they must first identify their own biases and assumptions relating to that system. Otherwise, there can be no real change. 

This doesn’t mean that we should feel guilty about the power and privilege we hold, nor is it about feeling sorry for ourselves or pitying others. Self-awareness is an opportunity to recognize and call out experiences we’ve internalized, as well as understand when we move in and out of positions of power. 

When we ask leaders to engage in this step, we have them share an experience where some bias or privilege influenced their behavior. This step can be difficult. Although we all readily admit that we have biases, naming them and exposing their effects can be painful. But unless we push ourselves and experience some discomfort, we can’t move forward.

Step Three in the Equicentric Leadership Model: Remember the Past 

Remember the past in equity-centered leadership.What experiences have shaped your relationship with equity? This step is about looking back to prior experiences to find what insights they give us. For example, have you experienced a moment of stunned silence, vocal anger, a difficult conversation, or some other reaction to inequity that still sits with you today? What, if anything, do you want to do or have already done about it? 

When we look back to gain insight on how our past experiences have shaped us, we become better prepared to build our counternarrative.

The next steps toward becoming a more equity-centered leader are to commit to change and schedule self-care. We’ll be discussing these steps in future posts on equity-centered leadership. Equity-centered leadership coaching is an integral part of my work at the Center for Learning Leaders. If you’re ready to make changes and lead with intention and integrity please contact me. 

Equity-Centered Leadership—What Is It? And How Is It Cultivated?

Equity-centered leadership: From awareness to commitment

We’ve all admired leaders who are willing to ask the tough questions, challenge the status quo when it isn’t working, and call out long-standing biases, even when it’s uncomfortable. What enables these leaders to do so? And how can you become that kind of leader?

These leaders are equity-centered, or what UCLA professor of education Pedro Noguera calls “guardians of equity.” In other words, they have equity at the core of all their work.

In the context of this discussion, what is equity? (We’re going to be using equity in education as our example setting, but these principles apply to many different contexts.) UNESCO’s “Handbook on Measuring Equity in Education,” says that equity “considers the social justice ramifications of education in relation to the fairness, justness and impartiality of its distribution at all levels or educational sub-sectors.” And according to the handbook, equity is measurable, which is extremely valuable as it allows us to make comparisons of equity.  

Although these measurements are important, leaders should go beyond just tracking metrics on equity issues, equity is also a felt and lived experience. That’s why social-emotional learning is vital to improving the culture of organizations. 

How do you become an equity-centered leader?

This requires some introspection from those of us in leadership roles. Of course, most leaders have little time to spend reflecting on their personal relationship with issues of equity. However, it’s vital that we become aware of how our identity and experiences shape our approach to issues of equity. Why? Because we can not disrupt inequities if we don’t understand our relationship to them. 

That’s why Laura Aguada-Hallberg, the Interim Assistant Dean for Learning, Leadership, & Change Programs at the University of the Pacific, and I developed a five-step process for “equicentric” leaders. The goal of this process is to empower and support leaders as they take their self-reflective journey toward equity-centered leadership.

There are five processes that fuel this “equicentric” leadership model: name it, activate self-awareness, remember the past, commit to change, and schedule self-care. Let’s discuss the first process. 

Step One in the Equicentric Leadership Model: Name It

This first step is all about reflecting on and naming our experiences—especially the ones that relate to our perception of equity. We do this by trying to “step outside of ourselves” and look back to see our life with fresh eyes. When we do this it becomes easier to name our experiences in ways that resonate with the experiences of others.

When we work with leaders on this step, we ask them to list all the elements that define their identity and to name as many as they can. Then, we ask them: “What connections are you making between your identity, your culture and our previous conversation about the definitions of equality, fairness, and equity?” 

Finally, they create their own categories and labels for their identity and experiences. We ask the participants to identify things like gender, cultural background, and job title that contribute to how they see the world and how the world sees them. Leaders must acknowledge, accept, and recognize these influences in order to understand and lead others. 

During this step, it’s important to identify all of your labels, every category you fit in, and use them as a critical entry point to begin to understand who you are. In leadership discussions, I often encounter microaggressions that reflect a lack of awareness. For example, a leader might say, “I was raised by a single mom and I was able to achieve this goal, so others should be able to do the same.” This simplification that reduces all experiences into singular aspects of a person can be harmful to others in both action and policy. Without a deeper awareness of the many contributing factors that make up oneself, a true understanding of others is much more difficult. 

The next step toward becoming a more equity-centered leader is to activate self-awareness. We’ll be discussing this, in a future post on equity-centered leadership. Equity centered leadership coaching is an integral part of my work at the Center for Learning Leaders. If you’re ready to make sustainable changes and lead with intention, integrity, and in alignment with your purpose, please contact me.

Embodied Leadership—The Key To Lasting Change for You and Your Team

A young women practicing embodied leadership.As a leader, you have to be willing to change and adapt. If you resist change, your team will follow your lead and will quickly flounder. Most organizations recognize this, which is why they invest millions of dollars on training leaders. Yet, according to an article on the Harvard Business Review, studies show a 60-70% failure rate for organizational change projects.

Organizational change is so difficult because there is a huge chasm between knowing you need to make a change and being able to actually implement it. For example, perhaps you know you need to be a clearer communicator, but you get in a hurry and your quickly-drafted-email confounds your assistant once again! Or how many times have we read about the importance of exercise or healthful eating, yet it doesn’t seem to translate into action? There is a disconnect between our understanding of the ways in which a changed behavior could be beneficial and its actual implementation.

If you’re like me, a 60-70% failure rate is simply unacceptable. The ability to follow through with a change, or a challenge, is a vital skill that all leaders need. I’ve recently discovered an approach that can bridge the gap between knowledge and action—embodied leadership.

My Discovery—A Lifelong Friend and a New Approach to Leadership

Louise Santiago and Marie ConnollySeveral years ago, I enrolled in a coach development program through Coaches Rising. Through the class, I met Maria Connolly. We soon found that we had a deep connection based on our mutual belief, that everyone has innate leadership skills

Maria is a somatic coach, and I am an executive leadership coach. Our unique blend of talent helped us realize that we could offer opportunities for women to bring forth their own inner leaders to expand their world, their community, and themselves, so we launched Newave Leaders.

Embodied leadership became a theme in our work together. 

In order to be an embodied leader, you have to make sense of your story, understand where you come from, understand what you believe, and importantly, how your emotions are showing up in your body. All these things are impacting whether or not you can step into the next phase of your life. Without this understanding, this embodied intelligence, you won’t be able to make lasting changes in your behaviors and attitudes. 

We realized how important this idea was to lasting change! So, to share it with others, we designed an annual women’s retreat. These retreats are an opportunity to travel to different parts of the world and truly retreat and explore our depths to actualize a plan to embody the changes we wish to make as we push ourselves to the next level of growth. 

Maria and I both lead and experience the retreat each year and have found it enriches our own individual coaching practices. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to develop my own practice and collaborate with a great partner around the intersection of our work. (If you’re interested in learning more about Newave Leaders, check out our blog, or sign up for our newsletter.) 

Embodied leadership coaching is also an integral part of my work with my Center for Learning Leaders clients. If you’re ready to make sustainable changes and lead with intention, integrity, and in alignment with your purpose, please fill out the questionnaire on my Coaching for Executives page.

Louise J Santiago, PhD
Executive Coach and Organizational Consultant

Where Leadership is Intentional Work

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