A conversation with Hailey Temple, Learning Experience Lead at MURAL
“People are feeling really overwhelmed and, of course, moving between Zoom meetings, and feel like they’re not having those opportunities between meetings to really connect with each other. And so when you’re saying, and I love the mantra, ‘Get the work done in the meeting,’ work is social and work is playful, and so you need to have opportunities for that in the meeting.”
Hailey Temple is the Learning Experience Lead at MURAL. She’s involved herself in on-side corporate design and has years of contextual training with respect to facilitation and engagement. Enthusiastic and compassionate, Hailey challenges facilitators to approach meetings and constituents with honesty and authenticity.
In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Hailey about injecting humanity into our meetings, widening the boundaries of your understanding, and creating spaces for all to flourish. Listen in to see how her unique experiences in learning create avenues of breakthrough and change for herself and those around her.
[1:57] Hailey’s Previous Experiences & Epiphany
[7:40] Participants’ Buy-In & Authority
[13:48] The Nuances of Social & Personal Connection
[23:06] Vulnerability in Acknowledging Limitations
[42:48] Implementing Innovative Practices for Hybrid Teams
Links | Resources
About the Guest
Hailey Temple, Learning Experience Lead at MURAL, brings her ability of transforming traditionally boring concepts through artistic and creative engagement to the show today. She engages in thoughtful process building to design holistic learning experiences that help people build remote collaboration confidence. She also hosts MURAL’s Backstage Pass, a weekly seminar that provides an in-depth, behind the scenes look at how online visual work happens
About Voltage Control
Voltage Control is a facilitation agency that helps teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.
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Douglas: Welcome to the Control the Room Podcast, a series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures for the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control, and others are loose. To control the room means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between imposing and removing structure, asserting and distributing power, leaning in and leaning out, all in the service of having a truly magical meeting.
If you’re listening to this podcast, there’s a good chance you’d be interested in checking out our 3rd annual facilitation summit. Due to the pandemic, we’re going virtual this year, and we’ve got some really awesome things waiting for you. We have 18 master facilitators, each day 6 of them will be sharing 20 minute lightning talks in the morning, and facilitating workshops in the afternoon. Each attendee will get to see 18 talks and 3 workshops over the course of 3 days; there are plenty of networking opportunities to connect with other attendees, plus games and prizes. I’d also like to thank MURAL for exclusive conference sponsoring. MURAL is an online collaboration tool that we’ll be using during the conference. We hope to see you there, register today at thevoltagecontrol.com/events.
This episode is brought to you by MURAL, a digital workspace for visual collaboration. At Voltage Control, we use MURAL to facilitate engaging and productive meetings and workshops from anywhere. MURAL gives teams the means, methods, and freedom to collaborate visually. Use their suite of facilitation superpowers to control the virtual room and solve tough problems as a team with their pre-built templates and guided methods. To see for yourself why companies like IBM, Atlassian, and E-Trade rely on MURAL, start your 30-day trial at MURAL.co. That’s M-U-R-A-L.C-O.
Today, I’m with Hailey Temple, Learning Experience Lead at MURAL, where she designs holistic learning experiences to help people build remote collaboration confidence. She is also the host of MURAL Backstage Pass, a weekly session that offers a behind-the-scenes look at how online visual work happens. Welcome to the show, Hailey.
Hailey: Hi, Douglas, thanks for having me.
Douglas: Absolutely. So, let’s get started here with a little bit of backstory. How did Hailey Temple find her way at MURAL, and what’s that origin story look like?
Hailey: Yeah, sure. I started my career in the corporate world at SAP, and I was learning design thinking, I had some really fantastic managers and mentors who were teaching me design thinking and how to use it and how to apply it with our customers. And I loved, at that point, it was a lot of workshopping, being part of workshops where meeting magic was happening, I love that magic moment where everyone feels like, “Yes, I got what I wanted out of it, I feel like I contributed.” And I wanted to be able to create that, and I saw these awesome facilitators making that happen.
But then there was this contrast between the workshops that we were hosting for our customers and then the types of meetings that we were having internally, and I was actually falling asleep in meetings. My manager would have to elbow me awake and make sure I was listening to that PowerPoint or that executive talking about something. And it was made even worse by the fact that we’re working on a global team, so the schedules accommodate lots of different people, which meant meetings really early or really late, and then a lot of our meetings were virtual.
So, we didn’t have that face time and that meeting magic that I found really incredible online. So, I thought, “First of all, how do I stay awake in these meetings so my boss doesn’t have to elbow me every time, if we’re in person or online? And then how do you capture that meeting magic when you’re working with your coworkers, and especially if you’re working virtually?” So, the first thing I did was grab Sunni Brown’s, “The Doodle Revolution”, and I got to meet her at your Control the Room Conference, and I absolutely geeked out, by the way. I don’t think she realizes that, but I lost my mind. And I wrote her a note and was like, “You inspired me, thank you.”
I started learning how to sketch concepts and ideas, and that was going to be my way of staying awake in meetings. I said “I’m going to take notes. If I need to know what happened in the meeting and translate it to visuals, I can stay awake, that’s going to help.” And it keeps my hands busy, too, I get really restless, sitting in meetings, I start daydreaming about something. Once I started taking notes visually, at first, I kept it to myself and it was just my little notebook, but people were actually peeking into my notebook and saying, “Can you share that with me? That’s really cool. Can you take a picture of that? I want to keep that for reference.”
I found that clicked for people. They were also bored in those meetings, and they were standing there out of respect, but the visuals were a way to almost make meetings an artistic moment and a magic moment that people enjoy. Slowly, but surely, I built confidence to then share my visuals with other people, and people would ask me to actively come to meetings and take notes. So, that is how I started working visually.
Now, from the facilitator perspective, eventually, my mentor said, “All right, get up there, you’re going to figure out and facilitate these meetings, too.” I’m grateful for that, that they gave me that push. I also felt really empowered to make that meeting magic happen. I didn’t really learn through a course or anything, but I learned through watching my managers and others and seeing what they responded to, seeing what they enjoyed, and what helps people feel like, “Yes, we accomplished what we wanted in the meeting.”
So, I was basically thrown into it, but that’s the best way you learn, right? Make a lot of mistakes, you learn along the way, and then, of course, with the nature of online meetings, it was also, “Can you do that for us online?”
Douglas: I agree on the practice piece because there’s so much that relies on confidence, in the facilitation realm especially. And I see so many budding facilitators, they’ll go get certified in some methodology or take some training, and then they come to me and they say, “Well, I’ve got this big meeting with the executive team, and I’m really scared, I don’t know what to do.” It’s like all that training did was tell you a bunch of things and a bunch of concepts, but unless you try that thing on, until you put that suit on, do you actually experience it and know how you can be authentic and how you can personally hold space. So, I think that really resonated for me as you were telling the story of trial-by-fire, just get in there and do it.
Hailey: Yeah. And you raise a good point about people, when they start facilitating for the first time, I mean it’s not like I’m better anymore, I still put a lot of pressure on myself, I have to do well and I have to help meet the meeting goals, and it’s important to remember, and I appreciate that, when I first started facilitating, I was never alone, so it wasn’t always just on me, I always had a co-facilitator, and I think having somebody else in the room to help you hold that space and make space and have someone to signal off of and help manage the conversations and the logistic side of things just really helps with boosting confidence.
And this is easier said than done, but, also, reminding people who are in the meeting that this is their meeting and they need to speak up and help get to the goal just as much as you are. That’s why it’s important to remind them why they’re there and what the purpose is and what value they’re supposed to bring to the meeting so that they feel as equally invested in making that success as you are.
Douglas: That’s right. I’ve even seen scenarios where, as the participants are being brought up to speed on that at the beginning of the meeting, it becomes clear that there are two meetings that need to happen. Half the group is at one altitude and another half is at a different altitude, and coming to some realizations like that can be really powerful because maybe we can split them up or maybe we can say, “All right, well, let’s continue with half the group, and the other half will meet later.”
Hailey: Yeah. That’s when your real facilitation craft comes in, when you made an agenda, you made a “plan,” but then you realize that you have different dynamics at play and you need to, not improvise, I mean, in a way, it is improvising, but look at your toolkit and be able to respond in real time to the situation and how do you do that. That’s where I look to your own skills and your own little toolkit and pull things out, but then, also, your co-facilitator or whoever is that calming presence with you in the room to say, “Okay, let’s take a coffee break, let’s talk about this and decide what to do next,” and that person is someone who’s a sparring partner with you.
Douglas: I love that. I’ve actually found it easier in the online space to bring co-facilitators because it’s not an extra hotel room, it’s not an extra flight, there are no extra expenses to actually take someone along, and I’ve found clients are a lot more receptive to that. And, also, it’s maybe even more necessary where someone can manage the tech while someone else is managing the content.
Hailey: Yeah. Online meetings, and I imagine you and other facilitators have, as this year has given us an interesting constraint where we can’t have any travel, or travel bans, what do we do in that situation? How do we bring people in? In a lot of ways, it’s afforded us those opportunities to bring co-facilitators in and people who are eager to learn and eager to participate. A lot of it’s out of necessity, too.
If you, as a facilitator, your job is to be actively listening and reading signals and helping make the space for work or for conversation, it really does help, and it gives me a lot more peace-of-mind that there’s somebody there to manage the experience and the logistics, but then also, of course, there’s thinking about the technology and the logistics for the participants, too, because you don’t ever want the tech to get in the way of what we’re there to accomplish. And more often than not, it is, at the moment, but as people have been getting more and more comfortable with working online and collaborating online, it’s gotten better, but it’s always a challenge, of course.
Douglas: Yeah, absolutely. I mean we’ve taken to having a workshop before the workshop, just to make sure that everyone has the one-on-one stuff. Do they know how to use the chats in Zoom? Are they comfortable enough with the basics in MURAL? Because, I find that there’s cognitive overload. If we started the workshop and we’re starting to dig into hopes and fears, or talking about purpose, and they’re also trying to figure out how to Zoom in and out and how to sticky in MURAL, they’re confronted with two big things, they’re learning a tool and they’re also having to contribute in a meaningful way. So, we’ve begun to decouple those things so that people can do something. We ask them really simple things, like, “What did you eat for breakfast?” No one has to think very hard, and they can spend their faculties on learning the tools and getting up to speed.
So, that’s definitely a challenge that we see a lot, is how do we decouple and reduce that burden of the tools? You mentioned picking up on signals. Are there things that you’ve been noticing that you’ve started to refine? You’ve been doing remote work long before COVID. In fact, we were just talking about how you spoke at Control the Room, and people were like, “Yeah, maybe, but, I don’t know, it’s a lot more fun to get people in a room,” and now we’re kind of forced to do these things. You’ve been thinking about this for a really long time, and we hear that so much, reading the room is really hard. In fact, yesterday, I heard, “Reading the room is so much easier than reading the Zoom.”
Hailey: I love that. That’s true, oh my gosh. Things I’ve picked up on? Nodding back to the Control the Room talk and digital facilitation, I promise I did not plan for this to happen, everyone, to make you guys go online, but seeing facilitators like you and others who have had to adapt, and I’m so grateful for the ways that facilitators have learned to bring their practice online because you’ve expanded my thinking so much in terms of how do we bring people together in a digital space, and what does that mean, and what do we bring from the in-person experience online? And what is uniquely digital or virtual that we can celebrate?
I’m trying to think of some examples where I’ve refined my practice in digital facilitation. This is a simple one, but just checking in with people and confirming humanity has been important, especially because what I’m hearing a lot from people, and we just did a Backstage Pass on this, is people are feeling really overwhelmed and, of course, moving between Zoom meetings, and not having those opportunities between meetings to really connect with each other. And so when you’re saying, and I love the mantra, “Get the work done in the meeting,” work is also social and work is playful, and so you need to have opportunities for that in the meeting.
I think people take that kind of stuff for granted. And the impact of that is you don’t have as much trust or you don’t have as much psychological safety, or you yourself aren’t fully present. I’m just thinking an example of that is I did a check-in in a Backstage Pass, it was a fun one, that someone from our MURAL Customer Success Team shared with me, which was, “Which Nicholas Cage are you today?” And it had all these different pictures of Nicholas Cage, just making goofy faces, and some of them looking frantic, some happy, some blissful. And asked people, “Just put yourself where you are here and where are you at today, mentally.”
One person put that they were feeling “meh,” and someone later on said this is really helpful and made them feel connected. I stopped to ask, “Why are you feeling that way?” And she said, “My son, he has his 6th birthday today and none of his friends can come hang out with him. I still want to make this special for him.” So, I took a moment to ask people in the Backstage Pass audience, because there is an audience component to Backstage Pass, and said, “Everyone, let’s make sure that so-and-so’s son has a great birthday, and let’s brainstorm some ideas for how to make an awesome virtual birthday party.”
And this is actually a warmup that you did in one of your trainings I attended, Douglas, “What’s the theme of the birthday party?” And I think it was soccer. And we ended up having all these ideas come in from the audience to make that experience and crowdsource ideas for this awesome party for her son. That’s just an example of just being able to make space for people to be open to say, “Yeah, we’re not okay,” we need moments to check in, we need to share and exchange those things with another because that’s what’s going to make people feel comfortable to share things out later on and have those real conversations.
Douglas: If we can remove the veils and the shrouds that block our vision, then that’s going to improve experiences. For instance, one simple example I could share would be fear prevents people from learning. And so if people are struggling with emotions, then they’re not going to be able to show up, and so taking some time to allow people to shed those things will allow them to totally be present. So, that’s really phenomenal that you did that.
I wanted to also talk a little bit about the point you were making around just checking in because I feel like so many people focus the conversation around how can the tool solve this. And, sure, you can watch the movement of cursors, it’s one of the reasons we use the two-camera system so that we can see where people are doing work and make sure people are active and contributing and aren’t stuck. But, at the end of the day, I think it’s really the responsibility of the facilitator to design in moments where it becomes clear, these assessment points. How do we know if people are where they need to be?
Hailey: And how do we give people the opportunity to say they aren’t where they need to be either. To your point, doing a pre-session that I could see as a little social hour, in a way, or half-hour or 15 minutes or whatever, and removing that fear of I-can’t-use-technology or I-don’t-know-how-to-use-this. Okay, perfect, great, we’re taking care of that. Now, I don’t feel comfortable sharing something that might be uncomfortable. Great, we’ve done that. And then giving space and opportunity for people to say, “Yeah, I don’t get it” or “I’m not where I want to be” or “This doesn’t make sense.”
So, a lot of times, I like to ask, “Are there any clarifying questions?” I’ll explain something, and I try and show an example, too, especially when I’m using MURAL, to say, “Here are some options for you to contribute to this conversation. You can add in a sticky note, you can add in an icon, you can add an image,” and then recap. So, by the end of this X amount of minutes, we’ll, “Success looks like this. Are there any clarifying questions?” And then giving that moment of pause and reflection so people get to say, “Okay, I think this makes sense. I think I got it.”
And I say, “If you need help, just reach out to me, type in Zoom or type in Slack or wherever we’re communicating,” because sometimes … I’m trying to think about it in the in-person experience. If someone doesn’t get it, they’ll come up to you or raise their hand, but how do you make that space for people to back-channel with you, too? So, just thinking about all those experiences.
Douglas: That’s right. Especially if they’re in breakout rooms, they don’t have a conduit to you.
Hailey: Yeah, exactly. So, I’ll bounce between breakout rooms, I’ll say, “I’ll be here, so if you have questions before you go into your breakout room, hang out and I can answer that.” A lot of people also don’t feel comfortable asking those questions in the larger group, too, like they don’t want to look dumb. So, it’s making yourself available to answer those questions or be their guide.
Douglas: Here’s a pro tip. If I have a sponsor inside the company, like a manager or a director or someone who’s purchased the workshop, and I’ll tell them, “Hey, if anything doesn’t seem clear, ask a really dumb question, because you asking the dumb questions makes it really safe for everyone else because you’re the leader, you’re the one they all look up to. So, even if I’m not unclear, just ask some dumb questions early on, it really helps me out.”
Hailey: That’s great. That’s like planting somebody there to advocate for “there are no dumb questions”, but making people feel like it’s okay, and that’s that psychological safety that comes in. I love that. That’s a good tip.
Douglas: Modeling is so important, and you were alluding to that, too. How do we demonstrate, visually, what the outcome is going to be? I love that. Because, often, you can be so explicit and give people really, really great instructions and the language is really spot-on, but if they check out for one second or Zoom blips and they miss some critical word, they don’t get it. And fast-forwarding them in the future so they get a visual representation of where we’re going, what does that roadmap look like? I like to remind people, especially young facilitators, or I should say new facilitators, that the curse of knowledge is a real thing.
And so you’ve been studying your agenda for a long time, you know how these things work. Imagine going to a new city and you don’t have a map and you’re trying to figure out your way, for someone to say, “Yeah, just go down here, two clicks, and take a right.” It’s like, “Whoa, what am I doing? Is this right?” So, I love that you talk about showing a visual of where they’re going to go so that they have some sort of model of what the results might look like.
Hailey: Yeah. Mark Tippin, he always says, “Show what good looks like and show what that output is so people have that North star.” Even while you’re doing it, and Mark does this, too, which I love, he’ll sometimes do things and make a little mistake, and that’s another way to give that safety, too, is you show vulnerability as a facilitator and you’re not perfect all the time, and this is not necessarily your show, as much as it feels like the pressure is on, it’s really about making the group successful, so reminding people of your own humanity is really important, too.
And the curse of knowledge, too, is not just the agenda, but the technology, too. You talked about that cognitive overload that comes with the technology, so it’s trying to remind yourself, in a way, too, of what are the simple instructions that I can provide and how can I break this down in a way that makes it digestible and makes it easy for people to access. So, doing that check-in or that warm up, whether you use some sort of technology, like MURAL, or not, making that fairly simple so people feel comfortable and they feel that they’re dipping their toe in the pool a little bit before they have to jump in to the using it for the whole meeting.
I’ve heard people say if you don’t have that moment of, “Okay, I think I get this and I think I know why we’re using it, and I feel comfortable using it,” then they disengage from the conversation and the collaborative meeting entirely, and that is a tough place to be.
Douglas: Absolutely. To that point, I’ve sometimes introduced it on Teams, just as a visual note-taking tool. I’m just taking notes, and most of them just watch. And then, over time, they’re like, “Okay, this thing is cool, I want to lean in and use it.” So, that’s another way, too, you don’t have to have everyone … people aren’t “comfortable getting up to the whiteboard,” then you can be at the whiteboard, drawing and taking notes and things. I wanted to come back to something you mentioned, I’m going way back to the beginning of the conversation, where you talked about SAP and the meetings that you’re creating for customers were different than the ones that were internal. And so I want to unpack that a little bit. Why do you think that people struggle, even people that design great meetings for customers, why do they struggle so much with their internal meetings?
Hailey: I don’t ever think it’s out of, “I want people to sit through a boring meeting and want to fall asleep.” I think we cut ourselves a little bit more slack in terms of preparation for meetings when we’re doing them with our teammates. When it’s a customer, we want to put on the best experience for them and we want them to feel like they’ve invested, it’s worth their time and investment and their value to be with us in this workshop environment, and bring out the sticky notes and have the warmups and the games and stuff.
When we come back together as an internal team, putting that kind of experience on feels like a huge lift, when it doesn’t necessarily … I think there’s ways to bake in little moments in your own internal meetings to make them fun and engaging. But I think that we also get settled into routine in a lot of ways, too. So, we have recurring meetings, we put them on people’s calendars and it’s just, “Okay, well, let’s meet again and talk about this,” but we don’t stop and assess why we’re meeting and why the people that we’re meeting are in the room. I don’t think it’s necessarily laziness, maybe it’s just inertia, that we get comfortable with that and how things are.
Douglas: I haven’t thought about this before, but as you were talking, it made me think about how when you first start dating someone, it’s all about pulling out all the stops, and then, over time, you start, “Okay, I’ll wear some sweats around them,” and the next thing you know, I’m eating bonbons on the couch, watching horrible TV, they’re seeing it all. And I think it’s a similar thing, where it’s like because these people respect us, they’re part of the team, but the client, I have to go out and pull out all the stops and impress them, and they’re paying for the time.
I think whether it’s the spouse or the coworker, man, they’re the ones that are in it with you until the end, and so we should be pulling out the stops for them. I guess it’s this human nature to gravitate toward what might seem comfortable, even though, in the meeting setting, we’re not talking about sweats, we’re talking about doing things that everyone is frustrated by, so it’s really fascinating.
Hailey: Yeah. I love that analogy, too, it’s so accurate, you’re like, “Yeah, not dressing up anymore, sorry. You know what you were getting into.” If anything, those internal meetings are really cool opportunities to work in different ways. I look at it as those are safe spaces to try stuff, like, “I want to try something with a customer or with an audience on Backstage Pass and I’m not sure how this is going to go, so I’m going to try doing this with you guys, first, and see how it goes.” And they’re the ones who are able to give candid feedback and say, “This worked well” or “It didn’t go well,” you can read the virtual room, this virtual Zoom. Thankfully, at MURAL especially, we’re always cameras-on so you can read the room, and people are willing to give honest feedback about it.
And I think, this is my mission, people don’t think of themselves as facilitators. Our workshops at SAP, I’ve had someone introduced me once as, “She’s the one with the magic and the sticky notes,” and I’m like, “Okay, cool. What?” I appreciate that people think it’s magical, but I also want people to realize that it’s not this other thing that other people do and that you don’t do, and your meetings inherently have to be driven by slides and one person talking. I want people to realize that facilitation, it’s an essential skill. It’s something that, if you’re having meetings and you’re hosting meetings and making space for meetings, you have an opportunity to bring methods and bring approaches into your work that make it more exciting and that make it more engaging and meaningful. It’s giving me chills. I’m really excited about thinking about being able to help people realize that.
Douglas: Yeah, it’s amazing, this notion of the future facilitation and facilitated leadership. I get excited thinking about organizations waking up to that and starting to build practices around and really honor it. I see the wave coming, and it’s just a matter of when.
Hailey: And thinking about helping other people who say they’re not facilitators or they don’t know where to start, making that an easier transition. So, maybe if they don’t realize they’re a facilitator yet or they don’t realize the techniques and stuff that are out there, giving them an on-ramp and some guidance.
Douglas: We like to say that there’s no such thing as bad meetings, just bad facilitators.
Hailey: Hmm Interesting.
Douglas: And when people call a meeting, you’re facilitating, and if you’re not being intentional about it, if you’re not actually thinking and preparing and showing up in a way that makes the meeting awesome, then you’re just being a bad facilitator. You talked about falling asleep in meetings, and so I’m curious, what’s your favorite anecdote, if you’re in a meeting and it seems like it’s about to be a snooze fest, how do you show up as a participant to prevent that?
Hailey: I’m trying to think and looking back at meetings where I fell asleep. I mean they were the ones that were, I imagine, very “classic,” where there’s an executive, standing up, talking and pointing and proposing a concept, and there’s the rest of the group just sitting and listening and not contributing. I think a couple things. One way is if I have an opportunity at a break or something to talk to the meeting host or sponsor or facilitator, whether they know it or not, and invite people to share their idea, so, “Before we jump back in, let’s just capture some … you’ve shared some really great insights and ideas so far. Why don’t we hear from the rest of the group? Give everyone a few minutes to jot down their ideas and share that out and gather some of that collective knowledge from the group.”
Sometimes, people are like, “No, it’s okay,” but, overall, I think trying to let whoever is that meeting host know, “Hey, what you’re sharing is really valuable, and imagine people have things that they want to share about this topic, too, and that are interesting to them and that’ll probably be interesting to you, too, so why don’t we leverage that?” And people are always pleasantly surprised, like, “We’re asking for your opinion,” and it’s like, yeah, this is a meeting of the minds, this shouldn’t just be a one-person show. That helps drive that engagement, and doing it in a way where it’s going to be helpful to the host or helpful to whatever the purpose of the meeting is.
Another way I’ve done it is, honestly, I’ll just stand up and start drawing or start taking notes and use those visual tools to bring, I don’t want to say magic, it is kind of magical when people start seeing, capturing and recording, for a couple reasons, because the person who’s hosting the meeting feels like they’re being listened to, and that’s really valuable to them; the people who are “observing” are also able to capture that information, visually, because we think pictures and visuals are more powerful to people, so capturing those visuals really is delightful for me, but also helpful for them and to process that information.
And then I’ve also seen- well, my favorite part is people start contributing. So, maybe they don’t feel like an artist, but they’ll jot things down on sticky notes and they’ll bring them up to the wall or they’ll message me in Zoom or they’ll add a sticky note onto the mural, and I welcome that, this is not just me being the artist up here, drawing, this is our way to document the meeting. And that, to me, felt so good to be able to make space for people to contribute. So, those are a couple ways. And just standing up helps a lot in a meeting, I hate sitting in meetings.
Douglas: Yes, standing up. Even just changing. I don’t think we, humans, were meant to be in one position for long periods of time, so, yes, movement and changing scenery. And it’s really difficult in the virtual setting because, in real-life meetings, even if you were at a table, you might move over a little bit, you might go throw something in the trashcan, you’re mixing it up and fidgeting and things. But, in the Zoom world, you got this little two-foot-by-two-foot area that’s in view of your camera, and we all sit pretty still, poised, trying to make sure that we’re in lower thirds or whatever, or law of thirds. So, it’s tough. Have you seen any good ice-breakers or activities to get people moving in different ways?
Hailey: Yeah. Shane Smart shared this one with me that I enjoy. Depending on the group size, it’s great and you can also do it in breakouts, I imagine, but it’s everybody sharing what their expectations or their hopes are for the day, and as they’re doing that, they do a stretch, and everyone also has to mirror that stretching pose, it’s a yoga pose or something. So, if you’re saying, “Hailey, what do you hope to get out of today’s meeting?” And it’s, “Okay, I’m going to put my arm over my head as I respond,” everyone else has to do the same. And it’s a nice way, and a lot of people will say, “That’s the first time I stretched today or moved out of this spot for the first time.” I mean the same thing with an in-person session is that movement helps energize and invigorate them a little bit.
I’ve also seen- I don’t know if it’s energy, not physical movement, but there was one that Ward Bullard, who’s on our team, did where he gave the group this really long book title to read and, as a team, say the book title out loud, but everybody could only say one word, and only one person could say it at a time. So, if two people said the word, you had to go back to the beginning and try and say it and start all over again, almost like a mental energizer, in a way. And people are laughing, and I think even that little movement of laughter and moving in that way helped energize the group, too. That was a fun one.
Douglas: Absolutely. You’ll probably remember Solomon Masala from Control the Room.
Hailey: I was just thinking about that one, too.
Douglas: He published a long list, he’s really all about embodiment, and he recently started teaching at the Waldorf School, he’s teaching DEI to the 6th and 7th graders at the Waldorf School. But before he took that gig, he was translating a bunch of his embodiment stuff into online versions, it’s some really great stuff. We have it published on our methodologies and frameworks blog or whatever. And then, just the other week, I saw one from [Jessie Shaturnsis 00:39:21], and she did this really cool thing where she told everyone in the Zoom, it was like 30 of us, she’s like, “Okay, everyone has to duck out of the way or move out of the way of your camera, not turn off your camera, but move out of view, except for three people.” And so you had this dynamic of people moving, and then peeking over to check if it’s three people or not. So, there was some communication dynamics, as well as people moving. And people were doing silly things as they moved off screen. It was fun.
Hailey: That’s awesome. In terms of what I was saying before about talking about digital facilitation and, with COVID, everyone having to move online, other facilitators doing a really great job using that design constraint to think about how do we make moments like that, where we need movement, where we need safety, where we need consensus. How do you make those moments in a meeting happen online? And that’s been a really awesome and inspiring great thing to come out of COVID is that people are adapting and finding awesome solutions. I’ll have to check out Solomon’s methods, I want to see that.
Douglas: Yeah. I think my favorite one, there’s one where you put people into pairs … well, you don’t have to do it in pairs, actually. But if you did it in a group, you would have one person be the person who’s going to make some changes, and they turn their camera off and they change three to five things about themselves. They might take their glasses off, they might change the part of their hair, they might put on a hat, or some people might button up an extra button, or whatever. Then they turn their video back on and you have to guess what they changed.
Hailey: That’s awesome. That’s so cool.
Douglas: I love this notion of … well, I said notion. I love declaring the distinction between a notion and an idea. Often, people in innovation groups will talk about how many ideas they collected. I can’t remember if it was GE or who it was, but their innovation group got really specific around, “No, those aren’t ideas, they’re notions. It’s not really an idea until we develop it and turn it into something that’s actionable. It’s getting to be more of a concept.” And so I’m curious what notions you’re walking around with right now that you’re really excited about exploring? These are things that maybe there’s no proof, you haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but it’s a seed that’s starting to take root and you’re like, “There might be something here.”
Hailey: I don’t know if it’s a notion, but I’m observing that a lot of … right now, we’re very virtual, everyone’s video-conferencing and online, but, soon, I don’t know when because counts and stuff are going up with COVID, but people are going back into the office, and people are saying, “We want to just be back in person and face-to-face again,” and this was a challenge before COVID, but having those hybrid meeting experiences and designing… that’s going to be a big challenge. I did some of it before the pandemic hit, but how do you make a space where everybody feels equal opportunity to contribute and feels equally invested and equally able to collaborate with one another?
I don’t want to have assumptions about it, I know things that have worked, where you have everyone using a device, an individual device, and you make space for people, who are all virtual, to connect and have time with people who are in person, but that’s something I’m really intrigued by and trying to understand what that’s going to look like. I’m trying to think of a notion that I have.
Douglas: I think that’s pretty impressive, though. We’re definitely going to be dealing with hybrid situations in the future, where not everyone can be assembled, for various reasons. Some people are going to be remote and some people are going to be together, and how do we hold space for that? I’ve seen some people already doing it because their risk tolerance is pretty high, so they’re holding a meeting where some people were remote and some people were in a facility, “socially distanced”.
It’s a fascinating design challenge because I would argue you can’t social distance with sticky notes. The whole point is that we want to dynamically, in real time, all collaborate, and if we’re taking turns and disinfecting between contributions, that’s not really feasible, and so how do we design to make sure it’s safe and fluid? And even beyond the social distancing piece, there will be constraints to think about. So, I think it’ll be a fun transition when it’s a healthy and safe time to do it.
Hailey: Yeah, absolutely. As you were talking about that, too, I’m wondering how people are going to, now that they’ve done the online remote experience and they realize it’s nice not to have to travel, to figure out how to use the combination of technologies, but it really does create this opportunity for me to connect with people around the world, to not have to travel away from my loved ones, not have to stay in a hotel. I think a lot of what we’ve been seeing the last couple of months is the question, how do I bring my in-person experiences online?
And I’m wondering what people are going to enjoy about the digital experience that they’re going to want or expect, even if they don’t realize it in their in-person meetings, and the design challenges involved with accommodating for that. Because there are certain things that are great about digital sessions that you can’t get in person or that it’s a lot more challenging to bring together in person, and vice versa. Being able to go out to a dinner or something together, in person, you can’t really do that, or it’s different. So, I don’t know if it’s necessarily a notion more than just a question about what does that look like in the meeting, beyond the meeting, and how do we make space for that, considering now people are embracing or getting used to this digital meeting space?
Douglas: So, Hailey, it’s been fantastic chatting with you today, and just want to thank you for being on the show. Before we go, I’d like to invite you to leave our listeners with a parting message.
Hailey: A parting message? The first thing that comes to mind is you have a unique opportunity, if you’re listening to this podcast and you are obviously somebody interested in what makes meeting magical, you have opportunities, and you can take them, to make your own meetings magical. And whether you are the host or you’re “not the host,” or you’re the facilitator, whatever that role is, the participant, take opportunities to take the little risks that help people feel more engaged, feel more excited, whether that’s drawing or stepping up to practice a method or getting people stretching, even, because that makes you a bright light in the wake of boring meetings.
In the wake of Zoom meetings and stuff like that that are back-to-back-to-back, you have the opportunity to help make one of those meetings sparkly. Even if it’s a risk that doesn’t work out, it pays off because you’re taking something that’s mundane and you’re making it magical. So, I encourage you, even if you don’t feel like you’re a facilitator or you don’t have the “skill” to do it, those little risks are going to help amplify and make your meetings better, not just for you, but for other people, too.
Douglas: Thanks for being on the show, Hailey.
Hailey: Thanks for having me.
Douglas: Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control the Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. And if you want more, head over to our blog, where I post weekly articles and resources about working better together, VoltageControl.com.