Cynthia Clay's Blog

Improve your Virtual Training by Leverage Communication Styles

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Recently, I attended a virtual class that left me feeling frustrated. The facilitator had designed and facilitated a course that he probably would have loved to attend. There was a lot of open conversation, several breakout sessions to dive into discussion questions with small groups, and a very relaxed pace. I found myself bored and squirming. There were times when I had no idea why we were discussing a specific point at great length. There were few slides to enlighten me or provide structure to the sessions. In the end, I didn’t get much out of it and resented that I had given so much time to a wasted training experience.

My frustration got me thinking about communication styles and why they matter in virtual training. To be clear, communication styles are not the same as learning styles. I’m not talking about whether people are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners.

The communication styles model in the NetSpeed Leadership® program introduces four communication styles: Anchor, Analyzer, Adventurer, and Achiever. Each of these communication styles has preferences and needs. When we communicate with people who do not share our style, we are bound to get better results if we consider their preferences and needs, not simply communicate using our favored style.

My two preferred styles are Analyzer and Adventurer. That means that I’m happiest when there is a logical flow, and when information is presented in such a way that I have time to digest it and synthesize it with other models. (That’s my Analyzer.) It also means that I value creativity and innovation in the design process. (That’s my Adventurer.) I get bored with the same design approach used repeatedly (for example, read a book chapter, discuss the key points, and go into breakout groups to discuss a question).

However, when I design and facilitate a course, I must intentionally keep the needs of Anchors and Achievers in mind, not just design something that works for my communication style. That means I may need to allow time for personal connection (to meet the Anchor’s needs) and I may also need to have clear objectives and practical content (to meet the Achiever’s needs).

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, here’s a recording of a 30-minute NetSpeed Nuggets virtual session, You Get Me! Leveraging Communication Styles in Virtual Training, in which we explored these four communication styles.

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 4:21 pm

Connect More by Getting Yourself 'Off Book'

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Fall is “back to school” time. My daughters have returned to college. The house feels a little empty, truth be told. But this seasonal change is giving me renewed energy and focus.

Our approach to virtual training at NetSpeed Learning has been inspired by my background in Theater (I have a master’s degree in Directing from the University of Washington). When a group of actors begin to rehearse with a director, they usually begin with a written script. Often, the first few rehearsals involve reading the script together while sitting around a conference table. A good director will begin to clarify and explain the structure, the themes, and the characters in the play.

Some directors like to get the actors up and moving early in the rehearsal process. But getting everyone moving is hindered if any one of the actors has failed to memorize their lines. In the theater, knowing your lines is called being “off book.” It’s essential to the creative process that the actors master their lines as quickly as possible. Out of that mastery arises the freedom to explore, react, and respond to their fellow actors.

Let’s connect getting “off book” to facilitating an engaging virtual training experience. The more a facilitator masters the content they present, the better the learning experience for participants. A facilitator reading a training script aloud is usually boring. Either the facilitator’s voice becomes flat and monotone as they read, or their voice becomes singsong, much a like a first-grade teacher might sound reading a story.

But beyond how boring the trainer is when they are tied to their “book”, they lose the opportunity to connect with and engage the participants in the virtual training session. It’s fine to have brief notes ready to make sure you state a fact correctly. But reading from those notes makes it harder for the facilitator to be fully present with the participants in the course. So, get yourself “off book” as quickly as possible and shift your focus from the content to the participants.


Posted by Cynthia Clay at 2:03 pm

Summer Musings

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Change, renewal, and rebirth are in the air. Have you noticed that many companies and organizations are attempting to return to “normal?” The truth is that normal is just a setting on the dryer. It certainly doesn’t describe what is happening in our workplaces today. The great pandemic proved that it is possible to work well remotely, keep productivity high, offer useful virtual training, and run decent virtual meetings to bring their teams together. For many organizational leaders, this outcome was a revelation. Some leaders, however, are learning the hard way that demanding a 100% return to the workplace may lead to people leaving their jobs to find organizations that are more flexible.

Now, as we move from virtual working environments to hybrid workplaces, organizations are experimenting to get the right mix of working onsite and working remotely. Should the manager figure it out with their teams? Should we mandate 2 – 3 days in the office per week? Does it make sense to tell people which days they need to be in the office? Can we leave it completely flexible and let people choose when they will show up in person? There might be value in specifying which days to be in the office as a team, for example, to ensure that no one commutes through traffic only to discover they are the only one from their team in the office that day.

On top of these hybrid workplace challenges, training teams are trying to figure out how to create hybrid learning experiences well. We have been working with clients to identify, practice, and apply solid techniques for hybrid learning. Is it good enough to conduct an onsite training session with remote participants logged in to observe and, occasionally participate via chat? We don’t think so! Is it ever acceptable to just video the onsite meeting and require remote participants to view the recording later? Heck, no! Let’s pay attention to the quality of our virtual training and hybrid learning experiences, not just settle for fast and easy delivery.

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 4:41 pm

Uncertainty and Ambiguity Plus Creativity and Innovation

Thursday, March 24, 2022

As the pandemic continues to roil our workplaces, is your organization ready to go hybrid? Many organizations have elected to continue their virtual workplaces, putting off a hybrid workplace model for another quarter. Two words reflect the current state of the workplace for many of us: uncertainty and ambiguity. It is not clear when this pandemic will end, when organizations may pull people back into the physical workplace, or whether we will ever return to some semblance of normal.

In times like these, opportunities emerge. The work environment is ripe for creativity and innovation. If you are a learning professional, you are likely learning new delivery platforms, from web conferencing to third-party applications that integrate with those platforms. I’ve become a big fan of Mentimeter integrated with Zoom, for example. The combination allows me to design and facilitate engaging, playful, and interactive web workshop experiences. While I may have gotten around to checking out this application eventually, the pandemic gave me a swift kick in the derrière. And for that, I’m grateful!

If you are a virtual or hybrid leader, you’ve probably adopted new collaboration tools, figured out how to launch a Zoom team meeting, or even implemented a new project management system. You may have realized that you need to be in frequent contact with your virtual team. It’s been a stressful, overwhelming time for many employees. Your empathetic, supportive leadership was probably required to keep everyone focused and productive, despite the many changes and challenges that we are experiencing together. In short, I’m guessing that you might have become a more effective leader.

I’ve been speaking about the AIDS model to our clients in the past few months. AIDS stands for Attend, Include, Direct, Support. These four words describe the actions required of facilitators delivering virtual training to mixed audiences of co-located and virtual participants. If we want to ensure the highest quality of facilitation and engagement, then we must attend to the needs of all participants, include everyone in planned interactive activities, make sure that directions are clear, and provide supportive coaching. Those same four actions could also be taken by virtual or hybrid leaders as they work with their hybrid teams. How we show up in the virtual or hybrid workplace as a facilitator or leader can transform people’s experience.

Building Successful Hybrid Workplaces -- White Paper Download

NetSpeed Learning conducted a survey in August 2021 to learn more about the hybrid workplace strategies being considered by organizations, along with the leadership skills that were most important to the success of hybrid leaders. We define “hybrid workplace” as any organization that has leaders who manage employees working from home and/or in multiple geographic locations. Employees and leaders indicated that they want to work in organizations that allow them the flexibility of working, at least part-time, from home. Their decision to remain with their current employer is likely to be strongly influenced by an intentional hybrid strategy. The past year has proven to many leaders that productivity and efficiency are possible with hybrid working models. This white paper summarizes the findings of the survey.

Posted by Cynthia Clay at 1:43 pm