What Rusty Looks Like

I facilitated two in-person workshops last week, for the first time in almost a year.

I’m still processing the experiences, but as we all navigate this next season of pandemic life, hybrid work and re-learning how to “people,” I thought I’d capture some initial impressions here:

  • We are craving being together. Small talk, conversing with acquaintances, sharing inconsequential funny stories have all been weirdly missed and we need to allow time for them. I built more connection time into the agendas.
  • In-person processes take longer. Driving there and back, gathering people back from small group conversations, writing on paper rather than typing, preparing tactile materials…it’s all slower. As someone who is committed to helping groups make wiser decisions faster, I have mixed feelings about that.
  • The in-person meetings you remember are not what’s happening now, as long as masks and physical distancing are still required. Acoustics, sightlines, lip reading, body language, our ability to collaborate in close proximity around a table…these are all different in a masked environment. I missed the “front row seat” intimacy that online collaboration affords.
  • Shifting parameters require last-minute flexibility. As we figure out what behaviours are officially permitted or unofficially welcomed by our teams, we need to change our preparation. Four times in the past two weeks, clients have decided within 48 hours of a session whether it would be held in-person or virtually. That decision affects my facilitation plan, my purchasing of supplies and even how I arrange my calendar.
  • Digital is still useful in analog meetings. Even if all participants are physically together in the space, you may find digital collaborative tools useful for data visualization and rapid collaboration in real time. But I didn’t love having people sit silently beside each other on their phones responding to poll questions.
  • Personal and interpersonal dynamics are different and take some readjusting. I hated wearing shoes all day. I was awkward when someone tried to shake my hand. I spilled something on my pants, and it mattered. I was both energized and exhausted afterwards. Ugh.

I’m sure you can hear my ambivalence about moving back toward something we took for granted before. I want to be deliberate and purpose-driven in doing so. I hope this example of me “working out loud” will help you work more intentionally too

2 Replies to “What Rusty Looks Like”

  1. Love hearing your thoughts on returning to in-person Rebecca. Here are some other things I’ve been thinking about with digital in online/in-person meetings:

    -The chat function allows conversations to continue without throwing off the pace of the meeting – especially for us chatty types! Don’t necessarily want people engaged on the chat and not in the room…but something to think about

    -In-person processes CAN take longer…but do they have to? One thing we’ve implemented with a board that I work on has been “Decision Briefings”: anyone with a decision that needs to be made needs to fill out this form that provides the research done, a recommendation, and the rationale for it. That form is then circulated before the meeting. It’s not a novel idea, I know, but it’s made our decision-making process go much faster because everyone is already up-to-speed on the decision before the meeting starts and we can jump right to questions. Perhaps there are other pre-meeting forms that can be used to inform people and get them ready to discuss. (Of course, they’re only helpful if people read them!)

    -Related to this, I’ve been wondering if we need to use the power of video more for communication purposes. Giving vlog style updates may allow leaders to edit their message to be more succinct. Put a bit of music behind it and you may just keep people’s attention for longer?

    -I definitely miss the mingling time before/after meetings.

    1. Oh how I wish we could sit over a drink and further this discussion, Cameron! Thanks for engaging. For now: I love thinking about how to make collaborative processes faster — not sure if the in-person work will stay slower or if we’re all just craving reconnecting, but even the practical bits like getting people back from breakout rooms takes longer than clicking a button on Zoom. I”m with you on the power of video and the chat — I’ve upped my digital game so much over the past 18 months that it’s causing me to rethink whether “mask-to-mask” is really worth pining for!

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