online meetings

How to: Build trust into online meetings

25 November 2020

Business Agility

Working from home is one of the most important aspects of the new normal. We have already become used to online meetings for everyday and operational topics. We know how they can be run (fairly) efficiently. But what if you need to work on sensitive topics? Let's imagine you want to work on your corporate culture, processes or approach. This requires mindshifts and behavioural changes from employees.  How do you initiate this online? It is based on trust, and the design of the online meeting must be created around this. How do you do this in practice? Our Business Agility coaches have some tried-and-tested answers.

Think before you start

One of our customers was going to change their corporate approach to delivering products and services. In order to implement the changes successfully, employees needed a new way of thinking and needed to be open to incorporating this into their reference framework and the way they worked. Our Business Agility coaches were called in to achieve this, and they designed a number of different workshops.

Our workshops allow participants to explore ideas relating to business, operational and organizational agility. Not just following a fixed script, but instead allowing enough freedom for the client to translate it into the language of their own specific business domain. Some of these ideas may feel counter-intuitive or trigger emotions that cause resistance. For example, many people believe that the more you want to deliver, the more things you need to do at the same time. We show them how focusing on fewer things increases efficiency. This is, for example, the domain of operational agility.

Charlotte Zenner, Business Agility Coach

Before starting on something like this, the most important thing is that you can see the goal clearly in your mind. Simon Sinek certainly confirms this with his Start With Why. Let's say the goal was to instil new ways of thinking and create belief in change. The workshops that were organized around this therefore demanded changes in their design in order to create the right atmosphere and make these objectives achievable. In workshops like these, there is a need for trust, both in each other as well as in the facilitator. You can design this trust, and it starts right at the beginning.

Consciously build the foundations

We believe that the meeting begins well before the call actually starts. Take your time when writing the invitation and make the participants think about things in advance. Think of it like a wedding – part of the fun is the preparation. Buying an outfit, finding a gift, getting your hair done, it's all part of the ceremony. We often ask participants to wear their best outfit, just like they would for a physical event. Also state your concerns about focus. You can ask participants to make arrangements with children and partners beforehand so that they are not interrupted. A quiet environment will allow everyone to stay unmuted, so you don't miss the spontaneous reactions. Start the meeting 10 minutes early and enjoy a coffee together. Ask them to close their inboxes and put their mobile phones away. We want to break bad habits by creating an alternative online reality.

online samenwerken

The next step is vulnerability. How can you ensure that people are willing to be vulnerable? First of all, it is important to keep the groups relatively small. Most facilitators have a few rules of thumb. With 7 participants, you can maintain a high level of intimacy, but there will be less diversity in the ideas that will come up. Thirteen attendees is the tipping point for keeping things intimate. For example, you might choose to organize a separate session for each division. Secondly, it is a good idea for the facilitator to be the first to show themselves being vulnerable and authentic, so that they set the tone. Brené Brown has taught us that there cannot be trust without vulnerability. We sometimes send out a set of abstract photos with the invitation in which everyone can see something. We then ask people to choose two based on feelings: one that says something about the person as an employee and one that says something about their personality. This means there are no restrictions on the choices because nothing needs to be said in words. During the meeting, we then have a round of asking why people chose those two photos. We take the time to do this, because it is an investment of time that pays for itself in the course of the workshop(s). It builds the foundation which provides the basis for taking difficult steps.

A third point we address is evolving from "I have been selected as a participant" to "I am sitting here with an intrinsic motivation". Participants need to adopt the change as a personal mission. You can help to achieve this by asking them for the reasons why the change is necessary. In this way, they clarify it to themselves and others. They know why they are changing, and get behind the change.


Start making the necessary changes today

Could you use some inspiration in achieving this online with your employees? Do you need someone to facilitate a workshop like this? Our Business Agility coaches are here to help. They adopt your objectives and, from there, come up with a solution that is a good fit for your situation. They provide not only theoretical insights, but also proven examples and practical knowledge.

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