ACTION: E-Leaders are Facilitators | Maher & Maher
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ACTION: E-Leaders are Facilitators

This is the second in a four-part series on e-leadership and its critical influence in today’s virtual teams.

In our last E-Leadership blogpost, we considered rethinking how virtual teams can maximize time dedicated to training or work projects and suggested incorporating self-directed activities that are completed online. This approach not only continues the momentum of initiatives, it can also improve engagement and efficiency in future training or project meetings. In this post, we’ll look at types of online self-paced and real-time work and learning initiatives and how e-leaders can better move the needle to improved performance in facilitating them asynchronously.

Online team activities fall into three main categories:

  1. Review of digital content,
  2. Collaborating on shared documents, and
  3. Topical discussions.

You are no doubt familiar with sharing digital content like presentations, links, reports, and other information via email or online. It is not uncommon for teams to have work to complete, case studies to review, or pre-work assignments before attending a meeting or class.

Collaborating in production or review of online documents has also become more common thanks to platforms such as Google and SharePoint. This is a great way to facilitate team work on projects particularly with remote workers who may not physically sit in the same office space.

A less utilized tool– facilitated online team discussions, is where you can kick up the experience a notch. Online Team discussions are held asynchronously in forums in-between real-time meetings.  They are effective to brainstorm, work through challenges, create strategy or business plans, or share documents/tasks and receive peer feedback.  

Online discussions are a great way to leverage your team’s shared knowledge, problem-solve, enhance rapport, and consult about work initiatives or learning assignments. They are valuable in continuing to advance initiatives even when the team is not physically connected either in-person or online.  However, they must be purposeful, facilitated, time-bound (this needs to be completed by), and in some scenarios have limited contributors to be productive.  Let’s take a closer look at the qualities of discussions that work.

While you may be familiar with facilitating virtual meetings, facilitating online discussions to increase your team’s productivity and efficiency requires a related yet slightly different skill set. The most important discussion success factor is your presence and facilitation as the E-leader. Your role is to frame the discussion topic clearly, convey how it supports your team’s agenda, and be an active participant in the discussion itself to answer questions and keep team members on track.  For more focused discussion topics, you may want to break a larger team into groups of 6-10 and provide each with their own discussion forum.

Connecting the dots -- before the next real-time meeting or training, the E-Leader should review and summarize discussion output and incorporate it into the agenda. Because the team already discussed the topic, consultation time during the real-time session is greatly reduced and can move more to a call for action as the team can come more quickly to consensus on what to do next.

View an example of an online discussion expediting action when preceding a real-time meeting.

Maher has developed an online cohort model for problem-solving where virtual teams contribute to online discussions and work activities intertwined with real-time team meetings. We also work with E-Leaders to hone their virtual facilitation skills in both asynchronous online environments and virtual meetings so to get the most value out of these sessions. In our next blog post, we’ll talk about team virtual spaces that enable effective team discussions and interactions.

Maher & Maher is a specialized change management and talent development consulting firm based in Neptune, NJ and in Washington, D.C. The Firm’s Private Sector Practice specializes in customized learning design and delivery for the Deathcare, Financial Services, Life Sciences, and Media & Communications industries, and partners with our peers to do the same for government clientele. For more information about our services, visit us at or call us at 1-888-90-MAHER.


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