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Improve long-distance leadership by conducting a visioning exercise with your team

Today is Strategy #2 in our video series on Leading hybrid and virtual teams.  In our first strategy in this new video series, I explained that when it comes to long-distance leadership, one of the most important things you should do is to establish your desired workplace culture.  And one of the primary suggestions I made to you was to hold a kick-off meeting with your team to get their buy-in.  In today’s video installment, I want to explain this kick-off meeting concept further.

Hold a kick-off meeting to get your team’s buy-in

The purpose of this meeting is to establish and get agreement on the norms and standards under which all team members will operate.  So it is critical that all your team members, on-location or remote, attend.  Not just attend, but be there for the entirety of the meeting.  So select a time when everyone is able to be present for the entire meeting, and let people know ahead of time that they are expected to stay for the duration.

For long-distance leadership to be successful, two things need to happen.  First, your team needs to generally agree on a high-level perception of their team’s goals and outcomes.  And then second, they need to concur on more specific norms and standards of behaviour.  For that reason, I suggest that you organize your meeting in two parts.

In Part 1, conduct a visioning exercise.  And in Part 2, make a list of team norms and standards.  In today’s video blog, I’ll cover how to conduct the visioning exercise.  And in my next post in this series, I’ll explain the process you should use to help your team develop a list of their norms and standards.

Part 1 – Conduct a visioning exercise

In this part of your meeting, you are looking for your team to collaboratively answer the question – How do you want your team to be perceived? What do you want to be known for?  There are many ways to get the dialogue going on this.  You could have a group discussion with one person logging answers on the whiteboard.  You could have everyone use sticky notes to jot down words and phrases that they think of, and then collectively combine them (a great virtual equivalent to this is at  Or you can use my favourite technique, which is to create a word cloud.

A word cloud is a collection, or cluster, of words depicted in different sizes. The bigger and bolder the word appears, the more often it’s mentioned and the more important it is.  You can use a simple tool such as the one I use – Essentially, team members use their personal devices to participate, and the word cloud is updated in real time on the screen.  If they see words or phrases they like, they can indicate so, and those words will become bigger.  And words that aren’t as popular will become smaller.

If you would like to see an example of a word cloud I did with a client group that answered this same question, I’ve put an example in the blog post associated with this video.  If you’re not already on the blog, the link to the blog post is in the description.  Best of all, this word cloud was created using the free version of mentimeter.  There are other tools out there, this one just happens to be my favourite.

long-distance leadershipThe greatest thing about creating a word cloud is that it involves and engages everyone on your team.  What you end up with is a collective understanding and agreement on a high-level perception of their team’s goals and outcomes.

Next time, we’ll establish norms and standards

This word cloud you collectively create will become a great tool to use when you move into the second part of this kick-off meeting – coming up with a list of the team norm’s and standards.  And in my next post in this video series, I’ll explain the second part in much greater detail – the process you and your team can jointly use to develop your team norms and standards.

But for now, I’d love to hear your reaction to Part 1.  Does this make sense?  Have you used word clouds before?  Do you have another tool to recommend other than mentimeter?  Please share by adding your comments below.

P.S. This post may seem complicated (it’s not), but it is incredibly valuable if you want your long-distance leadership to be successful.  I’ll be back next week with more.

P.P.S. Would you like some help in facilitating this visioning exercise with your team?  I’d love to help.  Drop me an email and we can set up a time to talk to see if I can add value to your long-distance leadership efforts.

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