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Pro Tips: The Keys to Successful Virtual Meeting Facilitation

I’ve always enjoyed the outcomes made possible by a well-facilitated meeting – helping groups come together, breaking down barriers, and realizing what they can achieve when working together. This has always been a highlight of my work at The Clearing.

Going into 2020, I was looking forward to a full slate of opportunities facilitating meetings for clients working on a range of topics. It goes without saying, but that didn’t exactly go according to plan. So, I pivoted – and worked to apply everything I had learned over a decade of in-person facilitation to ensure our clients got just as much out of their now virtual sessions as if the sessions were in-person.

Here’s how I approach virtual meetings to drive participation and support the group’s outcomes.

Pro-Tip #1: Gain Role Clarity in Advance of the Meeting

Getting clear on the roles of the facilitators and the participants before the meeting helps to eliminate confusion during the meeting helps the group stay on track toward desired outcomes. Part of this is ensuring participants are prepared to participate. It’s distracting when folks show up not ready to engage in the right way – and this can be the downfall of a productive session.

What To Do
Set and distribute your agenda ahead of time, and think through roles and responsibilities for each part
Send a level-setting email in advance to set participants’ expectations and desired outcomes for the meeting
Ensure employees know it’s a camera on meeting (or camera off)
Let folks know if there are meeting pre-reads or pre-work
Pro-Tip #2: Identify a Facilitation Partner

You don’t have to manage the meeting alone! When possible, engage a facilitation partner in advance of the meeting.

What To Do
Nominate a team member (or team members) to be responsible for note-taking and technology, including monitoring the technology before and during the meeting. Ensuring you have support during the meeting allows the main facilitator to stay focused vs. worrying about managing the slides, or helping folks connect to the technology, etc. It’s too difficult to hold both facets of a meeting with the additional factors in play during a virtual session, so engage a partner to help.
Take a look at our Process Content PRIME for more on this concept.

Pro-Tip #3: Practice Active Listening

Successful facilitation is about listening and being agile – driving and adjusting the conversation for participants. And remember, listening means watching for nonverbal cues as well. It’s harder to see those cues when you are not physically in a room together, so find ways to leverage the virtual technology to stay in touch with participants.

What To Do
Pay attention to the video and chat functions – these features can give you leading indicators for when to pivot. For example, haven’t heard from a key participant in a while? Ask the right question to draw them back in. Has the room gone silent? It may be time for a quick break.
Use the buddy system! Enlist your facilitation partners to help you keep tabs on the action and alert you to issues in the private chat. Speaking of buddies, it helps to work with other workplace experts to trade tips – like my colleague Kelly Barlow, who recently shared advice on getting the most of out of hybrid meetings.

The Clearing has a number of additional resources available to help you keep your virtual meetings on track, including our Virtual Facilitation Toolkit. And if you have questions or additional tips on facilitating successful virtual meetings, I’d love to chat – just send me an email at

Bolster the Success of Your Workplace Change with These 5 Criteria for a Successful Group of Change Champions

Change can have big impacts on an organization’s performance – and employees are experiencing changes in the workplace at an increasing rate. According to Gartner, on average, employees now experience three major changes each year, compared to 1.75 in 2012. What is more, Gartner also shares that change-stressed employees perform 5% worse than the average employee.

The use of change champions to bring people more quickly and steadily through challenging change processes can be a force multiplier in getting people to understand, support, and embrace organizational change while maintaining continuity of operations. At The Clearing, we frequently engage groups of change champions within our clients’ organizations as ambassadors for the change that leadership is implementing. Change champions are often a critical link between the front line workforce and leaders for information sharing and discussions.


A change champion is someone who is an “early adopter” and advocates for change who volunteers or is nominated to facilitate change during a transformation. Change champions across the organization are called to support the change process, prepare for specific changes, and coordinate stakeholder engagement, questions, and concerns

Able and willing to be a spokesperson and promoter of the transformation process
Works successfully as a guide in planning for and navigating the transformation process by proactively partnering with the management team and those leading change efforts.
Shares messaging and information effectively to keep the workforce focused on the end goals, even when times are tough
Provides iterative feedback to leadership for clarifications about the change process, challenges or concerns among the workforce, and resource needs
Collaborates with peers, leadership and other change champions to share ideas and lessons learned from the change journey

To make a Change Champions cohort a successful mechanism to promote workplace change, consider the following as you establish and manage the group:

Get management buy-in on the concept of change champions and get alignment on membership criteria, membership structure, and level of effort
Recruit, charter, and train the change champions group to ensure they understand their role and stay “on message”
Debrief with the group routinely to share updates, enlist their support on key initiatives, and understand the “buzz” they’re hearing from the workforce
Finally, remember to acknowledge change champions for their contributions – as this will compel people to want to get involved in your next change initiative!

Rebecca Gaynor is a Senior Principal at The Clearing specializing in strategic communication and change management for technology, organizational, and workplace change.

How to Influence Your Organizational Culture around Internal Communications

As a leader, have you ever wondered why people aren’t understanding your strategy or intent? Or, as an employee, are you scratching your head at the lack of communication around key initiatives or policy changes in your organization? According to Forbes, companies with highly effective communication practices have 47% higher total returns to shareholders compared with the organizations that are least effective at communicating. Countless other studies and articles share similar statistics. If the value of internal communication is so clear, why is it often left as an afterthought?

The answer: organizational communication practices must be intentionally developed as a part of your culture. Your organization’s culture is what helps or hinders communication at all levels. Culture dictates how everything is received in or processed through your organization. The most powerful cultures are explicit and intentional. Leaders and employees alike must foster intentional culture, including the culture around communication within the organization.

At The Clearing, we believe that CULTURE – though seemingly complex and dynamic in how it operates – can be as simple as the line drawn between behaviors that the organization’s members tolerate and behaviors that members do not tolerate.

With that in mind, leaders can effectively impact positive communication practices across their organization simply by supporting and demonstrating the use of desired communication behaviors and tools. On the flip side, leaders and staff must also make declarations about communication practices that will not be tolerated. (See CULTURE PRIME above, The PRIMES© are documented in the book, The PRIMES: How Any Group Can Solve Any Problem, (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., copyright © 2012) authored by Chris McGoff, founder of The Clearing.)

Three Practices for Influencing Your Desired Communication Culture
#1 – Get Intentional About Designing Your Desired Internal Communication Infrastructure

Think about roles, processes, and communication channels that should be formalized, and leave room for ad-hoc communication needs. Formalization of communication infrastructure is especially important for mid-and large-size organizations to reach employees at all levels.

Get employees involved in the design of this infrastructure, and socialize to make sure people understand roles and channels and are using them. Finally,  your infrastructure should be designed with your communication goals and desired communication culture in mind. For example, if you’d like to increase knowledge sharing across project teams, your infrastructure should include considerations for knowledge-sharing experiences and tools that help knowledge sharing. Consider designing cross-team “brain trust” meetings, organizing brown bag “lunch and learns”, and using virtual tools such as Slack that allow for file sharing, collaboration, and real-time questions and answers.

#2 – Institute and Support Clear and Open Feedback Practices

If you’re trying to boost communication across your organization, try emphasizing feedback as an element of your organization’s culture. If people are open to feedback, communication is more likely to be open and transparent. People won’t be as afraid to share “bad news” in a culture that embraces feedback, and employees who are accustomed to giving and receiving feedback will be better prepared to receive and respond to news or information that is perceived as less-than-positive. According to Harvard Business Review, leaders and managers must integrate the desired behaviors into their team’s daily routines in order to normalize those behaviors within the organization’s culture. This means not waiting for a special occasion to share positive or constructive feedback – and can include incorporating feedback into team meetings and even public settings, as appropriate – to encourage groups to think collectively about how things are going well or could be improved. At The Clearing, we encourage our project teams to meet immediately after completing deliverables, events, or projects to consider what went well or what could have been improved. By using techniques such as this, your organization can build its feedback muscle and begin to normalize feedback, which will encourage information flow and have an added positive effect on individual and team performance.

#3 – Adopt an Agile Model – and be Open to Making Changes

If you’re noticing that as your organization grows or evolves, your communication practices are no longer supporting your goals, then adopt an agile approach to your communication infrastructure whereby you can test new approaches and quickly make changes. According to McKinsey, agile organizations have a 70 percent chance of being in the top quartile of organizational health, a direct indicator of long-term performance. Agile organizations combine an explicit “North Star” with a flexible, distributed approach to value creation to rapidly act on opportunities. In an agile model, employees at all levels of your organization’s network proactively watch for changes in preferences and act upon them. As feedback is generated and received on organizational processes or about the communication infrastructure itself, incorporate a “rapid learning cycles” approach to adapt your organization’s communication practices and test new ways of working.


It’s no mystery that good, intentional internal communication can directly impact positive organizational performance. For leaders embarking on a change initiative or transformation, it’s especially important to make your desired communication CULTURE explicit at the beginning of the CHANGE or TRANSFORMATION initiative. The organization needs to recognize that CULTURE – much like communication – is a living thing; messages and behaviors are being shaped all the time, whether actively or passively. While everyone in an organization has a role in developing a strong, agile communication culture, leaders are responsible for making it intentional and explicit. Take time today to activate your role in shaping your organization’s internal communication practices.

4 Workplace Change Obstacles and How to Address Them

Any shift from the status quo in an organization can be hard for employees. Moreover, most leaders underestimate how open their employees are to change. According to Forbes, 37% of leaders think people like to remain in the status quo, compared to 45% of front line employees when asked the same question.

As organizations modernize workplaces – implementing new technologies, space designs, and processes – it is natural that people will feel unsettled and even actively resist the change.

If change is so challenging for people, how can leaders overcome obstacles to change and bring people along? Read on for four common obstacles we encounter in workplace change, and tips for leaders to overcome them.

PRO TIP: Provide logical, clear, and concise messaging about the drivers for change, the change vision, and how it will impact them at an organization, unit, and individual level. Share relatable and relevant stories about the future state and engage employees in the conversation

PRO TIP: Design specific messaging and communication products to speak to how the change supports the mission of the organization and the needs of the various stakeholder profiles within the workforce. Evaluate the mission and core values against the constraints employees may face to share a compelling case for change. Paint a picture for employees about how the change will positively impact service to customers and/or support organizational growth.

PRO TIP: Facilitate discussions to engage managers and staff in a dialogue about the desired future workplace culture and experience. Discuss behaviors and attributes employees would like to see in the new workplace, as well as concerns about the future workplace. Enlist leadership and managers to model desired behaviors and promote the vision required for the organization of the future.

PRO TIP: Design and implement ways for employees to voice their concerns – such as forums and touchpoints with leaders and managers, email boxes, and anonymous question boxes, as needed. Enlist trusted change champions across the workforce to listen to concerns, share the benefits of change, and promote future vision. Design engagement activities, events to experience and “try-out” new furniture and space designs, and orientation materials to educate and excite employees about the spaces and features available to them in their new workplace.

Finally, employees will adapt to change at varying rates and from individual perspectives. Leaders who adopt the strategies shared above while also embodying patience and persistence in sharing the vision for change can find success in bringing their workforce along the path to transformation.

Rebecca Gaynor is a Senior Principal at The Clearing specializing in strategic communication and change management for technology, organizational, and workplace change.

Driving Your Desired Organizational Culture through Workplace Design

Interested in changing or influencing your organizational culture, but unsure of where to begin? You’re not alone. We often hear from leaders just like you who are not clear on how to get started, but there is a way you can begin taking small steps to positively transform your culture today.

Through our work at The Clearing, we’ve determined that culture is comprised of a collection of behaviors we tolerate and behaviors we do not tolerate. What’s more, behaviors can be largely driven by not just policies or rules, but by the physical spaces and tools around us. To that end, if you want an open, transparent, and collaborative culture in your organization, you need to provide a space, tools, and workplace policies that reinforce that.

We recently had a senior government client take her large organization to a more agile, collaborative, and transparent work environment, reinforced by an open floor plan. As a senior executive, she and her leadership team gave up their offices. She and her more than 100 staff now choose the space that best meets their needs to accomplish the tasks of the day. To allow for collaboration and support different work patterns and needs, they invested in more small conference rooms, collaboration spaces, some soft seating areas, “quiet areas” for heads-down work, and phone booths for private calls or 1:1 meetings where one individual is working from a remote location.

To make staff feel involved in the workplace design and to support staff’s assimilation into the new environment, we helped this client identify and communicate workplace guidelines and ground rules for working in a shared, open workplace. We also asked staff to contribute to the identity of the space by helping to name the conference rooms and select colors for finishings that tied back to their organizational mission and brand. Tailored signage reinforced the new space labels and guidelines.

The organization is now successfully working in the space and with the efficiencies gained in reducing their footprint, they’re already seeing a return on investment, including increased productivity and employee satisfaction.

It’s important to keep in mind that workplace design is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. If your goal is to create a culture of openness, transparency, and collaboration, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every leader needs to give up his or her office. However, you might consider what other design or policy choices you do want to make as a leadership team to show your investment in the culture that you desire.

At The Clearing, culture is our business. When our clients understand the link between culture and workplace, they are able to use space design as a platform for reinforcing their desired culture to help the organization perform at its best. Curious about how you can take steps towards reinforcing the culture you want with workplace design? Send your questions to

The Link between Physical Workplace and Organizational Culture (and Why It’s Important)

Search for “culture in the workplace” books on, and you will receive over 7,000 results. Culture is a huge topic of interest for anyone passionate about the success of their organization, and at The Clearing, we’ve made culture our business. But why is culture important?

Research shows that organizations with “good” cultures outperform their competitors. The University of Warwick’s Department of Economics found that happy employees are 12 percent more productive than average employees, while unhappy employees are 10 percent less productive. What’s more, Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost U.S. businesses over $300 billion each year.

At The Clearing, we believe that culture…

Creates an organization’s identity–it’s how we treat each other, what we stand for, and, as an organization–the lens through which we look at the world around us.
Helps people gauge and reinforce desired behaviors and helps suppress or reject undesired behaviors.
Is, at the most basic level, the line between behaviors we tolerate and do not tolerate–reinforced by the perceivable actions of leadership and employee.

In our work, we have identified a critical link between culture and workplace design: If culture is the basis for the way people interact, then the physical space they interact in must be important, right?

If an organization’s culture is collaborative and interactive, a workplace design that calls for building many walls would be incongruent with the culture. Team members from that organization would find ways to collaborate and interact regardless of the physical barriers–but not without extra work and frustration. Likewise, if an organization’s culture is standoffish and toxic, throwing people into an open work environment will not build trust and collaboration. People in that organization will build barriers and find ways to avoid interaction.

That said, design features and tools in a physical space do drive behavior and impact how people feel about their organization–from availability of furniture, to type and style of furniture, to tools and technology available in a workspace. Even light, colors, and airflow or climate in the space can reinforce certain feelings and behaviors that impact culture. So, why not build into your workplace design the kind of physical space and tools that give you a leg up on reinforcing the culture you want?

Bottom line: Your physical space and tools, technologies, and policies are intrinsically linked to the culture you want to create or foster. Understand this, and you can begin to make culture shifts! To learn more about how workplace design can impact your organizational culture, please contact