LINE MØRKBAK is a Global Consultant and Learning Professional and the Founder of Global LEAP Consulting. She gives clients suggestions on how to revamp traditional management tools; how to utilize the cultural mix of global and local teams; how to harness the productivity of dispersed, virtual collaboration as well as introduce Improv techniques to build trust among leaders or team members.
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Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Lissette: Alright, and we’re live. So welcome, everyone to this remote interview. My name is Lisette, and I’m interviewing people in companies doing great things remotely. And today all the way from Oregon and the United States, I have Line Morkbak. Line, you are a global consultant and learning professional and the founder of Global LEAP consulting, and you’re also a Collaboration Superpowers facilitator. So we’re going to dive into some of that, but I recently took your savvy virtual facilitator course. And after taking this amazing online workshop, I thought, oh, man, I’ve got to have you on the podcast because you know about online virtual facilitation and some great tips. So welcome, thanks for being here today.
Line: Thank you for having me.
Lissette: So I want to start with the first question, which is always the same and that is what does your virtual office look like? What do you need to get your work done?
Line: Oh, that’s a good question, and actually, I worked virtually for many years and I’ve made different tweaks to that virtual office. But I do feel that I’m landing in the right place for me now. I’m a solo entrepreneur, I run my own business, the business is just me. I like it that way. I actually like my online office to be very mobile. So I have a very excellent laptop small and my phone and that needs to be able to go with me everywhere. But on the day-to-day, I am primarily in my home office. We live on a piece of land outside of Portland, Oregon, in the northwest of the US. So I like to have big plans and have a standing desk I just painted some walls in my space and I need to have space where I can do planning, a big calendar and post it spaces here and I kind of have a rule as I’m working in my home, that I don’t do my bills. I don’t have my novel sitting here I don’t have magazines and newspapers like this is my workspace. I close the door, I take my laptop another place if I have to do bills or if I’m hanging on the couch, and doing something. This is my workspace, I keep it kind of tidy, I like to… I mean, there’s piles of place, but I like my projects to be here and living in this space. So that’s how it works for me. Typically, a couple of times a month, I go to co-working spaces in Portland, and I work from there as well. I’m a lot on the road with my clients, I work globally. So I also do a lot of work from airports, and onsite with my clients on their locations.
Lissette: So let’s talk a little bit about what you do before we dive into the savvy virtual facilitator course. So Global LEAP Consulting, I know that you give online workshops for both Collaboration Superpowers and management 3.0. But what are some of the other things that your business does?
Line: Well, I’m originally an inter-culturist. That’s what I started doing like 15 years ago. So a lot of my… I do a little bit of that work still, but most of my clients and the work that I dive into has an international global component so that there is people from different nationalities that need to figure out to collaborate together. I typically define myself as a facilitator of collaboration, sometimes that collaboration, as we talked about is online, and it’s in that space. And almost always, with the clients, I work with is a combination of people coming with different work styles, different cultural backgrounds, different workplace experience, different work cultures have to collaborate together, and so that’s a big chunk of my work. I’m also very passionate about the future of work and reinventing workspace. So I launched about a year ago, I launched a project called leap lap with where I’m interviewing change makers who are being revolutionaries in their teams in their workplaces. And trying to shake it up, like shake it up making a team structures more autonomous, giving it flattening out organization and decision processes. And there’s not really one model fits all but I’m interviewing people who are out there tweaking it and I’m posting those interviews and those blog posts to inspire others on that journey of not just sitting back and doing work as it used to be, but really writing this great energy that is currently in terms of being conscious of how we can be, bring our full self to work, be happy in our workplaces, but also democratize a lot of the processes that we have in our workplaces. Like divide that power out, cut some of those middle managers out.
Lissette: Right, so the middle managers out there are going ‘hey, no, wait, wait.’ Don’t worry there’s plenty of work.
Line: Actually, a lot of the teams I’m talking to, it’s middle managers who are driving this process. So then they are stepping into, they’re bringing two more different roles within the organization. When I say cutting out the middle managers is like cutting out that hierarchy piece just for the sake of-
Lissette: Cutting out the bureaucracy, the unnecessary bureaucracy indeed, and people, I don’t know, there, I don’t think there’s so much a risk of people losing their jobs, because it seems like there is enough work to go around, this sort of reestablishing what people do, and maybe you’ll get more interesting stuff. If it can be automated, then let it be automated but okay, that’s a whole other topic. Before we go on to the savvy virtual facilitation, I want to talk a little bit about culture because you have this background as an inter-culturist and I don’t know I mean, this is a big subject, so we can’t dive in too deeply. But I would want to ask if there’s people out there when working with other cultures, what advice do you like what some general advice that you give to people for how to be aware how to navigate something where, you know, we don’t know what we don’t know.
Lissette: So given that, like, that seems like, you know, it’s hard.
Line: It’s hard, and typically one of the first places that I guide people to start is to figure out a way for a team to create a neutral language around talking about the cultural preferences and the cultural differences so that it doesn’t get loaded around. ‘Oh, well you and me, you are so chatty, and you need to build these relationships all the time, but we’re tasked going into company we don’t have time for that.’ Then that gets a loaded way and value-based in terms of what’s different work preferences, that’s typically tied into some cultural treats as well. So if a team can start and doing a cultural assessment or just bringing that awareness around, ‘oh, we have different priorities in terms of how we go to our work.’ And I might work with a German client who wants to be everything very linear and boxed up and one thing follows the next, and then I might also work with a [inaudible 07:00] client, wants to make sure to get a real sense of that person that they’re working with. So they want to have that coffee, they want to have some of that chitchat when that relationship is built, they can be a lot more explicit about what their critical issues are in terms of this project or the ideas. So by starting by broadening that conversation out and saying, ‘how can we even, that we have different preferences how can they be something that’s safe enough for us to talk about?’ And often that cultural assessment can help that because then we get some wording and not labels, but some like ‘oh, I typically prioritize this before I prioritize this what do you do?’ Like, ‘oh, I would prioritize it opposite.’ Okay, how can we divide that out?
Lissette: Because I wouldn’t even think that there would be a different style of how we prioritize work, of course, like I wouldn’t even thought of that. So of course, I wouldn’t even know to ask. So I can imagine assessments like this just give you sort of a groundwork for these are the kinds of questions you could ask and start exploring here and I think it just sort of follows on.
Line: It doesn’t, and it doesn’t have to be an assessment. I’m actually not a huge fan of assessment but it’s a neutral place. It’s kind of like sometimes also I get invited in because that’s a neutral voice who comes in and guide that conversation and kind of heightened that awareness of like, ‘Oh, I wasn’t even conscious of that. I guess I’m just assuming that we’re all want to have all these things in place and we’re very certainty oriented, oh no actually some of us really want action are ready to jump into some risk.’ That’s, again, different priorities, right? Like, there is an energy that we want to use for certain parts of the project if there is some of those innovative leads and then there’s other parts of the project where we need those people who are down asking the critical questions of ‘have we looked at this? Have we talked to those people have we been around here,’ and really looking for that analysis and that certainty in the project. So all spectrums are needed.
Lissette: Yeah, just about matching skills, and personality to task I would assume, easier said than done. It’s like, ‘oh, it’s just about doing that.’ It’s just right.
Line: But I think the awareness and vocabulary for a team to kind of bring that up to the surface is a good place to start.
Lissette: Yeah great advice, thanks. So we both know that online is not the same as in person. And we’re we’ve both had a lot of experience with seeing people trying to take in-person techniques and translate them directly online, and it doesn’t work. There’s a lot of pain there that people have been going through. So you’ve developed in this particular there’s a lot of different areas that you can cover in this sort of topic, but you’ve developed one area and that is on virtual facilitation. How do you facilitate in the virtual space? Why did you dive into this? Now we’re going to dive into what that is?
Line: Yeah. Well, I am a facilitator. I love facilitating and the virtual, in the physical space and face to face, I do open space facilitation. I’ve done ground workshops and guiding those conversations always. And I could see that there was a need for how do we are hosting conversations, which is really the facilitation part in my definition, how we’re hosting things online because as you said, the condition online is very different. We’re not having the opportunity to read each other in the same way. We’re typically rushing into things because we don’t have things as we can’t read the sentiments of the people that’s there. If there’s a little bit of quiet in this space, we feel that we need to fill it quickly. And so how do you actually help people to host a conversation, facilitate dialogue with their team or if they’re facilitating certain… they want to run their own workshops and they need to be able to really design material content in that space, how do you do that? And there’s definitely things out there. One of the things that I felt was missing was the whole practice piece. Like there is some theory around and of course, I dive into that as well and, and share some of the things to be aware of like, what is the virtual condition, that what is what is the what is the situation online that we need to be aware of how and we have to be very intentionally online to create these connections. And that’s part of the facilitators’ roles to create that safe space. I talk about it like one on one like that. Yeah, one or one, that’s the kind of how do we facilitate online and one of them is about, the first one is about creating that space. Because you’re hosting that space, people need to feel welcome, they need to be at safe space and especially because it’s online, so we need to invite people to video on if they can and so that’s some of the space where that came from, how can you actually host that and make people feel welcomed, and then another piece of the one on one is also that needs to be aware as the facilitator that you can’t just wing it, you need to design, be very intentional about the process that you will hold for the space to be safe and holding that space you also need to design the process that people are going through and part of that is to not just think the virtual as similar to like a one-time event, ‘oh, we’re having this one meeting, or I’m hosting this one conversation with this group of people at this point in time,’ that we need to stretch it out and being more of a process, that there’s a lot of things that happens in the asynchronous time before and our hosting role as a facilitator starts already there. So that’s part of designing the process, how can I invite people to start sharing with each other in a virtual tool, even before they tune into zoom or Skype or Adobe, whatever channel I’m using virtually right and that’s part of designing that process.
Lissette: One of the things that really struck me in the workshop because I took the workshop, I can’t remember if I mentioned it while we were recording, but I took the workshop and the importance of the asynchronous and synchronous sort of dance that happens, which is with in-person meetings, we can really get together and you do a whole bunch of things in that session, you could argue that some of that should be done asynchronously as well.
Line: You could yes.
Lissette: Yes but in the online space, it’s imperative that there’s a synchronous sort of work being done before and after and also, it’s wise, you should take advantage of being able to do that, like use the time and the tools wisely. So that was something I really took away from the workshop, but I think that people think about that as much as they like meeting design is-
Line: And one of my pet peeves is really that we often we get ‘oh, it’s harder to do things online and it’s fatiguing and it is which is one of the reasons why we have to take things out in the asynchronous before and after the actual physical time that we are all logging in at the same time in a virtual call, but it also means that we can actually really be creative, we can totally splinter how we’re thinking this engaging it because we’re thinking the whole process and not just this single event. And that’s what I really want to encourage people to get creative and in that like if I’m hosting this process over this time, what can I start doing and that before that after space, you know, to get people warmed up and actually already have things started, so you know that in my session is also do this in my management 3.0 session, I send out a video and a whole bunch of stuff, not overwhelming people, but for people to meet me even before they start the session, meet each other do an activity. So when we start a first session, we’ve already met each other. We’ve asked questions to each other. We’ve done some of that team building together. So that said, one of the things that I really wanted to do with this savvy virtual facilitator was to model what it looks like, in my opinion, when it works really well. So what we do in this session is also its really small groups, really small cohorts with typically four or five people. The last session is an individual coaching and the third session, you’re actually doing facilitating, and each participant is facilitating fifteen, twenty minutes themselves for each other. So my idea was that it shouldn’t just be me, throwing a bunch of stuff out. I also want people to get comfortable enough in the first couple of sessions, but then the third session, roll up their sleeves, and dive in and actually being responsible for a short virtual segment and guiding this all before after, before during and after process with people. And what I’ve seen is some really creative and the workshop you attended you saw also some really creative pieces there, right. People recording video beforehand, people coming up with little GIF-like ice-breaking activities people had to do beforehand as well.
Lissette: Yeah and we used all kinds of tools. So that was really fun to get to just try a bunch of stuff out and see how it works. Like is it going to work before? Before you go live in an important meeting or workshop that you’re doing? You know, come and practice in Leno’s workshop at night? Yeah, make the explosions there where it’s in a safe fun space to have it.
Line: Yeah, yeah.
Lissette: Now where do most online facilitators go wrong? What are they doing? But what makes it bad online facilitation?
Line: Oh, I think there’s a couple of things. I think it’s when we’re overloading we can be throwing a lot of like, ‘oh, it’s my job to fill the space all the time,’ and I know I definitely still are struggling with that and making sure that there is also that, I mean we learn when we are having time for dialogue we’re learning when we’re kind of ping pong ideas back and forth and so that’s why the job as the facilitator is to throw some stuff out there for people to react, to create that space. It’s not just like, ‘oh, what do you want to discuss? Or what do you guys think,’ like guided some good, reflective questions that’s guiding that but what I see I think one thing that can go wrong is that we put too much content on, we bombard people and there’s no room for the exchange and the second thing is also that we get too rigid that it has to be a certain thing that needs to be covered. If there is like I can see myself with experience with like, ‘well, that’s an interesting part of that conversation, I’m going to pause on some other stuff and I’m going to facilitate what just came up right now. And that is what we’re going to be discussing right now. And then I can also use my, the whole the whole process and say, okay, not everything has to be delivered in that zoom session, I can send that article that I wanted to discuss and I can send that in the after phase instead I want to spend the during time when we were together with that great dialogue that just came up and facilitate that in the space. So that’s one of the things where I think we go wrong as well, that we get very rigid on the agenda and not comfortable enough to actually to hold whatever comes up, because that is the role of us as facilitator, what is relevant for us to discuss right now, is not my agenda it’s more important than what’s this people’s that comes into the space. I’m the one who’s holding the space and guiding that for us, right.
Lissette: So and actually one of the things when I play bad meeting bingo with participants in my workshop, one of the first thing that comes up when I ask people to describe like what is, like what makes a really bad online meeting? What have you seen and the one of one thing that goes there is there’s nobody facilitating the session, like people just gather in a space and then somebody has to like, everybody is like ‘I don’t know, somebody called the meeting,’ and everybody is like ‘yeah,’ someone is like ‘I just did the meeting because so and so said I should call the meeting,’ and then there’s you know your all there and those are the worst. But after about 15 minutes of tech problems, and then that’s actually-
Line: Exactly, exactly and that’s where part of the virtual spaces that we have to be very intentional about this is what we’re doing right now right like and also I’ll be in terms of meeting I’m the very strong spokesperson of just having fewer shorter meetings and throwing a lot more out into that asynchronous space for us to collaborate on right.
Lissette: It also means that people need to take the responsibility for preparing and being in that asynchronous space and taking that seriously, I think that’s also you know not being prepared for meetings is a huge issue for everyone.
Line: And actually, one of the things that I think is very important for the savvy virtual facilitators, also little tricks where you are looping people in, you’re getting people to commit, you’re not saying ‘you have to be prepared,’ but there’s a way that you get people to be committed to each other in that in that asynchronous space. So I typically have people signed up with learning partners in one way or another. So they’re committing to each other. You also learning a lot because part of our session is not just being meeting with online and learning from me, it’s from learning from each other bouncing ideas with each other. And as I mentioned, I want people to really roll up their sleeves and actually practice, so there’s some worksheets where they’re starting sketching out, well what if I am actually running this little virtual segment? What does it look like? What tools do I want? Because that’s the last piece of the one on one is also selecting the right tools.
Lissette: Yeah, was going to be my next question.
Line: So what’s the… you know what do you, what like tools can we shouldn’t just throw any kind of tools at our participants but what’s the right tool for the kind of dialogue you’re wanting right here and that’s also the job of the facility say, ‘oh, we need a visual tool right here or we need someone we can vote right here. We need to throw up this whiteboard, we need to create something and draw together or we’re going to jump into So Coco and being able to during coffee session right now,’ right, like that’s where we’re selecting the tools and that’s part of the facilitators as well.
Lissette: Yeah, and I think you know, you don’t have to know all the tools but having a tool kit, I find a few tools like you don’t have to know every single one. But you know, I have a polling tool and the whiteboard tool and a drawing tool or you know, just something where you can, you know, like, ‘oh, this meeting needs drawing now let’s get on a whiteboard,’ and everybody sketch together because we need to visualize what we’re talking about.
Line: Exactly, exactly.
Lissette: Yeah, yeah and you know, that it’s easier when we’re in person, I think because we just get up to the whiteboard or somebody does.
Lissette: However online, we tend to forget some of these really good practices that we do in person. We feel that we’re limited but you know, a lot has happened in the last five years and we are limited and the tools are awesome and free in many instances, so-
Lissette: Indeed, okay so we’re nearing the end of our time, man. So what I would say is if you were giving advice to people who are just starting out with online facilitation, maybe and online designing things, where would you start after taking the savvy virtual facilitator course on the collaboration superpowers website?
Line: Practice, a lot of this is actually practice, find places where you engaged and practice things out. One thing is that we want to constantly kind of enhance our awareness around how do we expand our bandwidth, our bandwidth in that collaborative space. And that’s kind of finding the right channels for this dialogue, and it’s actually looping a little bit back to what we started talking about in terms of the intercultural space, that’s kind of where I came from originally, because a big piece of facilitating is that you are making sure that all those voices feel welcomed and they’re all being included and there’s techniques for that as well. And I also feel that’s the job of a facilitator. So and expanding the bandwidth of the different channels that you’re plugging into to really making sure that all those voices on your team and the introverts, the people who are busting through, people in India maybe and people who are joining from the UK as well as people from Scandinavia, how can they all be heard in these meetings, but practices the best way and that’s one of the things that like some theory, but let’s just dive into it and guide each other and I’ll coach people along as well.
Lissette: Yeah, I can recommend it firsthand and some really great tips. I think practice is a really good one actually because if I listened back to like some of the first podcast episodes that I did, there is definitely a difference between number one and number 242 which is your episode.
Line: Wow, this is where we’re at, wow.
Lissette: Yes, I hope there’s improvement when I listened back I feel you know, it’s like cringe in the beginning. So yeah, practice does, it does really help you get the hang of things and you know, like, you can deal with all the crazy things that online meetings and events throw at you because yeah, it does take… you should train yourself for this. It’s not an easy thing to master. So yeah, thank you, Line, for your time today and all of your great tips. I took some good notes and they’ll all be in the show notes for people. One very last question, which is if people want to learn more about you, where do they go?
Line: Oh, well, I am on the Collaboration Superpowers, one of the facilitators, Lissette and I work together for several years at this point. My company is called Lead Consulting, so you can find that Global Lead Consulting you can find that online. I’m also on LinkedIn, and then on medium you can follow my lead lap, future of work, posts, and videos as well. So there’s several places you can find me.
Lissette: Great, and I will add those to the show notes too, for easy access for all of our listeners.
Line: Wonderful. Thank you.
Lissette: Once again, thanks for being here and until next time, everybody be powerful.
Interview, Managers, Podcast, Tools