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Staying Truly Connected: Your Orientation

Seize the initiative – Thinking about motivational and performance outcomes

By Paul Gentle

Welcome to your orientation. We’ve prepared a short piece of reading (or listening) and an activity to get you started before the programme’s first virtual meeting on Wednesday 18 November 2020.

For each Hour of the programme, you’ll find a page like this that opens with a piece of stimulus writing. These are designed to get you thinking before doing a practical, often creative, activity.

You’ll also find some resources for each Hour at the end of each page.

Everything throughout is about setting new ways of thinking and new habits for yourself and others. They will take time to bed in. Be generous to yourself and to this as the start of your adventure to Stay Truly Connected

Explore, enjoy, and we look forward to seeing you on Wednesday 18 November at 10am GMT.

It may seem like a very long time ago when you made the seismic shift, practically overnight, to working online and not seeing colleagues face to face. It must have seemed that there was a lot to learn all at once. Many of the familiar anchors simply disappeared: the chat with desk neighbours over a morning brew, informal touching-in before a meeting starts, our routines around going out for lunch or coffee.   

We will all have missed different things. For some, the serendipitous moments where we could tell someone how good we thought they’d done on a particular task (or the opposite, where we might have had a difficult face to face conversation). Others will long for the spontaneity of sharing humour or empathy, in person.

In the online world nearly all our interactions are deliberate.

We feel these most strongly as an absence, because in the online world nearly all our interactions are deliberate. 

Now, as we face a full academic year under restricted or different ways of working, comes the challenge of the long haul. Staying Truly Connected is designed to help you prepare to become a long-distance runner in your leadership work. Finding the stamina for what has come to seem a marathon requires a very different kind of immediate resilience to what we experienced last Spring.

And working online can create time and energy: with fresh approaches to facilitating online working with colleagues, Zoom and Teams can enable us to focus with purpose on what’s most important. We’ve designed this short programme to help you challenge some of the online habits that might now feel engrained in your approach to meetings; to refresh what you do by staying fit and alert to new practices.

Despite the very long hours many of us have been dedicating to our jobs, working from home can help us see the opportunities there are to: 

Set an encouraging and realistic tone for the long-distance journey ahead of our team

Ask what we could change in our practices, and how this will help build stamina, for ourselves and our colleagues

Consider who among our colleagues needs particular attention, and what kinds of support and guidance help to meet individual needs and build resilience

Be the sort of leader who continues to help others to see meaning and value in their own work 

The challenges that go with these opportunities call for a real ability to see a big-picture overview, at the same time as giving attention to managing complex operational details. Alongside this, people expect you to be able to communicate and converse with them in ways that are consistent and emotionally intelligent. 

Your activity

Before we embark on this four-week programme, we’ll ask you to reflect in different ways on what you’re experiencing about leading and managing colleagues who are working remotely.  By the time you come to the first collaborative online discussion with other participants on the morning of Wednesday 18 November, you’ll have had the chance – through the activity below – to consider and describe: 

  • What are the issues you’re encountering at present? 
  • What are your expectations of people working at their best?  
  • What practices have you developed that are working well for you in the context of working remotely?
  • What have you missed about not seeing people in person? 

We’re working on the principle that when you’re caught up in something, it can be difficult to see the wood from the trees. So the next few minutes are a chance to slow down, shut out the busy world around you, and think.  

Please spend about 20 to 30 minutes on the following task, for which you’ll need a blank sheet of paper and some pens, coloured ones if possible. After the activity, we’ll point you to some reading and viewing that will take no more than 30 minutes, and which will prepare you for our first online group discussion on Wednesday 18 November.  

Draw a map which depicts the Known World of Your Current Work, as you see it. 

Your map should show the connections you make or need to make with colleagues, and portrays the variety of landscapes you’re encountering at the moment. You could create an imaginary landscape, or draw a more diagrammatic plan (like a London Underground map). 

Where are the sunny uplands, where are the doldrums? 

Please have the map with you when you join the online discussion, as we’ll begin by asking you to do some further thinking on it. In the meantime, enjoy your creative drawing! 


A selection to read, watch or listen to, to help find a new perspective.

Dr Paul Gentle

Paul is the Academic Director at Invisible Grail. A leadership expert, Paul has dedicated the last twelve years to creating and delivering leadership development programmes in higher education.