Monthly Archives: April 2020

Be Fabulous Online!

Tips and Tricks for Building Online Meeting Rapport

Over the last few weeks, we have all been becoming more skilled with facilitating meetings via a variety of on-line platforms. You’ve mastered booking meetings on line, sharing data, and having online drinkies after work. Nice! We have felt our collective neurons growing as we have all learned these new skills.

At MindMeld we love facilitating meetings, and have been tweaking our face-to-face style to continue to provide that lovely rapport-building between participants that makes for rich and productive conversations. Rapport is important for your team to feel engaged and connected in a time of change.

If you are anything like us, you have got used to this new online way of working (kind of), and are wondering how to keep the new adaptability and good things going forward (‘work tops/trackie bottoms’).

Kristan and Brenda rocking out a resilience webinar – sci-fi themed  for added engagement!

Follow these tips to keep your team-building gains, and set your team up for success when you are all back working face-to-face.

  1. Sit on top of your router, (well not literally, that’s a bit uncomfortable). But sit as close as you can to reduce buffering and your screen freezing.
  2. Do a practice meeting with yourself to see what you look like on screen. If you have a Photo Booth function then you can check your background for a professional look, and adjust your screen tilt to reduce the ‘up the nostril’ shot or extra chins.
  3. Speak in short sentences, with one point per sentence, so that all participants can hear your message.
  4. Keep your agenda short. Facilitating workshops online is tiring for you and the participants.
  5. Give a ‘head and heart’ goal at the beginning of the meeting. This means be clear on what you want to get out of the meeting (head goal), and how you want people to feel such as connected and included (heart goal).
  6. Smile and nod. Normally we would read the body language of others in the room, but that is not so easy online as we can’t see their whole body – we can only see their head and shoulders. Nodding is an unconscious reflex, which demonstrates you have heard the other person, and gives other participants the confidence to speak. If you are not sure when to nod, then nod at the end of the other person’s sentence. This helps you look authoritative and not like a nodding dog in the back of the car.
  7. Ask questions! A great way to ask questions, is to start with the person’s name (to let them know a question is coming), followed by an open question, such as: “Kristan what is your view on what we have discussed?”This pre-supposes that Kristan has a question. If you ask: “Kristan, do you have a question?”, then he can answer “Yes” or “No”, and you have a 50% chance of him shaking his head – ‘Nek minute’, dead air.
  8. Pop yourself on mute when you are not speaking. Heavy breathing while listening can be picked up your computer and switch the speaker’s screen to your screen, which disrupts the flow.
  9. Winston our Coach Cat makes this ‘Open the fridge now’ face during every meeting. Your pet will sense you are busy online and will try to get your attention any way they can. Our cat Winston is a shocker for demanding food loudly, and walking across the keyboard. That’s OK, people like to see pets. But don’t let your pet knock a glass of water over your computer. [Advice from Kristan, based on real-life events from last Thursday’s workshop.]
  1. Headphones work to cut down on any unwanted background household noise from being transmitted to your colleagues. If you have noise-cancelling headphones, use them, they are amazing.
  2. Remember all the good processes you normally use in meetings to make them go well, and do them! If you open and close with a karakia and waiata, that is fantastic, and still do those things.

Finally, don’t be afraid to create new rituals that work for you and your team! We’ve been ending workshops with an inspirational quote (pictured), which can also be used as a mantra.

A little bit more on body language and rapport.


Albert Mehrabian found in his research that when people are together and talking about their feelings in a situation, emotional meaning is communicated:

  • 7 percent through actual words used. Head goal and heart goal.
  • 38 percent through the voice — tone, speed. Short sentences, and openquestions.
  • 55 percent through body language — gesture, posture, facial expressions. Nodding at the end of the sentence, smiling.


    • John Gottman, The Gottman Institute, and The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work. (2000) . • Albert Mehrabian, Silent Messages: Implicit Communication of Emotions and Attitudes (2nd ed.) (1981).

Help Your Team Feel Accomplished and Successful Going Into Their Easter Break.

Brenda, Dayna (our essential service worker in the Police Call Centre – our family is so proud of her) and bunnies.

You can ask your team members these questions in your virtual one on one catch-ups or at your team check-ins.

The questions.

1.What do you feel good about that you have achieved this week? (Big or small, work or personal.)

2.What is something in your current life situation that you feel grateful for?

3.What fun activities are you looking forward to doing over the Easter Break?

Why these are great coaching questions.

Question 1 – Achievements. When we judge our day on our productivity but cannot access the files we need, it’s hard to feel productive. It is useful to notice achievements both big and small.

Question 2 – Gratitudes create a growth mindset. The more we notice what we are grateful for, the more positive things will manifest.

Question 3 – Looking forward. Anticipation and optimism help us feel more in control. Identifying fun activities over Easter creates a sense of difference between workdays and weekends which leads to a stronger sense of structure.

Enjoy your Easter Break!

Brenda, Kristan, Dayna and Bunnies!

Don’t Drop Your Cell Phone Down the Toilet! And if you do, don’t worry.

Here is Winston our ‘coach cat’ guarding my laptop.

This blog is about realistic versus middle of the night worries, and how to manage both kinds.

 I asked Kristan (husband and also colleague at MindMeld) about what he was worried about.  We both had a long list, which we compared.  Some of these things were quite unrealistic (on my list anyway). I said to him, “What is the most useful thing to worry about to ensure business continuity?” I was surprised with his answer – “Don’t drop your cell phone down the toilet’, until he explained that this is one thing we could control.  His reply got me thinking about ‘realistic worries’ and what we can do to decrease worrying by taking positive action.  

If we can take action to decrease the likelihood of realistic worries coming true, then we are left with the ‘middle of the night worries’, which we can keep zapping with the coaching tools below. 

I was already thinking about this blog when I received this photo from our friend Blair of his smashed laptop, so I know we are not alone.

Kristan and I agreed we needed to do something about lugging our phones with us everywhere, in terms of listening to audiobooks or watching Netflix while we are in the bath, or taking our cell phones with us into the bathroom.  

If something happened to our cell phones we would be stuffed, and I don’t need the stress of having to manage insurance, and how to get a new one right at this minute, as well as bothering suppliers.  

Notice what is realistic and deal with things that could likely happen.

One thing I know about myself is that if I am under stress, I can get clumsy because I am distracted. I decided to make a list of the three physical things that I need to take care of during lockdown so that I didn’t create extra worries on top of my middle of the night worries.

  1. Reading glasses. Do not place on the floor by the bed where I can stand on them in the morning. How would I see without my glasses?
  2. Jewellery especially rings. Take off and put away before I wash my hands while humming Star Trek theme for twenty-seconds.  Do not leave rings of the edge of the sink to go down the plughole.
  3. Rinse dishes always before putting in the dishwasher, so that the filter doesn’t get blocked.  Imagine trying to get your family to hand wash dishes during lockdown!

There are other worries that plague us and make us worry especially in the middle of the night. 

Everyone is different and has there own unique situation of no one situation is the same, and while things may look great on the outside, things can be completely different on the inside. Lockdown situations are unique, with respect to work spaces, family members involved in essential services, being apart from family  members, feeling rushed trying to learn business arrangements and online meeting platforms, and looking after children and vulnerable members of family.  Middle of the night worries are different for everyone.

I used to name my worries ‘The Hooded Claw which was a line from a Frankie Goes to Hollywood song (1980’s, I know).   This was until I realised through coaching, that working is a process, not a thing.  I stopped giving worry a name and started to look for ways to undo the process.

Here is a photo of our window display of teddies for the neighbourhood children to spot on their walks.

Here are two ways to break middle of the night worries.

Worrying will always be with us, as it is a safety  mechanism.  The trick is to not let it rule your life, and find a way to give yourself some head space to take care of your loved ones, do some work, and even bring forth a bit of creativity.

  • Tool One: Interrupting your middle the Night thoughts and worries.

This tool works to help you come back into your body by bringing awareness to your senses.  You can still see some shapes, and hear some sounds when it dark.  You can physically feel the pillow, or sheets.

Step 4 can seem unusual when you first try it.  However, if you really ask yourself why you worry, you will find it is about keeping you safe.  You can reassure your brain that you have got this.

  • Tool Two: Schedule a meeting with yourself to worry (that’s not 3.00 a.m.)

 This is known as the Worry WART Tool – Worrying within approved Rumination Time. [This was an affectionate name given to me as a child who worried a lot so I decided to make the name into an acronym to rewire my brain and bust worrying tendencies.]

If you have the MindMeld Courage Cards, you can find it in the Practical Courage Section. You can watch a little movie of how to use the tool here.

Here’s Kristan holding the Courage Card tool.  It says: Identify a time to have a meeting with yourself during the day, so you can worry about the situation flat out for 30 Minutes (actually a shorter time works just as well). Then if you think about this issue outside your Worry WART time, all yourself you will give this issue your full attention later. This tricks your brain and frees up your thoughts for more useful tasks.

You are enough just as you are.

If your worry has been: ‘I should be more productive/creative/energised/up for this challenge’, then please stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself.  

You are enough. You’ve got this. Be compassionate to yourself.

Brenda Ratcliff and Kristan Johnston, April 2020.

Worry WART Tool – Worrying Within Approved Rumination Times

Worrying Within Approved Rumination Times in the Tardis

Here’s short clip showing you how to decrease worries, by scheduling a specific time to worry.

Identify a time to have a meeting with yourself so you can worry about the situation flat out for 30 Minutes (actually shorter time works just as well). Then if you think about this issue outside your Worry WART time, all yourself you will give this issue your full attention later. This tricks your brain and frees up your thoughts for more useful tasks.

Spoiler alert! What you  will find is that by the time it comes for you to have your meeting, you will have forgotten about it, or you can’t focus on that worry, and choose to do something else.