With the majority of us now working from home, many of our usual working practices need to adapt to these challenging times and coaching is one of them.
Why Coaching is so important
Coaching is the most effective tool any leader has for accelerating performance (take a look at our recent post on coaching for more on the specific advantages). It also has many additional benefits specifically relevant to the current climate:
- Coaching is a method of keeping in touch with your team, which has never been more important
- Coaching allows you to address capability gaps at a point when your team may have more time to dedicate to self-development
- Coaching provides a platform for communicating expectations and driving accountability
- Coaching demonstrates to your team that they are valued, when they may be nervous or uncertain about the future
- Coaching allows you to keep abreast of what your team are doing whilst working remotely, without micro-managing
The Benefits of Virtual Coaching
Coaching is a skill often expected of leaders, without the accompaniment of any formal training to support. As such, coaching is something many are apprehensive about anyway and virtual coaching can bring additional concerns.
Most people assume that face to face coaching is better but, in actual fact, the evidence shows us that virtual coaching is just as effective as face to face coaching. There are actually a number of distinct advantages to virtual coaching, which might put both the coach and coachee at ease:
- In a familiar, comfortable environment, the coachee is more likely to feel relaxed and at ease
- For the coach, it is far easier to take notes. When coaching face to face, valuable information is often not recorded, because the coach either feels it would be inappropriate at that point, or because they are conscious that writing something down might give away some sort of visual clue as to their thoughts
- Expanding on the above, the coach is far less likely to give visual clues, not just when note-taking, but across the entire session
- It’s easier for both parties to take a comfort break
- The process is much more time-efficient (and better for the environment) when there’s no travel involved for either party
How to Coach Virtually
If you’re new to coaching, or looking to enhance your coaching capability, I cannot recommend highly enough Sir John Whitmore’s Coaching for Performance. If you’re just looking for tips specifically on virtual coaching, read on:
- Remove background distractions and noise and ask the same of your coachee. This one’s particularly important at the moment with entire families holed up at home. If you’ve got people visible or audible in the background when you’re trying to coach, your coachee will not feel at ease to speak openly. Equally, if the coachee has things going on in the background, they are likely to be distracted. Hopefully it goes without saying that this includes turning off (and not even looking at) mobile phones for the duration of the session.
- Lay out the ground rules. As with any coaching relationship, ground rules should be laid out at the start of the process and the coachee given the opportunity to raise any concerns/ask any questions. If you’re shifting from face to face to virtual coaching, it’s worth just re-capping these, addressing any new rules (as in point 1, above) and again giving the coachee chance to ask any questions they may have.
- Plan your sessions sensibly. Whilst timing of coaching sessions should be observed don’t, for example, schedule a 1 hour’s coaching session immediately before a conference call, or another coaching session. If you have to cut your coachee off half way through a sentence, not only will you lose the value from that conversation, but you will negatively impact the coaching relationship. When scheduling, leave a little ‘run-over’ time at the end of each planned coaching session.
- Focus. One of the potential disadvantages of coaching virtually is that it is far easier for the coach to miss visual clues. The intensity of a face to face coaching session makes it easier to pick up on these and to avoid being distracted, coaching virtually requires greater focus. You may find you need to use other techniques to ‘check in’ with your coachee and ensure you have the same level of understanding.
- Consider your medium. Virtual coaching doesn’t have to be via video-based software, it can be just as effective over the telephone. Whilst I would, for the most part, suggest that video is generally the better option, if you’re struggling with internet connections dropping in and out, the session will not be constructive and valuable information can be lost. Additionally, many people are uncomfortable being videoed and so, for those, the telephone may also be the better option.
If you’d like more information on coaching, you might be interested in the following:
We offer virtual coaching for sales people and sales leaders, as well as training for sales leaders on how to coach (which can be delivered virtually). If you’re interested in any of these, please get in touch by calling 01778 382733, emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by heading to our Contact page and filling out the form there.