One key attribute of an effective leader is being an effective coach. When leaders are effective at coaching and offering feedback they can influence and develop skills, attitude, success, motivation, ability to perform, and a willingness to contribute to the goals of an organization in others.
As important as coaching is in a conventional environment, it becomes even more important in the virtual world. During an in-person coaching session you have the luxury of seeing body language, facial expressions, and attitude, all of these help you understand the coachee, their feelings and perspective better. In the world of virtual coaching, you will have to learn how to read through the lines in an email, watch for small subtle clues like email or voicemail response time, and learn each individual’s voice and tone in order to gather how they are feeling.
Many aspects of coaching will remain the same whether it is done in person or virtually. These aspects require:
- On-going coaching and feedback.
- Gaining the respect and trust of the team members.
- Taking time to listen to the coach.
- Using both formal and informal coaching opportunities.
- Coaching for both performance and development.
- Accepting that coaching may be uncomfortable.
When you add the dynamic of virtual leadership, the following are some keys to remember:
- Virtual coaching can be done via phone, email, video conference, instant messages, project management software, and a myriad of other virtual mediums. Don’t limit yourself.
- You may need to spend extra time working on building a good relationship with the coachee before diving into difficult coaching conversations.
- Virtual coaching is a two-way conversation, not a one-way email.
- Make time to coach regularly. You may want to consider creating a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule.
- Make sure you allow ample time to discuss how the coachee views the situation.
- Create an environment void of background noise so they know they have your attention.
- Even though they can’t see you, do not multi-task during the coaching session.
- Schedule a specific check-in date and time for follow up.
As more and more organizations move to virtual teams, being able to be an effective virtual coach is going to become a topic for much discussion. A virtual leader is going to have to rely on different tactics in order to be effective at coaching. They will have some unique obstacles and challenges but the level of coaching can mean the difference between failure and success. As you plan work on becoming a world class virtual coach, keep these tips in mind to help you become an even more effective and efficient coach.