5 Tips for Managers Coaching Virtually

As leaders and managers grappled with daunting new challenges amid the COVID-19 outbreak, organizations saw a need to provide them with additional coaching and support. With in-person mentoring and coaching not possible, many turned to virtual coaching. Today I’m sharing 5 Tips for Managers Coaching Virtually.

  1. Know Your Technology

For the coach intent on working effectively, it starts with familiarity and competency with the technology platform(s). Not only are there many platform options, there are also more device options to accommodate.  Use these tools to engage! Ways to engage while using a technology include taking a survey or poll, using the chat feature, creating break out rooms for small conversations, and screen share.

2. Set a Schedule, and Stick to it

The goal of coaching virtual teams is an optimal team coaching experience and the best use of the team’s time, attention, and energy. The format and schedule will vary from team to team depending on availability, budget, and geography.  Consider how long your coaching sessions are, the size of your team and time zone issues.

3. Consider the Structure

Every team coaching session, whether it is in-person or virtual, is an opportunity for the team to do real work on an important team issue. The team picks a relevant and timely issue that needs a solution or a plan, and then conducts a meeting, and the coach/manager observes the team dynamics in action which creates abundant material for feedback and coaching.  Build rapport, set goals for accountability and learning, leave time for brainstorming or planning and consider including personal appreciation or acknowledgment.  Recognition is powerful!

4. Facilitation

With team coaching, the most important conversation is the one team members have with each other. That’s where real change happens. As coaches, we are responsible for creating the conditions for that conversation and managing the process.  Be transparent with the team: set the context. The goal is to maximize limited time together so have the team set ground rules that support participation. Continued transparency will be key to the success of the process.

Watch for:

  • The voice that dominates. Sometimes it’s a powerful voice; sometimes it’s an enthusiastic voice but often they leave little air time for others.
  • Silent voice. It has a presence—but not a contribution. Sometimes it’s the result of thoughtful reflection; sometimes it’s holding back.
  • The team leader. the team leader has a unique impact on the team conversation.
  • Conversational chaos. People talking over one another; interrupting; loss of focus; too many agendas at once.

5. Manage You

Coaches are learning to get the balance right between intervening, listening and observing. As coaches, we are responsible for the process, but that doesn’t mean being a dominant voice. Notice the natural temptation to fill the airspace and overcompensate when the team gets quiet. Pay attention to your own self-management tendencies and triggers.  Your primary focus is still to listen below the surface of the conversation. Listen for the undercurrents and be curious about what’s happening underneath at the emotional and team dynamic level because the team is not likely to be listening at that level. As coach, your value is in helping the team to see the habits and patterns in the way they interact.

Where’s Your Inspiration?

I identified my life quote when I was in high school.

With Emerson’s definition of success in mind, I set off into the world to succeed. Along the way, I’ve found leadership and inspiration from various people in a variety of ways.

At the risk of sounding trite and predictable, my mother was my first inspiration. As a single mother, she portrayed a sense of resolve that filtered through to me. She endured betrayal, yet still always looks for the best in others. When faced with a teenager’s dilemma, she didn’t tell me what to do; rather, she consistently encouraged me to do the right thing by answering to “the girl in the glass.” Most importantly, she led by example. She never asked me to do or behave in a way that she didn’t already exemplify. Her fortitude and perseverance have molded me into the woman I am today.

Perhaps also predictably, there are several nationally known personalities who have inspired me: Stephen Covey, Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, Jim Collins, and Simon Sinek, among others. They are not only leaders in their professions as authors and speakers, they are leaders in thought. I admire their intellect – their ability to take complex matter and relay it to us “common folk” for general consumption. They are leaving the world a bit better, and I aspire to be like them.

But sometimes leadership and inspiration can hit you when you least expect it.

EllieI’d like to introduce you to my cousin’s daughter. Her name is Ellie, and she was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two. She was granted a trip to Disney World from the Make-A-Wish foundation, so when her family went in January, we made the short trip from my home in Florida to see them. The thing that struck me most about this active four-year-old was her determination. At one point, she was climbing backwards up a slippery slide on the playground. When she neared the top of the 6-ft slide but was having trouble rounding the corner to reach the top, I asked her to sit down because I was scared she was going to fall. She looked right at me and said, “No! I can do this!!” The look on her face was pure, solid resolve. It brought tears to my eyes. And it reminded me that no matter how hard life gets, if you keep trying, and maybe adjust your approach a little, you can reach the top.

This little girl, who laughs often and much, won the heart and appreciation of this honest critic. At the blossoming age of four, she has already succeeded.