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The Importance of Executive Coaching in the Virtual Workplace

The global marketplace today puts a heavy emphasis on maximizing the output of its resources. Organization pour billions of dollars each year into analyzing and improving their internal processes and operational performance. What about their human performance?

In previous Tip of the Month editions, I’ve highlighted some of the differences between leading virtual teams as compared to teams whose members reside primarily onsite. There is significant research supports that organizations and leaders who do not recognize and adapt to these differences, miss opportunities to develop high performing virtual teams and team members.

Leading a virtual team, particularly a global virtual team, requires the application of good leadership skills, yet applied a bit differently due to the differences of time, geography, technology and culture. One of these essential skills is performance management and coaching. Unfortunately, many managers overestimate their perceived coaching skills. As I point out in my (recently-published) book Literally Virtually: Making Virtual Teams Work, only 47 percent of employees report receiving regular feedback and coaching needed to stay productive and engaged. Less than half!

Without regular one-on-one coaching, all employees are more likely to be less productive, less efficient, and engaged. Less of these means less performance and profitability. When done well and will regularity, coaching can make a positive difference.

Coaching is a form of team member development in which a leader provides the feedback and support necessary to facilitate the employee’s growth. Effective one-on-one coaching includes the following components:

  1. It occurs regularly between a leader and her/his team member—either in person or via communications technology.
  2. It is based on the clear intent to be constructive, helpful, and developmental.
  3. It includes, developing the team member’s self-awareness, reinforcing effective behaviors and, when necessary, redirecting ineffective behaviors to more positive ones.
  4. It is a collaborative conversation where both parties are accountable for contributing.
  5. The outputs of the coaching typically are action plans that lead to positive behaviors and/or results.

When done well, coaching can yield substantial improvements and real, measurable results. That kind of success depends on the effectiveness of the coach and their relationship with their team members.

In our next Tip of the Month, I’ll outline some key points of an effective coaching one-on-one conversation and highlight some considerations when it is done virtually.

Here’s a Tip:

Do you hole regular one-on-one coaching conversations with your team members? If so, how effective are they in increasing performance. If you’re not already holding regular one-on-ones, here are some tips to get you started.

  • Think of your coaching sessions as an investment of your time.
    When done well, these sessions will actually save you time by being proactive versus reactive and reducing interruptions to handle things that are not urgent.
  • Consider the length and frequency of your coaching conversations.
    Most are typically 30-60 minutes. Frequency will depend on a number of factors such as the number of team members you have, location and access to meeting face-to-face or through technology. Frequency may be weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly based on a number of factors. Regular and consistent are key.
  • Speak with your team members prior to beginning your coaching sessions.
    Explain your intentions and why you feel this would be helpful to both your team members and you. Invite their input as to what would make these sessions meaningful and constructive. Set the expectation that this is to be a collaborative time that’s focused on development, not just project updates.
  • Recognize that there may be some initial discomfort.
    Initially, you can expect that some team members will be cautious and hesitant to share until they begin to experience the benefits. Keep initial conversations cordial, yet focused. Use this as an opportunity to get to know your team members better and build trust.
  • Be clear about what you and your team member want to accomplish during your coaching time.
    The clearer you are bout the outcomes you seek, the more likely you are to achieve them. Take a few minutes in advance of each coaching session to identify your objectives and ask your team members for theirs.

Challenge of the Month

Select one of the tips above and commit to trying it for one month. See what a difference it makes for your team. Let us know how it worked for you and we’ll share it in an upcoming issue of our Tip of the Month.

Let us help you boost the performance of your virtual workforce. We help organizations and teams to close the gaps between current and ideal performance. We’re experts at helping virtual team leaders and members feel like they’re working in the same room—when they’re not. Contact us today for more information on virtual team building and leadership.


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