Image credit: clarathecoach.com
Selecting a virtual mode for coaching leaders is a popular option. Telephone coaching, email coaching, Skype, webinar or via virtual worlds, all bring benefits and all have pitfalls that need avoiding.
Leaders are typically very busy people, often juggling multiple responsibilities and sometimes multiple roles. Time is a significant factor so virtual approaches which do not require travel, and are easy to access are attractive options.
Here are our top tips for making virtual coaching for leaders a positive and productive experience:
- The environment. Access might be easy but where are you? Coaching still needs to be conducted in an appropriate place. Check where your coachee is – is the space confidential, free of distractions and conducive to the work you will be doing?
- Silence. Does this denote deep thought, or someone checking their emails? You need to consider some strategies for managing silence, your own and your coachee’s. You might want to signal that you are taking a moment to reflect on what has just been said and to gather your thoughts. You might want to ask your coachee to let you know when they need a minute to think, and to invite them to give you a summary of their reflections. Remember their emails are only a click away and you need to help them to stay focused.
- Textual listening. Ethnographic researchers are encouraged to develop deeper textual listening in order to really understand their subjects, and the same applies to coaches who are working with text, via email and text chat tools. Ask for clarification, ask the coachee to explain emotions that are present and take time to reflect before responding.
- Asking questions and challenging assumptions without the benefit of voice or body language is difficult. Emojis can help to soften a message, but most of all coaches need to become expert in the use of coaching language so that misunderstandings are minimised. Take time to introduce your emails and texts and signpost your questions carefully. The medium might be short and fast but don’t let that force you into an abrupt style. You can work around this by ensuring you use supportive language, and a light touch. 🙂