27 September 2023

Virtual management: How to coach a remote team

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Gemma Leigh Roberts* give five tips to help managers coach in a virtual world.

In early 2020, the workplace was already changing. It was dynamic, fast-paced, and accelerating at a speed not witnessed since the Industrial Revolution.

But since navigating a global pandemic, the rate of change is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, and it’s coming at leaders and managers faster than anyone.

If you lead or manage a team, you’ve dealt with challenges and changes over the course of the past year that you’ve never experienced before, like the shift to virtual working.

While it isn’t a new concept, the global focus on this way of working has been accelerated in a way we could never have predicted.

Not only did businesses respond to the pandemic by making working from home the norm, but many have extended their virtual working policies way into the future.

Twitter and Shopify have shifted to support remote working forever.

Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Amazon, Salesforce, and JP Morgan have all extended virtual working options. This is a trend that’s set to continue.

In my course, Manager as Coach, I discuss how to coach your teams through the challenges and changes we’re all experiencing right now.

You and your teams can come through this stronger when you learn to coach on the skills needed for this dynamic and evolving work environment.

Here are five strategies to help you coach your teams in a virtual environment.

#1 Understand working preferences

Ask your team members questions about how they would like to make their work-life blend work for them.

Are they someone who likes clear boundaries between work and personal time?

Or do they prefer a more blended approach where they can dip in and out of different areas of their lives?

Do they have a choice right now?

Or are they managing personal situations, like caring for others, that are dictating their options?

Having these conversations will help you to understand effective ways of working for each individual and give you insight into how you can support your team members as situations change.

#2 Be honest about your own work-life blend

For most of us, sometimes work-life integration goes well, and sometimes it’s a challenge.

Talking through some of the benefits and pitfalls will help your team members to create a schedule that works for them, as well as for the team and the wider business.

And if you want to be able to coach your team members on how to make virtual working work when it comes to performance and wellbeing, it can help to draw on your own experience.

When you share ways that you manage your wellbeing and promote mental health when working from home, it can encourage a wider conversation around this critical topic.

#3 Discuss performance and outcomes

Working virtually has so many benefits, but can also create some challenges.

Those that work remotely or in a different office are less likely to have their contributions noted by senior management and are less likely to feel connected to the wider team, which can impact innovation and collaboration.

As a manager, help with this by discussing how you can champion your team member and make their performance and achievements known to those who matter.

You can also create networking opportunities for your team member to get to know people of influence who may help with their career progression.

#4 Manage the logistics

If you’re not in the same office or even the same time zone, how will you meet your team member for coaching sessions? Will this be via video or phone? How often?

It’s all too easy to let regular coaching catch-ups slip when you’re not physically in the same location.

Agree on a consistent process that works for both of you.

#5 Address issues and adjust

When something isn’t working, address it.

If you’re coming up against challenges with the virtual working agreement, be honest and work with your team member to collaboratively find a solution.

Encouraging your coachee to lead this problem solving will empower them to consider ways of working that work well for all stakeholders.

Of course, offer your support here and try to find ways where everyone benefits from the arrangement.

There’s no doubt coaching in a virtual working environment will test your ability to be adaptable, but with the working environment predicted to become more virtual and flexible in the future, this is an essential skill for you to develop as a successful manager.

*Gemma Leigh Roberts is a Chartered Organisational Psychologist and Coaching Psychologist.

This article first appeared at linkedin.com.

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