Coaching is important, regardless of team member location. But coaching must be more than something that is done occasionally and in formal settings. Once you realize that you should coach more frequently and informally, you are headed on the right path. But what if you are coaching remotely? How do you find the situations and opportunities to do more informal and regular coaching?
I’m glad you asked.
Since you know how important it is to give regular feedback and coaching to team members and not “save it up” for the annual review. In order to do this, you must have things to coach on, right?
Those two sentences sum up the challenge – whether your team members are onsite with you or remote. You must:
- Have things to coach on
- Make the time to do that coaching
And both of those are different when your team members are distant from you. Let’s answer both questions.
How Do I Know?
Here are three suggestions that will help you have a sense of how people are doing – so you can encourage the successes and help correct any lapses or misses.
Have clear standards. It is hard to coach anyone – or even notice how they are doing if the standards aren’t clear. Make sure you have clearly defined and agreed to expectations of performance. When people know what success is, they will be more successful – and you will know what you are looking for to coach on. Make sure these standards are not only about what needs to be done, but how it will be done too.
Have measures of progress as well as results. Do you and your team members know what they can be doing each day to move towards their outcomes? With process measures you have something to help team members stay on track and give you something to give feedback on regularly.
Ask them. This sounds simple, but this is too often forgotten. Ask people how they are doing and what you can do to help. What is working? Where are they getting stuck? Questions like this can start a productive conversation and provide you the fodder for feedback and coaching.
When Do I Coach?
It great to know what to coach on, but when do you have these quick chats? It’s not like you will see the person in the hallway or tell them stop by your office later. Here are some tips.
Schedule one-on-one time. Yes, you should do this with team members regardless of their work location, this is critical with your remote team members. While this may seem more like “formal” coaching, I’m not talking here about an annual review. I’m talking about a regular and scheduled chance where both of you know you will have the chance to chat. I keep a running list of things I have seen, noticed or want to talk about and ask team members to do the same. This helps over come the lack of chance conversations that working in the same location provides.
Manage by Chatting Around. Tom Peters and Bob Waterman taught us to Manage By Walking Around. Well, in a remote workplace, that won’t work very well! One of the best uses for chat tools is to allow you to send a quick note to check in, let people know you are thinking about them, and giving them a chance to reply and start an informal conversation as needed. Just like stopping by someone’s desk, this let people know you are around, available, and interested.
Have “office hours.” When people are onsite with you, they can see when you are in the office or available. Remote team members don’t have this visual clue. Use your calendar to let people know when you are available for quick chat or to answer a question. Remember coaching doesn’t have to be only be initiated by the leader. When people know when they can catch you, more informal conversations will occur.
If you would like more insight on leading and coaching remote team members, sign up for our free three-part video series, Demystifying Remote Leadership: How to create solid working relationships in a virtual team with more confidence and less stress! You will gain tips, tools, ideas, and guidance on a personal action plan. And you can’t beat the price! Sign up here.