Sometimes you may find yourself in a position where, geographically, you will not be able to effectively coach regularly enough in the physical space. You may have team members spread far and wide and need to engage in coaching remotely. For some managers these days, remote coaching is the only option available to them.
If your staff members engage with customers on the phone, then remote coaching can be a great way to see how they perform using that medium. You can identify if they are prepared or easily distracted and unlike scenarios you may role play with them face to face, you are focusing on their tone and voice elements much more which can be very useful if the telephone is the method they use to perform their task.
In any event, knowing a few key skills on remote coaching can help in your role – especially if you don’t want to have to wait until the next time you are physically meeting with someone to offer feedback or to coach them. This is very useful if you need to address something that needs immediate attention.
Remote Coaching Mediums
There are several mediums for remote coaching including the telephone, video conferencing, Skype, Instant Messenger etc. Video conferencing gives you the benefit of seeing and hearing the other person. Skype chat and other internet chat options can drastically reduce the effectiveness of the communication as you lose both the physical language (unless you have a camera or web cam attached) and the audio language components.
Using the Telephone
Remote coaching on the telephone can sometimes be easier in some respects. Some people find it easy to develop rapport and even trust on the telephone as it’s a tool people use a lot of in their lives. It’s important though not to slip into too much of an informal mode.
You can lose some of the key elements of a good coaching session by treating a phone conversation as less important. Remember to consider having an agenda, a set time to talk, items to discuss and two-way communication. Always take the opportunity to follow up with an email to confirm actions and details of the conversation.
Ensure that you use a headset or some hands-free operation. This leaves you free to takes notes and write things down, refer to notes etc. Don’t try to hold a coaching session on the phone while you’re driving, though. It’s potentially dangerous and at the very least you will be distracted and lose out on some of your key listening skills.
It’s obvious too that you shouldn’t be ‘multitasking’ yourself and trying to check texts and emails etc while you’re coaching someone on the phone. You need to be ‘present’ and concentrating on the person and your conversation.
As you aren’t able to ‘see’ body language, your speaking and listening skills are more important in these settings. Ensure that you both paraphrase and encourage paraphrasing to confirm understanding. You can also develop the skill of ‘hearing’ the body language of the other person. You can hear if the person is being animated in their speech, if they are waving their arms around, smiling, tutting or even eating while they’re in conversation with you.
Ensure that you allow silences to happen. It sounds more awkward on the telephone than face to face but you need to allow the other person time to think. You may have had the experience yourself when someone explains something to you and asks immediately afterwards: “Well, what do you think?” Of course, you were listening right up until that point and then you’re supposed to give an answer without processing it? No, we need time to process information, so allow those silences to happen.
For more great tips on coaching and feedback, check out the book, ‘Coaching and Feedback made easy’: