Elva Ainsworth discusses how, once critical factors are in place, virtual coaching can be more effective than the traditional approach.
Everyone loves a face-to-face meeting when the topic is ‘you’ – especially these days when such a thing is but a dim and distant memory! Most of us have got highly skilled and comfortable coaching people in this format.
We know how to make people comfortable and get into some useful material. But how do you do this on Zoom? In my experience, there is a bit of a learning curve, but the results may surprise you, so I am sharing some tips to help you on your way.
Communicating virtually can allow you to access a surprising level of intimacy which, together with the intentional focus remote work generates, can provide an energy for transformational results.
After years of coaching virtually in global projects, I discovered the trick is to use the virtual process as a new and different mode rather than a ‘lesser’ version of face-to-face and to create and own the process from set-up right through to post-call follow-up.
Zoom feedback and coaching demands really intense listening and powerful boundary management but the results can be surprising.
The main difference between old-fashioned 1-2-1s and Zoom coaching is the intensity and absence of the ‘entering the room’ rituals followed by the potential lack of room boundaries. It is not surprising, therefore, that the main things to focus on when Zoom coaching is pacing and leveraging the intensity alongside managing the boundaries – in time and space.
So, here are six tips to support you in delivering virtual gold:
- Get the technology right
Whichever package you use, be sure you are fully familiar with key functions such as screen share, session recording and hiding your self-view. Check you have sufficient broadband for a good connection and do a trial run with a colleague before to ensure you can navigate the system easily. I am preferring Zoom these days, but I use others sometimes depending on client choice.
- Get your look right
You need to show up appropriately with professional dress and backdrop. If you have a mess or distraction behind you, look at transforming this to something plain and pleasing or simply turn your screen around so your back is to a plain wall.
Check the camera angle and make sure you have your notebook, nice glass of water and anything else you might need in front of you.
- Get ready for the session
You need to get yourself and your coachee ready otherwise you can lose important time and impact in your session. You may need to email documentation or a 360 report in advance – I like to email 360 reports so they have ‘two sleeps’ before they see me.
You may want to resend it first thing on your session day so it can be easily found (and seen in case they missed it!) and also to text them 10 minutes before the time to gently nudge them into getting ready. You will want to read the 360 data thoroughly and prepare for the conversation, drafting a structure for the call.
Then make sure you are logged in nice and early and ready to greet them. And close your door!
- Manage the conversation
You are in the driver’s seat so make sure you share your screen to review their 360 data when appropriate. You can then manage the time and pace. This is when you will need to ensure your feedback skills are finely honed.
First you build rapport by checking in with them in a natural friendly way – do they have everything they need? Anything they need to handle? How are they doing? Make sure you engage at a personal level without intruding too much. Then introduce yourself confidently and succinctly, clarify your intentions clearly alongside the usual confidentiality topics.
Then it is all about them using your smart questioning, building, checking, challenging, supporting etc. You dance in the conversation keeping a close eye on the time and on progress.
- Listen profoundly
You have to work harder to listen to your remote coachee. It is essential to have their video on and your self-view off, so your focus is all on them. You don’t have to process your own view of yourself in a room so why do it now – there is simply enough to do already!
Make sure their camera is best placed for you to see them properly and pay close attention. Look for every nuance of voice, expression and body movement. Use your questioning and reflecting to bring up emotions that you suspect may be there.
You need to be careful not to ask too directly – use questions such as ‘where does that leave you?’ and ‘how does that feel?’ and follow up clues with reflections like ‘you sounded disappointed’ or ‘you don’t seem particularly happy about that.’
- Hold the space
Your boundary management includes how you are using your own space, the technical space you both live in for the session and their space too. Sometimes the perfect thing to do is to take a few minutes to ‘get some more water’ part way through which gives them some personal reflection time.
Profound coaching can demand deep processing and this can take time. If your coachee is quiet just let the silence be – this is where the magic happens. Aim to complete the main part of the conversation 5-10 minutes before the finish time so you can give a good summary and clarify follow-up and declare the session over.
You can then have a more relaxed closing thank you and goodbye and both of you have space before your next appointment.
Zoom feedback and coaching demands really intense listening and powerful boundary management but the results can be surprising. The intensity and the fact the coachee is in their own (safe) environment seems to mean there is more willingness to look deep and openly at challenging data or perspectives.
I believe the results from virtual coaching can, in fact, be better than the traditional face-to-face format. A virtual session demands more alertness and direction but, once you have a rhythm and practise set up, it will become familiar and you will find your groove. Then the gold is possible!
About the author
Elva Ainsworth is CEO at Talent Innovations