How well are you supporting your people working from home right now?

Clearly, human-to-human contact is now being kept to an absolute minimum, which is going to be challenging for us all in a multitude of ways, no doubt for many weeks ahead. In so many organisations, employees will be operating in environments, which are uncertain, isolated and potentially daunting for many. Working from home might sound easy enough, but often, it isn’t easy at all.

In these unprecedented times, the responsibility and capability of managers and leaders to coach remotely has never been greater. There will be contrasting experiences and emotions effecting employees right now, and these will be diverse because we are human beings, and we are all different, but there will certainly be understandable feelings of fear, anxiety and uncertainty for many. Coaching remotely, therefore, takes on huge significance, to the extent that leaders must reach out to their people, seek to understand them, and engage in conversations that have meaning and purpose, that are supportive, potentially challenging, and that are ultimately fruitful and valuable for the participants. Having these conversations, really is a call to action now, for managers and leaders.

Unfortunately, just mastering the basics of coaching isn’t easy, and the uncomfortable truth, based on sound research, is that most leaders do not possess an adequate understanding of coaching, or even what it is, nor do they demonstrate the coaching skills and behaviours required to be effective. During times of relative normality, the implications of this are serious enough, however today, in these times of unprecedented turmoil, the implications are potentially more acute.

Hence, I am mindful of the multitude of skills and behaviours that underpin masterful coaching, and I’ve selected just a few, which will be helpful, if leaders find the time to consider, practice and apply them. They are particularly important in the context of the current environment.

Key Behaviour 1. Empathy: which is…

The ability to sense your employee’s world, as if it were your own. It is recognising, understanding and appreciating how other people feel.

This is hugely important right now, to what extent are you understanding the thoughts and perspectives of your people? How do you know? What questions have you asked them?

Key Behaviour 2. Well-crafted questions: which are…

Intelligently and thoughtfully delivered, in context, and that stimulate thinking, nurture learning and build higher levels of awareness, self-awareness and responsibility.

On the above topic of building empathy, some example questions might include,

  • “I want you to know that you have my support; how can I help with this?”
  • “What would need to happen, for you to walk away feeling that this time was well spent?”
  • “How realistic is that?”
  • “What is particularly challenging right now?”
  • “Who have you spoken to about this?”
  • “Who are the people in your support network?”
  • “How much personal control or influence do you have over this?”
  • “What could you do to change the situation?” “What else could you do?”
  • “Would another suggestion from me be helpful?”
  • “When precisely are you going to start doing? / stop doing?”

 

These questions can be followed up with statements and approaches that can help you understand what is happening, in a given situation, and at a deeper level, for example,

  • Help me understand…
  • Tell me more about that…
  • Let me make sure I understand what you are saying…
  • I’m curious about…
  • Could you describe further…

 

Key Behaviour 3. Sensitive Listening: which is…

Listening, such that you actually hear! Applying emotional intelligence, such that you control your impulse to talk. Listening to understand, with a quietness of mind and sharp focus on the other person, rather than being obsessed with your own thoughts, feelings and assumptions.

Key Behaviour 4. Providing Feedback: which is…

Developmental, not judgemental and based on the subjective observations of the coach, what you see, what you hear and what you feel. Transformative feedback involves building self-awareness, potentially unearthing blind spots, and building the motivation and responsibility to change behaviour.

There are numerous feedback “Models”, but more importantly, the application of the model is key. Here’s one you could try:

The EE:CC Feedback Model

E: Event. Describe to the person, specifically what you observed, heard or intuitively what you felt.
E: Effect. Describe the impact of the person’s actions / behaviour, on themselves, on others.
C: Change / Continue. Ask questions and make suggestions to help the person make changes if required, or encourage them to continue if the behaviour was positive, helpful, valuable, useful, etc.
C: Consequences. Articulate the potential or likely consequences of doing nothing and continuing with the same behaviours. Be specific about the wider implications on them and/or others.

All of these skills and behaviours are fundamental in coaching, and they can all be utilised remotely. Coaching remotely, then, whether this is by way of video conferencing or by telephone, means applying these (and many other) coaching skills and behaviours, in order to facilitate the performance, learning and development of your people. It means supporting them through challenges, particularly now, with interventions and behaviours that affirm their value and that as far as possible, reduces uncertainty and anxiety, through encouragement, focusing on strengths, and showing empathy.

Important Conditions for Remote Coaching

Consider these points, which will support a better, more effective remote coaching experience.

Make sure the technology you are using is robust, reliable and effective
It’s far more difficult to sense interpersonal cues when working remotely, hence it’s important to ensure that participants are in private spaces, which are comfortable and uninterrupted.
Agree a time frame, manage the time frame, remain focused on what you want to achieve.

If you would like further guidance or support in coaching your people remotely, reach out to us for a conversation.