Using Technology to Enhance, Not Replace, Virtual Coaching

With more and more employees working remotely, feedback and coaching sessions between employees and managers are now increasingly happening through video tools, email, and applications. General Electric, for instance, has recently initiated an experimental project using an app for smartphones to provide employees with immediate comments from supervisors as well as colleagues. Managers are able to tap an application and provide brief notes of praise, guidance, or feedback immediately after an event or meeting.
While it might be convenient to be to utilize this application and similar apps but relying too much on technology tools may not be in line with best practices for effective feedback and coaching.

Coaching is a crucial management skill regardless of whether direct reports are geographically dispersed or co-located. However, it can be challenging to coach from afar effectively.

The feedback that is timely and frequent is a crucial aspect of employee growth; technology can help virtual leaders to interact directly with their direct reports.
Wherever they may be, It’s not enough to guarantee that the coaching sessions will be practical.

There are three ways that virtual leaders can increase their capacity to conduct coaching from afar and limit the unintended negative effect technology has on the best practices for coaching.

Create the Base for Coaching Virtually

Effective coaching begins by establishing an environment of trust between employees and managers. If this trust hasn’t been built, the efforts to coach employees are likely to be ignored.

Maintain the lines of communication clear by inviting employees to be informal and informal conversations. Keep track of their workload, Ask for updates regarding the status of a task and also take the time to give praise when appropriate. Make sure you take the time to discuss issues that aren’t work-related. Virtual teams do not have the same opportunities for conversations that occur at lunch or over coffee. So, leaders must find ways to recreate these conversations on the web.

Technology is able to facilitate communication between employees who are scattered and virtual leaders. The numerous tools that teams can use allow them to utilize different methods of communication, depending on the purpose. Do not rely on email to convey feedback or complaints. Contact us via phone or by video chat. Other chat applications such as Google Hangouts make it easy to engage in informal conversations or give appreciation and encouragement.

Implement the best practices for virtual Coaching

While the principles for effective coaching are the same regardless of whether your team is located in the same city or distributed around the world, it’s crucial to realize that virtual coaching has distinctive characteristics that require leaders to alter their behavior and use technology to achieve their goals. A few of the ways that virtual coaching differs from traditional coaching are:

Due to the absence of visual clues, listening skills become more vital
• fewer chances to “observe” the performance
* More feedback is required, but fewer opportunities exist to give it on time
* Coaching those who aren’t directly accountable to you can be more prevalent
Specific channels of communication could affect the tone or comprehension of your message.

To address these challenges, successful virtual leaders adhere to five top methods for coaching via virtual:

* Create formal processes to track team and individual performance
* Occasionally, be flexible with your hours so that you are at all times when your other team members are on the clock.
Find a mentor/partner in the employee’s workplace that can serve as an asset
* Keep regular and frequent contact with teammates
* If coaching, face-to-face is preferred, then video, then the phone. Use email to record the conversations

Coaching sessions should be a consultative process and not one-way discussions. Although using apps to give recognition and “on-the-spot” feedback is highly effective, overreliance on this kind of tool can be detrimental to the person who receives the feedback. Instant feedback from an app on a smartphone does not permit direct employees to reply or permit leaders to inquire about what employees require to do better and improve their skills and include it in the overall plan of action.

Establish Formal Processes for Virtual Coaching

An annual review should not be the only opportunity for employees to get feedback from their manager on the things they’re doing well and what they could do to improve. Virtual leaders who are successful understand that they need to be more careful and thoughtful when communicating with direct reports in a way that they can’t when they’re located together.

Virtual managers should plan meetings with key milestones in the project to review progress, offer recognition, and guide to improve performance. Video and collaborative software can help overcome the absence of visual cues and increases the effectiveness of these meetings. Virtual leaders who are top of the line reserve time for smaller one-on-one sessions to discuss quarterly goals as well as opportunities to grow.

Managers should also solicit regular feedback from peers and direct reports to gain an accurate picture of the performance of an employee. This data is crucial for the growth of an employee. However, it’s most beneficial when provided in a discussion that allows employees to seek clarification and ask questions. Apps that let employees and managers “ping” employees for instant feedback can be an essential step in the right direction when they are used to complement the ongoing conversation; however, they aren’t going enough by themselves. Without the capability for employees to respond, this well-intentioned feedback is void of its context.

Our study of virtual teams on the factors that lead to the success of the top teams revealed that, while technology was an essential factor in team success, however, it was not an influential factor in team performance. Technology can contribute to effective team communication and individual performance as long it is integrated with effective and efficient behavior. Utilizing the most effective best practices for coaching and feedback like engaging in a two-way discussion giving balanced feedback, using examples, and making eye contact remains crucial even in the virtual environment or perhaps more crucial because of the unique nature of work done via virtual.