Being a successful coach is tough. Being a successful coach when you are working from home can be even tougher. No longer getting to see direct reports face-to-face and do traditional call listening or side-by-sides can seem like an overwhelming barrier. Prioritizing good coaching can fall down the long list of to-do’s and genuinely connecting with direct reports can feel like it is more difficult than ever before. Despite these new challenges, there are a few different ways to ensure that you are still being an effective coach.
The Best Ability is Availability
Without the opportunity to call you over to their desk or walk into your office, reps might be hesitant to reach out during non-scheduled meetings. The perceived fluidity and relative uncertainty of a supervisor’s work-from-home schedule can appear to be a much larger barrier than just quickly popping in to see if you have a minute to chat. Regularly scheduled times to connect are critical when working remotely, but ensuring reps know that you welcome their messages and calls at all times, to give them that “in the moment” feedback, is just as important.
Personalize the Coaching
Despite the importance of making your availability known, not everyone is going to want to connect more frequently. Multiple video chats/calls per week can be far more mentally exhausting than a few quick, in-person conversations. This may sound counter-intuitive to the first piece of advice, but it is really all about focusing on what is best for each individual rep.
As we know from a survey of more than 3,000 front line reps, one of the three major myths about coaching is “Any attention is good attention.” If a rep is dreading their third video call of the day, they won’t be in a good head space to receive constructive coaching. Something as simple as checking with each rep about whether they prefer always-on video calls, or sometimes might prefer non-video calls, can go a long way towards making their coaching feel personalized.
Taking the time to think about new ways you can flex to each person’s communication style, as well as their Work From Home preferences, can make a big impact.
Schedule Integrated Coaching Time
It can feel even more difficult than normal to set aside time for integrated/in-the-moment coaching when you can’t physically walk over and sit next to a rep. Holding yourself accountable by scheduling and protecting time on your calendar to shadow each rep’s calls or email/chat interactions is equally as important in a virtual setting as it was in the office. These observation sessions, which will inform your integrated coaching sessions, will be essential in your efforts to be a successful virtual coach.
Being even more intentional with virtual integrated coaching will take a bit more effort, but will go a long way toward reps feeling like you are continuing your commitment to effective coaching.
Solicit and Share Peer Experiences
With reps now working from home, they no longer have the same opportunity to learn from their peers. Leaving the camaraderie of the office environment can already be a challenge for some, but add on the fact that it is now much harder to learn from the experience of one’s peers, and the impact of working virtually is magnified. Being intentional about regularly sharing the successes and struggles of your reps is a great way to improve morale and help everyone learn from the experiences of others.
Here are a few good questions to think about when deciding how to share peer experiences:
- How often should these stories be shared?
- Who should be the one sharing them?
- What channel(s) should they be shared through?
- What stories/peer experiences will motivate the group the most?
There isn’t one right answer, but creating a safe place for everyone, including yourself, to share the wins and difficulties associated with being a remote rep is a great way to help everyone improve together, and be an effective virtual coach.
Some, if not many, of your reps may be operating in a virtual environment into the extended future. They are being tested in new ways, and different challenges are constantly emerging. In the same study of over 3,000 reps mentioned earlier, we found that the number one driver of rep performance is coaching. If you can put in the time and effort to make them feel like they are still being coached effectively during the craziest of times, then many of them will feel like they can expect good coaching at your organization during any time.
Being a good virtual coach comes with new challenges, but also the opportunity to ingrain effective coaching into your company’s DNA.