Ten Coaching Questions for Virtual Managers | College of Executive Coaching
Coaching Article

Ten Coaching Questions for Virtual Managers

April 27, 2020
By Jeffrey E. Auerbach, Ph.D., MCC

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How do you coach leaders to lead and inspire their employees when they rarely see their employees in-person? How have your coaching clients upgraded their virtual management skills since the coronavirus has transformed how we work overnight? How are your coaching skills helping leaders who had to suddenly switch to managing a geographically dispersed team?

Ten Coaching Questions for Virtual Managers

The competencies of leading virtual teams are learned—we are not born with them. Many leaders tend to rely on what comes naturally and what has always worked for them. To be a peak performer, what does the leader of today need to learn?

We know from over thirty years of research from Kouzes and Posner (author of the Leadership Challenge and the Leadership Practices Inventory, which we use as a key multi-rater tool in our College of Executive Coaching training programs) that "encouraging the heart" is linked to being an exemplary leader who gets the best results from teams.

Leading virtual teams is now essential, and it comes with significant challenges. How do we operate effectively without the in-person connection and the natural spontaneous, less structured meeting opportunities of being in the same physical office? Somehow, we need to maintain key performance measures and constructive team dynamics such as easy communication, sharing of information, prioritized task focus, regular feedback and warm connectedness.

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How has "encouraging the heart" been especially important recently? This question reminds me of one of the biggest changes many of my coaching clients have been grappling with over the last two months. It's the new intensity of focus on leading virtual teams, which includes encouraging the heart, nurturing strengths, setting high standards and providing regular contact and feedback.

Here are tips for coaching leaders so they can best inspire their employees who are working from home. Although not an exhaustive list the leader needs to:

  • Set an example of "being present" and available to support the team
  • Clearly communicate all expectations
  • Be in touch with one's own leadership approach to inspire and manage the team
  • Speak with conviction of the importance of the team's work
  • Challenge team members to use their strengths in new ways to adapt to changing circumstances
  • Embrace technology to adapt to alternate ways to see, hear, connect and collaborate with their co-workers
  • Inquire and listen to employees' ideas and concerns
  • Express to team members confidence in their skills
  • Appreciate team members verbally and in writing for their contributions

Presuming your client has a goal to be a peak performer in leading virtual teams consider these coaching questions I have used in the past couple of months:

  1. What are you going to do to show that you are readily available to support your employees?
  2. What is your central philosophy about how to lead your virtual team?
  3. How and when will you praise your employees for a job well done this coming week?
  4. What examples will you use to communicate the importance of the teams' work to them?
  5. What will you do to make sure your employees know what you expect of them and when you expect it?
  6. What will you tell your employees, so they know when they need to check in with you, versus, making a decision on their own?
  7. How will you communicate, this week, that you want to hear their ideas as well as any concerns?
  8. What are ways you can let people know about your confidence in their abilities?
  9. What will you do to make sure that people are recognized for their contributions to the success of projects?
  10. What are stories of encouragement about the good work of others that you want to share with your team?

To help our clients obtain outstanding team performance, we can use the coaching approach to help our clients find their own individualized best strategies to fine tune their communication skills, leverage their emotional intelligence strengths, and embrace technological platforms to create the same high-performing virtual teams that in-person teams produce.

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