Sara swords Practical Tips for remote coaching (not the obvious) blog post

Practical Tips for remote coaching (not the obvious)

I currently work with coachees and coaches based in 11 different countries across the world. Frequently I use Skype to do this remote coaching and have learned a number of practical ways to make this mode of coaching work.

  • Send a reminder to your coachee a couple of days before. This can be an email or instant messaging on Skype where you remind them of the appointment. This can sometimes prompt an Out Of Office email response which gives warning that the coachee might not turn up. However, I have had coachees who have deliberately planned the coaching when they are on leave and so do appear for coaching.
  • Early on in the relationship I check that the coachee is in a quiet place for the call, with no distractions. The session often begins with the coachee walking to such a place – to sit under a tree in the courtyard, away from colleagues. One of my coachees always calls from a coffee shop (Cambodia). He sits there with his ear piece in and is less distracted by the surrounding noise than I am!
  • Coach preparations – Switch off mobile; let your team know that you cannot be disturbed for the next hour.
  • I sometimes use the video so that my coachee can see me at the start of a session. After an initial wave or greeting I then turn it off to speed up the connection.
  • During the first few minutes of a coaching session I review what has happened since the last time we spoke and review with them how they carried out agreed actions.
  • I will remind the coachee what we covered during a previous session to get the coachee back in the mood and ready for coaching.
  • I will then ask what the coachee wants to focus on during this session and why it is important to them.When it is difficult for them to hear me but the other way round is working OK, I will follow up what I say by typing the question asked into the Instant Messaging chat box. This is helpful sometimes too; to reinforce the question they are being asked.
  • Without the video on, I shut my eyes and listen fully to the words, the images and the energy behind the words.
  • Sometimes I can hear a door opening and shutting in the room where the coachee is. It is often that the coachee is being asked for their signature. I explore with them how capable they are at multi – tasking and how this mirrors their usual working practice. At a later session where we know deep thinking is needed I would suggest they seek out a room away from their team.
  • Keep questions succinct, especially when shouting through monsoon rain storms (Ethiopia)
  • I have been told before now that a storm is coming which will threaten the connection (Myanmar). In that moment I ask how best to use the time period ahead of it and do some speed coaching on that topic.
  • The advantage of remote coaching is that you are often more aware of time. I use this to give a coachee choices. ‘We have 20 minutes left. How would you like to spend that time? We could look at X or Y? Which is most important to start with?’
  • Note down particular words or words that are used a lot so that you can pick up on these with the coachee if they seem worth exploring. What do those words mean to them?
  • If someone is giving a long account of a problem and wanting to give me all the information, I will come in and ask: Where are you in that? What are you doing, saying? With what impact? Once their perception of a situation is clearer I would then broaden it out into the wider system to look at other pressures and possibilities.
  • Finish a session in exactly the same way as normal. Summary of what covered and important learning (the coachee can do this once they are used to coaching); Clarification of any action points; Feedback on the coaching process – what worked well etc: Feedback to each other – what did I do that was most useful to you? What else do you need from me as coach? What I have noticed about the coachee’s development etc.
  • Agree date and time for next session
  • Agree if learning notes will be exchanged and roles to do so.
  • Switch back on video to wave goodbye or send Instant Message to reinforce goodbye and well wishes until speak again.