Coaching In A Virtual Environment: The Challenges And How To Overcome Them

Learn about the challenges that occur in a virtual coaching environment and learn how to overcome these challenges effectively.

The world of today has undergone a technological shift because of the ‘new normal’.

These circumstances have also put coaching under a new challenge; the virtual environment.

The physical workplace has transformed into a virtual office. 

Physical interaction has become a virtual reality. 

This has not only created some new challenges but also has produced numerous opportunities!

There are many challenges that can occur in a virtual environment, but some of the most significant ones are choosing the right technology, having fear of the unknown, the logistics, creating a sense of ownership, developing trust, enabling interactions, structuring sessions, maintaining consistency, and facilitating.

In this article, we will be addressing the exact same issue of facing the virtual environment in the paradigm of coaching. 

We will be discussing coaching in a virtual environment, the challenges, and how to overcome them. 

So let’s get started! 

1. Choosing The Right Technology

There are not one or two but several ways by which team members sitting at different places can connect with one another virtually. 

How? Well, the answer is Technology!

It sounds like the easiest and the most convenient plan to come up with but, sometimes it gives rise to bigger problems.

The coach’s team itself should be properly aware of the requirement of using the platform of technology. 

Letting the coachees decide on the technological platform is always a good idea.

There are multiple devices available that can be used for virtual coaching. 

It can either be a phone, laptop, iPad, notebooks, or even desktop computers.

A good coach should ensure that the virtual engagements work on all the devices that can be connected. 

Technical problems are bound to occur so it’s always considered best to use a familiar device as it will be easy to cope with technological glitches.

Also, always have a backup plan in mind.

2. Fear Of The Unknown

It may sound like an easier way to interact virtually but in fact, it comes with its own demands and challenges. 

For some people, there can be a couple of concerns that will create a barrier in the communication process.

For example, some people are concerned about how they look or how they sound, or even how the background appears to be on the camera which obviously distracts them from conveying what they want to. 

While sometimes it happens that there are some unwanted noises in the neighborhood that becomes part of the virtual meeting. 

Or sometimes, there are sudden walk-ins by the children or by the cute pets that are at home.

The coachers should be ready to face all these kinds of distractions. 

A coach should act as a calm leader and give prompt action that gives the expression to the audience that he is a confident and humbled professional.

First of all, ensure that everything is well taken care of before the start of the meeting. 

Still, if something comes up, we should acknowledge the fact that it is perfectly normal. 

The ‘tone’ in which these situations are answered is very important to portray the image of the coacher.

The situation should not be made awkward with silence, but it should be dealt with a smile or with a casual notion like “Don’t worry about it”

It is also quite constructive to make it normal for the camera to be on by all participants.

This ensures engagement and allows everyone to be attentive during the meeting. 

This enables you not to think that you are not only talking to yourself. 

Also, the visual aid is quite helpful in making the meeting more valuable.

3. Logistics

The goal of virtual coaching is to save the time and energy of the team members.

The format of the coaching session may vary according to the specific and desired needs of the participants. 

The team’s availability, geography, and budget are some of the variables that determine the format of the coaching session.

The length of the session should be of optimized time. 

Long sessions will make the audience bored and tired. 

While the shorter ones don’t give sufficient time to grab the attention of the audience.

For a scheduled session, 90 minutes time is the right choice.

How frequently the coaching meeting should take place? 

That is another issue as the whole team must be gathered for an interactive session.

It is most appropriate to call for a meeting twice a month or after two weeks. 

Yet deciding on a suitable size of the team remains another problem. 

How many people should be a part of a team? 

It is noted that the appropriate size is 12. 

Greater than 12 members create a larger group.

It is difficult to interact with the larger group as well as to keep them engaged.

Virtual coaching also creates an opportunity to interact with people from all around the globe. 

A good coacher must keep in mind that time zone differences should be considered while deciding the time for the virtual meeting.

A suitable time slot must be selected.

That means it should not be too early in the morning or too late in the night for all the participants that are interacting in the session. 

4. Creating A Sense Of Ownership

To create a sense of ownership is the ultimate target of the coachers.

Leaders must pattern the art of ownership

This is what makes a great enterprise successful! 

If an organization is failing, the leader is to be blamed.

If the leadership is failing, then obviously coaching is to be blamed.

Coaching should be an integral part of the team agendas

It is a priority, not an option!

It is also necessary to practice what you preach

Show your team members at times how to react to a certain situation. 

Even create a hypothetical problem and ask them what they will do about it. 

After hearing them out, tell them how you as a coacher would react to that same situation. 

This is how we exemplify ownership!

When faced with a challenge as a team, most people are of the view that focusing on coaching is just a waste of time as it will create another load of work on the team.

While this is a perfect time when coaching is most needed.

5. Developing Trust

The goal of team coaching is to develop a team that has firm collaborations between them. 

It forms a formal relation between the team members which is made on the level of communication.

How well a team can communicate, how promptly the team takes action, or how much understanding is between the team members?

All these aspects are to be fulfilled to create a high-performance team.

A coach must ensure that a team is strongly bonded that there is a deeper level of understanding between them. 

The traits of jealousy or leg-pulling shouldn’t be a part of it.

The challenge is to develop this level of trust in a virtual environment. 

A coacher must devise strong ways by which he can create a level of trust and connection among the team members.

6. Limited Interactions

In these challenging times, when everyone is confined inside their houses and is cut out to physical social interactions, having access to virtual communication is undoubtedly a true blessing. 

Being virtually connected doesn’t only remain through texting and calling but with software like Zoom, Facebook Live, and Google hangouts a virtual working environment can be created.

Yes, these software tools cannot replace the feeling of a physical working environment but still, they imitate a workplace place very well.

The coacher does not only discuss issues with the team but at the same time documents, PowerPoint lectures, or even screens can be shared. 

The most interactive sessions end in an ask questions session which is an interactive way to communicate and socialize with the audience.

Clearly, these software tools are only useful if the technology is used by all team members. 

It is the responsibility of the coacher to ensure that all the team members have access and know how to use the technology. 

If it is not ensured, some team members might feel left out or their absence might hinder the progress of the team.

In fact, virtual communication is a coach’s best friend.

7. Structuring Virtual Sessions

It is necessary to structure the coaching lesson in such a way that it influences the audience. 

While an interactive virtual session can be as long as 90 minutes what can be done in it that looks so impactful? 

It is quite easy to structure a session in 2 or 3 hours but as the time is reduced the question arises how can it be delivered in such a way that it still leaves a mark in the audience’s mind?

The answer is Planning. 

The sessions should be planned and delivered in a way that can dispense the content meaningfully in the set time frame.

Building good rapport is another part of planning. 

Teams should be connected to each other in a way that they feel like a bonded family. 

The connection, honesty, and hard work are what generate fruitful outcomes.

Connections are built when people communicate on an interpersonal level.

During coaching, opportunities should be created by which team members open up to each other. 

Virtual teams cannot take a tea or lunch break where they can interact with each other. 

A virtual space during coaching should be created for the purpose of building rapport between the team members.

During the coaching session, each team member should be allowed to talk about the actions they have taken and what outcomes have been resulted from them. 

This makes the team members be held accountable for their actions and brainstorm altogether about the fallouts.

The most important and productive task a coaching session can do is to point out the problem.

Before the start of the session, the team members should select a topic or a problem that is to be discussed in the coaching session.

For the first 30 minutes, the problem should be reviewed while for the rest of the time the usual meeting can take place.

8. Maintaining Consistency

One of the key components for an effective coaching experience is consistency. 

The coaching session should be consistent despite any circumstances. 

One way to ensure consistency is by scheduling it. 

The coaching session should be scheduled either monthly, quarterly, or yearly. 

This will make the team members aware of the significance of coaching.

Also, with a prior schedule given, every team member can make time out of their busy schedules for this session.

The coach himself should be vigilant and proactive in certifying that the scheduled sessions happen on time. 

If the coach is lazy and doesn’t start sessions on time, it will discourage the team to be present in the coaching session.

The coach should beforehand present a thought-provoking questionnaire to the team members. 

“What’s working?” 

“What’s not working?” 

“Why isn’t it working?” 

“What can be done differently?” 

This structure is a direct way of getting reports from the team about their work and to get insight within the coaching session about a way out of these problems.

9. How To Facilitate

A team can only climb the ladder of success when they climb altogether. 

Working together with a single goal that motivates them to move further is what creates a great team. 

To do this, the team should have a proper conversation with each other. 

When the barrier of communication is removed that is where the change starts to happen!

As coaches, it is our sole responsibility to create a productive environment where such kinds of conversations can take place.

To do this, in a virtual environment, is another challenge for the coachers. 

A coach should always be equipped to deal with problems and create a suitable environment in an in-person setting. 

Energy is created in the environment which diverts us to take the next step during coaching.

Because it’s the body language that talks more than the words actually do!

The virtual setting is unfamiliar to us but as human beings, we have always evolved through change. 

This is novel and different territory for both the coach and the team members.

The goal of virtual coaching is to gain maximum productivity in a minimum time set.

Some common issues that arise in a virtual environment are when team members interrupt each other, leave during the meeting for a while and then come back, have a talkative person that leaves no airtime for others, have a bully that discourages others, and have too many ideas to talk about in a limited time

These are the key issues that become problematic during virtual coaching. 

As a team coacher, we should have what it takes to handle these kinds of situations. 

The virtual environment is not always pleasing but, in some ways, gives us more ability to be direct with team members.

Conclusion

We hope we were helpful for you to find your answers in this article and we wish you the best of luck. 

Good luck!

Leave us a comment. 

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