Now that call centers have transitioned to working from home, many managers and supervisors are finding coaching remotely to have its challenges.
Managers often go into “survival mode” and put coaching on the back burner, or worse, turn to “command-and-control mode” in an effort to maintain business as usual. However, one of the things that has stayed with me from my experiences in the sports world is that, when a crisis strikes, that’s when we need to go back to the basics.
Six Tips for Remote Coaching
For call centers and their managers looking to keep their coaching culture alive, the following are six remote-coaching tips that can make the transition easier and help to carry employees through any crisis.
1. Build and keep a schedule
With a long list of tasks and benchmarks to hit, call center managers are strapped for time and attention. The best coaching happens when you treat every conversation as a coaching conversation, but if you’re struggling to make this a focus, start by scheduling it. Plan a minimum number of times when you purposely coach your employees—and stick to that plan. A study by Gallup showed that employees whose managers consistently communicate with them are nearly three times more engaged than those with managers who don’t.
2. Turn the cameras on
This might seem obvious, but without face-to-face contact, video is the next best thing and can be crucial to coaching success. The most productive coaching sessions happen when the coachee feels the coach is coming at the conversation with one thing in mind—the coachee. As a manager, your body language and expression plays an important role in setting that stage. Even more, everyone’s body language and overall attention is important in conversations, and we’ve seen that both improve when the cameras are on.
3. Reach out for more than just status updates
Employees need to feel heard and valued, especially in a time of uncertainty. Although it’s important to value them as employees and the contribution they bring to your company, it’s equally important that they feel valued as a person. While you might be scheduling your outreach for status updates, make it a priority (even a scheduled one) to reach out for personal updates as well.
4. Leverage simple check-in questions
Whether it’s an in-person or over video conference, starting off with a few simple check-in questions helps both parties assess the problems and opportunities that need to be addressed in any remote coaching session. One mistake I often see managers make is turning a quick check-in conversation into an interrogation or an opportunity to micromanage. Leave your judgments aside and keep it to three simple questions:
- What’s going well?
- Where are you/we getting stuck?
- What can you/we do differently?
5. Create a safe environment for coaching
Perhaps you feel your employees are unwilling to be coached. Perhaps they are not responding to your efforts the way you’d like. The truth is that people are always judging each other. Employees decide whether they will allow you to coach them, and how much, based on their experiences with you and especially the conversations you hold. Whether they know it or not, people assess conversations upon three things: Are they caring, candid and constructive?
At worst, employees will avoid coaching, and at best, have their defenses up if:
- They don’t experience that you sincerely care about them as a person, as well as their contribution;
- They think you are not being transparent with them; and
- The conversation isn’t helpful to them (i.e., constructive).
6. Make every conversation a coaching conversation
A next step to becoming a great coach (even within a remote workplace) is to seize the opportunity to bring a coaching approach to every conversation. Whether it is by email, phone call or video conference, and scheduled or not, every conversation can be caring, candid and constructive—the three critical elements of a coaching conversation.
Maintain Normalcy with a Coaching Culture
Transitioning from in-person to remote coaching might seem daunting, especially now that managers are struggling with new expectations, goals and priorities. However, we know that going back to the basics helps improve performance in any situation, and is especially helpful doing a crisis.
Maintaining (or initiating) a coaching culture within your call center will have a big impact on maintaining normalcy, supporting employees to reach their goals, and helping create a sense of focus across the board.