Debra Dinnocenzo discusses tips, techniques, and tools for effective remote coaching.  As one of the back-to-basics leadership skills of critical importance for remote leaders, skillful coaching allows remote leaders to improve performance and coach for success. Debra offers a free resource to help leaders conduct effective coaching discussions. The “Coaching Discussion Guidelines” is available on the free mobile app – download the VirtualWorks! app from the App Store or Google Play. 


About the Host:

Debra A. Dinnocenzo is president and founder of VirtualWorks!, a consulting and training firm that specializes in virtual work issues.  Debra is a dynamic keynote speaker, innovative educator, impactful coach, seasoned executive, and successful author.  She is the co-author of the recently released book, REMOTE LEADERSHIP – Successfully Leading Work-from-Anywhere and Hybrid Teams, as well as several other books on remote and virtual teams.  

Since publishing her first book on telecommuting in 1999, Debra has been a pioneer in the shift to virtual work and remote leadership.  Few practitioners in the field have the depth of knowledge and hands-on experience that distinguishes Debra in the hybrid workplace and remote leadership space.  As a nationally recognized expert in remote workplace and distance leadership, Debra has spoken widely on related topics, and developed and taught “Leadership in the Virtual Workplace,” an online graduate-level course offered by Duquesne University.  Previously, Debra was a teleworking executive and has worked from her home office for more than two decades.

Schedule a call with Debra HERE.


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Debra Dinnocenzo:

Welcome to the remote leadership Podcast. I'm Deborah Dinnocenzo and I'll be your host and guide as we explore new challenges and proven keys to success for leaders and teams who must get results from a distance. For more than two decades, I've helped organizations and leaders successfully go virtual. Now that we're all on a trajectory toward the next normal of work from anywhere and hybrid teams, I'm excited to share with you the insights and expertise that 1000s of leaders and teams have acquired through my books, coaching, training, and presentations. Join me to learn tips, techniques and skills that leaders and teams in your organization can implement now to achieve effectiveness in our evolving remote workplaces. Welcome to the remote leadership podcast. This episode focuses on coaching, one of the Back to Basics leadership skills of critical importance for remote leaders. Skillful coaching allows remote leaders to improve performance of course, and to coach for success. In a previous podcast on back to basic skills for remote leaders, I discussed the challenges leaders face in applying their well honed leadership skills in the new and evolving remote workplace. Coaching is certainly one of those skills, both a skill area that many leaders have effectively applied, yet one that can be challenging for leaders to apply from a distance. And of course, this is understandable if we think about our experiences with coaching. When you've been coached in sports or by teachers or by managers, it's most likely been a face to face encounter, or bias or natural bias is to want to see the person in a coaching or performance feedback discussion. Yet as a remote leader face to face opportunities are increasingly limited, and leaders will continue to manage and coach from a distance. Although coaching from a distance can feel uncomfortable and seem less effective, there are some techniques for ensuring effective remote coaching to ensure that team members achieve results, which is really what coaching is about and what it leads to. So a critical aspect of the remote leaders role is to establish clear performance criteria and measurement methods. Focusing on results instead of face time, or other less tangible factors, helps both leaders and their teams to be more successful. When teams are dispersed, and and sometimes gather in hybrid configurations, this becomes even more essential. So unambiguous results are an important anchor in bridging the distance between leaders and their teams. Performance based management is certainly by far the most reasonable, consistent and fair approach to team management, and individual management, of course, and it just makes good sense in the virtual workplace. This means that remote and hybrid team members must be clear about performance expectations. Leaders need to set specific performance expert expectations that both they and their team members clearly understand if a leader is coaching a team member to improve performance, but the leader can't physically see the team member performing, which is often the case. In the expanding remote workplace, it's essential to set very specific measurable goals, and then take the time to monitor progress toward those goals.

Debra Dinnocenzo:

In this case, the expansion of the virtual workplace I believe has been really a really good thing for performance management. Why is that? Because distance demands the type of clarity that has sometimes been lacking in the traditional workplace relative to performance management performance expectations. Proximity has often promoted a will know it when we see it attitude about proof formance management, and that led sometimes to the absence of measurable performance targets. This was never a good idea in the onsite workplace, and it just doesn't work for remote or hybrid teams in the virtual workplace. Team members will at times need guidance, expertise, suggestions, support and feedback from their leader. This helps them develop their skills, navigate organizational obstacles in politics, and achieve their goals. This is true of any team leader relationship with team members. However, when leading a remote team, leaders should be more mindful of when their coaching and feedback would be needed. Leaders must help their teams work together to effectively navigate the evolving hybrid team dynamic that was sparked by the pandemic and is shaping the future of work. As remote and fluid hybrid teams face these new challenges. There will be plenty of opportunities to anticipate barriers, resistance, and certainly the the need for new approaches to working together. This presents remote leaders with opportunities to coach for success by looking ahead to avoid problems and conflicts. These discussions decrease the possibility of performance problems later. Either the leader or the team member who may make a specific request for help. It can initiate these kinds of discussions, the leader can incorporate coaching for success discussions, when conducting new employee orientations or delegating a new assignment, preparing a client response or creating a new project team there are multiple opportunities for leaders to coach for success to anticipate when there could be problems or when there is information that a team member or the entire team doesn't really know. discussions that involve coaching for improvement, on the other hand, typically involve a performance deviation or shortfall that needs to be corrected. These types of discussions can occur during regular interim, or annual performance reviews. They're usually initiated by the leader not always, but usually, and maybe a follow up discussion to a previous coaching discussion. discussions related to the need for performance improvement are fraught with the potential for greater resistance, emotion, and anxiety. And these are the types of dynamics we naturally want to avoid in remote communication. Why is that?


In spite of

Debra Dinnocenzo:

the easier access, we now have to video based communication that we didn't have even five or 10 years ago. And these kinds of communication strengthen the leaders of ability to see visual cues and to read nonverbal expressions something we always missed when we didn't have these video connections. Many leaders still are less comfortable having these more difficult discussions from a distance. However, I mean, this is the reality many leaders are now facing. So finding the best ways to approach these discussions helps both the leader and team members minimize the discomfort that naturally might be there and to minimize obstacles to effective communication. So we achieve this both by leveraging the technology tools for their best use in establishing a meaningful record, even while remote. Leaders always benefit from planning these coaching for success or improvement discussions in advance. If the situation might be particularly challenging, the leader can practice the discussion this can happen with a Peer A leader can reach out to another leader share the situation and perhaps even practice it using a roleplay kind of format. This allows the leader to refine the approach and plan the dialogue with the added benefit of insights and feedback from a trusted colleague. By asking for help, there might be some ideas that a leader gets from this kind of process working with someone else to prepare for this.

Debra Dinnocenzo:

Whether the coaching discussion is with an individual team member, or with the whole team, leaders can follow coaching, discussion guidelines for coaching, these kinds of coaching discussions. So let me just talk about these there are six of them. And many leaders are familiar with these. They're not unlike the kinds of steps that one would go through in a coaching discussion that's face to face. But it's important to remember these things and to and to have these kinds of processes in place when we are handling these discussions remotely in particular. So the first step in the coaching discussion guidelines is to clarify the purpose and desired outcomes of the discussion. This means make sure that everyone understand the meeting understands why are we having this meeting? Why is it important? And what do we need to accomplish? Before we conclude this meeting, the next step is to review information that you have and ask for additional information and ideas. So this would be involve a review of the available information or data, and to demonstrate a welcoming attitude towards input on additional data, suggestions, obstacles, opportunities, it's an early asking for input or asking for help. Acknowledging that the leader might not have all the information, which is often the case might not have all the information or certainly all the perspectives that that someone might bring to this situation, particularly if it's a a performance problem or a performance improvement situation. The third step is to establish or review performance objectives. This means communicating outcomes goals, timelines, it might tie back to the performance management system, the goals set for the year or the quarter. And so just reviewing or establishing clear performance objectives if they haven't been clear. The fourth step is to discuss ideas and concerns. So now we have all the information out there, we've asked, is there any additional information? Is there anything I'm not aware of as the leader, and this is where we encourage more sharing of issues, problems, obstacles, suggestions, solutions, getting input that would be helpful to to the leader, and sharing of the concerns as well. And other obstacles that the leader might not be aware of. The fifth step is to agree on goals or plan of action. So this is where we do some reflective listening, confirm what we've heard, what will be done, how it will be done, and more importantly, by when it will be done. And then asking for and clarifying any needs for additional support. And then the sixth step is agree on follow up steps and timeline. So this is where we confirm accountabilities for action, and review, follow up dates, next steps. And just make sure everyone is on the same page. I think it's also helpful to follow up at just any discussion like that with in writing by email, or what however, just to document what has has occurred. And to make sure that everyone heard everything the same way. You can find this list of coaching discussion guidelines on our free mobile app. You can get the mobile app by downloading the app at the App Store or Google Play, or just search for virtual works. And that's virtual var T ual works, exclamation point, no spaces, but virtual works. Exclamation point, you'll find the app, as I said in the App Store on or Google Play. And once you've downloaded the app, just navigate to tips and posts and you'll find the coaching discussion guidelines there.

Debra Dinnocenzo:

So as I mentioned earlier, effectively using available technology tools enables effective coaching from a distance. We are very dependent now on our technology tools. So I'm using a technology tool now by recording and sharing this via podcast where Not face to face. But I'm still able to share this information, communication tools such as video based connections, and all their various kinds of those all kinds of tools, Zoom is one and teams, and any number of other technology tools that allow for video based connections as well. And as well as voice calls and other tech resources. These are the critical tools remote leaders now must use effectively to facilitate ongoing coaching and development. Of all the available options for remote communication and there are a growing number of them. There's sometimes I hear leaders say there are too many, but we have a wide range of available options now. So of all the available options, it has become clear that a video based connection is a better way to connect with team members, particularly for coaching discussions. Many people prefer to learn and process information visually. And video connections are the best way to replicate and simulate the human connections that teams value in the traditional workplace. So as I've mentioned before, and other podcasts, replicating and simulating, what we would do if we could be face to face is a is a continual challenge of remote leaders and leaders must look for creative ways to replicate and simulate those kinds of encounters, those kinds of discussions, the kind of team building the rapport building, replicate and simulate that through the technology resources that we have. I believe, however, that there's still plenty of room in remote communication, for voice to voice audio connections. And that's the basic phone call. Calls are quick and don't require as much coordination as a video meeting. And the live interaction afforded by a phone call is certainly preferable to the non synchronous alternatives like emails, which don't give you any benefit of seeing reactions or body language questions, concerns confusion. So I often encourage leaders to consider what I call the most live methods of communicating, particularly for coaching discussions. So it really would depend would video be best? Or would it just live audio if you can't do video, I still lean towards video as a preferred option when that's possible, but if that is not going to be possible, and it's more critical that the conversation happen as soon as possible than at least audio, live audio, the most live audio, which again, is is a usually a phone connection. The fundamental coaching guidelines that I've discussed are are applicable, applicable, as I said in both face to face and remote settings. And as leaders increasingly handle these interactions remotely, it's helpful to remember again, that replicating and simulating the in person experience through remote connections will provide the best outcome and of course, planning the discussion and using the coaching guidelines.


For additional

Debra Dinnocenzo:

information and more in depth guidance on coaching from a distance we also offer our remote leader coaching Guide, which can be found by visiting the store on our website, which is virtual works Again, that's virtual works And that that resource is called the remote leader coaching guide. You'll also find on our website information about my recently released book remote leadership successfully leading work from anywhere and hybrid teams. This book has additional tips, tools and resources for effectively leading from a distance which covers coaching and an a wide range of other important skills and information that remote leaders need to have.