When you’re leading from a distance, you need to become adept at coaching.
Your team will hit roadblocks and you need to help them hurdle over them. You need to be able to do this in a way that both guides and motivates. The wrong kind of coaching can provide the right answers in a way that isn’t useful to the person being coached.
Here are some things I try to do when I’m coaching my team:
1. Listen and understand
Listening is one of my main leadership skills. It’s one I’ve cultivated carefully over time and am constantly working on improving. I want to listen to what is said as well as to what is not said. I want to listen to what is said as well as how it is said. I want to listen to words and body language.
I have two motivations for listening like this.
First, I want to really understand the roadblock that my team is encountering. I want to understand all the details of it and around it. I want to gather all of the data I can. It doesn’t do anyone any good if I solve the wrong problem. (This is also a major skill in apologetics and evangelism)
Secondly, I want my team member to feel heard. When they feel heard and understood, they are more receptive to my coaching. And, often, there is a pastoral need that surfaces at the same moment as the roadblock. Listening well positions me to really help.
2. Offer and explain solutions
Once I understand the problem and have made a relational connection that positions me so that my coaching will be well-received, I start to dig in.
Here’s what I would do. Here’s why I would do it.
The Why matters so much here.
Without it, you’re just a boss telling an employee what to do. They may not do what you recommend. They may do it, but without confidence that it will work. And they will have transmission problems when they try to pass on your ideas to someone else. Without the Why stuff gets lost as it gets passed down the chain.
On top of this, digging into the Why is an investment in the person you’re leading. Once they understand why you are recommending they do what you are recommending, they will be able to solve problems like this themselves in the future. They might also be able to coach others in the future.
3. Provide accountability and follow-up
Come up with a plan and let them know that you’ll follow-up with them. This communicates two things:
First, follow-up communicates that they aren’t in this by themselves. You aren’t the oracle sitting atop the mountain. You are with them. You are helping. And they aren’t in it by themselves.
Second, follow-up communicates that you think that your recommendation will make a meaningful difference. This isn’t just some random idea you’re throwing out there. You really believe it will help. You think it matters that they do what you’re telling them to do.
What’s your system as a coach? What do you do when you’re coaching?