As we are now well into week three of isolation in this Covid-19 virus development, I have had many conversations about how I keep coaching the people I work with during this time. It was only yesterday that I spent an hour supervising an online 1:1 high jump technical session with Paralympic silver medallist and World Champion Jonathon Broom-Edwards, with the use of a phone, Facetime and some wireless headphones (for him). Working completely on his own at an empty athletics track, JBE worked his way through all of the exercises I have sent him and I offered technical feedback and specific cues to maximise the quality of his session from the comfort of my own home.
I have also been using the same kind of social media platform to hold a variety of 1:1 and team coaching sessions.
The role of the coach, includes supporting the setting of performance goals, managing the on-going expectations of the coachee, providing extrinsic feedback and using effective questioning to help the coachee consider if they are getting the best out of the way they choose to do things etc. If this is all true (and I believe it is after more than 30 years of learning and doing) then there was never a greater need to explore how we can use remote coaching to maintain motivation and continue to develop the coachee to ensure that their development and future performance levels are not being affected.
A time for effective communication
One of the essential qualities of a good coach, is to be able to communicate effectively and here are a few examples of what effective communication looks like:
Effective communication includes: being clear and concise; making sure that the communication is relevant and pitched at the right level for each coachee; that it is understood and agreed with; that you communicate at an appropriate time and in a suitable manner; and that your communication is supportive, challenging and/or motivational. It is also important to schedule the communications and that these times are met and not postponed, also that you are reliable and timely.
Benefits of coaching with visual contact
There are a great number of ways to keep in touch these days and I have been introduced to new ones during this period of forced isolation and social distancing too. Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp and more can all be used as a highly effective way to hold 1:1 and team meetings and of course, there is also the more obvious; telephone calls, messaging and emails etc. but the ability to be able to see someone in person, adds a huge benefit when in the coaching role.
Observing their facial expressions, their gestures and their body language as well as being able to see their reactions and monitor their mental and emotional state. It also allows you to be able to see how they respond to what is being said and it allows you to be able to see how they are maintaining their physical appearance which are very useful visuals that can help you to monitor and support the well-being of the coachee.
Supporting people through challenges
One of the very interesting observations at time’s such as these, when people are forced into doing things differently or in some cases, not at all; is the variety of ways that people react to the forced changes and in particular how well they deal with the challenges that something as unprecedented as this Covid-19 virus, will force on them.
The important thing is to recognise that for everyone, no matter what kind of person they are, it is these times of change and challenge when it’s a perfect time to ensure that contact with your people and teams is of the highest quality and is purposeful.
Now, just about everyone I have ever worked with in sport, in business and in life style, who face significant forced changes or restrictions to the way they do things has been a time when I realise that my role as a coach, becomes extremely important to them. The coach should be that one constant and the trusted friend, the person that is always there to provide an ear, an opinion, a show of support and to help maintain motivation, to keep the coachee focused and help guide their thinking and decision making.
A few simple questions to help guide a conversation
Just to get you started with a coaching conversation at this time, here are a few questions that will help to get some purposeful dialogue underway:
- How are you coping with working in isolation during this time?
- Tell me how the current situation is impacting on you most?
- What are your biggest obstacles?
- Do you feel like you have still got clear performance goals that you have to work on?
- Have you got the right tools and support to achieve them?
- Is there anything that I or someone else could do to help you right now?
The other thing to remember right now is that people will require different levels of support, some more than others and in the case of highly self-motivated people, they will embrace the change and this could be a great opportunity for you as a coach, to encourage even more ownership of their decision making and action taking.
With the answers to the above questions, will come many opportunities to coach. This is your chance to guide the coachee through a further series of questions that will allow them to explore the circumstances they are currently facing; consider how they are choosing to deal with it and to share and explore ideas about other options.
Points to focus your conversations on
- Maintaining motivation, engagement and monitoring their progress and well-being
- Ensuring that you keep providing them with the direction and support they need
- If necessary, get them to re-focus on their purpose – why they do what they do!
- Maintain and where necessary, help to re-direct their efforts
- Remind them of the impact that they will be having on their performance goals with the valuable work that they are doing
The Covid-19 Pandemic will be affecting all of our lives to some degree and in many cases, it will have an impact that will take a long time to recover from. If we are to come out of the end of this period of lockdown and social distancing, then we must make sure we are ready to ‘hit the ground running’ so use the time you have wisely, to plan for that day and for the future, keep yourself fit and well, stay active and enjoy the benefits that will have on your emotional and mental well-being.
Don’t allow this period of social distancing stop you from keeping in close contact with your coachee’s, business associates and clients and make sure that you use this time to reach out and make new friends and potential clients. Perhaps you will realise that you can use your time to support others in their time of need and that might just come back to reward you, when you need it most.