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The Importance Of Transitioning From Managing To Coaching A Virtual Team

Written by: Paul L. Glover, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


The pandemic, which has created the opportunity for 46% of all work to be performed on a totally remote or hybrid basis, is forcing managers to do what they are inherently very bad at: becoming coaches.

Co-located managers (working in the same space as employees they manage) can still refuse to coach and, by employing the command-and-control methods they used pre-pandemic (micro-managing, positional authority, which gives them power and control and instilling fear), the work, though done poorly by disengaged employees, will still get done.

However, the Virtual Manager (who manages employees not physically under his/her watchful eye), doesn’t have the luxury of refusing to become a coach. This is because 50% of communication is based upon physical body language and 40% is based, not on the words spoken, but on the tone and intonation of those spoken words. These aspects of effective communication are lost in the virtual work environment. This means the Virtual Manager, who wants their virtual Team to be successful, must make the transition from managing to coaching to compensate for the lack of physical interactions between themselves and their virtual Team. While the principles of coaching a virtual Team, and individual Team Members, remain the same as coaching a co-located team, they are even more important and intensified in the virtual work environment.

The Virtual Manager who refuses to recognize they must make this transition from managing to coaching their virtual Team, as well as the individual Team Members, has guaranteed the virtual Team, and they, will quickly fail.

Based on my 20 years of experience as a virtual coach, these are the techniques Virtual Managers need to use to increase the positive impact they will have on their virtual Team and individual Team Members.

Six Techniques to Transition from Managing to Coaching a Virtual Team

1. The Virtual Manager must establish a trusting relationship with the Team and Team Members. This requires the Virtual Manager be competent and consistent. The number one reason Team Members trust their manager is the manager’s competency: being knowledgeable, capable and relevant.

The Virtual Manager’s actions, behaviors, and even their moods, must remain consistent because consistency creates confidence, which is essential to creating trust.

2. The Virtual Manager must foster employee engagement. While it is important in the physical work environment, employee engagement is doubly important in the remote or hybrid work environment. Increased employee engagement can be accomplished by eliminating bureaucratic practices and minimizing busywork. On average, a Team Member spends a third of their week on boring repetitive tasks. At least once a quarter, the Virtual Manager must ask the Team, and individual Team Members, “How am I making your work harder than it needs to be?” and “What are the obstacles – big or small – that cause you ongoing frustration with your work?” Then they act to reduce the level of difficulty and frustration. If nothing can be done, they say that and explain why. But they remain open to hearing the Team’s/Team Member’s suggestions in these areas.

3. The Virtual Manager must be hyper-vigilant. They must always be looking for trouble, as well as teachable moments during every interaction with the Team and Team Members. This requires being especially aware of the non-verbal cues from a Team Member that indicate a need for attention. Monthly 30–60-minute virtual coaching sessions with each Team Member is required to maintain engagement and discover unresolved issues.

4. The Virtual Manager must be an emphatic listener, expressing curiosity about the Team Member on both a personal (inquiring about the Team Member’s well-being) and professional level (how they are doing their job). Here are the keys to become an empathetic listener:

  • Listen with the purpose to understand, not respond.

  • Focus on listening. Be completely present in the moment. Allow no distractions or interruptions.

  • Ask questions that demonstrate your level of complete engagement and to clarity any issues, incorrect assumptions or misconceptions.

  • Summarize the conversation so team members feel heard and understood.

5. The Virtual Manager must hold three weekly team meetings to maintain a high level of team focus, co-working, productivity and morale:

  • A 30-minute virtual meeting at the beginning of the work week. The first meeting goal is engaging Team Members by asking them to discuss the highlight of their weekend. For the remainder of the meeting the Virtual Manager, using influencing and persuading methods, instead of directing and commanding methods, clarifies the Team’s weekly goals, assigns roles and responsibilities where necessary, asks Team Members for issues that need to be addressed, infuses the team with energy and enthusiasm and expresses gratitude for the Team’s commitment to assisting each other in achieving the Team’s goals for the week.

  • A midweek 30-minute virtual meeting to assess progress being made on achieving the Team’s goals, to celebrate reaching specific project milestones, to allow the opportunity, if necessary, to readjust the course of the work and to address any other issues. Once again, the Virtual Manager uses influencing and persuading methods, instead of directing and commanding methods.

  • An end of the week 30-minute video meeting to discuss what needs to be improved going forward and to celebrate/recognize Team and individual Team Member accomplishments.

6. The Virtual Manager must be a Mentor to foster training and development for Team Members, a Facilitator to resolve Team Member conflicts and a Provider of the Resources necessary for the success of the Team.

Since success in the Knowledge Economy is more and more predicated on the success of Virtual Teams and the success of a Virtual Team is predicated upon the coaching concept, the ability of a Virtual Manager to make the difficult transition from Virtual Manager to Virtual Coach will, ultimately, determine the success of the manager and the Team.

Want to learn more from Paul? Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and visit his website.


Paul L. Glover, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Paul is known as The No B.S. Workplace Performance Coach. For the last 30 years, his mission has been to assist Executives, Team Leaders, and their organizations in achieving their full potential.

His approach is practical, hands-on, grounded in the realities of the real world of work, and very results-oriented – but all applied with a sense of humor and panache.

Paul is also a "recovering trial lawyer," a Chicago Bears fanatic, an unabashed Starbucks addict, and the author of WorkQuake™, a book dedicated to how to thrive in the Information Economy and a Member of the Forbes Coaching Council.



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