Skills for Effectively Coaching a Virtual Team

Apr 16, 2020


As with in-person teams, successful virtual teams are all about effective working relationships, clear communication, interpersonal dynamics, compatible skills and other factors. But when team members are geographically separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles, how can you be sure goals and expectations are clearly understood, and that your team is delivering the level of performance you need for best results?

Manage the performance of your virtual team and coach their performance by taking these essential actions:

Plan for effective performance. It’s especially crucial in a virtual arena to discuss general responsibilities and expectations of each team member. As a coach, you should be sure to discuss the specifics and come to an agreement on the scope of every responsibility—and how the actual work may be done. Remember that goals should be SMART goals—Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Based. Once this is accomplished, prioritize the responsibilities according to their importance.

Calibrate performance. To gauge performance progress and to prevent any problems from becoming unmanageable, provide daily feedback in a virtual meeting, either through a team discussion or, if appropriate, in a one-on-one conversation. Address performance problems with a coaching discussion, assign suitable work for further skill development, and if necessary, engage in discipline discussions for performance issues that may warrant such a level of intervention.

Regularly conduct a performance appraisal for each team member. Even when working virtually, be sure and write performance appraisals for each team member in a timely manner, as prescribed by your organization’s guidelines. Virtually conduct the appraisal discussion with clarity, tact and firmness, and address challenges the employee may be facing by brainstorming solutions and strategies together, focusing on the top two performance issues.

Practice coaching skills with the GROW model of coaching. This model is a commonly used method for goal setting and problem solving that is also appropriate for virtual coaching. GROW is an acronym for Goal, Reality, Obstacles and the Way Forward. First, the goal is defined so that the team member is completely clear about the desired result. Next, the reality of the situation impacting the goal is discussed, including the challenges of reaching the goal. After this, obstacles that may prevent the team member from reaching the goal are examined, along with options for dealing with them. Finally, clarify the best way forward by defining action steps based on the options chosen.

As with any skills, practice and consistent application is necessary for effectiveness, impact, and desired results.

Learn more about virtual coaching and practice the skills in AMA’s new instructor-led, highly interactive Live Online Express Course, How to Coach a Virtual Team. Visit