Employees in the Home Office – Accompanying and Coaching is a Management Task!

How do managers effectively support their employees from a distance - step by step toward greater personal responsibility and independence? Coaching skills help.

Coaching has long been established as an effective personnel development tool. Managers can also make use of the basics of coaching and provide their employees with good support and guidance, especially in the current situation in and from the home office. And this can also be done virtually.

Coaching – what is it?

Coaching is a term that is used almost inflationary today. Anyone can be a coach and coach others. It is not a protected profession.  Yet many people still don’t know what to make of the term itself. Coaching is help for self-help for mentally healthy people. Or, as Sir John Whitmore put it in 1992:

„Coaching is unlocking a persons potential to maximize their own
It is helping them to learn, rather than teaching, telling or training

Coaching in distinction to other professions

Consultant, trainer, coach, team developer, therapist, mentor, what else? Many terms and little clarity. This characterizes the field of activity of the various professional groups:

  • Consultant: analyzes the problems; gives tips and guidance; aims at optimization and support; brings in own experience and concepts
  • Trainer: imparts knowledge and pursues learning goals; wants to enable to implement and apply what has been learned
  • Coach: takes a step back, gives support with the goal of self-help
  • Team developer: supports teams to find themselves as a team, to develop and grow further
  • Therapist: works through the past with his client and treats mental illnesses
  • Mentor: shares own experience knowledge, gives tips and guidance; usually free of charge

Which topics are suitable for coaching?

Business coaching supports executives, project managers and employees with topics related to business. These are for example:

  • Personal development
  • Conflict resolution
  • Decision making
  • Change of behavior patterns
  • Goal setting
  • Career planning/professional change
  • Tricky leadership topics
  • Motivational issues
  • Test anxiety or fear of speaking
  • Improvement of work-life-balance
  • Personal stress management

Coaching – where are the general limits?

Coaching is a process that supports development. As already described above for mentally healthy people. This means that where this boundary becomes blurred, coaching must also end. A professional coach recognizes this and will stop the process.

The coach is like a gardener …

“The coach’s work is like that of a gardener who tends different plants.

One plant loves the bright sunshine, the other the cool shade; one loves the stream bank, the other the arid mountain top. One thrives best in sandy soil, the other in rich loam.

Each must have the care appropriate to its species, otherwise its perfection remains unsatisfactory.”
– ‘Abdul’l-Bahà

The leader is more comparable to a mountain guide

Managers can be compared to a mountain guide: On behalf of the tourist management, they lead hikers to the summit. They provide orientation to work goals, encourage and support along the way. Because after all the above, the following question arises:

Can the manager be a coach for the employees?

The coach is generally committed exclusively to his client. He observes and asks questions. The coach is fundamentally non-judgmental and open-ended. He works neutrally and benevolently as a supporter of the coachee.

The manager, on the other hand, is committed to the company first. Their most important tasks are to set goals, delegate and motivate. In addition, they should encourage and challenge employees, control, reward, and sanction them. In other words, they must keep the interests of the company in mind (entrepreneurial thinking and action).

What do we conclude from this? The manager is and remains a manager. However, with a coaching attitude and a well-founded repertoire of tools, they can take advantage of coaching. This helps them to ultimately achieve their goals (their own as well as those of the company) more effectively. Along the way, she supports her employees in their personal development and in increasing their problem-solving skills.

Coaching attitude – what is meant by this?

Coaching means accompanying. This means that the manager accompanies the employee. Accompanies him/her in finding the best possible solution. Best possible for the employee. Not necessarily for the manager. The solution can therefore deviate from the manager’s idea of the solution. This also means that coaching is not possible if a solution has already been announced. In that case, it would be counterproductive and demotivating. The advantage of accompanying employees to their own solution is that it brings self-knowledge to the employee. And this has the advantage that an employee learns and develops.

Coaching especially for home office

Why a coaching attitude can support the home office situation right now.

Managers are currently constantly asking for ways to better support their employees in the home office. To be closer to them. To be approachable for questions and assistance. And often they don’t know how to accomplish this. This is where a coaching mindset and simple coaching interventions/questions is a helpful approach. At the same time, I experience high-caliber managers who convey security to their employees. Who are regularly approachable – at fixed times, because they themselves also have tasks. Note: This does not mean not being available in an emergency. It simply means organizing one’s own daily routine and bundling issues for self-protection. Managers who are empathetic. Asking how the employee is doing at the moment – honestly and with interest. Managers who take an interest and listen to where things are not going so well. This is (also) what is meant by the coaching attitude.

Can this also be done virtually?

Yes, absolutely! Coaching with a professional also works wonderfully well virtually. In the meantime, there are sufficient studies and experience reports on this. Professional providers have dealt with the possibilities, requirements and limitations. They can advise and reject what does not work.

The executive can use a few simple coaching techniques virtually in any case. A telephone or even better a video call is often sufficient for this. He who asks leads is such an old saying that has its validity.

Be creative when asking questions

There are many great questions and here the manager is allowed to get creative. The goal is to stimulate a change of perspective. Perhaps the following sample questions will help you get started:

  • When does your problem show itself? What do you attribute it to?
  • Was it different before? What are the exceptions?
  • What could happen in the worst case if you don’t solve the problem?
  • How do you feel about it?
  • What would be different if the problem was solved?
  • How can you use your strengths to do just that?
  • What would colleague xy say about this problem? What solution would he suggest?

What else is important

The medium is the bridge. The medium must be functional and intuitive – at least for virtual newcomers. Much more important at the moment is the message, the emotional closeness, the exchange. And that’s where many tools work as a crisis aid.

And the manager? Where does she get support?

Quite a lot for some managers. Who supports them in this situation? Fortunately, there are now many tips and suggestions for working and leading in the home office circulating on the web. I’m also seeing great initiatives within companies – the HR development departments are doing a great job in this crisis. In addition, business sparring with other management colleagues can provide valuable impulses. Or also online trainings on this topic. And of course all well-trained (online) coaches available on the market. However, you should make sure that they have professional training and appropriate experience.

Wenn Menschen gemeinsam auf einem Trampolin springen, können sie sich gegenseitig beschleunigen oder ausbremsen. Das ist in Teams und Organisationen genauso. Als Trainerin, Coach, Team- und Kulturentwicklerin begleitet Sandra Dundler die Menschen digital und analog dabei, die Herausforderungen der Transformation zu meistern. Sie war selbst lange Jahre Mitarbeiterin in einem Konzern auf unterschiedlichen Führungsebenen.

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