6 Key Skills You Need for Virtual Group Coaching Conversations | by Jennifer Britton

And How to Leverage them in the Online or Virtual Group Coaching Space

Virtual group coaching conversations are becoming increasingly common - whether it's leading group coaching by phone or videoconference, hosting a training webinar or facilitating a virtual team development session.

Our core coaching competencies are an important foundation for both our virtual and in person conversations. And in this article we're going to explore 6 specific skills from the coaching framework which can help you in your virtual group coaching conversations.

These 6 areas are the skills of questioning, listening, accountability, setting goals, building trust and intimacy and creating expectations.

1) The Skill of Questioning:

Questions may be used to expand awareness, create focus or accelerate results. Questions form the backbone of any coaching conversation and in the virtual coaching world, the more robust a selection we have to choose from the better!

In virtual group coaching conversations, it can be harder to gauge how much time people need to reflect and ponder so when coaching groups virtually:

  • It's important that questions are focused and concise (ideally 4-5 words).
  • In the virtual world we sometimes ask multiple questions at any one time, so be sure to leave enough space for people to reflect and write things down.
  • It's also important to leave sufficient space for sharing and dialogue in the virtual space.

Boost your Question Toolbox:  See all our articles about Coaching Questions >>

2) The Skill of Listening:

When coaching groups virtually it can be useful to build the listening skills of the entire group. Many group coaches incorporate a laser coaching approach where one group member may be in the coaching chair on a rotational basis. So, rather than just having team members sit back and relax, prime the other group members to listen to the conversation on multiple levels.

Building the peer coaching skills in the areas of listening and questioning helps to build capacity in others. So, when doing virtual group coaching, ask individual group members to:

  1. Listen to the questions being asked, and note them down.
  2. Listen to the impact of the questions on the person being coached.
  3. Note the impact of the questions on themselves.

3) The Skill of Accountability:

One of the differentiators between a one-off virtual webinar or teleseminar, and ongoing group or team coaching is our deep focus on accountability. The opportunity for group members to come back together call after call helps to not only strengthen the bonds between the individuals, but also increases the potential for accountability.

Things to think about to increase accountability when coaching groups virtually include:

  • Consider how people can partner up with their peers in between calls.
  • In larger groups (8-15 people) consider different ways to help people form connections that will lead to further accountability eg. creating a Facebook Group for the attendees to support each other.

People's Arms and devices showing them virtual group coaching4) The Skill of Setting Goals:

In any virtual group coaching conversation, helping group members focus on and articulate goals not only helps to shape the conversation, but also boosts engagement by putting group members squarely in the driver's seat.

We know that when we help people connect early on with their "What’s In It For Me" (WIIFM), they are much more engaged and usually more satisfied with their results. This not only ensures that the call is shaped by the group/team, but also serves as an antidote to the "Death by Conference Call" mindset.

Things to consider when virtual group coaching:

  • Goals create a platform for people to return back to throughout the program. Consider how group members will share their goals, goal achievement and goal success.
  • Be sure to help people connect with the bigger picture of goals so that it does not become a "checkbox" activity.

5) The Skill of Building Trust and Intimacy:

In a virtual group coaching conversation, trust, intimacy and connection are critical between the coach and individual group members. In fact it's necessary for many people to feel connected with both the coach and other group members before they'll contribute in a virtual space. Without precious trust and connection, the conversation may stay at the surface level.

Different ways to build trust and connection in the virtual space is to:

  • Use streaming technologies (video conferencing like Skype, Zoom etc) wherever possible so people can both hear and see each other.
  • Spend time connecting the group at the start even if it's as simple as asking people to share verbally or by typing in their responses to questions like: "What brought them to this conversation?" or "What do they hope to get out of the conversation?"
  • Provide opportunities and exercises for people to breakout and work in smaller groups during calls.

6) The Skill of Creating Shared Expectations:

The competency of creating shared expectations provides a more focused and engaged conversation space.

In virtual groups, visual and behavioural cues are less obvious. Group members may also come from different geographic and cultural contexts, so creating shared expectations is essential in the virtual group coaching world.

These shared expectations help avoid unspoken assumptions and also create a common ground. Areas you may wish to explore in the virtual group coaching conversation space are:

  • What are the roles and responsibilities of the coach/facilitator and each group or team member?
  • What are the shared agreements around working together?
  • What are the expectations about showing up and being prepared, being active and engaged, and supporting each other?
  • What are expectations about pre-work before virtual calls in order to set the foundation for an engaging conversation?

Virtual Group Coaching Wrap-up

As you think about what you want to create in your next virtual group offering, what additions, changes or small tweaks can you make? What skills do you want to lead from?

Stay Tuned for Jen's newest book which will be released this summer, entitled "Effective Virtual Conversations". Find out more at www.effectivevirtualconversations.com or sign up here to get the latest updates and bonuses!

Contributing author: Jennifer Britton is well known for her work in the group and team coaching arenas and is passionate about helping others excel in their work with teams and groups. Jennifer is the author of Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2009) and From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching (Jossey-Bass, 2014). In addition to offering ICF approved Continuing Coach Education, she also is the creator of the Conversation Sparker Cards™. Jennifer is a Prism Award Winner for her work in developing a coaching culture within the healthcare sector, of which questions were a big part. Join Jenn for an upcoming Mentor Coaching Group for ACC/PCC.

 

If you liked this article with tips for virtual group coaching, you may also like:

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