Thursday 2 August 2012

Virtual Team Coaching in Action

This is a case study of team coaching in a 'virtual team' environment - where the coach and the team members are scattered around the globe and all calling in to a teleconference line.

Some new skills are needed to work effectively in 'virtual teams.' We need to learn to work with people we never get to meet in the same room, build good relationships with them, and get the job done even though we are linked by little more than email, the internet and some form of phone or video connection.

In addition to entirely new skills, working effectively in teams via Skype, teleconferences and the virtual online world challenges us to get better at some fundamental task and relationship skills needed for all work - ramped up a few notches for the sometimes unforgiving nature of long distance communication.

Virtual Team Skills can be learned

I’ve been struck by the contribution to meeting these needs offered by the Organisation and Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) approach pioneered by CRR Global, Inc. (Disclaimer: as a consequence of this, I am the southern African partner for CRR Global in taking the work to South Africa in 2012)

To get a better feel for the ORSC approach, I asked one of the top CRR Global faculty members, Lori Shook, to conduct a brief demo team coaching session for a global virtual team that I chair as part of my volunteer work in the Mankind Project, an international men’s development organisation operating in eight regions around the world including Europe, Africa, Australasia and North America. With the permission of the team, we are publishing the recording of a demo session held in 2012 via teleconference spanning the UK, Belgium, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
Most of the team members have never met each other “in the flesh” and are drawn together as volunteers to coordinate multicultural and diversity awareness and action in the organisation.

I invite you to listen to the demo coaching session, notice what Lori does to get into meaningful conversation with a team she had never met prior to the beginning of this call. Notice how she uses tools like
  • High dreams and low dreams for the team
  • Sharing our assessments of how the team is doing
  • Exploring the team learning edges  around change
  • Getting team members to explore their roles on the team and what works/what doesn’t work
  • Shared design of how we want the team to be.

Listen to the demo

Please click the "play" arrow above to listen online. Alternatively, Download podcast here or get it on iTunes

If you are a coach or consultant, you may also notice some of the ways Lori forged a connection across this tenuous phone link spanning three continents, with people she had never met before:
  • Mirroring back what she heard
  • Reading the emotional field
  • Education around some of the Relationship Systems Intelligence competencies - in this case the "voice of the system"

The team's feedback on their experience was positive and is included in the recording. In the team's next regular monthly Skype meeting after the coaching session, members commented that the impact of the team coaching sessions was to:
  • Open up different perspectives on what we need for success
  • Make clearer the different skill sets and visions contained in the team
  • Raise the sense of care for each other (by spending time focusing on our team rather than directly on tasks and outcomes)
  • Identify a surprising level of risk aversion in the team, and willingness to change this
  • Encourage us to go further in recognising and celebrating our not inconsiderable achievements.

Inviting your feedback

What is the impact of the coaching session recording on you? If you're a coach - what did you think of the way Lori tackled this session? She was "parachuting in" in the sense that she had just 15 minutes of briefing from me and had never met the team before - and did the entire session including briefing by phone. If you're involved as a leader or member of a virtual team - what struck you about the way this team operates and the impact of a team coach?


  1. nolitha Tsengiwe8 August 2012 at 09:45

    Lori used powerful questions to elicit heartfelt responses. i also enjoyed her lightness in the role of holding and directing the conversation.

    Issues raised sound familiar, common in most teams. A follow on conversation could to explore what support do team members need to cross the identified edges.

  2. Aviva Baran-Rothschild8 August 2012 at 15:52

    I liked her open and curious yet focussed q's,her calm approach to a potentially anxiety-provoking call and her ability to leave a silence for the right amount of time and then gently checking in-Is there more you want to say? She elegantly facilitated everyone to open up, be vulnerable, share deeper fears and build enhanced connectedness at the same time. She created a contained space and was acknowledging and respectful-Good work there!
    I also noticed that the pace was quite slow and the tone/energy of the team a little flat-until Lori had gone-and then it picked up and there was more laughter...I'm due to attend the ORSC training this month, so will learn more about the tools n techniques soon!


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