When coaching a team of remote employees, the most effective method to use is Socratic coaching. It is critical that remote employees are able to make decisions autonomously when they do not have quick access to their manager or another company resource. But that means that they need to be taught the best way to make those decisions, and reliably be able to recall what they have been taught. When we coach by telling, there is a risk of less retention of the message that was delivered during that coaching. If people come up with the ideas and solutions themselves, they will be more apt to remember them in future, as well as motivated to use them.
Socratic coaching is the method that can deliver these results. Socrates was known for winning arguments and changing people’s thoughts through asking questions. This is what the Socratic coaching method is based on. It involves asking questions rather than giving answers when coaching. It is designed to coach through self-discovery by asking open-ended questions, to help people find information, and teach a thinking process, to enable them to make better decisions in the future.
Some examples of Socratic coaching questions include:
- How will you know if you’re successful?
- How will you work with other team members on this?
- What other alternatives have you considered?
- What went well in this project? What would you have liked to change?
- What things didn’t go as well as we had anticipated? How might we avoid similar problems in the future?
- How do you think this impacted the rest of the team?
Use the questions to guide the employee to the solution or idea you would like them to reach. You can ask questions that get them to see the bigger picture and how their actions may be affecting others. You can also use questions that dig deeper into their surface comments to really get to the root of the issue. Employees are very receptive to this method of coaching. Often times, if done correctly, the employees do not even know they are being coached. It is more like a collaborative knowledge-sharing atmosphere, where they get to share their ideas and thoughts, which they are then willing to embrace with more positive results.