One of the things many leaders feel we don’t do as well as we could is coach our people. Whether our team is co-located or scattered to the winds, it’s hard to find the time to coach effectively. When we do, it’s almost always focused on improving weak performance. That means we spend most of our limited time coaching the lowest-performers. But what about the rest of them? Don’t our stars need attention as well?

Coaching isn’t performance management

When we have remote team members, people are literally out of sight and thus out of mind unless something catches and demands our attention. If we’re honest, those things are usually bad news; someone is performing below expectations, or is in imminent danger of failing at a task. It makes sense we put some effort into that situation.

But this confuses coaching and performance management. Coaching is both addressing problems and reinforcing positive behavior. It is the belief that every member of your team is capable of great things, and that they all want to get better, even if it’s incremental improvement.

By focusing your coaching on your least successful, you not only spend a lot of time on efforts that will likely require constant monitoring and prodding, but you alienate your team members who want some of your attention and assistance. In your mind, you are not “bothering them” or being a distraction. To their way of thinking, you might be paying too much attention to some people and not enough to the rest. They need your attention too.

Here are some truths about coaching we need to consider:

Coaching is for both performance and development. 

When you focus on performance, you and your team member are focused on tasks right now, and not the big picture. People stay and are better engaged with jobs where they see personal growth and development.

Coaching does not mean giving inspiring speeches, it’s a conversation.

We’ve seen too many sports movies where the coach has to give an eloquent speech to help people meet their potential. Real coaching is a conversation, with give and take that focuses as much on the person’s attitude as their current abilities.

Coaching is a way of giving concentrated one-on-one attention.

When people see someone else get a majority of the manager’s time, they can feel slighted.  By engaging in scheduled coaching sessions, you’re giving the other person a  full share of your attention, and the subject is them, not you. This doesn’t happen nearly enough.

Coaching does not mean you have all the answers.

One of the reasons people don’t coach as often, or well, as we should is that we don’t feel we’re up to the task. The coach doesn’t have to be an expert in everything. In fact, as we know from sports, the best coaches often weren’t great individual stars themselves. But being able to ask the right questions, offer feedback from their perspective, and help identify resources is a huge part of the job.

Your best people need to know they matter to you. They want to see a future for themselves, and they want recognition for what they do, rather than be ignored just because someone needs you more. You need to coach your stars as well.

Find out more about our approach to leadership coaching and if it might be the right solution for you.


Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammateoffers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.

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Wayne Turmel has been writing about how to develop communication and leadership skills for almost 26 years. He has taught and consulted at Fortune 500 companies and startups around the world. For the last 18 years, he’s focused on the growing need to communicate effectively in remote and virtual environments.

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