By |Published On: March 20th, 2020|Categories: Evidence Based Coaching|

EBC Blog:  Coaching Managers to Lead Virtual Teams and Remote Employees during the COVID-19 Crisis


Guest Blogger: Shari Bowles Gibbons, MBA, MCEC, ACC, Managing Partner at Anderson Lane & Associates,

“Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night” – Betty Davis, All About Eve

The COVID-19 pandemic’s short-term and long-term impact on our lives, businesses, and global economy has yet to completely reveal itself. What we do know, is that everyone’s work lives have immediately been impacted, with a good percentage of them suddenly working remotely from home.

Under the best of circumstances, working remotely isn’t for everyone. It can be isolating and distracting for some people while massively productive for others. As coaches, it is important for us to recognize that supporting our clients during this dynamic period will require a deep level of situational analysis and tailored solutions vs. a one-size-fits-all approach.

The COVID-19 global pandemic is an extreme situation that will reveal all the cracks in the foundational armor of every organization. This includes processes, leadership challenges, and strategic issues. This situation will exacerbate the effects of any weak links in organizational integrity: enhance any misalignment between organizational principles and values, compound lack of vision clarity, and it will ultimately reveal every gap in operational and systems continuity.


By itself, a sudden transition to a remote workforce can stressful and negatively impact the organization’s productivity. This is only enhanced with the heightened levels of stress and anxiety created by the global pandemic.

The number one issue to help your clients address is the degree of psychological safety felt by each member of the organization. From the CEO to entry-level employees, everyone will have a differing degree of fear and stress. As coaches and leaders, it is our job to help generate a strong sense of purpose, direction, and certainty that will help stabilize this fear and anxiety as everyone begins to define the path forward and develop the faith that we will overcome the hurdles in front of us.


Above all, a crisis driven transition to a remote workforce demands transparency and trust. If the organization or a leader struggles with these two factors on a regular day, this will quickly become a crippling issue with a remote workforce. If it isn’t an issue, the second most important action item is to make sure Transparency and Trust are maintained or enhanced during this difficult and dynamic period.

Leaders can achieve this by sharing openly about the new challenges facing the company, sharing what they do and do not know, and sharing what the leadership is doing about it. This means communicating clearly and often – daily and weekly whether in quick virtual huddles and/or written communiques. This also means maintaining trust by checking in with individuals on a human level to see how they are doing, asking employees what they are worried about, and asking about their personal struggles.


One of the key common factors driving employee engagement and high-performance teams is how much employees feel like they are involved in the goal setting process. We see time and time again that involving employees in this process is a key challenge for most companies. In fact, a current and ongoing study from Mercer, which measures organizations’ responses to COVID-19, indicates the following:

  • 72% of companies have implemented some form of business continuity plan

Yet only

  • 50% of companies are addressing employee’s “psychological stress” needs

And even more perplexing is that

  • only 8% of those same companies have used a formal survey to first understand the specific challenges employees are facing

How do we know we are addressing the right needs if we don’t ask the people on the front line for input? 

The short answer is that we don’t without a formal survey. We need to get specific information from teams to ensure that we know we are fixing the right problems, especially in an environment where stress has increased in all facets of people’s lives and is inevitably undermining performance.

My favorite tool that measures these four critical components of psychological safety, high performance team and leadership behaviors and employee engagement is the High-Performance Index (HPI) by Supporting Lines ( This tool provides leaders with deeper, critical insights whether it be during crisis situations or regular day-to-day management.


In this new remote environment, Leaders must be laser focused on monitoring leading performance indicators so they can stay ahead of emerging productivity issues.

The HPI tool mentioned above also provides a rapid and comprehensive diagnostic relative to where teams are struggling with the three key areas that lead to team productivity (team alignment and collaboration) and one of the key factors driving engagement (personal development).

Monitoring is critical in this environment to ensure limited resources are focused on the right problems.

Executive Coaches can play a vital role in supporting our clients through the uncertainty and rapidly evolving landscape of remote team management in the age of COVID-19.


Evidence Based Coaching (EBC) Professional Series Webinar:  Coaching Managers to Lead Virtual Teams and Remote Employees

Was held on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 – Here is the link to the YouTube Webinar Recording:

To reduce risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, more organizations are now requiring employees to work from home to practice social distancing.  During this informative EBC Professional Series Webinar hear from Fielding scholar-practitioners who have coached and trained managers who lead virtual teams and remote employees.  Learn about tools, processes, and best practices to maintain team morale and productivity when working from home. See how coaching can support leaders in making the transition from on-site to virtual team management.

Host:  Terry H. Hildebrandt, PhD, MCC, MCECDirector of Evidence Based Coaching, Fielding Graduate University


Here is the link to the YouTube Webinar Recording:

For more on Fielding’s EBC Coach Training Program, see

#coach #ebc #fielding #coachtraining #coaching #evidencebasedcoaching

About the Author: Terry Hildebrandt

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