Coaching from a distance

remote employee = woman on phone getting coaching

Many excellent managers found their leadership skills challenged when they were forced to adapt their managerial style to remote operations. Normally you’re used to being able to walk over to Sue’s desk and ask her a question or convene an impromptu lunch meeting to solve a problem. So now what do you do when everyone is working in different places? It’s a new environment for all of us!

Over the last few weeks, we’ve offered several posts with tips for working remotely, covering topics such as tech tools and productivity to managing teams and virtual insurance sales. Today, I want to share tips on one of a leader’s most important roles: Coaching.

I recently read a great article on the topic in Harvard Business Review. Sabina Nawaz talks about the challenge of remote coaching in her article, How Managers Can Support Remote Employees. She says many employees find the distancing from their managers very frustrating, but notes they aren’t alone:

“But managers are finding themselves struggling, too. For every employee who is trying to reach their manager, a manager is attempting to connect with half a dozen or more direct reports, plus trying to get direction from their own boss. In a poll of my coaching clients last week about their biggest challenges, their key themes were about how to stay connected with each team member, help manage their own and others’ stress, maintain team morale and motivation, run engaged meetings, track and communicate progress, and help their team shed nonessential work.”

Her article offers several suggestions for establishing new routines, increasing the frequency of communications, setting “office hours” where you are available for brief 10-minute consults, and the importance of feedback and recognition. It’s worth a read.

Coaching tips for insurance agents

I’ve been talking with our agents and our own workforce about the challenges they face in managing a distributed staff. From these discussions, I’ve compiled additional coaching tips you might find helpful.

  • Realize every team member is going to handle this challenge of working remotely differently. Some team members such as sales staff who are accustomed to being on the road might adapt easily.  Other staff will miss the structure and support that the office routine provides.
  • Schedule time individually to check in with each team member. See how they’re doing and what additional support they may need. Provide times and ways they can reach you if they run into problems or need help.
  • Use video to connect when you can.  Zoom or even Facetime works well for individual calls. For more impromptu connections and quick interactions, messaging technology such as Slack and Microsoft Teams are great.
  • Be as flexible as you can during meetings. Some staff will be trying to work while having to deal with young kids now at home. Others are worried about a sick loved one. Still others may be having mental health challenges.
  • Focus on meeting your goals and expectations, but let people be flexible in how they get there, if possible. Obviously, if their key responsibility is taking client calls, they need to be available during regular office hours. But if not, give some latitude on when they get their job done.
  • Recognize achievements and show appreciation for good work in challenging circumstances!

Do you have other coaching or managerial ideas on things that have worked really for your agency in this remote environment? We want to hear about them! Shoot them over to me at Have questions on how to implement some of these ideas within your agency? We’d love to talk with you further and support you during this time. Be well.


Leanne Ross, CIC, Senior Vice President, Agency Recruitment, Renaissance Alliance.
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