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Some Thoughts on E-Coaching
Nancy White - 1/02

In the past year I have had the opportunity to coach -- or "e-coach" -- a number of globally distributed teams using web conferencing, email and instant messaging. For the most part we did not use the telephone. The teams bonded well and developed a sense of team, and information flowed quickly between members.

My learnings have been:

  • E-coaches need assessment processes to figure out where people are at as quickly as possible (and to track progress - this is an essential feature of coaching). This might mean a set of shared assessment tools for use across the team that could easily be deployed online.
  • Synchronous things (chat, IM) create stronger bonds (we have not done phone as this is a non profit and I'm volunteering my time so cost is an issue) than asynchronous, but are less "information" intensive, more "emotive."
  • Shared web discussion space is the main team co-learning, information and knowledge building tool.
  • Email is our link to people outside our team (passing along info, FYI).
  • Instant messenger tools are our quick help - you see someone online you can interact spontaneously. You can ask a question, "nip it in the bud" problem solving, provide support (virtual cheerleading is NOT to be underestimated) and use it as a relationship maintenance tool. It is great for knowing/feeling you are not "alone." The presence indicators alone help us feel as a team.
  • We need better shared document/resource organizing tools, particularly better attention to version control.

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