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You have a niggling thought that you should be doing more to trust your team, as due to COVID 19, they are dispersed now and working from their own homes.

You don’t like this, but the truth is, you are anxious about productivity. Are they doing enough? What is reasonable to expect? When will this end? (probably not sometime soon). You are under increasing pressure from your boss too.

“I can’t see you!”

Before Coronavirus, it felt a lot more easy when you could see how your team were working. You could see this with your own eyes, and step in when someone needed a bit of help or a word of encouragement. Management (or was it sometimes micromanagement?) was a lot more easy to deliver and a lot more easy to understand.

What can you do now?

For me, there is some good news here. Directive, command and control management is dead in the water. A move to a more facilitative style of leadership is needed. Open questions, when coming from a position of trust and rapport, can open the door to the conversations needed.

Take a look at these two lists of questions here.

They are exaggerated to make the point – face to face, where there can be a tendency to be directive, and virtual, where there is a need to be facilitative.

In your experience, which style of questions help you in your new world of leading your virtual team the most?

Before Coronavirus – Face to Face – Directive Style

  • How’s it going?
  • Can you update me quickly on that?
  • Let me know if you need any help… I have five minutes before my next meeting…
  • When will the report be ready?
  • How far have you got?
  • What do the initial results say?
  • Can you show me what you’ve done already?
  • I can see you are working long hours. Is there anything I can do to help?
  • I can see you are working closely with your colleagues, that’s really great!
  • Have you thought of speaking to Jo(e), who works in accounts. S/he knows a lot about this
  • Let’s sit down and discuss it together
  • There’s some feedback I need to give you, do you have a few minutes to talk now?
  • I can see you have a lot on, shall we go out and have a coffee to discuss your priorities?
  • Let’s book a room to discuss your career progression and options.

Today – virtual working – facilitative style

  • What do you need from me to be successful working from home?
  • How can I best help you with organising, chunking and prioritising your work?
  • What feedback would you like from me?
  • What’s most helpful for format and frequency?
  • How can we stay in touch informally, as well as our more formal 1:1s and meetings?
  • How might you feel more supported and less alone doing this work?
  • What could enhance your morale or motivation here?
  • What are your thoughts on how to keep me up to date with your progress?
  • What’s the best way to involve me when you have a problem?
  • What can we each do to grow your skills and help your productivity at this time?
  • How can we share and celebrate small wins together?
  • How can I meaningfully appreciate your efforts at this challenging time?
  • It’s tough: how do you know I care for your wellbeing?

If you would like some help in making the shift to a more facilitative style, where you can get the unsaid said, and productivity, relationship and trust restored or even increased, get in touch.

Be ready for some improvements though. Open, more courageous questions frequently lead to greater creativity, better solutions and commitment to results too.

Gill How loves to help leaders, managers and professionals stretch and grow. She is a Master Executive Coach and Innovative Leadership Developer currently working virtually in the UK and internationally. Please contact her for an exploratory conversation if you think she can help you succeed with your remote team working effectiveness and COVID secure goals.

“I had great pleasure participating in a wonderfully insightful Strengths Skills workshop run by Gill for Women in Rail Malaysia this month. I found the exercises really eye opening and now have a good understanding of how I should leverage my strengths over my weaknesses. My takeaway – we are not all born with the same set of strengths, and so we need to work with the ones we have and stretch them to be most successful in life. The workshop was practical, interactive and engaging. Thank you so much Gill!”

Tanzina Rahman, Change Management Professional, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Photo credit: Karolina Grabowska

Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results


  • Monika says:

    Brilliant perspective on questioning!

    • Gill How says:

      Thank you Monika! Open questions are such a strong component of effective coaching and so useful in facilitation too. There can be a real skill in crafting them I find!

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