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Five Positive Experiences Coaching Leaders—Virtually

25 February 2021

Blog submitted by John Russell, I/O Psychologist


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This past year I’ve had to shift how I provide leadership coaching with our multi-rater feedback tool, the Psychometrics 360. Changing how I deliver feedback sessions with leaders has led to some unexpected benefits. 



I have noticed an increase in the level of engagement concerning leadership development. Previously, I would schedule feedback sessions well in advance and travel to the client’s locationspending one or multiple daysitting in a boardroom and have leaders coming through in a revolving door fashion. Often leaders would be dealing with day-to-day issues and not be completely engaged in the process. As a result, I found clients were unable to focus properly and explore their leadership behavior. In my virtual sessions leaders have been more present. 


Safe Environment 

Next, I saw a direct benefit from the shift in my client’s environment. Now I am working with leaders who are in their own homes, in a comfortable space such as a home office, a living room couch, or even out on the backyard deck. Being able to receive sensitive feedback from peers in a safe environment allowed us to build rapport quicker, create a trusting atmosphere, and approach the process with more vulnerability. There is a feeling of psychological safety when we are in our own homes and not in a formal environment such as a boardroom. Since 360 assessments are often exploring uncomfortable areas of performance and behavior, the change in environment has increased the feeling of psychological safety. 


Time to Reflect 

It has been a stressful time for all of us, and leaders have recognized that the stresses of this year require them to be even better. I’ve had more leaders reach out looking for 360 coaching and actively seeking out feedback than in previous years. Exceptional leaders I have worked with have allowed themselves the opportunity to slow down a little and to pause and reflect on their leadership behavior and evaluate potential ways of increasing their effectiveness. 



We have flexibility with scheduling now. I no longer have to plan weeks or months in advance, and my leadership clients don’t either. We can ensure that we find the appropriate time, and foster the self-reflective mindset needed to explore leaders’ behaviors and the impact being felt by the people they work with. This flexibility also allows me to tailor each 360 session to the individual leader, whether more time is needed to explore the various aspects of their leadership, or more frequent follow-ups are required. 


Expanding Leadership Feedback 

Cutting out travel time and expenses has allowed client organizations to introduce leadership development initiatives more broadly than before, not simply focusing on executive leaders. The opportunity for front-line and early career leaders to receive 360 feedback sets them up for greater success down the line familiarizing them with feedback-seeking behavior, a valuable leadership competency for the future. 


Moving Forward

The increases in engagement, psychological safety, personal reflection, and flexibility are terrific benefits that I have noticed in the shift to virtual coaching. My recommendation? Don’t let the inability to meet with your clients face-to-face get in the way of continuing your work. They need it more than ever. 

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