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Virtual Team Coaching



  • a team of 12 technology leaders in a significant UK PLC with a relatively new CIO
  • reporting directly to the CIO and their divisional managing directors
  • the organisation has grown through acquisition and the commercial/operating divisions are still very autonomous but do often support and supply to each other


  • to work as a high-performing team
  • to stay agile and delivery-focused
  • to develop their leadership capability, particularly around change leadership
  • to shift the culture in technology from a relatively siloed culture to a united, one-company culture
  • to meet the needs of specific divisions without increasing corporate overhead or being constrained to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ technology solution
  • to harness the adaptability and significant performance the teams have shown


  • sales plummeted overnight
  • 80% of workforce furloughed immediately
  • during lockdown the technology division were very effective whilst working remotely
  • this has meant 20% of the workforce have worked incredibly hard
  • the other 80% are uninvolved and feeling somewhat excluded
  • as business has picked up sooner than anticipated, they are bringing people back off furlough


  • a network/mesh of strong 1:1 and small group to small group relationships
  • the strength of the team overall is limited by the weakest of these relationships
  • a really clear shared purpose and ambition to which all members are fully committed
  • individual purposes and goals are deeply understood and respected by all
  • members see both shared and individual goals as complementary rather than conflictual and they support each other in both
  • a bedrock of trust which the team invests in – and works towards addressing any issues as fully and as quickly as possible, which increases an essential ingredient of team work: psychological safety
  • every member of the team takes full responsibility for the team dynamic – not leaving it to the team lead or blaming it on others
  • every person sees themselves as having the ability to respond when things are not working particularly, in calling unhelpful behaviour compassionately
  • clear, simple, straightforward, mutually understood mechanisms that the team uses for such aspects as communication, decision-making, problem-solving, goal-setting, conflict resolution etc
  • shared values/principles and an understanding of mindsets and attitudes that would support them
  • the team actively invests significant time in relationships – gaining mutual understanding; getting to know each others’ strengths and supporting each other in their vulnerabilities; having difficult conversations when they need to but, even more importantly, catching each other doing things right; representing each other fully both with the rest of the team but also with all of the other interfaces


  • the bigger a group, the more ‘childlike’ it becomes
  • increased likelihood of people feeling excluded, of confusion in communication, of fantasies about who is valued and who is not, of a ‘parent-child’ or ‘persecutor/rescuer/victim’ dynamic being established
  • the bigger the group, the more one needs to be clearer, crisper, bite-sized in giving requests and instructions, giving more attention to fairness and equal voice
  • every group of people has a likelihood of having fantasies of who is in an inner circle, and who is out of that circle; members unconsciously look out for evidence to support their own view of where they sit in that context
  • the bigger the group, there maybe more unspoken issues, increased deference to authority as it is perceived (which might be hierarchical, but it also might be based on perceived expertise, influence or the fear of retribution) and lack of trust


  • a combination of big group work, constantly mixing small group work and individual consultation
  • regular check-ins and outs
  • many opportunities for individuals to relate to each other both in pairs and in small groups
  • a straightforward structure to their work (so that they can use it again and again as they want) which often includes:
  1. contracting with both the group and the individuals and a setting of both group and individual development goals from the work
  2. a systemic reminder of their history and an honouring of the past
  3. an opportunity to share current challenges at an impact level to increase mutual understanding
  4. a ‘radar’ type look at the longer term future which raises their contextual awareness
  5. a build up from personal to group deep purpose
  6. building a shared ambition which contains tangible outcomes/results and the more intangible outcomes such as reputation, stories, how people experience the team
  7. creating a roadmap as to how, practically, the team will work towards achieving that ambition
  8. a team ‘charter’ where the team agrees their shared principles and boundaries and the mechanisms by which they will communicate, make decisions, solve problems and issues, call unhelpful behaviour, support each other, share learning and celebrate achievements
  9. investment in understanding the nature of trust and actively building trust both as part of all of the other work and explicitly in conversations and exercises
  10. working out how they maintain their commitments moving forward including how they continue to learn with each other using such aspects as co-coaching, action-learning and self-and-peer development and how they bring new people into their team
  • focused work on the particular developmental issues the team wants to work on, with particular focus on their leadership both individually and as a team. This work depends upon the team needs but might include such aspects as:
  1. holding difficult conversations and giving helpful feedback
  2. leading change (including understanding and harnessing resistance, and leading through uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity)
  3. building emotional intelligence (particularly self-awareness, really listening and empathy)
  4. coaching
  5. handling the natural tensions required to lead a complex organisation
  6. growing the culture of their organisations including influencing the needed behaviours across the organisation


First team session (2 hours – with a 10 minute break)
  • setting a contract between the coach and the team
  • clarifying what they would all really like to achieve out of the work
A series of 1:1 sessions (30-45 minutes)
  • understanding individual goals
  • discussing individual challenges and needs
Second team session (2 hours – with a 10 minute break)
  • focus on their development process
  • listening skills and emotional intelligence
  • priority was to connect in with the people coming back from furlough
Third team session (2 hours – with a 10 minute break)
  • focus on individual purposes as leaders
  • ‘world café’ type format, mixing groups
  • creating a powerful shared purpose for the team
  • sharing current challenges
Fourth team session (2 hours – with a 10 minute break)
  • move their purpose to a clear ambition
  • roadmap and framing for team charter
A series of 1:1 check-ins (30-45 minutes)
  • understanding how individuals are progressing
  • which individual needs are/are not being met
Fifth team session (2 hours – with a 10 minute break)
  • understand the culture the team wants to create
  • what kinds of behaviours are needed
  • a commitment to role model these behaviours
  • a commitment to keep learning together
Sixth team session (2 hours – with a 10 minute break)
  • pull everything together
  • determine how the team will move forward
  • commit to these actions
  • virtual team coaching works if everyone commits to it
  • it is better value for the client
  • it is significantly more flexible than a 2-day face-to-face intervention
  • it requires thoughtful preparation to ensure value from the start
  • this involves the participants preparing before sessions
  • use different means of ensuring quotes, for example, are seen in advance of gathering in a virtual meeting room
  • time is much tighter – build in extra time by doing less and giving space for pair review before the finish, whilst being respectful of end times and allowing for proper breaks
  • use google docs for simple shared flipcharts so the whole team can see what breakout groups are working on
  • prepare ‘table’ facilitators beforehand so they understand what the aims are and can act as check-in points for the coach (who wonders from virtual room to virtual room)
  • build individual check-in time into sessions by using multiple breakout spaces to make sure any bubbling issues are surfaced
  • don’t forget the fun – there are lots of examples of little fun activities and energisers that can be built in to the process


Jeremy Keeley is an Aziz Executive Coach and Top Team Specialist


Virtual Team Coaching; remote working for a less remote workforce

How will we move on

About Aziz Corporate

Aziz was founded over 40 years ago by Khalid Aziz, a media pioneer of his day who at 21 became the youngest ever appointed BBC producer.

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