So, what are the problems with distant leaders/coaches?
The distant coach has two problems. First, coaching from afar doesn’t allow the leader to form his or her own perceptions about the employee. The data the coach uses to coach is all second hand—either coming from the employee or from those who work with or around the employee. The problems with this are legion and obvious. The distant leader plays more the role of detective, trying to discover what happened or what isn’t happening. This creates a chasm between the leader and the employee. In this scenario, the leader is not an ally with the employee, but a hunter who is gathering information to show the employee where he or she has gone wrong.
The second problem of a distance coach is trust. Trust is also gained through proximity. The closer we move toward each other, the more trust is needed to maintain the relationship. Coaching requires trust because the employee must open himself/herself to the leader in order to receive the insights that will help him/her grow. In return, the leader must earn trust if he or she expects the employee to remain pliable. If a leader, therefore, never watches an employee “in action” it sends a message about that employee’s value. Employees who never experience their leader’s presence are less likely to appreciate that leaders coaching. It’s that simple.
So what can a leader do to create proximity that is sustainable?