Should I Get a Coach?

The timing has never been better for self-reflection, professional development and a little guidance through the uncharted times still ahead.

The last eighteen months were a test for all leaders, and many pulled it off well. But as companies reset and introduce hybrid work models, few leaders have the toolkit or the skill set to manage this way. And very few realize that the expectations of their leadership have reset as well.

Through company surveys and individual assessments, we’re seeing the trends and gaps emerge from the pandemic work styles. Efficiency came through, but so did a drop in impact and alignment with culture and overall inspiration from leaders. Many leaders are surprised to see that employees aren’t as attached to their teams or as aligned to their strategies. Many got too focused on the day-to-day detail and lost some momentum and focus on connecting the bigger picture for their teams.

The shortage of talent doesn’t help because while you may not talk to every employee every day, someone does. Through LinkedIn, social media and online ads, there are constant offers and opportunities put in front of employees to entice them to look around.

A recent survey by Pew Foundation showed that while 65% of employees were happy in their roles, up to 80% said they would consider another opportunity. It’s testing the waters. And it’s all a part of the reset we’re in now and will continue to be in for months to come. Most leaders are trying to juggle all of it.

So yes, the timing has never been better to engage with a coach.

Finding the right coach is an important part of the decision to hire one. As coaching has increased by more than 20% in the last year, there is some confusion about who to hire for what. When we start an engagement, we always ask if the leader had prior experience with a coach. And when they have worked with another coach, we ask them to rate the experience. The collective response is average, and that’s disappointing. It’s a signal that the leader didn’t get what they needed or didn’t take the time to leverage the engagement. A coaching experience should be one of the most valuable tools a leader gets, and that’s why it’s important to understand what you’re asking the coach to deliver.

The term “executive coach” has become a generic one and covers a lot of coaches who do very different things.  Some executive coaches are generalists, and they combine their experience with coaching certification that gives them a process for covering a broad range of topics.  The best ones have tailored their approach and can tell you how they plan to lead you through an engagement. Many coaches are aligned to companies, and they work with teams of leaders in support of business strategy more so than individual skills.

There are coaches who support sales, marketing, technology, finance and just about any function within a company. All are leveraging their experience to help you accelerate yours.

Communication coaching is distinctly different. Working on someone’s brand and influence within a company takes more than experience. An executive coach who has had experience leading a company and galvanizing employees can’t give you that skill. They can only give you that advice. And that may be what leads to disappointing results from an engagement.

To improve communication impact, you need someone who has experience AND expertise. You need more than advice. You need skills coaching and support to develop new habits and intentional choices that change the way you approach communication. It takes true expertise to work on body, voice and connection. And it takes proven tools to help you simplify your approach.

So, choose a coach wisely and determine if you’re looking for advice or skill development. Ask about both the experience of the coach and the deeper expertise in the area that you want to improve. Once you’ve found a coach with the right expertise and chemistry for you, you can get much more than an average experience.

In the year ahead, coaching can help you:

  • Consider your brand and how well you’re gaining visibility amidst company momentum and endless opportunity.
  • Evaluate your impact as a communicator and support your adjustment to a different way of leading a hybrid team.
  • Leverage the lifespan of a project by adding a compelling storyline and key soundbites that make the direction memorable and sustainable over a period of time.
  • Lead a young team to a high-performing team with expanded responsibilities and broader scope.

This year, it will be the difference in leaders who can shift from competent communicators to compelling ones.

It’s already an unprecedented year, and the expectations of leaders will continue to reset. You should take advantage of every opportunity offered to step up and speak out. And we’d like to help you succeed at it.

Call us when you need us!

Sally Williamson & Associates

Managing a Hybrid Workforce: Resetting Offices, Employees & Expectations

We’ve reached it … the other side of work from home. And as companies begin to layout new plans, a variety of options are emerging. Some workers are already back in the office every day, some will continue in a work-from-home format, and many will shift to a blended schedule that includes time in the office and time at home.

And with all of these transitions, managers will have to reset expectations.

Here’s why.

Work from home was all over the board…for good reason. Managers pulled together WFH employees and found a way of working together that was different and effective. In many instances because there wasn’t a good alternative. Because many people weren’t in the office, they weren’t aware of how different some of the choices were among managers, across teams and from company to company. We’ve heard it all, from teams that get together every morning to groups that haven’t really met as a team for more than a year. And we’ve seen it all, from employees who got no support to set a home office environment to those equipped with the lighting and camera requirements to emulate a true office setting.

That’s why the reset will be different. While managers tried ways to keep teams connected and involved with each other, the overall takeaway is that the company culture struggles when people don’t have a place and a community that brings them together. Not every day, but most days, so that individuals don’t lose the power of teamwork. And companies know that the employee experience needs to feel consistent and connected across all teams. They also know that they can manage impressions much better in a work environment.

Impressions never really went away. We noticed when someone wasn’t really dressed for work; we noticed when someone seemed distracted, and we noticed when technology failed. We saw it all, but since we were all in it together, we tried harder to focus on what we heard vs. what we saw.

And that’s where the shift begins.

Once a few people went back, the expectations came back as well. It doesn’t really matter where you are when you talk to a manager or a customer, but how you show up for that discussion does.  And if someone has given you their attention, the expectation is that you will do the same.

Can you deliver a presentation with poor lighting? Sure, but the impact drops by more than 50% when people can’t see your face. Can you meet with a client from your bedroom? Sure, but it isn’t where they are anymore and they notice the difference. In fact, more than 80% say they’re distracted by it. And can you demonstrate product capabilities if your internet freezes? Sure, but more than 75% of viewers place some of that responsibility on you. They assume you weren’t prepared and didn’t check to be sure you could deliver the presentation well from your location.

The bottom line is that people working in offices now have a home-court advantage. The office environment makes it much easier to show up well. And when some people show up better than others, impressions can lead to assumptions that are hard to overcome.

Right now, and for the next few months, managers will have to reset expectations of what participation, intention and focus look like in different settings.

As employees adjust to blended schedules or hybrid settings, managers will need to redefine what work from home really means. Is it about a relaxed schedule and flexible hours? Is it a decrease in hours and more time to manage family and personal time? Or is it simply a different location with the same expectations as in-office expectations?

In short order, we will feel the shift from “we’ll make it work” to “why aren’t you doing what I’m doing” comparisons. Clarity on expectations will be key. If people are held accountable to the same expectations, then companies will need to provide the right tools to help employees improve their home work environment. And if you haven’t done so, it will take training to help a virtual employee think about intention and impressions in an “out of the office” setting.

Over the last year, we’ve trained thousands of people to leverage virtual tools and show up with meaningful intention. And while it was a survival tool for many, it has shifted to a differentiator in impressions of people, products and companies.

The gaps and comparisons will only continue as we begin to mix the format and experiences between office settings and virtual settings. It doesn’t have to be a handicap; it can be a great choice as long as it comes with guidelines and expectations. We can help you do it as you focus not just on where people will work but how they drive influence and impact in any setting.

Want some help defining expectations and managing a hybrid workforce? Schedule a call with us and we’ll share our insights and tools to help you reset your team.

Sally Williamson & Associates

Key Learnings from Virtual Meetings

It seemed like an easy concept. With the mounting concerns around COVID-19, the order to “work from home,” took hold without a lot of debate or exception. But I’m told by many clients that the shift to 100% virtual wasn’t easy. It was more a herculean task as companies moved everything from call centers to billing departments into a make-shift home office. It was a frenzied pace and transition, and then all of a sudden, we were home… working.

For some employees, it’s been easier than they thought. For others, it’s been harder than they expected. And for everyone, there have been surprises and key learnings.

First, the surprises. Whether you work virtually every day, occasionally or not at all, the experience hasn’t been quite what anyone expected. Prior to COVID-19, leaders often asked us for help in managing a virtual workforce. And our advice has always been: “Turn the video on. It’s a much better meeting if you have a visual connection with an employee or a team.”

I felt heard on that point after seeing the significant increase in Zoom, BlueJeans, and Teams Meeting invites on calendars. Everyone is on video meetings. And, they’re exhausted by it. How can that be?  Because the video adds a requirement that we misunderstood. Historically, “work from home” meant I can manage a personal schedule on top of a work one. And that interpretation means everything from not dressing up today, to making lunch over sales reviews, managing errands or home repairs, etc. Until now, virtual working has been a multi-tasking opportunity.

It doesn’t mean people weren’t paying attention on conference calls, but they were rarely in front of a computer screen. So, they weren’t participating in the same way that we’re asking employees to participate now. And that realization has also highlighted some challenges in managing a virtual meeting.

Here are some thoughts on improving the virtual video experience.


The Zoom screen full of faces isn’t the same as the room full of bodies. If you didn’t realize it before, you now know how much we rely on body language to get a group’s attention or to speak up in meetings. It isn’t as easy in a virtual format. So, the meeting lead needs to set ground rules for how to participate. There are tools within most platforms to raise hands, wave and forward questions. But you have to know how to use them and establish that you are using them in order for them to be effective. There aren’t universal rules. So, set your own and call them out at the start of every meeting.


We’re also learning how to manage interruptions from dogs barking to kids who need something. The responsibility for managing this lies on the participant more than the meeting lead. Participants should be alert to sound quality, noises in a house, etc. We are overloading all internet systems, and most virtual meetings have at least one person with technical difficulty. Have a plan for managing this. Respond quickly to an interruption on your end. It’s OK to have interruptions right now; it’s not so good to ignore them or to be slow in response to them.

During this time, meeting leads need to be lenient. Be aware of who is more challenged working from home. Some people are balancing a lot more than others. Once we reset and define new boundaries, you can reset expectations. For now, try to help individuals manage interruptions so that everyone gets value out of a virtual meeting.


In a virtual setting, we often say someone needs to participate in order to listen well. As a meeting lead, you should encourage and manage participation differently. In our remote meetings workshop, we coach facilitation tools to help someone manage a virtual group of people. One simple tool is to draw a picture to replicate a meeting setting. Then add names of people so that you have a snapshot of who is in your meeting. Keep track of participation and discussion with a tally beside each name so that you can “see” involvement and call on people who haven’t had an opportunity to speak up.


If you’re running long meetings or back to back meetings, remember the surprise that most people have about working virtually. People weren’t sitting in front of a screen for a virtual meeting, and now we’re asking them to do that. Virtual participants were taking breaks during those calls; we just didn’t realize it. So, make breaks a part of a video meeting. There should be breaks in meetings that run more than 1.5 hours. And if you acknowledge this in your ground rules, you’re less likely to see people leave the meeting or turn off their video.


The “work from home” format also takes the social time out of the workday. Many companies are creating social time. Team leads are being encouraged to host “happy hours, game nights, workout challenges, etc.” Every culture is different, but it’s a nice way to help employees connect with each other without a tight agenda. Keep it light, keep it optional and see if your team values it.


No matter when we shift to a “new normal,” we’ve learned a bit about working virtually. And I stand by my advice on the video format. It’s the best way to work because it sets expectations very similar to being in an office. It isn’t a punitive step for a virtual employee; it’s just a better way to work as a team because it improves listening and increases participation.

I expect we will redefine virtual working and reset expectations. Today, working virtually has become the catch phrase for a day an employee needs to be somewhere else and hopes to multi-task between personal and work activities. That’s different than someone who is working in a different location. If virtual working stays front and center, I suspect we will define it more clearly.

In the meantime, it’s smart to sharpen your skills as a virtual communicator. And if your team would like help setting new ground rules and leveraging a different skill set, we can help you do so.

Stay healthy and call us when you need us.

Sally Williamson