The current global crisis is allowing us to see that technology is an excellent support tool, a means to an end rather than the end itself.
Since it is now impossible to coach clients in person, the only solution is to continue to support clients by using technology to engage in coaching.
The use of technology solutions to engage in coaching has been adopted by many coaches over the past decade to augment their face to face coaching relationships, from the telephone to video conferencing software.
We recognise that the optimal approach for coaching is to be physically present with the client, however, when this is not possible it is critical to find a solution that will allow you to continue to be able to support your clients. Continuing to engage in coaching may be an important mitigating factor for them as they deal with said disruption. It will act as an anchor and probably enable them to be sufficiently prepared to take advantages of the opportunities that will present themselves when the disruption has ended and a sense of normalcy returns.
We believe the coaching profession is in an advantageous position to offer support to people and businesses during this crisis and to help them keep focused on the future and to prepare for it.
The purpose of this blog is to provide you with some advice, tips and best practices for using technology as a means of continuing to coach.
In 2020, it would be near impossible to encounter a client who has not used some form of video conferencing/virtual technology that allows him/her to connect with others in personal or business life. Therefore, moving to using a technology solution will not be an alien proposition to clients.
If you have not engaged in virtual or remote coaching sessions, this will stretch you a bit, so be prepared for that. The biggest change will be the visual input that you may not be used to.
Considerations for Transitioning to Virtual Coaching
Our suggestions on what you need to consider as you make the move to coaching virtually are:
Choosing the Technology
Use a simple technology platform that you’re comfortable with and which your clients are familiar with as well.
You can check in with your clients to find out what technology they have used and are most comfortable with.
Where possible the technology solution should allow you to not only use a camera, it should also have features that will allow you to draw and share your screen should you want to show the client something. Maybe even permit split screens.
Examples of software include and are not limited to:
- Any webinar platform you may currently be using
Housekeeping – Preparing for each coaching session
- Having a robust broadband connection is essential
- Use a computer or laptop
- Ensure your microphone is working – test before
- Ensure the camera is working
- Use a headset – both you and the client
- Privacy – both you and the client should be in a private room with the door closed
- Leave the lights on (both you and client) if session is in the evening and it will get dark before the session ends. There’s nothing like talking into the dark
The Client Experience
In a virtual or remote session, many things will be different which means you will have to be more alert. For example, the pace will be different as will cues, especially if using a telephone.
However, the most important thing to remember is that you are still a coach and that it is the client’s agenda and you’re there to support and serve them. All the techniques, skills and competencies that you draw on when engaging in face to face in person coaching still apply.
As a reminder these include
- Setting up the process for
coaching session – ensure you discuss the client’s reactions and responses to
being coached virtually; allow them to share any fears they may have in moving
to an online approach for coaching.
- Consider designing the general process and structure for the sessions with your client.
- Consistency in how you manage the process will be important across each of the virtual sessions
- Building and maintaining the relationship and connection with the client
- Communication – listening,
questioning, non-verbal cues in a virtual environment, silence, pauses, pace
- Clarity will be key in this environment
- Building trust with the client is of course imperative
- Your presence – be aware of how
this may change in the virtual space. It has been shown that in a virtual space
things get magnified, therefore you need to be aware of how you are showing up
and how it is being received by your client.
- Hence, be aware of your eye contact, posture, facial expressions, etc. Your client needs to know they are still in a safe space
Challenges of virtual coaching –
You will face challenges when undertaking virtual coaching, and it is important to be aware of them and prepare for how you will mitigate and manage them. A few of the challenges you may encounter are
- Distractions – consider what may distract either you or the client during virtual coaching. For example, not being able to see beyond the image in the screen, and therefore wondering what could be happening beyond it. Discussing this with your client will be helpful.
- Making connections with clients will be a little more difficult because of the lack of visual cues
- Communication – Use of language will change as you will need to use more descriptive language, for example, metaphors, analogies, storytelling
- Silence may be challenging, and you will need to consider adapting the pace of the session to deal with this
Remember, it is only through practice that you will become comfortable and increase your confidence in this environment. Therefore, the best approach is simply to get started.
If you are a coach who has been using technology to augment your in person coaching, please do share any advice or best practices that you believe would support your peers.