Virtual CoachingThe power of coaching, delivered flexibly
What is Virtual Coaching?
Virtual Coaching is simply where the coach and the client meet and work together remotely. Many believe that it’s the future of coaching. Whether it’s Telephone Coaching or Video Coaching, it’s increasingly seen as an excellent alternative to face to face coaching for a number of reasons which we discuss below.
Virtual coaching requires different skills and it may not be for everyone. Clients often like a blend of face to face and virtual. In today’s frenetic but interconnected world, this type of coaching is growing in popularity.
Dr Steve Dalton
Vice President Research & Development, Sealed Air
What’s so great about virtual coaching?
It works and research shows why!
Recent research from Yale University supports the effectiveness of telephone coaching. It found that when visual cues are removed, leaving only listening available, people are more accurately able to correctly interpret the feelings of others through the nuances of voice. Other research found that averting one’s gaze helps cognitive processing. Virtual coaching, especially telephone coaching, removes the requirement to retain eye contact and therefore, according to the research, will improve thinking and reflection.
Improved matching criteria
For many organisations, face to face coaching means that the geography of the coach and coachee is a factor in matching. Long distances mean more time and more expense. However, geography plays no part at all in what makes a successful match so it can be a limiting factor. Virtual coaching removes geography and enables matching to be made only on relevant criteria, making success more likely.
It’s accessible and flexible
The beauty of virtual coaching is its accessibility. You don’t need to be in the office or travel to a meeting. The coaching can fit far more easily into your work schedule and can often survive last minute changes to schedules. This also means that cancellation fees for postponements can be avoided. The removal of travel time also makes virtual coaching more time efficient.
Trust and rapport
Most people agree that trust and rapport are central to a successful coaching relationship. Virtual coaching enables powerful and strong levels of trust and rapport to develop. Even telephone coaching, despite the lack of visual connection, is not a barrier to these important features. Research has found that for many coaching clients, the physical absence of the coach enables greater levels of openness as the risk of seeing any perceived judgement in response to what is being said is removed.
A safe environment
Virtual coaching allows clients to be coached from a place of their choice – usually one that is familiar and comfortable. This contrasts strongly to neutral meeting places for face to face coaching that sometimes become too busy or noisy to be as effective as they could be.
Being in an environment that is comfortable and secure facilitates greater relaxation, creativity and focused thinking for clients.
Develops listening skills
Both client and coach will develop their listening skills with telephone coaching. The skills of highly effective listening is invaluable. It’s also quite elusive. Telephone coaching provides an excellent opportunity to build mastery in this vital area of communication. Leaders who receive coaching via the telephone often comment on how well their listening ability has developed.
What can go wrong with virtual coaching?
Virtual coaching is not for everyone
Some people simply prefer that face to face connection and consider Zoom, or other video coaching tools, a poor substitute. A study into virtual coaching found that considering media preferences for both coach and coachee had a significant effect on client satisfaction. Some coaching clients are very comfortable with telephone coaching, others prefer video coaching so even the type of virtual coaching is important for its success.
When it works, technology is excellent and enables us to work far more productively. However, when connections are poor in quality, the impact for virtual coaching is serious. It’s a distraction, causes frustration and completely disrupts the flow of coaching conversations and thinking. For virtual coaching to be effective, the technology used is critically important. Beyond the technology itself, the quality of the environment is also very important.
What our clients say about Virtual Coaching
“Telephone coaching is very liberating. It frees me up to be more honest and, to my surprise, it’s extremely intimate”
“I find it easier to be really open without my coach sitting opposite me, in whose face I may interpret judgement”
“In the absence of visual contact, I get more creative in how I communicate which expands my thinking”