We are living in an increasingly global and virtual world. Over the last five years, and especially during the coronavirus pandemic, our firm has seen a consistent trend of companies and leaders tapping into coaching regardless of their location.
Virtual coaching can work, even better than face-to-face.
Through trial and error, we have learned a lot about coaching in a virtual world. There are some challenges to overcome and some unique opportunities that can be leveraged to drive more effective coaching than in person. For example, we have found that many coachees are more honest in sharing and responding to sensitive and difficult information over the phone, where there is no face-to-face interaction.
Leverage these five remote coaching lessons to enhance your impact as a coach.
1. Be forthcoming about your location. Virtual coaching can happen just about anywhere. When you start a conversation, let the coachee know where you’re located and assure them you are in a private location. So, if they hear birds chirping in the background during your conversation, they aren’t worried that you are at an outdoor café with lots of people listening in. That being said, put yourself in an environment that minimizes background noise and allows you to fully focus; the coachee will sense if you are not fully with them.
2. Take time to understand the coachee’s world. Building trust and connection as a coach is critical. For virtual coaching to be successful, the client has to know you have taken the time to learn their situation, even if you haven’t “been there” physically. Assurances that the coaching will be confidential and “safe” help, however, with virtual coaching, it is especially critical that you spend time asking questions about their worries and successes and collecting information about their world. For leaders, this includes reviewing their background online (LinkedIn and other research platforms such as Bloomberg are great) and interviewing key stakeholders as part of the initial assessment.
There is a rich and relevant context to every coaching assignment, and you will build trust and credibility if they sense you “get it.”
3. Mix face-to-face with phone and email support. The first meeting(s) should be face-to-face to build a full rapport and get a baseline on how the client thinks, responds and reacts non-verbally. After building face-to-face rapport, include a blend of other modalities to connect, including phone, email and even text.
To facilitate the initial face-to-face meetings, it is critical that you seamlessly use the most common meeting platforms: Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype. Provide direction and support for your coachee if they are not using one of these platforms.
4. Schedule more quick, frequent and relevant connections. For many years, coaching took the form of regular in-person sessions with a coach and coachee, essentially mimicking a regular meeting with a psychologist or physician. However, the sustained improvement and impact that coaching should deliver often requires more regular reminders, reinforcement and real-time support. This happens by leveraging the efficiencies of virtual coaching — quick emails, calls, text — and, of course, formally scheduled sessions.
5. Make it measurable. By embracing the tools of virtual coaching, you have the ability to provide real-time support necessary for facilitating change in the coachee’s day-to-day. The model of putting in “hours of coaching” should be replaced with outcome-based coaching. Companies embrace virtual coaches who design unique programs that drive measurable and observable improvement. With virtual coaching, it is critical to begin with the end in mind and leverage the efficiencies of virtual communication in designing a program that gets results, not hours.
These five success essentials provide a blueprint for effective virtual coaching. As you bring them into your work with clients, you can more effectively operate as a global coach not limited by geography.
Authored by : Joe Frodsham , Forbes Councils Member, Forbes Coaches Council
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