Covid 19 special – Distance Coaching
Many of us already offer telephone and video coaching, but without the option of meeting clients face to face, how can we all keep connected and carry on?
This global pandemic has given many of us the opportunity to try new ways of working and could potentially change the way we all do things in the future. We can already see how video and telephone meetings have now become the norm for anybody suddenly working from home, but it’s also being used for some non work activities like virtual yoga and personal training sessions. So why not coaching?
If you normally meet your clients face to face or only recently started to run coaching sessions over the phone or webcam, then this blog is specifically aimed at you. We take a look at the options available, the benefits and limitations of distance coaching and share some top tips so you can support your clients through this difficult time.
The big plus for video and telephone coaching, is your client can attend the session from wherever they feel most comfortable. Where a coach lives or works can sometimes be a problem when looking for new clients, so if you offer telephone or video coaching, you can work with clients from all over the world and all you need is an internet connection. This should also help keep costs down for you and make coaching more affordable for your clients, as you can coach more often now you have less travel time. You can also be flexible when you book a coaching session, as some clients may be in a different time zone or only available late at night or early in the morning.
This is really accessible and convenient for most people and talking on the phone feels like a natural thing o do, but the big concern is you don’t get to see each other. However, for some this can be a plus, as you don’t get distracted by what you see. Instead of looking for clues to how they are feeling, you use deep listening to fully focus on being a more efficient listener. This helps your client feel supported, truly listened to and understood.
Plus, some clients are not comfortable in a face to face setting, so greater privacy enables them to really open up and cuts out any unconscious bias. Remaining anonymous can also help them them discuss personal issues or concerns they may otherwise feel embarrassed to talk about.
You do however need a very clear set of rules for how and when to speak, as it can be difficult to know when your client is about to stop talking. If you are on a call and it goes quiet, you could think the line has dropped, so our advice here is to wait until your client stops speaking, then check if they have finished answering the question or making their point. You can then play back what was said and check everything was understood.
The big advantage coaching via video has over using the telephone, is you do get to see your client and it feels more like a traditional face to face coaching session. By using a webcam, both the coach and client can chat in real time over the internet without needing any special equipment. A range of options are available, but mostly we are seeing people using their mobile phone, tablet or computer with apps like WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime.
All you need is a good internet connection and a device with a camera and microphone built in. You can plug in your headset for better quality sound and use a separate webcam if needed. You can also invest in some more professional kit if you want to include better lighting and have the space to set it all up, but whatever option you go with, you need to be using the same tool or system as your client. They may also need some guidance or help initially if this is something they have not used before.
By using video you can monitor body language and read expressions as normal, however be aware the current technology does have some limitations. Firstly, you may have a short time lag, so the conversation may not flow as naturally as it would if you were in the same room together. And more importantly, you can miss out on ‘gaze cues’ and other eye movements. This is because your client will be watching you on their screen and not looking directly into the camera. You can ask them to lift their camera up to eye level if it helps, and remember to always blur your background so they are not distracted by anything happening behind you.
Another option is e-mail coaching, but this would normally be used alongside other more traditional forms of coaching to offer support between sessions. A good welcome pack can stop the process feeling robotic or automated, but e-mail coaching will best suit a style that uses toolkits, pre prepared or self-service resources.
And because e-mail coaching is so accessible, we would always suggest having clear guidance on how to keep in touch and how long it would take for you to get back to any messages. Normally this is 24hrs, but it really depends on any other commitments you have that could stop you monitoring or responding to e-mails quickly.
Getting yourself organized
As with all coaching sessions, you still need to set up an initial consultation and agree how and when to virtually meet. Your client can get comfortable with whatever tool or software you are using as you discuss their needs and goals, then at the end of the initial session you can both decide if this style of coaching is going to work.
And remember, distance coaching sessions tend to be shorter because it can be difficult to keep concentration for long periods, so agree goals for each session and ask your client to do some prep work before you start. You can help a distance coaching session run smoothly by using set exercises or having a list of pre-prepared questions ready to send. But most importantly, be really clear on the time to start and end the session and how you will capture the conversation or share any action points or follow up activities.
Distance coaching is not for everybody, so if you have only ever coached face to face, you may prefer to initially try this with existing clients you are not able to see right now. It can be used as a great way of checking in or catching up with them during the current social distancing restrictions and can also be something you introduce alongside face to face sessions once the current lockdown is lifted. But do see if you can use this opportunity to try it and see if it works for you and your clients.
To support you in your coaching sessions, we have published a very popular coaching manual that gives you all the questions you need to run a successful coaching session.
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