In the spring of 2020, the world experienced seismic change as it has done so many times before. In this case, the Covid-19 pandemic helped everyone to move online. Suddenly professional coaches as well as leaders and employees found themselves zooming, skyping, teaming, and google hangout’ing to an extent never seen previously.
This change occurred before a vital question could be answered: Is it even possible, ethical and effective to provide professional business coaching online?
In this article, we take a closer look at the benefits of delivering and receiving professional business coaching online, and what needs to be taken into consideration to get the most out of the online sessions.
Can Business Coaching be Delivered Online?
Session’s definition of Business Coaching is the following:
“Professional business coaching is the art of helping leaders and employees develop, grow and thrive as well as drive their business in a desired, more impactful and sustainable direction.”
Now, the question is: Is it possible to deliver this service online? Is it possible to create trust and a fruitful business coaching journey for clients when the coaching happens virtually? Will the subconscious dynamics prevail through digital delivery as they do in person or will they be lost in translation? Will it be possible to ignite the light in the eyes of the receiver and to motivate people to move on when the coach is not able to command the non-verbal cues, or offer people a physical pat on the back?
The short answer to those questions is: YES.
We CAN imbue a sense of connectedness. We CAN move people to evolve and to drive change virtually. It IS possible to coach and be coached, to facilitate, work and drive organizational processes in an online setting. You don’t even have to be particularly tech-savvy to engage or be engaged in captivating coaching conversations virtually. The only thing you might have trouble with in online coaching is that physical pat on the back, as Dr. Pam Van Dyke illustrates in her book “Virtual Group Coaching” from 2016 (p. 46):
“People in virtual communities have become very sophisticated and very creative at doing everything that anyone else can do in real life; talk, make plans, laugh, cry, argue, brainstorm, provide emotional support, date, fall in love, play games, produce work, and so on. The only difference is that it is done without a physical body present in the same space.”
So, coaching online IS possible. In fact, virtual delivery has many benefits for coaches and clients that are not necessarily available through in-person coaching.
What are the Benefits of Coaching Online?
Coaching online has some exceptional benefits compared to face-to-face coaching !
Included in those are:
- Time & Cost Efficiency - Office space costs are minimized and commute times are eliminated making delivery far lighter on resources (no wasted time in traffic, commuting, moving from one location to the other in the office space, etc.).
- Focused - We are more focused and to the point when online. This is sometimes difficult when we meet face to face due to the many distractions of physical space, information overloads and sensory overwhelm (noise, air quality, food on the table, smells, visual impressions etc). Distractions are reduced without diminishing the small talk needed at the beginning of a conversation to establish flow and trust.
- Collaborative Screen Sharing - We can easily share our screen and co-create documents together. When it comes to professional business coaching, this is most valuable because the specific goal is to help the client deliver on matters of importance to the business. Finding and looking at the strategic goals set by the organization, revisiting the company's vision and mission or leadership principles become much simpler through the virtual platform.
- Psychological Safety – Coaching is delivered virtually but experienced in a comfortable setting. Clients are afforded the chance to learn in a familiar environment which helps them to feel socially safe. This enhances honest sharing, goal setting, and barrier-breaking - all in all, it increases psychological safety.
- Flexibility & Accessibility - We can connect and meet no matter where in the world each person is. Physical location is no longer a limiting factor. Finding coaches should not be decided by proximity but by value. The virtual world offers coaching without borders.
- Diversity – Without boundaries, the mind is not just opened to new locations but also new perspectives. Virtual coaching is available from a vast array of different cultural paradigms meaning you are no longer confined to the traditional practices of your immediate society. Cutting-edge, innovative coaching is at your fingertips to challenge you in ways you never imagined.
Drawbacks? Yes, to be honest…
Of course, disadvantages also exist including:
- Internet instability - Almost unforgivably, internet access and instability can still cause problems. Without a reliable connection, you will often find yourself saying “I think we lost you”.
- Poor Visual & Audio Quality - “Can you please repeat?”, “Sorry, I didn't get that”, “Sorry, I lost you for a minute”, “I think you are on mute”, “We do not see you” and “No, we do not see your screen” are likely familiar phrases by now.
- Technological Failure Impacting Learning - As an effect of the above - less rich information is received. There is a chance, then, that social and contextual clues which could otherwise help inform decisions will be lost.
- Post-session Loneliness - If there are frequent distortions and delays in the communication clients might end up feeling confused, anxious, and disconnected. This is depicted vividly in the New York Times article “Why Zoom is Terrible”:
"The way video images are digitally encoded and decoded, altered and adjusted, patched and synthesized introduces all kinds of artifacts: blocking, freezing, blurring, jerkiness and out-of-sync audio. These disruptions, some below our conscious awareness, confound perception and scramble subtle social cues. Our brains strain to fill in the gaps and make sense of the disorder, which makes us feel vaguely disturbed, uneasy and tired [and disconnected] without quite knowing why."
How to Professionally Deliver Great Online Coaching Experiences
With the advantages and disadvantages in mind, let's discuss how to get the best out of it.
By offering coaching online, we can reach far more leaders and employees than if we have to offer it face to face. Online coaching democratizes coaching. The benefits, in our opinion, far outweigh the potential drawbacks.
If coaches show up well-prepared and have done everything possible to make sure that technology will not hinder a great session, (for instance by having rebooted their computer to avoid pesky updates, and tested that the sound and visual is working), our experience is, that the online coaching experience can be delivered with great end-results for companies and clients alike.
There are, however, situations where it is better to make a phone call rather than a video meeting. If the visual picture is blurred, or the audio is delayed, it is often better to switch to a call. The brain struggles to fill in the gaps when the picture and audio is disturbed which is tiring and frustrating.
Doing a call also gives you the great opportunity to “walk-and-talk” while being coached or delivering the coaching session, which in itself has some benefits. The changing environment of a walk-and-talk helps you to see things with a different perspective, come up with new ideas and solutions as well as you getting in better shape.
Professional business coaching is offered with the aim of improving the prospects of individuals and companies and achieving quantifiable business success.
Our goal at Session is to offer clients the best professional coaching experience possible. We want to reach as wide an audience as possible, democratizing coaching and making it accessible to everyone. This is possible through online coaching. We will not allow perceived obstacles to delay progress and dreams. Instead, we are offering you the most professional coaching experience imaginable - online.
If you want to evolve from where you are, as a leader, employee, or organization, feel free to get in touch with us today!