What makes virtual coaching so valuable for leaders in today’s world?
In many organisations coaching has been established as one of the most effective tools to support leaders in their development of competencies and personality. Virtual coaching, be it over telephone or audio/video supported platforms, has been in use in the United States for quite some time. However, in some European countries the uptake of this modus operandi for coaching seems to be rather slow.
Numerous conversations with leaders who I have worked with in face-to-face and virtual settings have revealed a certain reluctance in the beginning to have deeper reflections via an Internet-based platform. Their main concern circled around quality of sound and the perception talking to a computer screen rather than a real person. In all of these cases my clients were surprised how easy the work via a virtual platform was and how good the rapport, the quality of our relationship, turned out to be even though we had that geographical distance between our locations.
I’m a great fan and supporter of virtual coaching as I have seen it working really well so many times. It is offering significant benefits to the people I have been working with.
And yes, there are valid concerns and I will also address those. Still, to me and many of my clients so far, the benefits outweigh the challenges and most of the challenges can be overcome when dealt with professionally.
These benefits are:
- a greater flexibility in scheduling or rescheduling coaching sessions since no travel planning and time has to be considered.
- My clients can do it even during a business trip when it fits their schedule.
- I can be available on much shorter notice even for longer reflections when needed for a challenge my client is facing suddenly.
Things which can get in the way and, hence, need to be taken care of in order to eliminate their detrimental effect in a coaching session, can be:
- Even though technology, when it functions well, plays a very small role in the interaction, it can cause massive disruption when it doesn’t do its job properly.
- Some companies have IT policies requiring the use of what is already old technology and with that almost outdated and often unstable systems for video/audio-based interactions.
- In some companies it is very hard to find a remote and quiet place with a proper Internet connection, where a coachee can sit undisturbed for an hour or longer.
- The most common cause for my clients’ initial reluctance, however, is their perception of distance between both of us and of a seemingly impersonal setting when using a computer.
And whilst the benefits speak for themselves, I will address the obstacles listed above one by one.
- There is nothing much one can do if technology really doesn’t do what it should and can do. Yet, whatever is related to inappropriate use needs to be eliminated by sufficient training in and knowledge of the features and functions of the available technology.
- My preferred platform at the moment to have coaching sessions on is -without a doubt- Zoom. The main reason is the great video and audio quality it offers. In addition, it can easily switch the audio channel to a telephone connection should the Internet bandwidth be too low to carry audio and video in parallel.
So, if the local IT policy does not allow Zoom to be used on computers/laptops that are connected to the system, many of my clients are using a tablet (often private ones) to have access to a Zoom session. They also value the quality of sessions conducted through this platform in comparison to some older software packages.
But even if, for some reason, suboptimal technology has to be used, it is vital for a successful session on any IT-platform that both sides know how to handle it and are relaxed in its use.
- No matter how many meeting rooms companies have, they always seem to be booked. There must be a common virus, “meeteritis”, which fills meeting rooms all the time. In such cases my clients often choose a quiet space at home and we have the session either in the morning before they leave for work or in the early evening/late afternoon, when they are already back.
- This is usually the toughest hurdle to overcome as it is anchored deeply in many people’s (limiting) beliefs about how human-to-human interactions can work effectively.
However, reflecting quickly on this and the underlying driver, most of my clients realise that their belief is unfounded and too restrictive in today’s digital world. For their preparation I start with a short exercise before sessions through which they can prime their mind towards feeling “present in a virtual meeting” rather than “on their own in front of a computer screen”.
For me it is always a great joy when my clients realise how much they benefit from the flexibility virtual coaching is offering them. Even though some still say they would prefer face-to-face meetings, they do agree that the virtual interaction is as effective as the face-to-face experience.
Want to discuss this with me in more detail? Feel free to get in touch.
We explore this and other business relevant subjects in our Virtual Leaders Lounge. This is an informal online meeting of maximum 10 business leaders where we discuss challenges in virtual teams and organisations and share best practices. No PowerPoint is used no prep work required!