For most coaches the last two years have meant coaching virtually rather than face to face with their clients. For some coaches this was a difficult transition and for some clients too. Many coaches believed that their model and approach to coaching work would need to change but I have found the challenge of adapting to working virtually to bring many benefits and little downside and very little change to my approach. Instead virtual working has enhanced my coaching work and I am not sure I will easily go back to how the work pattern used to be pre-pandemic.
Clients have loved being coached in the space of their choosing and for most this is from home. They have fed-back that they feel they can talk more freely, think and reflect more deeply and accommodate all the parts of them that are represented in their goal or challenge. Often their solution or action plan represents their whole selves and feels more realistic.
Let me share some of the benefits to you the potential client:
- The feeling of safety and benefits of confidentiality increases from not having to be in an office venue .
- The space to reflect after the session is more likely and there is often more recovery time before returning to work tasks which can help you embed the learning.
- The freedom of expression of emotions and feelings increases and supports a shift of awareness as you are not feeling observed by anyone. You notice your un-conscious thinking more easily.
- The perspectives of introducing the systems/environments outside of the your organisation can inspire and support lateral thinking. For example using nature or objects from home to describe what you see and think.
- Adoption of creative tools increases and the bigger picture thinking can land a deeper sense of meaning and therefore ownership. You are more likely to feel less self-conscious when drawing, moving around to think and are more likely to take inspiration from your hobbies and other interests beyond work.
There are also benefits to the coaching partnership we create when working virtually as more time is available for diary slots to deliver sessions and with less commuting we can both feel more present to the thinking space and the value the time can create.
So what are the benefits to the sponsor and your organisation if they are paying?
- the cost should be lower as it removes the travel and expenses elements and your coach will most likely be able to cover more clients in one day. Not to mention the carbon footprint benefits of less travel.
- your people will gain more perspective from stepping back from the day job and looking back on their challenges with new lenses. This brings the outside in and can speed up innovation and fresh thinking.
- the coachee will be more likely to achieve their goals having considered their whole life purpose as this is more often in mind out of workspaces and therefore new approaches are more likely to be implemented with refreshed intent.
So whilst others might argue that the rapport cannot be as strong as when meeting face to face, I would disagree. Virtual work helps me build rapport and relationship as you will see a window into your client's world depending on their choice of setting. I love seeing what is important to you - kids, paintings, decor, pets and relatives offering cups of tea while we work before being shooed away from our thinking space. You are more likely to tell me about your life, holidays, values and life purpose and find comfort in seeing that I am normal too when you see my working space and hearing my dog occasionally bark!
I have seen some coaches who have been taught face to face coaching techniques claim not to be able to deploy the technique on line - I argue that everything can be converted to an online tool if you understand it's unique purpose it just takes some effort to re-learn and convert. I have also observed coaches whilst training them who get better results and outcomes from being more authentic and at ease with their learning edge whilst at home. The conversations are richer and go further.
For those who like proof over rhetoric their have been some white papers written about the benefits of virtual coaching even before the pandemic and how the brain benefits from the increased active listening in the coaching work. I will always offer these to the sceptics!
In the last two years, we have also seen the rise of the virtual coaching platforms offering more people access to coaching to support more layers of the organisation and for global reach. Virtual coaching has also been more readily accepted by my private clients and most recently a team coaching assignment was all virtual for 6 months. The systemic benefits of coaching cross culturally and in many layers of the organisation to affect change are hopefully greater and possibly faster. I have been amazed at the places and people I now can connect to from my desk.
For myself as a self-employed coach, I am at my best when I can really focus on you in your spotlight and virtual working means I can be a mum, walk the dog more and make the tea knowing that I have taken care of others and myself to be present with you. You will get the best of me and I will make more of a difference to you and the world. So please do reflect on what you need and find the coach that works the way you need.
Now what will be interesting is post pandemic trends in hybrid office and home working. I wonder how this will affect when clients want to access coaching. Is coaching an activity for home working days or seen as an activity for time spent in the office? What do you think will be the change to coaching patterns - please share and help us coaches adapt further.... Kate