A growing trend

Climate change and time pressures are forcing many of us to re-think the journeys that we make – are they necessary or is there a better way?

According to the 2019 Executive Coaching Survey*, virtual coaching now accounts for 1/3 of all coaching services, a figure that has been growing steadily over the last 7 years. By contrast, face to face, or in person meetings have declined and now account for just 32% of coaching sessions. We expect to see this trend continue, creating an increasing gap between online and face to face coaching in favour of virtual sessions. 

Advantages of virtual / online coaching sessions: 

  • Zoom (or Skype) sessions allow us to feel like we are in the same room, so relationships are easier to establish
  • Better technology and bandwidth mean there are now fewer technical issues interrupting conversation flow
  • It allows us to work with you wherever you are – nationally or internationally
  • No travel costs or travel time – your coach doesn’t need to travel either, so session costs reflect this saving
  • Vastly reduced carbon footprint – a big tick for redressing climate change
  • Easier to schedule into your diary – they can be slotted more easily around other commitments
  • More reliable – online coaching sessions are less likely to be postponed due to travel disruption or time pressures

Does online coaching work?

It’s fair to say that online coaching may not be the preference for everyone, but there is a body of research that suggests the outcomes of virtual coaching do compare well with face to face.

In an article published on The Future of Work Hub, client satisfaction and results are comparable, and we have witnessed this too, in the evaluation work we have carried out on our virtual vs face to face sessions.

An article by the Coach Federation (The  Virtues of Virtual Coaching, Jan 2018) concluded that there was “no difference in the reported level of problem resolution for face-to-face and distance clients.” The strength of the working alliance was found to be significant for problem resolution in distance coaching, and “coaches self-reported strong levels of working alliance in both conditions (face-to-face and distance).”

Relationship building

There is one caveat worth discussing, which is the importance of relationship building between client and coach. Only when trust is established and true rapport exists between both coach and coachee, can the real work begin. Both parties therefore must be comfortable with the technology, and at ease when holding deep and often personal conversations from a distance.

A study researching executive coaching using video by Dixon (2012) confirmed this and recommends we allow time and create strategies to support and accelerate the building of rapport and trust. 

In the same way as it is important in face-to-face sessions, both the coach and coachee must be away from distractions of work, and interruptions from colleagues – we want a fully focused session together to have the best, most productive coaching experience.

Are there times virtual coaching doesn’t work?

There are times when being in the same room is important and may be preferable to a virtual meeting, for example:

  • For quickly building rapport and “chemistry” at the first coaching session (although we are ourselves getting more used to this)
  • The coach is observing the client in board or team meetings, or in other work situations
  • The coaching is around developing emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills
  • For voice coaching and executive presence building

Are you ready to give virtual coaching a try?

Face-to-face coaching sessions are still a core part of our coaching, but we are now regularly using Zoom and Skype for some or all of our coaching sessions with senior executives.

Our experience is very positive, and the benefits are certainly tangible in terms of convenience, reduced travel, less environmental impact and less costs; and it is opening up for clients from around the world to engage with our coaching services.

So, wherever you are located, if you would like coaching sessions to help you structure your thinking, develop your skills, improve your performance, and become a better leader, follow the links below for more information about our coaching for corporate, high growth or professional services firms.

Alternatively, get in touch with me directly at Jan@quivermanagement.com.

*14th Annual industry review from Sherpa Coaching

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