VIRTUAL COACHING – SAME EXPERTS, DIFFERENT WAY OF COACHING

This time we welcome our colleague, Jo Bamford, to talk about the benefits of virtual coaching. Jo works closely with a diverse range of boards and senior managers in both the private and public sector which means she has significant knowledge of best practice and pragmatic solutions.

FIRSTLY, YOU MIGHT BE ASKING “WHAT ACTUALLY IS VIRTUAL COACHING?”

In a nutshell virtual coaching is a coaching conversation that takes place using a method other than face-to-face for example; video conferencing, telephone or even email communication. We are the same coaching experts that facilitate and manage these online sessions, it is just that the methodology is different.

In years gone by the feedback we often received after a virtual coaching session was along the lines of:

    • “It’s nowhere near as good as face-to-face coaching”
    • “It feels very strange and uncomfortable”
    • “I guess it is better than no coaching at all”

Yet, we have always seen the power and potential of a virtual coaching solution and over the last 2-3 years in particular online coaching has become very popular and we have been working hard to make it work as well and sometimes even better than a face-to-face session.

With technological advances such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and FaceTime we have worked out how to deliver online coaching with huge success. We are pleased to say we have been able to respond very positively to the recent increase in demand for online coaching, due to Covid-19, and are seeing some amazing results in this space. Our virtual coachees now say things like:

    • “That was an awesome experience – much deeper than I thought we could go”
    • “I’m so pleased to have regular coaching support in the comfort on my own home”
    • “The shift from face-to-face to virtual coaching has been easy – I love it”

SO WHY DO WE OFFER VIRTUAL COACHING? 

During the Covid-19 lockdown we have, of course, had no choice but to coach this way. Although the coronavirus has likely propelled more coaches into virtual coaching, it’s not a new thing for us; we have simply seen a huge increase in both demand and opportunity over recent weeks.

And we’re probably not alone as we expect more organisations to adapt to different ways of working and consider whether remote working becomes more of the norm rather than a return to office-based working. Why? Because the benefits to coachees and to business are compelling.

VIRTUAL COACHING HAS SIGNIFICANT BENEFITS:

  • It’s practical – we all have access to the technology. We own a phone, have easy email access and video conferencing has become a recent skill for us all. Having the technology available means online coaching is easy to do.
  • It’s readily available – we don’t need to wait for diaries to coincide regarding location or try to juggle to find large chunks of free time– there is much more availability in the diary to book in a coaching session online if travel is not required. Just last week I coached people in London, Brighton and Coventry all on the same day!
  • It’s environmentally friendly – carbon footprint is obviously reduced using this method which is an outcome we all love achieving!
  • It’s almost instant – the opportunity to have a quick coaching conversation to support a live challenge is far more possible online than face to face, especially during Covid-19 when we are all working from home!

During this challenging time of lockdown we have been offering a greater number of virtual coaching sessions to support our coachees – the uptake has been significant. We have been supporting people who are feeling more anxious at this time and who need support to find their resilience. (See Gemma Bullivant’s recent blog on how the lockdown might be affecting people’s emotions.) We have been coaching people as they adapt to home working and being part of a virtual team. We have had people come and seek support because they are finding that some of their personality preferences are not responding well to lockdown (in other words their de-railers are starting to play havoc!) and we have been guiding and coaching leaders to adjust to the new ways that they are expected to lead, inspire and support their staff. As the lockdown eases there may be extra challenges appearing as apprehension spreads about a return to the workplace.

THE REAL WOW FACTORS OF VIRTUAL COACHING:

A recent study[1] by Berry et al “offers tentative evidence that distance coaching may be as effective as face-to-face coaching,” and in our experience we are proud to report the same. In particular, we have experienced the following wow factors:

  • Greater cognitive performance – the ability to think and make decisions seems far greater virtually often because the session has fewer distractions caused by environmental factors or off topic conversations (although I must admit we have seen a few young children and heard a few doorbells ringing in the background in recent weeks!)
  • Increase in levels of honesty – coachees seem to feel extra comfortable having a session from their own armchair/home and therefore seem even more willing to open up, earlier in the conversation with some really honest conversations
  • Willingness to share vulnerabilities – we know that some people feel uncomfortable with eye contact or face to face conversations, especially people with a more private or introverted character or people who are sharing very personal, emotional or difficult scenarios or stories. We find that virtual coaching often helps people share their vulnerabilities more comfortably and confidently.
  • Greater levels of active listening – as a coach we are really experienced in active listening and during an online session we are able to do this to an even greater extent. When on video we are able to pick up on the same non verbal signs as face to face coaching – and in addition we are particularly tuned in to listening to emotions through tone, speed of talking and choice of language
  • Just in time learning – we have found that virtual coaching is often sought by coachees who require support today, often associated with an anxiety, feeling or scenario that is being experienced ‘right now’. Because the coachee is aware of greater availability without the need to travel we as coaches are often able to do shorter bursts of really effective coaching to support “in the moment” or what we often refer to as “just in time” learning because it can based on need rather than a set diary meeting.

We love coaching no matter the methodology used and we have enjoyed sharing our insight with you into the world of virtual coaching particularly during these challenging and different times. If this is an opportunity you would like to have yourself or offer to one of your team members then please do get in touch with us.

Stay safe and well
Jo Bamford
……
Email: jobamford@jaconsulting.co.uk

JO BAMFORD

About Jo BamfordJo has more than 25 years practice as an Occupational Psychologist working with businesses, teams and individuals to enable change and maximise potential. She has vast experience in inspiring, engaging and coaching people and organisations through change. She has an ability to energise people, bringing together key stakeholders and managing conflict and challenges positively and proactively. She understands the psychology of change and helps people approach change with the right mindset, behaviour and approach for maximum success.

[1]   Berry, R. M., Ashby, J. S., Gnilka, P. B., & Matheny, K. B. (2011). A comparison of face-to-face and distance coaching practices: Coaches’ perceptions of the role of the working alliance in problem resolution. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 63(4), 243–253.

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Our thanks go to Jo for her great insights into virtual coaching. In Jo’s next blog she shares her #5toptips to ensure a great virtual coaching session.
If you have any questions, our team can assist you as usual via phone or email
Look out for more hints and tips coming soon.
Stay safe, stay well.

John Moss
Email: johnmoss@jaconsulting.co.uk
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnmoss1

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