Behavioural Skills Specialist , Coach and Workplace Mediator Allegra Stone Mediation
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Covid-19: a new model for remote coaching and connectivity

The coronavirus crisis is changing the way coaches work. If you’ve never coached remotely, here are some things to consider before you begin. 

9th Apr 2020
Behavioural Skills Specialist , Coach and Workplace Mediator Allegra Stone Mediation
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Close-up Of A Young Businesswoman Chatting With Her Colleague via video conference online
iStock/AndreyPopov

How quickly things change. We are now in totally new circumstances, adapting to the impact of Covid-19 and this is transforming the way coaches work.

Think about your client’s perspective and needs. Maybe they are very used to remote systems or maybe they have never done anything like this before. Check in with them in advance.

We do not know how the world will be when this is over but let’s think about what we can do now. We are in a world of social isolation and distancing, yet we’ve never been more connected thanks to the sophisticated tools available to us. Where does it leave coaches who have, up until now, used face-to-face rather than remote coaching? Not to put too fine a point on it – it’s your livelihood that’s at stake. The good news is that technology can support you to keep your business going.  

We are all on a spectrum of experience and comfort with the idea of remote coaching. At one end there are those of us who use online tools frequently, then there are those who have a mixed model of face-to-face and remote tools (such as myself) and then those who only do face-to-face coaching.

Here follows my thoughts and some of my experiences with remote coaching. For me the biggest leap is to embrace the technology so, let’s start with that.

Technical issues

I use Zoom, Skype and telephone coaching, and there are many more systems that you may want to consider to suit your needs. Why not experiment with a tool and see if it offers you what you want?

Once you understand your tool, you will feel more confident and in control. Practicing outside the coaching session will mean that you can concentrate on the important part, being the best coach to your client without worrying about the technology.

Perhaps you could practice with a dry run with a friend? Maybe try it out with a few people who have different equipment, like an iPad, mac, laptop or a desktop and see what the results are. This will put your broadband to the test.

Timing

With a face-to-face coaching session, you both arrive at the appointed time and the session begins. With an online system you may want to start the coaching session 10-15 minutes earlier to allow for any connection issues and to explain how the online system works. This avoids unnecessary pressure at the beginning of the meeting and it allows you not eat into the precious coaching time.

Your client

Think about your client’s perspective and needs. Maybe they are very used to remote systems or maybe they have never done anything like this before. Check in with them in advance. It could be that you may need to make reasonable adjustments (say if they have a hearing impairment for example).

If you believe that you client is anxious, you may want to talk to them on the telephone to explain IT issues and allay concerns. Simple questions about your client’s IT system and broadband connection may uncover issues that can be handled in advance.

It may take a little bit of courage to get yourself coaching remotely but being a coach yourself, you know it’s quite possible to change if you are motivated.

If they are unable to connect to you remotely, after providing this support, have a contingency plan such as your/their telephone number to hand. Be aware that clients may agree to do a remote coaching session and then give up on the day and call you anyway – this may be due to stress, for example. This is normal. Encourage them to try the technology and explain that seeing one another will be helpful in supporting the quality of the session.

Do not be surprised if your screen freezes mid-way through. Rather than ignore it, simply ask: “your feed went down briefly, please could you repeat that?” You don’t want to miss anything.

It’s your responsibility to help your client arrive at the coaching session feeling supported and relaxed. Remember, it’s usually only the first session when they will need you to help them, when they get used to it, they will get more confident and independent.

Paperwork

Think ahead and send out essential paperwork by email or in the post – you may want to post coaching agreements with a stamped addressed envelope.

Clients may not be able to toggle between their system and the video conferencing software so post anything that is essential for them to read. Additionally, don’t assume that they will necessarily print reports you have emailed – consider sending psychometric reports, for example.

Seeing yourself

Some coaches who are unused to video conferencing can feel self-conscious looking at their own feed. Frankly, it’s not a natural thing to watch ourselves talking! Here’s the thing though, the coaching session really isn’t about you and how you look, it’s about your client and supporting them. Keeping that in mind may be a helpful if you get a twinge of self-consciousness.

In terms of what you wear, think about what you would have worn if you were seeing the client face-to-face. Just because you’re remote coaching, it doesn’t mean you should necessarily be casual.

Think about the background of your room when you are on screen. What gives a professional impression? Some people sit at a desk with a picture behind them or with, say, bookshelves. Think twice about being by a window in case people/cars pass by and could possibly be distracting to your client.

Interruptions

Consider in advance who or what might interrupt you. Do you have pets? Are you expecting a delivery? Are your children likely to want your attention? Is the phone likely to ring? Can you hear the TV from the room you are using if other people are in the house? Does your washing machine have a loud spin cycle? In all cases, think in advance about mitigating interruptions as much as you can.

The telephone

The telephone is a great back up if remote coaching isn’t possible. A visual connection is a much better way of conducting a coaching session than just audio, however. This is especially important if you are meeting a client for the first time to gain that all-important rapport.

For many coaches, reading body language and, therefore, key emotions enhances the information you are getting from your client so try to encourage this.

Breaks

Think about breaks if your session lasts longer than an hour. It may be that you suggest that you both have a five-minute break at that time. Discuss this with your client at the outset of the meeting. Remote coaching does require you sitting relatively still so you may want to arrange to get up and stretch, for example.

Charges

Remote coaching can be perceived as the ‘poor relation’ of face-to-face coaching in terms of charges. Think carefully about this and your funding model. Why should your session be any the less valuable? It may be fair to reduce charges to account for room hire or transport, for example, but be in no doubt that this is work of equal value.

It may take a little bit of courage to get yourself coaching remotely but being a coach yourself, you know it’s quite possible to change if you are motivated. I guarantee that you will be surprised at level of connection you can make with your clients.

Interested in this topic? Read Panic and the coronavirus pandemic: the business of boundaries and quarantine.

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