Today’s communications technologies have made it possible to sustain valuable coaching relationships in a variety of different ways. I currently focus on Skype, Facetime or telephone interactions, each supported by email. However, this page examines all the options that might be available to you from other practitioners.
In-person encounters are the traditional mode of working and had a great deal to recommend them prior to the introduction of high-quality online video.
There is a quality of communication in a physical presence that is not available in any other form.
However, there are substantial downsides in needing to be physically present, of which the prime one is its impracticality. A fifty-minute session is going to call for at least a two-hour and often a three hour interruption in your day. The need to be relatively near their office significantly reduces your choice of life coach.
Also, if you live in a small place there’s a real risk that you will continually be meeting your life coach in the street, or that you will find yourselves part of the same social group. This does not bother everyone but may be significant for you.
Working in-person was the only way to be face-to-face prior to the availability of high-quality video communications online. Now, we do not need to be in the same room to gain the information as we ‘speak’ with our clothes and our body language.
I was dubious about the value of working over the telephone until I felt compelled to try it for myself. I had moved to a rural part of England and was unable to find the right level of support for myself.
In desperation – or so it felt – I started working over the ‘phone with coaches I knew in the USA. We quickly discovered the main advantages of working over the telephone: quality, convenience, cost and confidentiality.
- Quality, because you can pick the collaborator who is right for you rather than the one who is conveniently located.
- Convenience, because you can speak to them at times that do not require you to travel, nor do you have to ready yourself for a visit.
- Cost, because you save on travel costs.
- Confidentiality, because of the relative anonymity of electronic relationships. I find that clients working over the telephone are less inhibited and readier to focus on the important but perhaps embarrassing aspects of their lives that really need attention. Or, they will overcome any initial and understandable shyness by using email to open a difficult subject. This additional candor makes the work much more productive. Many clients report being able to be more assertive over the ‘phone.
In terms of the work itself, the obvious disadvantage of teleworking is that we do not know what we each look like, and we miss the opportunity to exercise the physical cues that tell us so much about each other.
One result of this is that it can take a bit longer to build a comfortable and confidential rapport. Experience shows, however, that it is only a matter of time before that level of comfort is achieved.
Skype, Facetime or other video service
There is no doubt that the recent improvements in online video technology have transformed coaching encounters. Now, the only deficit compared to in-person working is that it is impossible to exchange a handshake or a hug.
As against that, the technology has opened the door to a tremendous amount of creativity in the personal encounter. Clients can show me their offices, their homes, their outfits, their possessions to intensify the experience of connection and the value of the exchanges.
As with all technologies, sometimes there is a failure that can interrupt a significant moment. However, we are usually able to recover from such moments and even to build them in to the work.
Email can be a powerful adjunct to both online video and the telephone. It is ideal for those who want to be able to dash off a response to an earlier session. It might be used to ask for a clarification or for a word of support or suggestion before starting a challenging task. As I indicated earlier, it is also very useful for broaching difficult topics.
Coaching often includes a large email component. However, I rarely work via email alone except with the most diffident clients.
Email alone is a slow and not very interactive means of communication. It is therefore not very cost-effective. It is very useful, however, for making the initial contact and for asking questions, especially when gathering evaluation data.
No matter which mode of working you prefer, follow the same procedures to ensure you find the best coach to match your unique needs. No two of us are alike. The power and energy generated in one partnership can be very different from another.
I hope this review of different ways of working has been helpful for you. To discuss which format of relationship might be most valuable for you, use the form below to set up a time for your free 50-minute exploratory ‘phone call.