Coaching Online: Advantages and Disadvantages
Coaching online has advantages but also some disadvantages. I was asked a little while ago about providing coaching online. So, I thought you might be interested to read my answers
Interviewer: How do you communicate with clients online? What are the strengths and limitations of each approach?
Wendy: I use three different ways of communicating with clients on line. So, I use phone/skype, email and instant messaging.
Phone or Skype
The strengths of telephone coaching include convenience and comfort for the client. They are able to receive coaching where they choose. For most, this will be at home or somewhere else familiar to them. So, they do not have to add travel to a coaching location to the end of a busy working day. Phone can also provide privacy for those who feel shy and exposed sharing intimate feelings. The disadvantage of the phone is that we have to work without visual clues. Therefore we are not able to see each other’s body language. So, authenticity and trust is important.
The major disadvantage of email is that it is asynchronous. It can take time to get a reply. With coaching online, both coach and client need to achieve agreement about when replies can be expected. Also, how privacy will be managed. The initial relationship can be much harder to establish. It requires patience from both coach and client. As well as being able to choose the location and time for talking, there another a major advantage for email. Both the client and the coach have a record they can refer to. Plus you can take time to reflect on what you want to write.
Communicating by instant text messages is quick. Again, the client can choose location they write from. But there can be issues of privacy if other people have access to the same computer or phone.
In my own coaching practice, the phone is my main method of communicating with clients. I usually combine this with email between sessions. Plus I use a little instant messaging.
Interviewer: In your opinion, what elements need to be in place in order to create a coaching relationship online? In what ways does this differ from face-to-face coaching?
Wendy: Coaching online or off requires an agreement between the coach and client about the service to be provided. And, for on line coaching this is a priority. Both coach and client need the right environment in which to work! They need privacy and the opportunity to develop trust. This is in each other as well as in the medium. Confidentiality of information shared is very. Both need to understand the risks. Plus what coaching on-line cannot provide.
The coach and client are rarely in the same physical space. Both need to be comfortable. And they need know that they will not interrupted. This can be difficult with a computer on the kitchen table. The coach and client both need to know they cannot be over-looked or over-heard. Plus, they need to be confident in using the machinery. The equipment needs to be reliable with good security cover.
With phone coaching, you need to agree not only what time you will ring but also who calls whom and on what number. Before beginning a conversation, a coach needs to move very quickly into active listening.
In using email, there needs to be clear agreement about turnaround times. The client needs to understand that messages can sometimes go astray. Special arrangements need to be made for the coach’s absence. For example, when the coach goes on holiday.
With instant messaging the use of language needs to be particularly careful. The culture from which the client communicates may be important – for example when working with young clients. The coach may have to learn a whole new language.
For me the advantages vastly outweigh the disadvantages massively. I’ve run a successful coaching practice online for several years now.
Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link