We know that face to face coaching is best, but busy lives and hectic schedules can mean it’s tricky making time to meet.

Distance coaching

What is distance coaching?

By Distance Coaching (sometimes known as e-coaching) we mean that it is performed by email, telephone, SKYPE or FaceTime. It can work for many people; if the arrangements are clearly set out between both parties. The groundwork to set it up is worth investing in and should be a collaborative approach by both people.

However, I think it is advisable to meet at least once in person so that you can establish rapport and get to know each other. This allows you to use the distance methods more effectively and with greater confidence.

So, whilst the distance communication methods can be incredibly convenient, there are disadvantages to this method:

  • Email – Cannot pick up on visual clues and inferences that might be useful.
  • SKYPE/FaceTime – Internet/connection issues can interfere with the call.
  • Telephone – Privacy of the call, no visual clues and interruptions can cause difficulties.

However, the benefits:

  • Email – Doesn’t need to be carried out in real time and can give both parties time to reflect. Useful for quick updates.
  • SKYPE/FaceTime – Free to use, no travel and has many of the benefits of face to face meetings.
  • Telephone – Has an ‘intimate’ quality to the conversation that many value and it is, with practice, possible to pick up on non-vernal clues.

What will work for you?

It is worth considering the geography and ease of travel between you and coach. Many people find the travel time to and from sessions useful for gathering their thoughts, but equally if the distance and time needed to attend is significant, it will be a barrier to meeting.

Think about your schedule and access to communication options. If you have an office that is private and with decent internet, then Skype/FaceTime maybe a great way to virtually meet.

Perhaps the nature of the coaching is more suited to phone calls due to time availability and the content for discussion. Email could work in this way also, especially if you are sharing practical information and updating on progress.

Who likes distance coaching?

  • People with limited time to travel and very tight schedules
  • People who have a very specific goal that is time bound (e.g. job interview)
  • People who prefer the intimacy/privacy of communicating from their home
  • People who like the efficiency and accessibility of a distance arrangement

Good Practice

You should apply good practice to these distance sessions – as you would for a face to face session.

That is:

  • Prepare for and think about what will be discussed.
  • Make sure the space you have is undisturbed and free of distractions.
  • Stay focussed and attentive to conversation.
  • Agree on actions to be taken forward.
  • Reflect on the learning gained.

Final thoughts

A lack of face to face contact can mean that it is difficult or takes longer to build rapport. This is a crucial part of managing the relationship between a coach and coachee, so make sure you do meet at least once, if possible.

Distractions and interruptions are harder to manage remotely, so will require you to be disciplined about your immediate environment – for the benefit of you both.

Once you have established the best method for both parties and you have agreed the practicalities of how it will work, it can be a brilliant way of coaching without the need to meet face to face.

The quality of your attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking.” 

Nancy Kline

I think his can be done at a distance.

If you would like to talk to me about coaching at a distance call me on 0754 0593476 or email me at alexis@alexishutson.com 

1 Comment

  1. I learnt to coach being a clinical and educational supervisor for young doctors in haematology and now have a practice within my nhs post of many types of healthcare professionals, including those in difficulty. I learnt to coach face to face and was very sceptical about any other method.

    I was prompted to try other methods when I joined the RCPhysicians mentoring scheme, as many doctors were far away – one in USA. I have had success with skype / WhatsApp video and telephone coaching and have then met up with one coachee who came to Oxford, where I work.

    As part of a supervision course, we had to do preparation work for 3 months including trying out supervision methods and we were paired with other people on the course. They were from round the world, so I was forced to increase my non face to face work and was surprised at how well it worked. Now the ‘tribe’ from the face to face course all keep in touch by remote methods as we are on 4 continents.

    Dr Sylvia Benjamin

    Reply

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