Updated: Mar 26, 2022
Some time ago, I worked in a program with a few other coaches. Because of misunderstanding on the schedule, a few coaches could not be available on the last day of the program where 1 on 1 coaching took place. One coach advocated for them to conduct the 1 on 1 on skype. At a point, he asked in a challenging tone, ‘What are the things that you normally do in face-to-face coaching but cannot be done on skype?’
This is an interesting question. At that time, I really could not think of anything. After all, I do not touch my coachee. Well, I guessed he has a point.
Recently, I was reflecting with another coach on some coach training (preparing individuals to become ICF accredited coach) which is done 100% online. The above question on virtual coaching comes back to my mind. We came up with some interesting realizations.
Yes, there is really nothing which you normally do in face-to-face coaching but cannot be done on skype. Yet, it is not about what I DO, it is about what I SEE / SENSE. There are things which I normally SEE / SENSE in face-to-face coaching but cannot be done on skype!! For example:
I cannot see:
· how the coachee comes into the scene – how she walks, what she carries, etc;
· how she sits;
· how closed / open is her posture;
· how tight she holds her fists;
· how she takes up the space in the room;
· what she is looking at when her eyesight turned away from the camera;
I cannot sense:
· the feeling I would have on the coachee with the data mentioned above (I suspect counter-transference works better with these data)
· the feeling the coach is experiencing in the room e.g. the temperature, the stuffiness
So what? I think it depends on what kind of coaching it is. If the approach is primarily ‘technical’ e.g. using GROW model to review a project plan, the above constraints do not really matter. But if the approach involves work on the irrational stuff e.g. the psycho-dynamics approach, the coach needs to be aware of, or even better, to find ways to compensate for the above constraints.
The question has since stayed in my mind. More specifically, the question I have been pondering is ‘How much is virtual coaching as effective as face-to-face one?’