05 February 2024

Digital Coaching: A coach’s viewpoint

Many coaches have adapted to the new world of democratizing coaching.

I’ve been coaching virtually for over 20 years now. Back in the old days, we coached by phone and were coached ourselves too. It was a time when listening skills were all the more important.

Just as interesting were the 200 hours of coach training I began my coaching career with, as a member of the cohort of students at CoachU. It was rather exotic to be trained on just a phone line, with a trainer from the other side of the world and class members who could be from anywhere!

As with most things in life, we gradually get used to changes, absorb them, and, with a needs-must open mindset – embrace them too. That’s a normal human trait. The innate ability to be adaptable to a greater or lesser extent as our lives progress dictates our satisfaction with our world.

As I often remind my clients, it’s the sane thing to do.

  • Control what you can
  • Influence anything else you can
  • Ignore the rest

For it will wear you out emotionally, mentally – and inevitably physically – to attempt otherwise.

Which brings me to where we are now.

Many coaches have adapted to the new world of democratizing coaching, which has required changes to the way we work. More people being coached is a good thing, for it enables them to realise their own potential, and help others to do so as well.

Coaching virtually, to more people, often utilises common platforms, with the consistency of dashboards and video connections, which clients can easily access worldwide, irrespective of their different time zones and locations. These complement many different organisational structures and cultures too.

I’ve been working in this way for over six years now, as a member of several associate teams for coaching organisations worldwide. The use of the same dashboard for all my clients has not only been invaluable for me, but has also ensured that my clients have the very best experience too. It enables me to focus on my clients, without the fuss and worry of setting things up myself.

To purist coaches, the ability to pick up and start work right away with any client without a chemistry session might seem strange, but I believe in the simple things in life. If I can be curious with the clients sent to me and show them how much I value them from the outset in an objective and non-judgmental way, then the service I give them will truly help them on their way.

My favourite way to work with clients who come my way, is to have 12 sessions over a 6-month period. Whilst we usually work to a set of agreed goals as a foundation, I make it clear to my clients that I am more than happy to work with current and tactical situations too. We may work on their career goals, as well as their part in organisational and leadership development.

Over the last 20-plus years, I have rarely had failures in my relationships with clients. In fact, of the many hundreds of clients I’ve worked with in that time, I can count on one hand the times where we have needed to part.

I’m sure there have been a few I’ve coached who didn’t quite get me to start, but with a low fall-off rate, that curiosity for my client, and the trusting relationship we create quickly between us, we work it out.

Here are a few thoughts on my methodology, in a digital world:

  • Within hours of being told I have a new client, I contact them with a personal message.  This is where the unique relationship begins. I am obsessed with this. My clients are special; it’s my job to ensure they feel that way.
  • Through my bio, I am upfront with how I coach. I’m preparing a welcome even before we start.
  • On the very first call, we get to know each other, and I‘m keen to show that I want to understand them and their situation. To find out about them as people. So, we talk about commonalities in our lives; we laugh and have a very easy conversation.
  • I give and expect respect in our relationship, so I set clear ground rules for working together early, though I like to be flexible on occasions when life doesn’t quite go to plan.
  • Digital platforms are great at logging and tracking goals and actions, but I don’t let the mechanics of ‘keeping the system up to date’ get in the way of having meaningful conversations about how my clients are progressing, or what they need from me as their coach.
  • I work with each client to demystify their initial newness of a dashboard process and help them with it and any quirks we sometimes find. I ensure that we have other ways of connecting via my own email and LinkedIn and have my own Zoom link available should a problem occur in the system. I’ve also been known to pick up my mobile and have one of those archaic audio-only calls, too!

There’s one other thing I’ve stuck by over the years: whatever the backend mechanics of our relationship are, I’m the coach. The role stays the same. And it’s my responsibility to be flexible and work with the added benefits of dashboard technology, like reminders and timescales and a place to keep goals and actions, and like assessment tools and inputs from others too.

And whether a client accesses coaching via an online platform or in a traditional way, it’s my role as coach to help them be their best.

I’m there to help them. That’s all.

Written by Martin Haworth


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