‘What are the things that you normally do in face-to-face coaching but cannot be done on skype?’
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.