29 Mar 2017

E-Coaching

Coaching is usually employed to assist with the development of soft skills such as leadership, time management, delegation and communication, and it can also be used to embed learning from training courses by helping the learner to set goals and follow through on the necessary actions.

E-coaching is any form of coaching that takes place using electronic media, with or without the input from a real coach. E-coaching can broadly be defined as any form of coaching that takes place using electronic media, with or without the input from a real coach. Professional coaches are now adding e-Coaching to their portfolio of services, either as stand-alone programs or to add value to existing one-to-one or group coaching programs. E-coaching is no different.

How is e-coaching delivered? Real-time e-coaching tools are:

  • Instant Messenger services
  • Skype
  • Webinars

Coaching using these methods can take place in a formal coaching session or as required, providing the Coach and Coachee are available at the same time. We use Skype, although the service can be patchy from time to time and we sometimes end up reverting to the telephone. The reason we prefer it over typed communications is that we can talk to the Coachee and get a feel for his mood, motivation level and language. Having the option to use video means we are able to see him and he can see us, plus we can use the chat box to send links to relevant resources he might find useful during the course of the session. Skype is free when accessed via the Internet and can be used for conference calls.

Because we travel internationally, Skype can be used to supplement face-to-face sessions with clients. Equally, many of our clients are senior executives who are called away on business at a moment’s notice so using this media allows us to maintain the continuity and momentum of a coaching program.

For in-house coaches in companies with multiple locations, Skype means coaching sessions can be held without the need for either party to travel.

Webinars combined with online discussions can be an effective way of sharing knowledge in the organization and allowing people to learn from one another. Far from being a one-way flow of information from trainer to staff, this technology incorporates many interactive features such as polls, chat functions and being able to ask the trainer/ facilitator questions.

When group coaching sessions are held as webinars, there is no time taken up away from the office and staff members at different locations are connected. There is the added aspect of accountability: participants in a series of group online coaching sessions can be asked to report back on their progress since the last session. Combined with a discussion forum, individuals can come together to share experiences and learn from one another.

What is the appeal of e-coaching?

Flexibility getting someone to commit to formal coaching sessions can sometimes be challenging, whether he is working with an in-house coach or an external one. E-coaching means he can set goals, work through coaching resources and give feedback to his coach at a time that suits him. Likewise, the e-coach can read and respond at a convenient time within agreed parameters.

For the in-house coach, being able to coach by email or via an online coaching platform means he can manage his time more effectively and, if he is so inclined, log in from home and coach when he can think more clearly away from the office.

External coaches providing e-coaching can work in a more flexible way, which is particularly appealing for parents working from home. Where once the hours they had available for coaching were dictated by the school run, housework and general activities, they can now coach outside of office hours. For those external coaches who do operate normal office hours, they are able to work with their e-coaching clients between one-to-one sessions and make use of other ‘down time’ during the working week.

For part-time or home-workers, e-coaching offers the same benefits and means they are not excluded from the development options available to full-time office-based staff. This flexibility means the organization can benefit from cost-savings and provide coaching support to staff globally, regardless of the time of day or night. Blended learning Coaching has long been used to help individuals and groups embed what has been learned on a training course, so it is a natural step to add in a coaching layer to existing e-learning activities.

E-coaching is any form of coaching that takes place using electronic media, with or without the input from a real coach. E-coaching can be combined to help staff set, and work towards, development goals. As with any other form of coaching, it is vital the e-coach is briefed on people’s development plans, feedback from appraisals and the outcomes the organization is looking for. In this way, the e-coach can be sure he is operating within the brief he has been given and supports the individual’s ongoing development.

In-house coaches can be trained to use online tools and provide e-coaching to staff, and will be able to manage relationships with more people than through providing only one-to-one coaching. Connection to the right coaches for the job when selecting external coaches, location can become a large factor in the decision-making process, especially if the coaching company charges for travel to and from the venue if they are not local. Online tools make it much easier to connect the Coachee to the right coach for him, regardless of location. When one office has an existing relationship with an external coach who is trusted and has proven his worth, other offices can utilize his expertise. Key tips for getting a good result from e-coaching:

  • Blend it with other learning methods
  • Don’t expect online self-coaching programs to fully replace human interaction
  • Identify which skills and topics are suitable for e-coaching and which aren’t
  • Test it thoroughly before rolling out to large numbers of staff
  • Work with a provider experienced in this field.

Are there any drawbacks tousling e-coaching?

E-coaching is primarily designed to supplement one-to-one and group coaching, not to be used instead of it. For those individuals within the organization who have no prior experience of being coached, use purely online programs with caution and thoroughly explain how it works. Run a small pilot program first, with a few individuals, to assess how it compares with other development options. Organizations expecting to save money by substituting living, breathing coaches with computer software to still get the same results will be disappointed. Crews is open to the idea of using an e-coaching platform, with some caveats: “I don’t think it should completely replace the physical one-to-one interaction of a coach. Rather it should be used as an additional tool to support the client in between sessions.”

Face-to-face enables the key ingredients of effective coaching to occur. As an external coach I find face-to-face interaction invaluable.

Source: Hannah McNamara ‘The-rise-of-e-coaching’ – leadingchangenetwork.org