I have thought of my business model to be digital from the very beginning – whether in the area of workshops & trainings or business & leadership coaching. I am grateful for that, because as a coach, trainer & consultant I feel I have mastered both worlds – online & offline – and I am ready and prepared for the future!
In the field of business coaching, I often notice that some people still have reservations about getting involved in “digital” coaching. On the one hand, there is this prejudice that no deep exchange can develop over the distance. On the other hand, there are critical questions about whether it is even possible to build a relationship of trust and true closeness virtually. Especially clients who have already experienced face-to-face coaching are uncertain or doubtful. They can hardly imagine how online coaching can be effective and how it should work.
Online coaching & effectiveness
There are increasingly more studies which clearly show that both online and offline coaching can be equally effective.1 Sure, every person is different – in the end, it may highly depend on the client (among other things) how effective online coaching will be. Of course, it’s important, to get involved, allowing an online coaching process to become aware of all the advantages & added values.
At the same time, it is essential for me as a coach to be fully present – despite the distance, to take fears and concerns regarding “virtual meetings” seriously and be mindful of the hesitations. Similar to face-to-face coaching, the first step is to build relationships and trust.
Additionally, my digital skills as a coach play a crucial role. In online coaching, I use my digital expertise in a very targeted but also logical way.
Meaning, I review innovative tools and select the best option to incorporate in the process – in a way that is not daunting but rather inviting for my clients. The chosen resources should visually support the conversation and stimulate reflection (see an example of a coaching whiteboard, created in MURAL).
In addition to the tools, there are a variety of coaching methods or intervention options that also work wonderfully in a virtual setting.
Emotions in online coaching & different personality types
What impressed me most this year: online coaching and emotions – yes, it is possible! Surprisingly, some people show emotions even a bit faster virtually – depending on the target group & personality.
From my experience, people with introverted personality types are able to open up more easily in online coaching settings. Among others, graduate psychologist Elke Berninger-Schäfer confirms this phenomenon. It has been proven that in virtual communication, there is an increased and proven willingness to reveal oneself.2
Similarly, in the younger target group, the physical distance and perceived anonymity can contribute to a more in-depth coaching conversation quicker. This is especially true with critical or sensitive subject areas. This finding also emerges from various research studies: certain personality types and specifically younger people, feel safer on the internet than in person. The “digitalised” coaching setting becomes a protected space and emotional barriers are lowered.3
For me personally, it is very important to use the video option, so both sides are able to recognise non-verbal communication signals – at least in the area of gestures & facial expressions.
So is online coaching better than offline coaching?
That is not what I am saying! Everyone should decide for themselves what environment feels most comfortable to them. Ideally, the client would experience the benefits of “both worlds” in order to decide this. For some personality types, virtual coaching is THE best option – others have to become comfortable with it first. Some may decide to have classic face-to-face coaching in the long term. Eventually, online-based coaching has its limits, for example, in the area of body language. However, in times of increased virtual collaboration due to the #SafetyFirst Covid regulations, a “digital” coaching process is definitely a recommendable alternative.
Online Coaching FAQ's
- Coaching-Magazin, Edition 3 | 2019, Dr. Johanna Friesenhahn, Miles Taylor: https://www.coaching-magazin.de/wissenschaft/chancen-und-grenzen-von-online-coaching
and Coaching-Newsletter January 2020, Dr. Christopher Rauen
- Berninger-Schäfer, Elke (2018). Online-Coaching. Wiesbaden: Springer. https://www.springer.com/de/book/9783658101275#aboutAuthors
- Knatz B. (2012) Coaching per Internet – wie es geht und wie es wirkt. In: Geißler H., Metz M. (eds) E-Coaching and Online Consultation. VS Publisher for Social Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-531-19155-3_5