The virtues of virtual coaching

4th July 2018

On 28 September, we will welcome experienced guest facilitator Michelle Lucas to deliver a Coaching CPD session on “Telephone and Virtual Coaching” (a joint event hosted by the East of England LGA and Suffolk Coaching and Mentoring Partnership). In advance of the session, Michelle joins us to talk about some of the virtues of virtual coaching, which can support a rise in flexible, accessible and frequent opportunities to coach/be coached and develop.

Most of us know that when we look at the ingredients of verbal communication – only 7% of the message is conveyed in words , 38% conveyed through voice, and 55% is conveyed through body language.  No wonder then, that for many people (coaches and coachees alike) the preferred method for coaching is to meet face to face, in person.  However, within your community there are a few odd people like me, who actually feel they do their best work when working virtually, for example over the phone or skype!  So what is it that helps me do good work?  I think there are a few factors.

The absence of reliable non-verbal behaviour cues make me more tentative, rather than assume I understand, I tend to stop and check and make sure I have “heard them right”

The absence (or reduction) of visual information allows me to put more of my attention onto tone, pace, pitch and the emotion within the voice.  So rather than get wrapped in the content of the story, I become more aware of “how” they are telling that story.  As a result my questions pay attention to their experience of the issue in hand, rather than the minutia of the story itself. This often leads them to put their attention on a different level of awareness or understanding than they have had before.

There is research which demonstrates that when people work virtually and from their own “space” they have a greater preparedness to be vulnerable. This can often mean they offer information more freely than they would have done if they were physically present in the same room as the coach. As a result conversations go more deeply, more quickly

Finally as someone who has been given feedback that they have a very expressive face (!) when I work remotely I feel less pressure to present my “game face”.  My game face takes energy to control, and if I am putting my energy into looking neutral, that is less energy that I have for attending to my coachee’s situation.  When I am on the phone particularly, I don’t have to worry about an involuntary raise of an eyebrow – not being seen gives me time to raise my eyebrow, notice my eyebrow, process why I raised it and then think of an appropriate and helpful question.  If I am worried about controlling my eyebrow, then I may ask a more generic question to keep neutral as I have less energy available to generate an incisive question.

So if you are one of those people who shy away from working on the phone or on skype – then perhaps it’s time to consider what you might be missing when you work on an “in person” basis. The workshop on 28 September will give you an opportunity to practice this different way of working.  We will set up practice sessions “back to back” so that you can hear, but not see the other person.  Why not come along …. you may be surprised by how much more you become aware of when you have less visual information to work with!

 

For further information about this session and to book your place, please visit the East of England LGA website at http://www.eelga.gov.uk/events/telephone-and-virtual-coaching-cpd-session/.

For further information about coaching please contact Emma Moore (Emma.moore@eelga.gov.uk) or Hilary Jarrett-Firat (hilary.jarrett-firat@eelga.gov.uk). 

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