Technical curve balls in virtual coaching – how do you manage them?

8th November 2018

We hear from Michelle Lucas facilitator at last month's Telephone and Virtual Coaching event.

Last month, I was delighted to deliver a short workshop in Cambourne all about coaching using more virtual mechanisms – i.e. the phone, skype or zoom. As luck would have it, technology was not on our side that day… and the laptop at the facility decided it needed to do a full update and re-boot! It finally kicked in at about 10 minutes into the session time – so as any facilitator would do under those circumstances – I had to “wing it”!! I prompted some discussion about our experiences of working with technology.  Ironically, this technical glitch illustrated all too well the curve balls that we may need to deal with when delivering coaching remotely. W

hen someone doesn’t appear on skype (or any other virtual medium) what do you do? We talked about the practicalities of having a back up plan perhaps another number to call – but in reality when someone doesn’t appear on time, a whole maelstrom of angst arrives. We check our diaries to see if we have the date and time right, we check the accuracy of our software link, we check our Wi-Fi connection, we worry that they can see or hear us, but we can’t see or hear them and so we watch our “P’s” and “Q’s” as we do all of this … exasperated, we give up and re-boot our computer just in case there is a “glitch”. Simultaneously we try to locate their mobile number to text them – and when we find that we didn’t enter it into the phone, that it’s still on their e-mail, which is on our computer, and which we’ve just re-booted…. that’s when something approximating “meltdown” sets in.

So let’s imagine that our client was just running late, and we finally connect … how’s the energy at that point?  Expansive, reflective and ready to start an exploratory coaching dialogue? Or strung out, distracted, and chastising ourselves for not being better at all this technical stuff?

If we are to stand a chance of engaging in a meaningful coaching conversation on the back of this kind of experience, we need to become practiced at managing our state.  If we want to stand a chance of avoiding this kind of technical drama we need to contract with a level of detail that might not be necessary when working face to face.  For example, it is wise to allow 10 minutes before the start time for people to log in; a time that allows you to log in and “discover” that a software update is necessary.  It might also be wise to say that you will wait “online” for 10 minutes past the start time and then disconnect, at which point the session will need to be reconvened.

At the Cambourne workshop, our discussion highlighted that with a bit of practice, coaching over the phone or over skype is not so different to coaching in the same room.  In particular we explored how we can attend to more subtle cues in the other person’s voice and energy, when we don’t have access to visual cues.   We do of course need to be mindful to the client’s exposure to working virtually and remember that they may need some encouragement to try it and experience how it feels. The general consensus was that meeting a client initially face to face would make subsequent virtual sessions easier.

If you attended this session, and would like to offer the opportunity to run a similar session in-house to your internal pool of coaches, or your workforce, please contact

The East of England LGA offers a range of Coaching CPD sessions throughout the year, alongside coaching programmes and bespoke support, and we are always keen to hear your feedback, or areas of expertise you would like to find out more about.

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