Online Coaching – Fad or Future Trend?

Online coaching: The optimal supplement - not a mediocre substitute

The effectiveness of coaching has long been proven. However, many people are critical of online coaching. But the work of a good coach is of equal value. It doesn’t matter whether it’s analog or digital. The medium is merely the bridge between the people involved, and the decisive factor is who crosses this bridge. Not whether it is made of wood or metal. Virtual coaching is effective and offers added value.

The fourth industrial revolution is literally turning our working world upside down. In companies, working and learning cultures must change in order to master the digital transformation. Organizations are facing major challenges here. This is not just about technologies, but above all about people. The demands on managers are increasing exponentially. They are expected to promote innovation and work in an agile manner, communicate goals and stability, bring together a wide variety of generational values, manage complexity, leverage efficiencies, put the customer at the center of everything they do, and develop and promote their employees along the way. The list is not exhaustive.

There is no one answer to all these questions. That is precisely what makes this transformation difficult for managers.

Digitalization is a megatrend that is shaping our working lives. And not just since the crisis. It will continue to have a strong influence on us even after the crisis. Both coaches and clients are probably aware of this. Nevertheless, many still shy away from it.

However, the current challenges of the pandemic have accelerated things – many more online formats are now possible than would have been conceivable in January of this year. And especially now, coaching may be a helpful support for leadership issues in everyday life.

Eliminate prejudices of online coaching

Especially around the topic of online coaching there are prejudices and reservations. I often receive statements and questions about whether it is possible to create closeness at a distance. A very clear “YES” to this. This does not necessarily require a camera. The history of psychology has already shown that long-distance accompaniment works. Even in wartime there was the telephone counselling service and other help hotlines still work today. Sometimes the perceived anonymity even helps to create more openness. And distance does not necessarily have to do with physical distance.

What is online coaching?

The term “virtual coaching” can be used to describe all coaching formats that do not take place face-to-face. There is no standardized term. Some examples are eCoaching, online coaching, telephone coaching, internet coaching, blended coaching, mobile coaching, etc.

In addition, there is the distinction between synchronous (coach and coachee are in exchange at the same time) and asynchronous coaching (the coachee accesses prepared materials completely independent of time and works on them when he wants).

What are possible formats?

Here are a few examples – the important thing is that often a combination (gladly also with analog) can be useful:

  • Self-coaching: a self-study with input in the form of e-books, e-documents, films, reflection tasks,… There is no direct contact with the coach
  • E-mail coaching: Communication is asynchronous in alternation, exclusively in writing.
  • Telephone coaching: Anyone can use the telephone, there are no entry barriers.
  • Video chat coaching: Tools like Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Zoom, etc. are on the rise and offer stable video connections and the possibility to share the screen, for example.
  • Virtual classroom coaching: documents can be worked on together in a web room, different communication channels are available. Also suitable for group coaching
  • Integrated coaching platforms: A wide variety of tools and prepared interventions are available to guide coach and coachee through the process and document in parallel in a more or less automated way
  • Virtual 3D worlds: Spatial vision and movement make more interactions possible, creating a very real “experience”. Partially without major technology requirements such as 3D glasses.

For which topics?

For (almost) everyone! Modern communication options bridge almost all hurdles. Therefore, one topic should not generally be completely ruled out as impossible. The success of online coaching depends on various factors, so that in principle everything is conceivable.

For whom is online coaching suitable?

Much more important here is the question: Which setting is suitable for which person or situation? As we all know, everyone has their own comfort zone. Everything there is known and familiar. The experience with situations and other individuals have a decisive influence on the size of the comfort zone and the size of the hurdle to new territory. After all, it is also safe, predictable and comfortable within one’s own comfort zone. And it is precisely this comfort zone that also determines how open people are to online coaching. Here, too, the pandemic has probably helped some people to jump over hurdles.

Is there only either-or?

NO! Depending on the situation and the topic, a both/and is often appropriate.

What to look for when using online coaching:

  1. Pragmatism versus technology:
    – Is a process-driven online coaching tool necessary?
    – Will a video conferencing or virtual classroom system suffice?
  2. Acceptance versus cost:
    – Ease of use: acceptance increases with simplicity
    – Technical requirements: Firewall settings, integration into system landscape, data security
    – Costs for licenses, hardware, training
  3. Recruit a few open-minded executives or project managers as “pilots” who are open to modern formats and whose experience you can use in internal marketing.
  4. Find professional coaches who
    – Demonstrate experience with online coaching,
    – are familiar with tools/variants,- clarify the framework, and- answer your questions comprehensively.
    Tip: Look for certifications, association affiliations, ratings.
  5. Depending on the coachee’s needs, agree on flexible frameworks, for example:
    – Contingent – callable as needed.
    – Fixed appointments and flexible time slots
    – Ad-hoc appointments by arrangement
    – Change of media if necessary (e.g. telephone/online)

Conclusion: Online coaching works!

Coaching is one of the most demonstrably effective personnel development measures, as it addresses the individual situation and the coach assists in finding the appropriate solution to the problem or new options for achieving the goal. Unlike a consultant, the coach encourages the client to self-reflect and develop as a result. Technological advances offer a variety of formats that allow both parties to integrate the coaching process more flexibly into their daily work routine.

The most important tip: Try out what works!

Wenn Menschen gemeinsam auf einem Trampolin springen, können sie sich gegenseitig beschleunigen oder ausbremsen. Das ist in Teams und Organisationen genauso. Als Trainerin, Coach, Team- und Kulturentwicklerin begleitet Sandra Dundler die Menschen digital und analog dabei, die Herausforderungen der Transformation zu meistern. Sie war selbst lange Jahre Mitarbeiterin in einem Konzern auf unterschiedlichen Führungsebenen.

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