When I started coaching, a few years back, I was a firm believer that coaching effectiveness was bound to a necessary face to face interaction between coach and coachee. It is true that in-situ interaction does bring in its fair share of advantages, among which the possibility to visually “observe” the eventual silences of the conversation and “read” subconscious communication patterns such as body language or facial expressions. Yet, it does carry along some drawbacks, inclusive of visual distraction, for both the coach and the coachee, and sometimes, the apprehension we might have toward the look or judgment of others upon us; which goes against the focused and non-judgmental nature of coaching.
With the internationalization of my client base, intimately linked to the frequent international relocations imposed by my work, I came to interact, more and more frequently, with distant clients, primarily by telephone. What was initially a plan B thing to punctually accommodate existing face to face clients has now developed into a full-blown approach of its own, with a significant increase of “distant” clients preferring the flexibility and advantages of telephone coaching.
- Coaching, in general, and action learning, in particular, has to be a focused process. Telephone coaching does enable a total concentration, from both coach and coachee, on what is essential: COACHING and nothing else. Visual distractions are removed from the interaction, enhancing the effectiveness of communicating the message and information across.
- From the comfort of your own safe heaven.Coaching sessions are usually short, compared to training, for a particular reason: INTENSITY. Coaching is a self-reflective process requiring a sustained effort during the entire session, to analyze, reflect upon, and formulate actions toward a particular, or several, situations. It may not always be possible or convenient for clients to arrange their own schedule during work hours, where on-going work related issues and distractions might affect their level of concentration and, overall, their level of implication toward the coaching process. By making their own arrangements, in terms of setting for the telephone sessions, clients also guaranty the CONFIDENTIALITY of the relationship, where no one will have to know the content and details of their coaching session.
- Opening-up. Coaching is a very intimate process where apprehensions on the coach’s look or judgment upon the client can have an impact on the depth and quality of the coaching relationship. The unusual blend of anonymity and intimacy that comes from telephone coaching helps clients to more fully open themselves to the coaching process. No TRUST, no effective coaching. We all, somehow, apprehend the look of people, whom we are regularly interacting with, upon us (supervisors, employees, family members, friends,…), since we are generally bound to regular social interaction with them. The perceived social or emotional “impact” of a stranger on the other end of a line, whom we might never meet, is generally lesser.
- Coaching is not training. Coaching is not about telling the client what has to be done, it is rather, through active communication and a structured action-centered philosophy, to enable and help clients formulate their own solutions to situations they perceive as problematic or complex. Clients should expect the coach to be an equal partner with whom they will be able to bring in as much, to the relationship, as they receive from it and telephone is a great equalizer.
- Find the RIGHT coach. While the coach’s background is an important factor when selecting a coach, CHEMISTRY between coach and coachee is what makes a difference between a productive and an unproductive relationship. Coaching is about interpersonal communication, plain simple. Would you undress in front of someone who does not make you comfortable? Most likely, not. The same goes with the intimacy of the coaching process. Telephone coaching enables you to connect to the right coach, the one with whom you feel a real connection with, the one with whom you feel you will be COMFORTABLE working with, without been limited by geography.
- Time efficiency. There is absolutely no traveling required for telephone coaching, no advance planning, no traffic stressing jams… The opportunity is there to fit the client’s coaching into the busiest of schedules, when the kids are in bed, during a lunch break or between meetings. Additionally, look at the bright side, no transport, no emission: completely environmentally friendly.
I am currently working with coachees located in the US, Europe and Asia, some of whom I have never met in person, until now. Yet, despite the distance, telephone coaching enables us to efficiently work together and achieve optimum results, coaching after coaching, with the added advantage of flexibility and convenience. And all it takes is a good phone line!