As technology and globalisation quickens its pace and more individuals and organisations diversify from centralised working into remote alternatives, what does this mean for coaches working with professionals in business? How can we, as coaches, maintain a commitment to an intimate and trusting interplay between coach and coachee when distance is the new norm? Surely distance actually compromises the process of coaching and what it is designed to achieve?
Some years ago, we might have said that yes, remote coaching is by definition distanced and not entirely engaged. But with the many leaps and bounds in technology, real-time synchronicity and sharing across platforms, we've discovered that remote coaching can in fact be a trump card when it comes to drawing out the best in people.
When we talk about ‘their’ best we are of course talking about what is best specifically for them. Only they can access it. We can’t work it out for them – they have to work it out for themselves, because it is their unique mind and body within which they are operating. Similarly, their best will look entirely different to someone else's – even an individual working within the same organisation and aligning to the same business principles and systems. Our coaching process will take its own path depending on the unique aspects of each individual. And this is where certain elements of remote coaching can work for us.
Coaching, on demand
One of the biggest hurdles in the world of executive coaching is time – or lack of. Our culture has never been so starved of it, despite myriad ways to live smart, work less and in theory, squeeze more fulfilment from our 24 precious hours. This very real struggle is evidenced in the demand for increasing work life integration amongst employees and of course, adaptations in how employees work together across different time zones. Accordingly, the outdated ideology of 9-5, which assumes those who operate within these hours operate their best within these hours, is also dismantling in favour of personalised, flexible working.
Enter remote coaching. If we take a moment to acknowledge the always-on, cloud-based reality the majority of professionals now work in, it makes sense that fast, sharp bursts of remote coaching weave more successfully into this new work paradigm. It also enables us to respond quickly, flexibly and with total presence – whenever clients need it.
Notably, the benefits go beyond the individual. For organisations to maintain a skilled and connected workforce, making a shift from traditional development programmes into more tailored, on-demand development programmes can provide greater convenience and flexibility. This can be achieved without compromising the vital ingredient: an expert, human interface. Coaching over platforms such as Zoom or Skype allow us to meet the need for targeted, intensive sessions that often 'land' the learnings and insights deeply, because both coach and individual are prepared and willing to bring their whole self to the session – without actually being there!
The Age of Autonomy
As a society we've transitioned into an always-on, globalised, hyper-connected culture. We Whatsapp colleagues in Australia to have them Dropbox deliverables to developers in India, who then liaise with German associates on Slack to prepare a translation that's needed in Asia. Time zones, and processes, are often no longer sliced and diced logically – or locally. At first glance then, remote working and remote coaching may seem an almighty challenge for organisations who want to unify their values and vision.
"We remote coach an individual and they remote influence many others through their use of technology"
Andrew Hambly-Smith, Brave Co-founder
Yet we've seen how coaching an individual can create a positive ripple of change throughout their organisation, and in fact this ripple can be accelerated significantly through the use of remote coaching because of its flexibility and access. “We call this the Delta effect; where we remote coach an individual and they remote influence many others through their use of technology to communicate with their team globally”, explains Brave Co-founder Andrew Hambly-Smith.
Through our Brave coaching process, we've seen first-hand how cloud-based working provides a landscape in which organisations and employees naturally move towards greater self-determination. Self-determination, however, is not necessarily the same as self-developing. Reflecting on oneself, and observing where we limit ourselves and how we can develop, sometimes takes a back seat, especially when we are affected by the reduced sense of belonging that is often more easily attained with regular ‘physical’ contact. Andrew Hambly-Smith, reasons that, “remote coaching can be instrumental in creating the space and ‘virtual’ environment to support adaptability, enhance performance and combat isolation.”
“I can confer with my coach for short, concentrated bursts regardless of where I am physically, without having to factor in travel time.”
Professor Jackie Labbe, Pro Vice-Chancellor, De Montfort University
With less time restricted conference rooms, more breathing space, fewer interruptions, and deep focus, there's a very real safety that comes from self-determining your preferred environment to be coached in. Having a screen between you and your coach can also create a welcome pause for moments of deep self-realisation. We've seen time and again how personal responsibility and self-reliance show up ready and willing to work, because in this space the employee is also an individual operating under their terms. As one of Brave’s clients, Professor Jackie Labbe concurs, “I can confer with my coach for short, concentrated bursts regardless of where I am physically, without having to factor in travel time.”
Within organisations there's still so much emphasis on assessing and learning skills and competencies, and comparatively little focus on helping people reduce the ways in which they interfere with their own potential. Brave coaches enable individuals to discover their own personal mind-made obstacles in the shortest amount of time possible. Cultivating this deep level of non-judgemental self-awareness is frequently made easier with a little healthy distance.
Brave's Top Three Tips for Remote Coaching with Impact:
- Empty yourself. Never assume you know what your coachee is thinking or feeling. Always go into a session curious and with what Zen Buddhism refers to as 'beginner's mind'.
- Say less, listen more.
- Ask searching questions which access the patterns and habits that either limit progress or accelerate recipients toward their goals.