Virtual coaching - is this the future for business coaching?

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Written by Louise Weston on 23 February 2017 in Features

As the success of remote fitness coaching becomes evident, Louise Weston asks could a similar approach be applied in business coaching?

Joe Wicks, otherwise known as the Body Coach, has recently swept the nation with his personal training programme. Rather than hiring a personal trainer, people have been turning to Facebook and YouTube to use Wicks’ programme instead. He provides a sort of ‘remote coaching’, offering videos and books as training for each individual, with customer service representatives on standby to help support his thousands of coachees. People have hailed Wicks as a hero: he has enabled the masses to access a personal trainer, for a much more affordable price.

A desire for personalised training and high quality mentors with high levels of availability is something which also exists in the business world. More recently, this desire has been bolstered by two different meta-analyses which have been produced over the past few years.1 The studies have offered more credible support for business coaching’s effectiveness, for which previously there was not significant evidence. The coaching world has quickly begun to evolve in light of this new found credibility, as a business tool, its use is rapidly becoming more widespread and this trend is set to continue over the next decade.

As our lives become increasingly automated and we rely more and more upon remote situations and interactions – much like those that the Body Coach employs – in order to achieve our goals and meet our needs in a timely manner, can workplace coaching continue to grow? Or will it fall into a new, more remote model which allows coaching for the masses?  

Can remote business coaching be successful?

Our experience, and indeed a quick look at the success of the Body Coach model would suggest that coaching can indeed be rolled out to the masses successfully when undertaken remotely.

On some levels, this does make sense. Previous research2 suggests that length and delivery formats do not really impact on the effectiveness of coaching, as long as the coaching itself is of a high quality.

However, building that relationship remotely is another thing entirely. It takes longer to build trust when we are not face to face, as people miss out on vital social cues. We can’t see body language or facial expressions, and those non-verbal cues can tell us a huge amount about what someone is really thinking or feeling. Unfortunately even via video link these cues can be difficult to recognise – making the building of strong coaching relationships more difficult.

Thus, when coaching remotely we must carefully consider how we set up the relationship. Initial face to face meetings could be used to develop trust, and adapting and using coaching tools or approaches which aid clarity of communication, such as the scaling technique can help in situations where face to face contact is limited.

What’s the verdict?

If we can succeed at the above techniques, then the future of coaching will definitely be remote. Shorter coaching times and remote coaching sessions are cost effective and much more accessible: this in itself is exemplified by the Body Coach model which has swept the nation and helped many people from all kinds of different backgrounds.

The idea that business coaching sessions, much like sessions with a personal trainer, are exclusive or prestigious is an idea that we’ll see eroded as we move forwards. New technology means it’s much easier to access a coach and quickly start a coaching relationship – and people will favour this kind of technological format as time goes on.

Certainly, as remote coaching grows, we will see a rise in flexible, accessible and frequent opportunities for development – and our businesses will be better for it.



About the author

Louise Weston is a business psychologist at Pearn Kandola

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