Monday 22 July 2013

Telephone coaching

One of the things I have enjoyed over the years of running my consultancy is noticing how the business has evolved and changed over time.  Normally, that has little to do with any strategic intention of mine, and far more to do with being responsive to clients’ good ideas.  My whole coaching practice developed in response to clients' requests.

And so it is with telephone coaching. My instinctive preference was for face-to-face coaching, and that with plenty of time: the Day in the Lakes offering is my ideal.

However, that is not ideal for many of my clients; and by the same token, neither is face-to-face coaching.  Some prefer telephone coaching for a number of reasons, and on reflection I think they are right - and I am valuing (and enjoying)it increasingly.  It has certainly become a larger part of my coaching work, albeit still well under half.

Some of the reasons are the obvious ones: 

Geography means that for some clients, telephone coaching is the only option (if they wish to work with me) as they are based a long way from where I am (some in other countries, or in far-flung corners of this one, like the Home Counties...); and then there are the environmental considerations of minimising unnecessary travel, (not to mention time efficiences) which provide another impetus towards phone coaching

However, there is more to it than that.  I find that some people find the different quality of telephone coaching especially helpful.  The question down the line... the silence... the chance to reflect before answering, without feeling someone’s eyes are on you...  These have their own dynamic, which seem to work very well for some people.

Moreover, by phone it is often easy to have a very brief, laser-like session.  When one or both parties have travelled to a meeting, there sometimes feels to be an obligation to make the meeting last for a certain minimum length of time...

As always, there is a structure in place (in particular the completion and return of the Success Report following up on action commitments prior to each subsequent session) that helps ensure that the sessions are productive in practice.

So why was I somewhat reluctant to go down this route in the first place? My initial concern, as a coach, was that by definition one is getting less information over the phone: none of the clues of body language and eye contact patterns are available.  But in experience, I find that the clues are all there in the words, the tone of voice, the pauses.  Despite my theoretical view of the limitation, in practice i do find that it works extremely well.

However, i am also aware that face-to-face meetings work best for some, and indeed some of those I work with principally by phone also welcome an ocasional face-to-face meeting too.

So what I am working on now is trying to develop some kind of guidelines or questionnaire or checklist (or something) that will help potential coaching clients decide whether phone, face-to-face, or a mix of both is best for them.

But maybe that’s unrealistic: maybe it is a matter of trying and finding out by experience what works best.

I’d be interested in any thoughts any of my readers, clients or colleagues may have on this, whether via the combox or private email.

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