Aziz coach Michael gives us his thoughts on remote coaching…

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 What do you like about remote coaching and what are the benefits?

To be absolutely honest I don’t like remote coaching at all, but the benefits can out-do the negatives! I might as well mention my dislikes straight away because it might help reassure those who feel the same as I do. Online coaching, lets face it, just isn’t the same as being with people in person and having face to face interaction where you can respond to facial signals or subtle body language. Coaching online means you have to work that much harder to keep peoples attention going. It has been said that the biggest competition for anyone delivering anything online is ‘Angry Birds’. Hopefully this is not actually the case, but even in situations were you can easily see participants, it can still be difficult to ascertain if they are being distracted by email notifications appearing on their screen or distracted by texts on their phones etc. I do everything I can to set guidelines and create coaching sessions that give people little opportunity to be distracted. Nevertheless, ensuring absolute engagement is the constant challenge. Fortunately for me, I can fall back on my background when I worked as an actor and gained experience on both radio and TV. I use my radio experience to make the most of the verbal content, and my TV experience to help me present to camera, even if it is only a webcam! This experience has also helped me teach others how to make the most of their own online delivery.

There are of course huge benefits to on-line coaching – there’s the reduction in both cost and time of travel for participants and myself. If people are working from home it gives them the option to learn from home. It also potentially gives more flexibility to learn in bite-size modules rather than travelling distances to attend, what will usually be, half day or full day training sessions. On-line coaching is better when it’s short, ideally not much longer than an hour at a time, so this allows people to get on with their usual working day without much ‘downtime’.

Are your clients happy with remote coaching and why?

Clients often see remote coaching as an ideal option due to the benefits of saving time and money, and continued productivity. Clients greatly appreciate the option of attending short online sessions or coaching by phone. This works best with one on one coaching or very small numbers of participants – no more than five. It also works best where the coaching is mainly knowledge based. It’s relatively easy to present a teaching session that builds knowledge, followed by some real life planning. The coaching may also be followed by feedback and review sessions that can be more flexible in terms of timing, and may not need to be set in concrete on dates. So clients gain great benefits in terms of saving time, reduced out of office time, and greater flexibility.

How do you build trust?

There’s no one ‘magic wand’ formulae to building trust, but I have always found several aspects to be really important. I am usually working with people (to start with) who don’t know me and I don’t know them. So it’s vital that notifications for remote coaching clearly outline objectives that fully match the trainees’ own learning requirements. I like notifications that communicate a bespoke nature to the coaching. In other words, that I (the coach) will be able to adapt the coaching to personal situations and individual learning objectives. A short introduction to myself will often be tailored to outline my experience in the subject and provide a relevant list of organisations that I have worked with previously. Pre-work helps too. I sometimes brief people to read a relevant article which I may produce myself, or watch a short video that I have created, or a relevant Ted Talk. Sometimes it’s a mix of these as appropriate. All of this helps get people ready for the coaching and gives the idea that I know what I am doing. Lastly, I always remember that the length of the coaching session is a motivator. People are much more willing to give their full concentration if they know in advance that it’s not going to take too long. So notifications need to communicate all of this as the first part of the trust building.

The next opportunity to build trust is of course at the start of the coaching session. I think I have always managed to built trust through a mix of explaining my background. I happen to specialise in only a few subject areas to which my background is highly relevant, so this helps. Further to this, my coaching includes (as much as possible) experience based learning. I don’t just teach, I demonstrate, and I always allow time for sharing of ideas and real life planning. This has always stood me in good stead in terms of creating, building and maintaining trust.

Can you give examples where remote coaching has had a positive outcome?

I was once contacted by a participant of a presentation skills course which had been a face to face session with eight participants. The gentleman concerned contacted me about two years later when he was applying for a promotion. In this particular case we arranged a phone call in which I helped him prepare for the interview. As a result, he won his promotion. Another couple of years lapsed and then he contacted me again to help him prepare for an interview for a highly senior position within another company. This time I coached him online. He needed to give a presentation for the interview and handle questions afterwards, so I coached him for both. He wasn’t actually offered that position, but he did get the next role he applied for. I received a thank you note from him in which he put his successful application down to the help I had given him. Knowing that your coaching has actually helped someone progress their career is obviously one of the greatest outcomes one could hope for.

I have run many coaching sessions which teach people how to deliver training online, and several of these have been delivered for actual online meeting providers. The feedback from all of these has been highly favourable. I have also provided coaching which has been a mix of face to face with online follow-up’s and these, in some cases, create relationships that last for years.

Are there any circumstances where you think remote coaching wouldn’t work?

Some clients have tried to arrange bitesize online coaching, only to find it was easier to revert back to a face to face scenario for a specific day. This is usually because it has proven difficult to get a group of people to be able to comment to a number of consecutive online sessions, so it was better to deliver all the coaching in a day, or two days, and get it all done quickly.

There can be restrictions to the coaching options. Practical exercises and experiential learning is much harder to achieve remotely, sometimes impossible. For example, the options for team-building activities is extremely limited within an online coaching session. Sometimes there’s nothing that will actually beat a real life practice session involving a group of people in the same room.

This takes us back to how online coaching has to rise to the challenge. As a coach, you have to become much more creative with the way you go about things. For example, if I am coaching someone with their public speaking, I may need to get them to practice in front of a live audience whilst I view what they are doing online, and then provide feedback that way. If this isn’t possible, then I might ask them to record one of their speeches so that I can review the recording. This therefore means breaking down the coaching into individual stages, for example – 1) looking at preparation, 2) looking at personal delivery, 3) looking at handling questions, 4) the trainee records themselves delivering a speech, 5) We review the speech and go on to further coaching as required…… Clearly this has benefits in terms of breaking down the workload, but it inevitably increases the length of time to complete the coaching. Sometimes deadlines can make this method prohibitive, and it’s better to go back to face to face coaching where teaching and practice can take place all at the same time.

Michael

Michael’s career began as a professional actor winning leading roles in theatre, television and radio. He has worked at all levels and disciplines within almost all industries and sectors for over 20 years. His assignments include many FTSE 350 and Global 2000 organisations in the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Egypt, Poland, Norway and Switzerland – often working at senior and CEO level.

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