My family and I recently relocated to a new country. As any expat will tell you this is one of the most difficult exercises you can undertake in your adult life. The financial costs are high, but it is almost impossible to put a price tag on the physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and cultural impact. These factors are harder to measure, but profoundly important. And that’s just personally. Professionally I have had adjust and adapt to a new economy, business environment and working arrangement. Though I always knew I would have to start building a new client base in my new location, what was less certain was how I would deal with my existing coaching clients, especially those that were midway through their coaching program. In a world of hyper-connectivity, the obvious solution was to move all my clients over to internet coaching, but the response I received from them was mixed. Many were happy to make the shift, but some were resistant to an online coaching format and chose instead to bring their coaching program to a close. In honesty, I wasn’t prepared for that.
Internet coaching of various forms has seen an increasing rise in popularity, even in areas such as personal training where the coach’s physical presence has long been taken for granted. Drawn by the potential to have an impact beyond their local area, many coaches are now taking a blended approach that incorporates in-person and online coaching. And with the quality and reliability of video and phone technology constantly improving, coaching relationships continue to produce life-changing results. So, when I moved and my clients decided to cancel our arrangement, I was surprised and extremely disappointed. I believed that we would still maintain a high level of coaching, but they did not. This was not due to experience – none of them had received internet coaching before – but due to instinct. They felt that it would be impossible to keep the same value of connection. Of course, I have thought about this before, but the loss of these clients was an invitation to reconsider and reevaluate my beliefs on the subject. In my reflection I have been reminded that, as with coaching itself, the value of internet coaching varies from person to person. Having said that, there are some fairly universal pros and cons to moving your coaching online.
- Cost. Whether you meet your coach at your place, at their place, or at a coffee shop, meeting online offers the coach significantly more flexibility. There is no more travel time, and coaching sessions can fit into the coach’s lifestyle and schedule, allowing the coach to continue sessions while travelling, for example, and effectively see more clients in a month. In return, the coach can be expected to charge a lower rate, though this obviously varies according to the coach and the coach/client relationship.
- Flexibility. We’ve spoken about the coach’s flexibility, but the same applies to clients. Online coaching means you can meet whenever and wherever suits you, provided you have a stable internet connection. This is especially valuable to clients who travel a lot. I also have business clients who feel unable to fully share themselves at work because the environment is too formal, or they are afraid they will be overheard by the wrong ears. For such clients, physical flexibility (being able to connect from home, for example) and time flexibility (being able to connect outside work hours) have a huge positive impact.
- Choice. If you are still looking for a coach, the internet opens up a world of opportunity and choice. Find experts in any field, niche coaches and coaches that fit your budget. This can be done through an online coaching platform like net, or by looking through online coaching communities. Whichever route you take, you have more options than looking in your local area alone.
- Language. If you are an expat, you may live in a country where those around you do not speak your native language. Being coached in a second or third language can be difficult, so online coaching offers the ability to connect with a coach in your first language.
- Presence. Presence is that intangible sense you feel when your coach is 100% engaged with you, connected to you and tuned into your experience. This is impossible to do all the time, but the most impactful coaches are the ones who are able to bring consistently rich presence to their coaching work. Whether or not you were conscious of it, if you’ve been coached you will have some sense of presence (or the absence thereof). Through powerful questioning, deep listening and personal gravity, strong coaches can transcend the physical separation in online coaching and deliver the presence that is so key to great results. Some aren’t able to bridge that gap, which is why it is key to ‘try out’ any new coach through an introductory session (usually free), but even the greatest coaches in the world can’t compensate for the electricity that you feel when you’re in the same room with someone. We are biological beings hardwired for physical connection. Internet coaching can do everything else, but it can’t do that.
- Technology. As online coaching relies on an internet connection and technological devices, there is always the possibility of things going wrong. Though it’s easy to reschedule if there is no internet connection, a more difficult problem is when there is a connection, but it is poor quality. Time delays, static, poor video quality – these disrupt the flow of a coaching session and serve to break the personal connection that is so important for successful coaching. However, these problems are usually quite easy to overcome, and seldom represent a major obstacle.
- Paying a coach who lives on the other side of the world can sometimes be painfully complicated, but with constant technological advances this is becoming less and less of an issue. A coaching platform like koach.net solves this problem entirely by offering a secure 3rd party payment channel.
In conclusion, the only way to truly know whether internet coaching works for you is to try it – and I would encourage you to do so. This format doesn’t suit everyone, but my experience tells me that the rewards can far outweigh the drawbacks.