Our e-coaching community also explored several other important issues, such as the optimal duration of e-coaching sessions, contracting issues, marketing, and ethics. These are described in detail below:
- How long should an e-coaching session last?
The duration of e-coaching sessions tends to be shorter than face to face sessions. A reason, which might be attributed to this, is the increased difficulty of staying engaged and concentrated at a distance, whether coaching by phone, video, or email. The concentration during e-coaching sessions thus, may be different than during face to face sessions. Quoting one of our community members: “I find an hour’s supervision is enough for me as a supervisor. The concentration is different, not better or worse, just different..”
Other members of our e-coaching community felt that concentrating, when coaching at distance can be tiring: “I find that after 40 minutes, i am still productive, but become aware of fatigue” and they can be difficult : “..listening and staying engaged is difficult over the phone..”
- Initial face-to-face contact for rapport building?
Having an initial face-to-face meeting with the client before entering a distance coaching relationship was suggested by several of our members for various reasons:
The coach has the opportunity to use all of his/her senses at the beginning. Through a face to face meeting, the coach obtains verbal, visual, kinaesthetic clues, which can provide important information about the client:
“I offer supervision over the phone and through email, and find that I like to meet people face to face or at least with a video skype link for the first session if possible so I can use all my senses initially, and then rely on only some of the senses after that.”
An initial face to face contact, may also help to build a trusting relationship with the client:
“My perspective is that there has to be an initial f2f kick-off meeting. It certainly helps the “trust game” a lot. When kick-off meeting is not possible, then having worked with the coachee in the past on a f2f basis has equally strong impact. This has been the case with all my projects so far.”
Maintaining that an initial face to face is important, some members also recommended having a final face to face session:
“My preferred model is to meet the client for the initial and Welcome session, then distance coaching via e-platforms (ie Skype), then meet for the final session.”
Initial face to face contact however, was not supported by everyone. Some expressed that face to face contact may be unnecessary and based on fear:
“I note many people still like to at least meet once at the beginning. This seems to be fear-based, as if they want to make sure you don’t have body odour or something. More and more people are used to this way of working and welcome it as a time saver, compared to travel.”
- “Presence” in e-coaching?
Being “present” as a coach, when delivering coaching at a distance, can be challenging. Increasing the frequency of interactions between coaching sessions however, helps the client feel that the coach is present.
“I let other means of communication play an active role such as texts and calls at my mobile. That way my coachees feel they are a “click of a button” away of me and that also adds to their commitment. I may use this opportunity to remind our already scheduled meeting or re-schedule it in case something urgent has come up. In other words, I try to keep a sense of frequent communication alive..”
As Lyle Labardee, DeeAnna Merz Nagel & Kate Anthony (2010) stated “Coaches should enter into a contractual agreement with the client to provide coaching services”.
Before agreeing and signing a coaching contract it is important however, to clarify the client´s expectations. Prospective clients are often unaware of the value of coaching, compared to for instance, having informal talks with friends. Clients may also not be clear about what coaching exactly involves and what expectations they should have from their coach. As one member stated: “..to manage expectations of what a coach does“.Furthermore, coach and client should discuss the “time for sessions, the process and interests of both sides. ”
- Attracting clients
Attracting clients is another challenge coaching practitioners often face. This issue is not specific to e-coaching, but it applies to all coaching practitioners. Finding new clients may be, as our members expressed quite ” a slow process”. Building a client base takes time and clients often come through recommendations. Our members offered some useful tips that may help coaches to attract potential clients, such as:
- Offering free sessions and resources
- Giving talks
- Using social media
Aside from finding new clients, there are several other challenges that coaching practitioners may face, such as:
* Clients´commitment to sessions. According to our members, “the commitment to virtual sessions may be less than in face to face sessions… appointments can sometimes be missed or cancelled “
*Avoid the temptation to solve clients´ problems. As one member stated, a coach should remain “mindful and avoiding the desire to solve clients´ problems. ”
* Finding a balance. It is important on one hand to “challenge clients” and on the other, to know when to let a client go: ” I had one client who had a lot of issues and was getting nowhere with coaching. She was very happy to keep going, but I wasn’t, so I let her go. So, usually it’s taking stock of what the client wants and supporting them in achieving that, no matter what your expectations for them might be. “
- Ethical considerations
Our e-coaching community explored ethical issues that might arise in e-coaching. A link to an article written by Lyle Labardee, DeeAnna Merz Nagel & Kate Anthony for the TILT Magazine, in 2010, with the title “Ethical Framework for the Use of Technology in Coaching” was shared in our group.
According to the authors:
- “Coaches should have a sufficient understanding of technology
- Coaches should work within their Scope of Practice
- Coaches should seek out training, knowledge and supervision.
- Coaches should display pertinent and necessary information on websites.
- Coaches should conduct an initial interview and evaluate the client’s ability to effectively engage in technology-enabled coaching.
- Coaches should enter into a contractual agreement with the client to provide coaching services”
A survey conducted by another of our members, Nicola Strong, confirmed the above ethical framework, indicating the following similar results:
It is essential for e-coaches to provide:
- “a clear description of what the service is with the key aims, objectives and outcomes
- an easily understood description of the choice(s) of communications via the Internet
- tutorials on how the communications technology works
- a guarantee that all information, shared online, will be kept secure and remain confidential
- a demonstration of compliance to legal, regulatory and insurance issues such as consumer protection
- a demonstration of skill, competence, qualifications and accreditation of a recognized coaching model
- a discussion to agree the contract. Times, process, potential conflict of interests etc.
- a procedure for the payment process with an “acknowledgement of order” and ”right to cancel policy”
- a code of ethics accessible for review online”
These results were posted to our previous CoP platform http://e-coaching-cop.grou.ps/talks/7122613/
Another relevant article which was shared in our previous CoP platform, is “The Ethics of E-Counselling” by Roberta Neault and Miranda Vande Kuyt ( http://www.workink.com/articles.php?prID=39&pgID=10904&art=1238 ) This article refers to confidentiality and informed consent, when using Skype, i.e. addressing the limitations to confidentiality. When using email the authors recommend tools, such as PrivacEmail, which offer secure password protected space with encrypted messaging.