building blocks

E-coaching Community: What have we learnt over 2 years?


Our LinkedIn community ‘E-coaching: A dialogue between practitioners and researchers’ has existed for 2 years. It has grown to nearly 800 members who represent over 40 different countries. The community consists of 6 new sub-forums:

  • CoachMaster forum
  • CoachingSpaces forum
  • Covocative forum
  • JournalEngine forum
  • ProReal forum
  • Virtual Coaching (VC) forum

the Community

 

The e-coaching practitioners and researchers who participate in this online community and all its sub-forums have been sharing relevant information and insights. Monthly summaries of the community´s discussions as well as articles written by members are posted on the following platforms and are shared with the online community:

sharing the community´s content

The aggregated knowledge, insights and expertise shared by our diverse online community can be categorized into:

  • Conceptualization
  • The relative merits of e-coaching
  • Overcoming barriers
  • Technology
  • Research
  1.  Conceptualization: What do we mean by e-coaching?

There were different opinions on what e-coaching exactly means. Our opinions concerned technological and relational aspects of the concept.

With regard to technological aspects of e-coaching there were two different views: a) E-coaching involves all electronic communication media and tools, including telephone and b) E-coaching involves only computer-based media. Similarly, in terms of the relational aspects of e-coaching, our opinions were divided into: a) E-coaching involves a relationship between coach and client, i.e. direct facilitation by a coach and/ or self-coaching and b) E-coaching does not involve direct facilitation by a coach, i.e. e-coaching refers to self-coaching.

conceptual issues

Graph A. Technological and relational aspects of e-coaching.

 How can this conceptual fragmentation be explained?

Firstly, coaching -whether presence or distance coaching- is an emerging occupation and still in the process of forming its theoretical foundations. Coaching practitioners come from a wide range of disciplines, such as psychology, adult education, and organizational development. Definitions of coaching may vary, according to the goals of the different approaches used, from placing a stronger emphasis on the development of a trusting relationship between coach and client (person-centred approach) to an emphasis on behavior change (behavioristic approach). With this diversity in mind, conceptual confusion may not unprecedented for this rather new applied field.

Secondly, e-coaching as a technology driven field is influenced by the ongoing technological advances. A few years ago, distance coaching was delivered mainly via telephone, however, technological advances are now unfolding new opportunities for e-coaching practices, as video communication media, visualization tools and virtual worlds become more accessible. As the technological options available for coaching are widening and altering the ways and quality of distance coaching delivery, e-coaching remains a fluid concept.

In asking the question, what might be the purpose of technology-mediated coaching, two alternative possibilities come to play. On one hand, the purpose of technology-mediated coaching is to enable communication between the coaching pair at a distance. In this view, e-coaching is similar to presence coaching, as they both involve a relationship between coach and client. Based on this view, the next question might be, which technologies should e-coaching involve to establish strong rapport between the coaching pair? Considering the pace of technological advances this question is not easy to answer. On the other hand, e-coaching conceptualized as coaching without facilitation by a coach lends itself to the idea of self-help programs. This view also has implications for the technologies, which are involved in e-coaching. As a relationship between coach and client is excluded from this conceptualization, e-coaching in this regard doesn´t involve communication media. Rather, it involves web-based technology that enables the transmission of textual / audio / visual data. Thus, it becomes apparent that defining e-coaching depends on whether it is conceptualized as a helping relationship or as a self-help resource, and these two alternatives imply the use of different technologies.

In addition, technology and language seem to be co-evolving. Does the prefix “e” mean electronic communication? If the answer is yes, then we´d include telephone when speaking about “e-coaching”. If the answer is no, then “e” refers to computer-based communication. This might be an example of how the meaning of ‘e’ has evolved as computers have become part of our lives, to mean ‘computer-based’ rather than its original meaning ‘electronic’.

2. The advantages and challenges of e-coaching.

The advantages and disadvantages of e-coaching as perceived by members of our e-coaching community can be distinguished into practical and qualitative. The practical advantages and challenges we discussed are summarized in table 1 below:

Table 1. Practical advantages and limitations

Table 1. Practical advantages and limitations

 

The practical advantages of e-coaching appear to outweigh the disadvantages. E-coaching is considered to be a convenient mode of delivering coaching, as it enables coach and client to reduce their travel time and costs, it enables coaching at a convenient time and place, it overcomes the problem of geographic barriers and it allows going back and reflecting upon what was said during the coaching session. Practical disadvantages on the other hand, concern technological issues, such as the poor quality of video calls (Skype), the lack of access to such technologies in the working environment for some clients and the issue of data security.

The qualitative advantages and disadvantages concerned 3  main elements, namely,  (a) distance, (b) the lack of visual cues and (c) asynchronous communication.

(a)Distance was perceived to be an advantage for some coaches, as it  creates a feeling of safety for the client, it enables openness, and it tends to eliminate judgment whilst for others, physical presence is important for building rapport.

(b) Similarly, the lack of visual cues can be seen as a benefit and as a barrier. (A differentiation is made here between physical distance /presence and (lack of) visual cues, as eventhough in-person coaching will always involve seeing the client, distance coaching may or may not involve visual cues. For instance, video calls allow coach and client to see each other, whereas telephone calls not). Some members felt that visual cues can be distracting and thus, lacking visual cues enhances the focus on words, whether focusing on the client´s voice (telephone)  or written words (e.g. email). Other members felt that visual cues are important for the match/ mismatch of the client´s words – emotions. For instance, clients´words may not correspond to their emotional state, and seeing the client helps to identify this mismatch. Visual cues were also considered by some members to be important for building a trusting relationship with the client and for understanding clients´ boundaries, i.e. “how much challenge” can the client handle at a given time.

c) Asynchronous communication was perceived as an advantage by some members, who had experienced that coaching asynchronously helps both, coach and client to reflect before responding. According to this view, asynchronous communication in coaching helps to eliminate judgment and provides a sense of safety for the client, as there is no immediate response to what is said. According to a different view of asynchronous coaching however, members pointed out the lack of flow and slowness in communication. The qualitative advantages and drawbacks that members our community discussed are summarized in table 2 below:

e-c pros and cons

Table 2. Qualitative advantages and disadvantages of e-coaching.

 3. Overcoming barriers

Members of our community discussed ways in which, the limitations or challenges of e-coaching can be overcome:

  • Developing skills.

Eventhough the skills needed for e-coaching overlap with those needed for in-person coaching, members identified some skills that are enhanced when coaching over distance. The development of skills was perceived to be important for compensating for the lack of visual cues, improving communication between coach and client, obtaining essential ‘clues’ about the client, and maintaining or growing one´s coaching services for more disparate client groups.

One of these skills was listening. Members recommended to listen, not only to clients´ words, but also to their breathing patterns, intonation, pitch and silences. All these provide the coach with clues about the client´s emotional state and situation and compensate for the lack of visual cues. In addition to listening, the use of visual language was perceived to be another important skill for distance coaches. According to members, the use of metaphors, vivid and descriptive language and ‘audio-visuals’ ( e.g. “what would I see if I was looking at you right now?”) help to create visual images for the client. Moreover, members felt it is important to be skilled in using different technologies. As one member expressed: “Given how many of our clients operate in virtual teams, and in a global environment, it serves us coaches to be skilled with phone, vid/con and in-person coaching.”

  • Receiving specialized training.

Receiving specialized e-coach training was considered to be useful in familiarizing oneself with technology, developing one´s skills and developing awareness of ethical issues that might arise in e-coaching. Table 3 below, lists the training programs currently available that were mentioned in our e-coaching community.

e-c training programs

Table 3. E-coach training programs

  • Developing awareness of ethical issues.

Members discussed ethical concerns about data security in e-coaching, as it was felt that “working with a good, safe and secure online coaching environment is definitely a must to work as an e-coach.” According to the ethical framework that was developed by the Online Therapy Institute and which was shared in our community, coaches should use firewalls, passwords and encrypted software. In addition, coaches should be familiar with operating software, they should provide technical assistance to their clients, and should protect computers from viruses.

  • Practical ways to overcome barriers.

Members also shared practical advice for overcoming barriers when coaching at a distance. As concentration in distance coaching was perceived to be different than face-to-face coaching, members recommended including short breaks and that e-coaching sessions should be of shorter duration (between 40-45 minutes) than face-to-face coaching. Members also considered as helpful to include an initial, and perhaps a closing face-to-face coaching session, in order to establish rapport and to maintain frequent communication through messages or mobile phone calls, which in turn helps  “to secure a high degree of engagement” and to give the client the feeling that the coach is “a ‘click of a button away”. 

4. Technology

Through our online community, we´ve discovered the existence of numerous technologies that are available today and that can be used to deliver and enhance the distance coaching process:

e-c technologies

Table 4. E-coaching technologies

The above mentioned technologies may differ from one another in terms of their capabilities, their feature complexity, or ways in which they can be used in e-coaching practice. From an observation of the different technologies that were introduced in the online community, the technological landscape of e-coaching is mapped here on the basis of 6 parameters:

  1. Industry focus:

    Technologies can be differentiated based on whether they are coaching specific, i.e. they have been specifically designed for coaching (e.g. CoachMaster™) or non-specific (SecondLife®).

  2. Function:

    Technologies may serve three distinct functions: a) to enable the communication between coach and client, b) to support the coaching process, c) to manage data outside the coaching process, for instance, booking appointments. Several technologies have more than one of these functions, and some even have all three (e.g. CAI Coaching World®) .

  3. Communication channel:

    Technologies rely on different sensory cues that range from: a) text (e.g. email, text-based tools and resources), b) audio (telephone), c) visual with built-in voice and/or text chat (e.g. Skype video calls, CoachingSpaces) or visual only (e.g. ProReal, LPS Cocoon®).

  4. Feature complexity:

    Coaching technologies can be distinguished into a) Point solutions (e.g. Virtual Coaching (VC), LPS Cocoon®), which are focused on one main feature, such as providing sets of questions or a virtual world for creating constellations or for visual representation of oneself as an avatar, and b) conglomerate solutions (e.g. CAI® Coaching World), which are platforms with multiple capabilities, that range from enabling online communication between coach-client, providing coaching exercises and visualizations, to making appointments, private messaging or peer discussions.

  5. Synchronicity:

    Some technologies enable communication in either synchronous or asynchronous mode, whilst others allow both modes of communication.

  6. Content creation:

    Coaching technologies differ in terms of whether they contain pre-defined materials, particularly pre-set coaching questions (e.g. Virtual Coaching (VC)), or authoring tools for coaches wishing to create their own coaching content (user-generated platforms, g. JournalEngine™).

5. Research

Members cited past empirical e-coaching research, as well as ongoing studies. Table 5 below presents an overview of past and recent or ongoing empirical research studies, which were mentioned in our online community.

Research overview

Table 5. E-coaching empirical research

Since 2012, researchers and members of the online community began to investigate technologies other than telephone, such as CoachMaster™, CoachCampus, ProReal, SecondLife®, and Virtual Coaching (VC), and combinations between these technologies and phone or Skype. These developments indicate that e-coaching research is growing and its focus is expanding.

  • Our literature references list

Furthermore, during the last 2 years the following 16 articles have been posted by researchers and practitioners – members of our community- in the  E-coaching: A knowledge base and E-coaching Journal:

  • Ades, K. (2013) The Power of JournalEngine™: Journaling Meets Coaching. . E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, October 2013, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-9V
  • Geissler, H. (2013) What does coaching through modern media really mean? E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, February 2013, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-c
  • Geissler, H. (2013) E-Coaching: An overview of 7 new coaching formats. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, January 2013, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-2
  • Grabow, C. (2013) LPScocoon®: A virtual constellation tool to enhance e-coaching. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, May 2013, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-j
  • Griffiths, B. (2013) CoachMaster™ software – the story so far. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, April 2013, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-F
  • Kanatouri, S. (2014) Mapping out the technological options for distance coaching. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, April 2014, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-d4
  • Kanatouri, S. (2014) The benefits of written communication. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, June 2014, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-en
  • Kanatouri, S. (2014) Online versus face-to-face coaching/ therapy. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, August 2014, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-ex
  • Kanatouri, S. (2013) E-coaching tools. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, August 2013, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-6G
  • Larson, J. (2013) Why I think coaching can be so much more: The reasoning behind CoachAccountable. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, November 2013, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-aJ
  • McLaughlin, M. (2013) Less is more: New evidence into executive telephone coaching. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, July 2013, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-X
  • Poepsel, M. (2013) The Genesis of an E-Coaching Software Platform. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, August 2013, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-94
  • Ribbers, A. & Warringa, A. (2014) E-coaching for leadership development. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, January 2014, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-bB
  • Schipperheijn, K. & Poepsel, M. (2014) Bridging learning ecosystems and e-coaching for mastery. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, April 2014, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-cT
  • Tinker, D. (2013) Remote coaching using virtual reality. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, June 2013, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-O
  • Ulmer, A. (2013) Avatar Coaching. E-coaching Journal / E-coaching: A knowledge base, March 2013, http://wp.me/p3IQmt-q

In addition, the following literature references have been shared in the e-coaching community. These are categorized below into research studies, journal articles, books, conference papers, industry reports and internet resources:

Research:

  • Collett, K. (2008). A Case on the effectiveness of telephone coaching. Work based research project, I-Coach Academy, Middlesex University, December 2008. Retrieved from:
  • Geißler, H., Hasenbein, M., Wegener, R., Kanatouri, S.(2014). E-coaching: Concept and empirical findings of a virtual coaching programme. International Journal for Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring. Vol. 12 (2), pp.165-187.
  • Grant, A. M. & Zackon, R. (2004). Executive, workplace and life coaching: Findings from a large-scale survey of International Federation members, International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, Vol.2 (2), pp.1-15.
  • Hunt, C.M. & Fielden, S.L. (2005) A Pilot Study to develop and design an effective e-coaching programme as a means of overcoming the gap in business skill and knowledge that significantly inhibits the creation and growth of women owned SMEs in the North West of England. Centre for Diversity and Work Psychology Manchester Business School, University of Manchester. Retrieved from: https://research.mbs.ac.uk/equality-diversity/Portals/0/docs/E-coachingPilotStudyReport2005.pdf
  • Leibert, T., Archer, J., Munson, G., York, G. (2006) An exploratory study of client perceptions of internet counseling and the therapeutic alliance Journal of Mental Health Counseling, Jan2006, Vol. 28 Issue 1, p69
  •  Maercker, A. (2013) Psychotherapy via internet as good as if not better than face-to-face consultations. News Release, University of Zürich, July 30th 2013: http://www.mediadesk.uzh.ch/articles/2013/psychotherapie-via-internet-wirkt-gleich-gut-oder-besser-wie-im-sprechzimmer_en.html
  • Reynolds, D. J., Stiles, W.M. & Grohol J.M. (2006) An investigation of session impact and alliance in internet based psychotherapy: Preliminary results. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, September 2006; 6(3), 164-168.
  • Shrestha, C.H., May, S., Edirisingha, P. Burke, L., Linsey, T. (2009). From Face-to-Face to E-Mentoring: Does the“e” Add Any Value for Mentors? International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Vol. 20 (2), pp.116-124.

Doctoral research

  • Andrews, A. (2014) Avatar coaching: A case study on the perceptions of virtual reality coaching interventions with an avatar coach. March 2014, Capella University, USA.
  • Berry, R.M. (2005). A comparison of face-to-face and distance coaching practices: The role of the working alliance in problem resolution. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Charbonneau, M.A (2002). Participant self-perception about the cause of behavior change from a program of executive coaching. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Alliant International University, Los Angeles, CA.
  • Frazee, R.V. (2008). E-coaching in organizations. A study of features, practices, and determinants of use. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, San Diego University, USA
  • Ghods, N. (2009). Distance coaching: The relationship between coach-client relationship, client satisfaction, and coaching outcomes. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, San Diego University, USA
  • Poepsel, M. (2011). The impact of an online evidence-based coaching program on goal striving, subjective well-being, and level of hope. PhD Thesis, Capella University,USA.
  • Ribbers, A. Warringa, A.(in preparation) E-coaching for leadership development, Tillburg University, The Netherlands.
  • Wang, L. (2000). The relationship between distance coaching and transfer of training. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign

Master´s studies

  •  Hancock, B. (2014) The design of a framework and instrument for assessment of virtual coaching competence – An exploratory study. Master´s thesis, Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
  •  McLaughlin, M. (2013). Less is more: The executive coach’s experience of working on the telephone. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, No.7, pp.1-13, June 2013
  • Wernham, L. (2011). The Social Media Coach: Social Media and Coaching. A qualitative study of coach practice. Retrieved from: http://2coach.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/social_media_coaching_research_lynnwernham1.pdf

Journal articles

  • Andersson, G. (2009) Using the Internet to provide cognitive behaviour therapy Behaviour Research and Therapy, Vol. 47(3), 175–180
  • Anthony, K. & Nagel, D. (2012). A brave new world: Coaching online. Coaching Today, January 2012. Retrieved from:
  • Ahrend, G., Diamond, F., Webber, P.G. (2010) Virtual coaching: Using technology to boost performance. Chief Learning Officer, July 2014, 44-47
  • Bierema, L. L. & Merriam, S. B. (2002). E-mentoring: Using computer mediated communication to enhance the mentoring process. Innovative Higher Education, Vol. 26(3), pp.211-227.
  • Ensher, E.A., Heun, C. & Blanchard, A. (2003). Online mentoring and computer-mediated communication: New directions in research, Journal of Vocational Behavior (63) 2003, 264-288.
  • Geißler, H., Hasenbein, M., Wegener, R., Kanatouri, S.(2014). E-coaching: Concept and empirical findings of a virtual coaching programme. International Journal for Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring. Vol. 12 (2), pp.165-187.
  • Grant, A. M. & Zackon, R. (2004). Executive, workplace and life coaching: Findings from a large-scale survey of International Federation members, International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, Vol.2 (2), pp.1-15.
  • Rock, M.L., Zigmond, N.P., Gregg, M. & Gable, R.A. (2011) The power of virtual coaching. Educational Leadership, Coaching: The new leadership skill Vol.69 (2) October 2011.
  • Single, P.B. & Muller, C.B. (1999). Electronic Mentoring: Issues To Advance Research and Practice. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Mentoring Association 1999. Volume 1999, Number 1.
  • Zey, M.G. (2011) Virtual Mentoring: The Challenges and Opportunities of Electronically-Mediated Formal Mentor Programs, Montclair State University, Montclair: http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1103507732457-19/Virtual+Mentoring.pdfhttp://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1103507732457-19/Virtual+Mentoring.pd

Books /book chapters

  • Boyce, L.A. & Clutterbuck, D. (2011) E-coaching: Accept it, it´s here, and it´s evolving! In G.Hernez-Broome and L.A. Boyce (eds) Advancing Executive Coaching: Setting the Course for Successful Leadership Coaching. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, pp.285-315.
  • Buchanan, E. (2009). Online mentoring. In: Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition. Retrieved from: http://www.igi-global.com/chapter/online-mentoring/11949
  • Clutterbuck, D. & Hussein, Z. (2010). Virtual coach, virtual mentor. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Pub, 2010.
  • Downey, M. (2013) Effective Coaching: Lessons from the Coach’s Coach – Lessons from the Coaches’ Coach. Cengage Learning, 3 edition.
  • Geissler, H. & Metz, M. (2012) (eds.). E-Coaching und Online Beratung: Formate, Konzepte, Diskussionen
  • Goldsmith, M. (2011) E-Coaching: Using New Technology to Develop Tomorrow’s Leaders. In: Goldsmith, M. & Lyons, L.S. (eds) Coaching for Leadership: The Practice of Leadership Coaching from the World’s Greatest Coaches. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Guy, T. (2002). Telementoring: Shaping Mentoring Relationships for the 21st Century. In: Hansman, C.A. (ed) Critical Perspectives on Mentoring: Trends and Issues. Information Series Number 388, Eric Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational Education, College of Education, The Ohio State University.
  • McLeod, A. (2010). Askmax.co.uk Web-based mentoring. In: Clutterbuck, D. & Hussein, Z. (eds.). Virtual coach, virtual mentor. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Pub, 2010.
  • Murdoch, E. (2010). Virtual coach and mentor supervision. In : Clutterbuck, D. & Hussein, Z. (eds.). Virtual coach, virtual mentor. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Pub, 2010.
  • Young, D.P. & Dixon, N.M. (1996). Helping leaders take effective action: A program evaluation. Centre for Creative Leadership Press: Greensboro, USA

Practitioner literature

 Industry reports

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2 thoughts on “E-coaching Community: What have we learnt over 2 years?

  1. Thank you Reinoud. Could you tell me a little more about the web application you mention please? I tried to look it up but couldn´t find it. Is there a link I can follow? Thanks

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