Since I started coaching and coach training several years back, I’ve worked with a coach myself. Not the same one, and not all the time; different coaches and for different times. It was with one of my own coaches that I got into coaching on the phone. The choice was simple: either the coaching happened on the phone or this particular coach wouldn’t be coaching me – and I really wanted to be coached by this person. I must admit, there was some resistance on my part. I knew that a great deal of coaching, especially in the vast USA, is conducted via phone; for international clients in multiple locations it’s often the only way to go. However, all the coaching I’d done for clients up to that point had been face-to-face. Surely that was how it was meant to be? How on earth could the coach ‘read’ the coachee’s body language, facial expression, and changes in these powerful signals? What kind of rapport would it be possible to have with someone I’d never met?
I was very pleasantly surprised. The coaching was really focused, results-driven, and intensive. No waiting in reception, finding a room and cups of coffee. Just simple, highly-energizing conversations. I would end each call with a clear set of actions to take and identified next steps. Without having to leave the building.
OK, I was hardly a ‘conscript’, someone who’s been ‘sent’ for coaching (notice how passive and rather depressing that sounds?). I was very much a ‘volunteer’, keen to be coached, to tackle some issues and make evident progress. And I’m pretty sure any coach will tell you that the coachee’s attitude has a major impact on the success of the coaching. Yet I was very sceptical about how it would work over the phone – and work it did. So how?
Here’s what I think were the success factors: Having trawled online and made a shortlist to contact, I’d ‘met’ three potential coaches over the phone and each one had briefly coached me around my goals for the process. That gave me two things: clarity around my goals (always good) and a glimpse of what the coach was like to work with. This helped me to choose the best coach for what I needed. Ease of access and use was another factor: even if my calendar changed, it was far easier to accommodate a one-hour session held over the phone, than a face-to-face meeting. I’ve had coaching whilst in a motorway service station car park (glamorous), a cafe, a park and of course in my office. Finally, the concentration required to sustain a conversation over the phone ensured I stayed on track, and for me the energy levels were sustainable as the sessions were for one hour. Rather than miss out on visual stimulus and clues, attention was on the content, the words and ways of expressing thoughts, ideas and responses. Which all made for a very powerful experience.