Navigating coaching in an online world
5 months in
It’s been over 5 months now since I last met a client in person. 11th March to be precise. If you had told me back then that I wouldn’t have physically seen a client for that long, I would have automatically equated this to “no clients” = “no income”.
But the coaching profession, as well as so many others, has migrated fully online. We’ve had to. Our clients have had to. And do you know what? It’s been absolutely fine…. possibly even better.
Pressing the flesh
I’ve always been used to meeting people and a big fan of it. As a solicitor I was always meeting clients, attending courts, meeting other solicitors etc. Always out and about. House sales and purchases were traditionally “closed” by an over-the-desk meeting (I give you deeds, you give me money and I give you keys), courts were hearings with the 2 sides and the judge, meetings had sometimes many parties attending, seminars meant going into Blackhall Place or to a hotel conference centre. Similarly, with coaching. I met clients in hotel lobbies and business centres, I attended live CPD events, I met friends and other contacts for coffee. I got on the bus, or in my car and drove to Dublin city centre, or wherever I needed to go.
When I was studying for my Diploma in Life and Executive Coaching, I had many, many coaching meetings. I had to meet my own professional coach for 4 sessions. I met her in the evening at a local hotel reception. I had to meet my peer-coach for 4 sessions. One evening I left the poor guy sitting in the Red Cow Hotel waiting for me after his long day at work, as I had managed to get my days mixed up. I had to meet my peer-coachee to coach her for 4 sessions too. I was getting close to my deadline to get all my coaching done and her schedule was proving difficult for us to co-ordinate, so I got in my car one Saturday and drove an hour to her town to meet her in a coffee shop for our session. I also had 2 pro-bono clients to meet for 4 sessions each over this time. They were nice enough to facilitate me by meeting me locally, but still, I dressed up, put my lipstick on and headed out the door to meet them. It never occurred to me to do it any other way.
Adapting and dropping self-consciousness
But then I had to. And so did everyone else. As those who could got used to working from home, zooming, teaming or skyping, it got easier and more acceptable to meet online, and to coach online. Hell, we were even teaching our children online, doing our yoga online and meeting our friends for a drink online.
Is it the same? For me, yes pretty much. The only thing is not perhaps reading nuanced body language so easily and not being able to hand a piece of paper across the table to do an exercise. But with email and screen sharing capabilities, it’s just as good. The other thing is that we are subject to the strength of our Wi-Fi connections, but so far so good (and my hubby, also known as my CTO, has wired me into our network so I’m as stable as can be!).
We’re all getting used to seeing ourselves on screen and we’re becoming less self-conscious about that (I hope!). It’s also a good preparation for anyone with an online interview coming up.
Efficiency, focus, saving time and saving the planet
It’s also way more efficient both for me and for the client. Clients working from home can schedule a coaching session into their day much easier than getting an hour or 2 off to commute to a meeting place or lose their lunchtime. Once you have a quite area with no distractions, the focus in an online coaching session can be much better than at an outside venue. Clients turn up ready to engage. They also turn up on time, as do I! No getting stuck in traffic. Time is a valuable commodity and we both acknowledge and agree to this. Your time and mine. Neither of us are adding time to travel before and after a meeting, so we turn up fresh and ready to go.
So of course, it is more environmentally friendly too as we’re not driving, or taking public transport. It even uses less paper (I must admit, I am still and pen and paper girl!)
And economical. I’m not buying that coffee when I’m out, or paying for parking, or bus fare, nor is the client.
What I miss
One thing I do miss is getting into my “work clothes” and toting my “work handbag”, a spray of perfume and putting on my make-up. But this all means that I’m being thriftier too with no need to purchase new clothes and that’s good for the environment too! I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to wear heels again!! And yes, I know I can wear makeup for my online meetings, and I usually do, to some degree at least.
A big thumbs up
So, the online life gets a thumbs up from me! We’ve all gotten used to communicating this way and the thing is – we’re still communicating, but without the frills, or the distractions, or the time drain. We’re more focused, time-conscious, efficient, environmentally friendly and economical.
We’re just might be in our slippers and wearing less lipstick! And do you know what? That’s OK!