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Coaching: Face to Face or Over the Phone?

Coaches are often called upon to work with clients who do not live or work in proximity to them. In this age of remote work, when we have more tools than ever at our disposal to help us communicate with one another in productive and sophisticated ways, this is not surprising, and shouldn’t be daunting. However, coaching involves building a relationship with a client, and many people still feel that nothing beats face-to-face contact.

It may be true that in-person consultations are ideal―but that does not mean that you have to sacrifice quality in a coaching session conducted in a less-traditional medium. The following suggestions may be helpful to you in getting the most out of remote coaching sessions.

1. Determine just what communications methods your client has access to.

Sure, you can assume everyone has a phone―but most people can quickly get access to something like Skype as well. Skype and similar programs allow for video interfacing as well as voice communications. This can open up a full range of consultation possibilities, including those that would enable you and your client to see each other during a session―allowing for things like body language to play the kind of role they play in more traditional coaching.

2. Try to set up your initial consultation in person, or at least using video interface.

You and your client do not have to be face-to-face in every session for your coaching to be useful, but it is always a good idea for you to be able to see each other at least once. If you can never meet your client in person, make an effort to set up a video interface option that’s easy for him or her―even if you only use it once. This can help lay a solid foundation for the relationship you want to build with the client.

3. After your initial consultation, talk to the client carefully about the kind of communication that suits him or her.

Many clients are perfectly comfortable working over the phone―indeed, some feel freer when they know that the coach cannot scrutinise them. This is not necessarily ideal for the coach who is well-trained in observing non-verbal communication cues, but a comfortable client is an open client, and that is always an advantage in coaching. If your client does prefer the face-to-face element of video interface, then make that possible. As remote work with clients is likely to become more familiar as time goes on, it is worth your while to learn about video options and equip yourself with whatever you need to make it most comfortable for clients to participate.

4. Prepare yourself differently for telephone sessions.

If you enter into a telephone-only coaching relationship, you should step back and look a bit differently at how you are approaching those sessions. If body language is not going to be part of how you interact with your client, then are you thinking more about voice? About pace and timing? These will be the tools you have at your disposal―make sure you make the most of them.