As we enter a new era of executive coaching, we will need to develop new behaviors and skills. Here are a couple observations for consideration:
ONE: Create a New Connectivity
Absent face-to-face experiences, coaches need to connect on a new personal level. A two-dimensional relationship lacks the richness of experiencing one’s individuality, so both the coach and the client need to enjoy conversations away from the usual. In a pre-covid world, it was easy to enter a room and banter prior to the work. It was not unusual to allow the conversation to drift to something more comfortable and uncomplicated. In a digital world the conversation is focused and intent. Both the coach and client are fixated on the screen, intense and intentional. A moment of laughter and/or inconsequentiality can lighten the moment and create social fabric that is essential to the coaching experience. The coach can lead this effort.
To Do: Identify unique and individual hobbies, habits, activities – draw the client into a discussion about something unique. Consider talking about more than the weather or current work responsibilities. One coach connects with a client on a love for drones! Another discusses their latest cooking efforts. One has a list of new memes that are shared. Be creative and engaging to invent a new connectivity.
TWO: Find Down Time
A screen relationship can become intense. The conversation between two people via video-teleconferencing does not allow for a more comfortable in-person experience. Stacking call after call can decrease effectiveness and jeopardize communication. Add the demands of a visual meeting and the time together can become unproductive Some are referring to “zoom fatigue” that affirms the exhaustion related to the “concentration” experience on a video-teleconference call — especially when the connectivity is between coach and client! While a larger group attending a video-teleconference allows for individuals to engage and disengage throughout the meeting. A one-on-one coaching video-teleconference is a new and demanding experience.
To Do: Consider using more frequent breaks and opportunities to disconnect during the call. Make an assignment or invite a moment to reflect on the conversation. Invite time to turn off the video and mute to allow the client and coach to recharge. Finding down time allows a break in the intensity.
THREE: Don’t be distracted
A video-teleconference creates a focus on the face, facial expressions, and . . . . distractions. Staring at an 11 x 17 screen is large enough to notice someone’s eyes that may wander to places off screen. In the middle of an in-person conversation it is common for both to allow their eyes to wander around the room. Some suffer from a terminable habit of failing to make eye contact. On a teleconference this behavior can be distracting and disruptive. What are they watching? Did someone enter the room? Are they reading emails during the conversation? Ask yourself the same question.
To Do: Avoid distracting off-camera glances. If needed, direct gaze on the keyboard or other areas on the screen. Encourage the same of the client. Eliminate possible distractions in your work area. A kitchen table in the middle of the home is NOT a home office. Also consider the background on one’s screen. Pots hanging from a ceiling or curious artwork can cause a pause. If needed, ask about the background, and avoid the distractions.
We are at the beginning of a new journey that will leverage technology and test our abilities. Moving into the future we will learn new lessons and teach old dogs new tricks! The digital world is upon us and coaching just got a lot more exciting!