Coaching Myths: Isn’t coaching more effective in person?

by Chris Johnson

As professional coaches, we are sometimes surprised by the assumptions that are made about coaching. This series of posts is dedicated to exploring those myths.

Myth 1: Coaching requires you to make time to meet with your coach in-person.

Most people are surprised when we tell them that 95%+ of our coaching work is done by telephone or audio/visual. Our clients are all over the world.

Using a little rough math, or maths depending on your country of residence, I estimate that my current coachees are an average of more than 2,000 km from my office, which would make a commute quite uncomfortable.

The general belief is that a face-to-face approach will always be more personal and that meeting in-person is a requirement for creating a meaningful coaching partnership. In our experience, different methods for coaching heighten different senses and present new opportunities.

More direct

One interesting area to consider is that coaching by video or telephone can be more direct. In-person sessions often have a few more pleasantries at the beginning: coaching sessions over telephone or video tend to transition more quickly to “How did you get on with your takeaways from last time?” or “What topic would you like to focus on today?”

Different senses

Telephone coaching heightens our sense of hearing. We start to tune in deeper to the use of language, tone of voice, length and depth of a pause, or even an unconscious intake of breath. One of the most useful pieces of coaching advice I have ever been given was ‘close your eyes when you are coaching on the telephone’. This shuts out all of the potential visual distractions further dialling up your auditory sense. I often challenge people in businesses to do the same when they are making or taking, telephone calls. This increases their focus on the conversation at hand and allows them to ‘hear’ rather than simply ‘listen’. Ultimately, the information in telephone coaching may be different than in-person, but it is no less rich.

With video coaching, you also sit closer to the camera than you would typically sit from a coach that you are in the same room with. The visual closeness can communicate a little extra information that you might not see in-person, especially in the eyes, face and body language.

Personal space

One of our favourite reasons for using video or telephone is that it allows the coachee their own personal space. If you are face-to-face and asked a deep, searching question by your coach, the physical closeness or visual awareness can be distracting and ‘take you out’ of considering the full impact of the question. With video or telephone, you remain in your own personal space which allows you to consider the question without distraction. When connecting over video, your coach may even invite you to turn off your camera for a few minutes when considering a big topic or working through a visualisation.

The bottom line

Most coaching is actually conducted by video phone, or video, and there are benefits to using these methods. Clients from all over the world tell us that any reservations they have about remote coaching are quickly dispelled once they dive in and experience it.

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xperience coaching for yourselfConnect with the 20 Rock team and match with a coach.

Chris is an international trainer, facilitator, consultant and accredited professional coach (PCC). He owns Caboo Learning and is co-founder of 20 Rock. His passion is helping leaders and teams maximise their natural strengths to fulfil their potential and actively engage in their work. He believes in creating experiential learning that takes you one step out of your comfort zone and actively promotes building the eco-system to support learning transfer to give it the greatest opportunity to be applied in the workplace. For over 18 years he has designed and delivered projects for SMEs and blue-chip corporations, working with 10,000+ participants in 30+ countries (Europe, North & South America, Middle East, Asia).