Digitization of Coaching – a Curse or a Blessing?

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The coaching community is currently debating about “Digital Media in Coaching“. This is an important and highly topical issue as the coaching scene seems to be undergoing change. As into any other sphere of life, digital media have made their way into coaching sessions and processes. Is this a curse or a blessing?

Advocates praise independence from localities: No matter where in the world the coach or the client is – coaching can take place. The parties involved only have to agree on time zone and time and make sure that none of them is suffering from a jetlag. There are no inconvenient or time-consuming trips to the coaching location. The time can be used much more effectively for other purposes.

Time savings are enormous for the client and the coach! This makes the digitized coaching format very remunerative, above all for the coach, as he is normally the one who travels to the client most of the times. On the other hand, clients are on the move ever more often and, realistically, the time frame for participating in face-to-face coaching is narrow.

It is well known that I belong to the adversaries of digitized coaching. I am, by all means, a fan of digitization, yet not for important, intense talks – and therefore not for coaching.

What speaks against the digitization of coaching?

In coaching, the client addresses topics that are fundamental and crucial for him. In most cases, these issues also involve suffering and pressure. Therefore, should the client not find himself worthy of taking himself the time and slow down? And not just save a few minutes of time and get busy otherwise once again? And should the coach not encourage the client to take this time out for himself?

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Beisiegel, President of the University of Göttingen, believes that slowing down even is a decisive factor for optimum performance because quality requires personal creativity and this, in turn, demands time-intensive thought and discussion processes: Coaching aims at achieving the best possible quality regarding the results the client wants to achieve, and this makes deceleration indispensable.

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A further condition for successful coaching is a solid basis of trust between the client and the coach. According to the psychologist Prof. Dr. Alexander Thomas, building trust is less a conscious decision and rather an intuitive reaction to verbal and, above all, nonverbal clues. Nonverbal communication, however, remains very difficult to produce by means of a video conference. There are often time lags between transmission of sound and image. The fastest and simplest way to build trust is in a face-to-face interaction. The business world has always known and applied this to cases of difficult negotiations or employee interviews. It shouldn’t be any different in coaching.

Depending on the specific issue, a most diversified range of coaching tools are used for working together with the client, aimed at enhancing creativity, a broadening of the client’s horizon, his change of perspective and various courses of action. Such tools can be used by digital media only to a very limited degree and demand much explaining. Desired results are often not achieved when digital media are used, because the client does not focus on his topic but on the correct application of the tool instead. In a face-to-face meeting, the coach is present and able to correct the approach to the tool, if needed. Thus, the client is encouraged: “You concentrate on your issue, and I, the coach, am here to make sure that you apply the tool correctly!”

Finally, the flow of communication between the client and the coach must never be interrupted. However, everyone knows how failure-prone technical systems can be. Should communication be cut off, all the flow in coaching is out the window, which severely affects the quality of the results in the coaching processes.

It can be assumed that, in the future, face-to-face coaching will cease to be the regular format. Instead it might turn into a deluxe coaching setting not only with regard to costs, but also in terms of time investment and the exceptionally high quality of its results. Intercultural studies and research on virtual work have already proven this quite a while ago.

Prof. Dr. Evelyn Albrecht
About Prof. Dr. Evelyn Albrecht 24 Articles
Prof. Dr. Evelyn Albrecht is the program director of the certified study course “Business Coach” at MBS, also conducting the course herself. She studied natural science, business administration and philosophy. Following this, she acquired extensive experience on the top management level in various international companies for 15 years. For over ten years, Albrecht has worked as a coach and author; she is the Senior Coach of DBVC and QRC. Additionally, she is a member in many international coaching associations. As a professor for company and project management, she presently works as a teacher and researcher. Lecturer Profile