About Online Coaching
Everything You Wanted to Know About Online Coaching
Have you ever felt that your life is lacking… something?
Have you ever wished there was someone you could turn to and find a way to make meaningful changes in your life?
You just might need an online coach.
People hire coaches for a variety of reasons—to get help making life, career, relationship or health changes. Online coaching is emerging as a new trend because the technology exists to enable you to find the coach that’s right for you, regardless of location, and to help you arrange coaching sessions that work with your increasingly mobile lifestyle.
It can be hard to know if you need therapy or a coach, whether you need in-person sessions or online sessions. This guide is here to help you understand everything you need to know about online coaching so you can make a decision that works best for you.
What is coaching, anyway?
The term coaching first came about in 1830 at Oxford University. The university used the term coaching to “describe the process used to transport people from where they are to where they want to be.”
Between the 1830’s and the mid 1990’s, the word “coach” was typically reserved for sports. When most of us think of a coach, we think of the burly high school football coach giving his team a pep talk in the locker room at halftime. Or we think of the animated, angry basketball coach walking up and down the court yelling at refs.
Since the mid 1990’s, coaching has evolved and has become more of an independent discipline with a growing set of training standards for its practitioners.
The coaching world is definitely growing. According to the International Coaching Federation, as of 2012, there are over 15,000 coaches working in the United States and 47,500 coaches worldwide.
Now, online coaching is the latest trend, giving you the flexibility to find a coach that works best with you.
However, as the coaching profession has grown, so has people’s confusion about what exactly different kinds of coaches do and whether or not coaching is the right choice for them.
The role of a coach in your life
Coaching is a highly supportive and collaborative relationship between a coach and a client(s). The coach’s role is to help the client identify and achieve their desired goals.
Coaches use a variety tools and techniques to guide their clients through the challenges and obstacles that may arise while working towards their goals.
Coaches help their clients identify and clarify what they want to achieve. A coach encourages their client’s self-discovery, helps them brainstorm solutions and strategies and keeps the client on track to reach their goals.
The biggest question that I get is: So what’s the difference between coaching and therapy? While coaching and therapy share a lot of similarities, the biggest and most important distinction is that coaching doesn’t seek to understand or resolve deeper underlying psychological issues.
Coaching focuses on setting and achieving present day and future goals.
What is online coaching?
Now that you have a better idea of coaching, let’s talk about online coaching. Online coaching is coaching that is performed online, either on Skype, on the phone, by email or using another kind of video chat software available.
For coaching to be effective it doesn’t necessarily have to be in person or in real time.
We live in a busy, fast paced world and there are many people, due to work and/or family commitments, that would never be able to get the help they need because they’re unable to commit to weekly in-person sessions. Online coaching allows those individuals that are struggling to balance their lives get the help they need without leaving home or the office.
Online coaching also enables you to find a coach that specializes in your particular needs or fits your particular style, regardless of your location.
Can online coaching help me?
As a trained therapist and coach, I’ve been studying motivation and change for over 15 years. I’ve learned that change is possible—it just never happens as quickly as we desire. True lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. It happens in small incremental steps.
Yes, sometimes you have those wonderful “aha” moments when everything comes together and you discover something about yourself you never saw before. Those moments are rare and there will be long stretches in between when you’re just going to be experiencing small incremental shifts.
That’s why technology and the Internet make online coaching so exciting. Being online means a coach can communicate with their client in ways that best helps the client.
As we all know, change never happens in a straight line. Change and real growth is all over the place and working with an online coach allows your coach to be there with you as you navigate this change.
Online coaching vs. in-person coaching vs. therapy
In traditional therapy, you have a weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) session with your therapist or coach. Say you meet at 4:00pm every Tuesday. This format and structure is important when working with someone who is struggling to manage their depression or anxiety or for a couple who can’t communicate and needs regular support.
Many coaches still offer in-person sessions in addition to augmented communications via email, text or Skype. Because much of the coaching happens outside the office anyway, many clients have found they’re just as happy having their face time with their coach via video conference or Skype.
Coaching is about having a specific goal or focus. What do you need in order to reach a goal? You need accountability, you need a cheerleader, you need someone to strategize with when you get stuck, you need help looking at various situations differently, you need someone to walk beside you as you work towards that goal.
This is what a coach does—they help you determine your goal and how to get to that goal. They keep you accountable, they cheer you on and they strategize when you need another perspective or when you’re stuck.
This process isn’t something that happens every week at 4:00pm on Tuesday. This is something that’s involved in another way, which is why coaching is so effective in the online space. You won’t always need to meet at 4 on Tuesday, but you’ll want someone to bounce an idea off of or someone to make sure you’re getting your work done (someone that’s not your mother or spouse).
How online coaching services work
The length of time you work with a coach varies on the individual or team’s goals, the way you and the coach decide to work, the frequency of meetings and your own personal financial constraints.
Every coach structures their time differently, and certainly each coach might use a different set of technologies to connect with their clients, but most coaches offer a couple of different ways to work with them.
Most coaches have some kind of monthly program in which they offer a certain number of Skype sessions along with possible email correspondence, worksheets, check-ins, etc. Coaches have monthly plans because most coaches can only have a certain number of clients a month.
Other coaches offer time limited coaching packages like 6 weeks, 12 weeks, 6 months, etc. Why the coach offers that time-frame is based on the types of clients they work with and based on their own experiences as a coach.
One-off coaching sessions
Other coaches offer “one or two individual” Skype sessions for people who have a problem or issue that they need support with, but it’s not something that warrants 3 months. I offer this type of service (only with the monthly plan) because I’ve found that a lot of people do have problems that they can solve on their own—but they just need a little guidance and direction. And I’ve also found that committing to one or two sessions can feel less intimating if you’re new to the world of coaching.
If you want to get your feet wet, and there is a coach that you’re thinking about working with, see if you can sign up for just one session. This will allow you to get to know the coach and their style with no big time or financial commitment.
Some coaches offer group coaching where you and 4-5 other people who have similar issues might be part of a weekly or bi-weekly group. This is a great way to experience coaching at a lower cost and in a setting where you’re not only getting a professional’s support, you’re getting to support of someone who is in your exact position. Group coaching is great for people who learn better when supported by peers.
Getting results from online coaching
The current research shows that it takes 66 days to form a habit. In other words, it takes over 2 months to make something feel like “second nature” in your life. That’s the current research, and we don’t all fit perfectly into a mold.
I’m a firm believer that only you can decide that you want to change. Growth begins the moment you recognize that something in your life is not working. Change begins when you start to take steps to shift your thoughts and behaviors. With coaching, like everything else in life, growth will come about as slowly or quickly as you decide.
I use this example a lot, but it’s a good one so I’ll use it again. I see coaching like going to the gym, and I’m like your personal trainer. You hire me because you’re unhappy in a part of your life and you need someone to help you, be in your corner to cheer you on and to make sure that you’re on track.
If you hired a personal trainer to meet with once a week but didn’t work out on your own, you’ll see results but not for a while. Imagine you met with the trainer once a week but then worked out 3-4 other days in the week, you’re going to start to see results pretty quickly.
Coaching works the same way. If you do nothing else but attend the individual coaching sessions, you’ll feel better, but what if you did all the things the coach recommended? You’ll get to your desired goal faster.
Different kinds of coaches
Just like doctors, psychologists, attorneys, most coaches specialize in either one area of an individual’s life or in the case of life coaches, one demographic.
Life & Business Coaches
Probably the best-known coaches are Life Coaches and Business Coaches. Life Coaches help identify and work towards a person’s personal goals and development. Business Coaches (sometimes called Executive or Leadership Coaches) help their clients work towards specific career goals like career transition, performance management, leadership, dealing with conflict or learning better management skills and communication.
Health & Wellness Coaches
As I mentioned earlier, the coaching profession is growing and therefore so are the specializations. There are Health Coaches who are trained to help individuals manage their chronic illnesses or conditions. There are also Wellness Coaches who also focus on an individual’s health but their clients are otherwise healthy but want to maintain and improve their physical health.
Relationship & Love Coaches
In addition, there are Relationship Coaches who focus on your relationships both romantic relationships, relationships with family members and business relationships.
Mindset & Confidence Coaches
A growing niche in the coaching world are Mindset or Confidence Coaches who specialize in working with individuals who struggle with some of the beliefs they hold about themselves and their abilities.
Phew…that’s a lot of coaches!
Actually there are even more niches and specialties to choose from. Now you may be thinking to yourself: “I’m already lost and overwhelmed and not even sure if coaching is what I need. Now you tell me I have to pick a coach who specializes in my specific problem when I don’t even know what my problem is anyway.”
The next two sections are going to answer these questions…
How do I know if I need coaching?
In order to determine if coaching is right for you, first think about what you expect to accomplish in coaching. If you could snap your fingers and create your desired outcome, what would your life look like? How would you feel?
Now take everything you’ve learned so far about coaching and think about whether or not a coach would be a useful partner, collaborator and tool to get you to your dream life? Are you open to collaboration, another person’s viewpoint and perspectives?
You also want to ask yourself if you’re ready to devote the time and energy to making real changes in your life. Your coach is going to ask a lot of you. You’re going to have homework. You’re going to have to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. You may feel more overwhelmed or lost before you gain the confidence and clarity you crave.
Are you ready for that?
I have the kind of personality where I tend to leap before I look. I’m a Type A, “lets get this done” kind of a gal. The kinds of questions I asked above are the kinds of questions I push aside myself because I just want to jump in and do it. I’m asking these questions of you because leaping before looking is not always the best idea. More than once, I’ve had to backtrack and admit to myself that I didn’t think something through.
Working with a coach is life changing. It’s also a financial investment and a big time and energy commitment, and I want to make sure your eyes are wide open and that you’re looking before you’re leaping.
How do I find the right coach for me?
Many people tend to approach finding a coach the same way they approach picking their doctor or dentist. Think about it this way. Let’s say you picked your doctor because she was in your insurance network and close to your home. Those are two good reasons why this doctor is a good fit for you. Your doctor works just fine because you see her maybe 1-2 times year, and while she can be a little abrupt and cold at times, she’s fast and hey, it’s once a year.
Since you’re going to be spending more than 20 minutes once a year with your coach, I would recommend thinking about finding the right coach for you the same way you would looking for a potential roommate. You want to find the kind of coach that you don’t mind sharing time with. You don’t have to be best friends or even have a lot in common. Nonetheless you need to feel like you like, trust, respect this person, and that they feel the same way about you.
There are two things you need to consider when hiring a coach:
1) Coaching specialty & experience
2) Coaching style & approach
You want to make sure that the coach you’re hiring has some kind of training and/or certification. The biggest criticism around coaching is that it doesn’t have any set standards or regulations. When you go to a licensed therapist, you can be ensured that the therapist has gone to graduate school, completed the hours for licensure and passed a test that the state they practice in considers them to be “trained.”
While training and certification and letters behind your name don’t automatically mean that someone is an amazing therapist or dentist or coach, it does give you some assurance that they didn’t wake up that morning and decide to be a life coach.
Your coach doesn’t have to have 20 years of experience or be the “best” in the world at solving your particular problem, but you want to know how long they’ve been a coach, did they attend and graduate from a coaching program, what is their training and experience working in their specialization. Since coaches are not required to be licensed, you just want to do a little bit more due diligence than you would be for a doctor or dentist.
Definitely interview more than one coach to determine what feels right to you. All coaches offer a 20-30 minute free consultation. If a coach doesn’t offer that, move on—this person isn’t right for you.
How do I know?
Good coaches want to learn about you before they commit to you. We want to ensure that we can help you reach your goals. If someone isn’t open to doing that before you give them money—that’s a red flag—because it means they likely don’t care if you reach your goals.
Good coaches are also open to being interviewed in that free consultation by prospective clients. They want to be a good fit for their clients, too. Rest assured, you can—and should—interview your coach in the free session to make sure they’re a good match for your style.
Questions to ask of a potential coach:
There are lots of questions you may want to ask that are personal to your particular needs and goals. But here are some questions that are perfectly acceptable to ask as you interview potential coaches, to make sure they’re right for you:
- What is your technical process for working online with clients (ie. by phone, Skype or other online video chat system)?
- What is your method or approach to working with clients?
- How would you define your coaching style?
- How do you define success when working with clients?
- What is your training or background in coaching?
- Do you offer individual sessions?
When you’re asking the coach these questions, ask yourself some questions, too:
- Do you like some of his ideas or suggestions?
- Does it seem like he/she “gets” what’s going on with you?
- If you had a disagreement with this coach, do you feel like you could say something to them? This is an important one because coaching is a partnership and you have to feel comfortable sharing your concerns and asserting your thoughts with your coach.
Think back to great bosses, colleagues or mentors you’ve had over the years. What was their style? How did they work with you? Compare that to how this coach approaches work with their clients. If you know that you do best with a boss that keeps you accountable and is tough on you, ask whether this coach is willing to be tough on you, too.
Online coaching is trending because coaching is becoming so popular, and our world is increasingly reliant on new technologies to accommodate our mobile, busy lives. Your online coach can be a part of your journey to transform or change what’s not quite right in your life. When you find an online coach that specializes in your particular needs, and one that seems to fit your style, knowing that you’re able to connect with your coach more than once a week means you truly have a partner to help you make that change a reality.
I offer online coaching services (and in-person coaching if you’re in the Bay Area) to my 20-something clients to be a source of motivation and support while they’re making important life changes.