Don’t let technology keep you from achieving your virtual coaching goals

Everyone is talking about how to coach virtually – and that’s a good thing to be focused on. Coaching is every bit as important now as it was a few short months ago; maybe even more so. 


However, with the rush to adopt video conferencing and other technology aids, we want to pause and make sure that the tech tools don’t sabotage the coaching itself. 


As a coach, we want to have a well-rounded toolkit.  More importantly, we want to know when to use each of the tools — and when not to.  Years ago, when I was assembling a coffee table, I eagerly reached for my hammer.  I LOVE to use a hammer and nails. Unfortunately, as I learned that day, nails are not always the best choice when you are trying to join two pieces of lumber at an angle; in this instance, you need a drill and the right size screws. (Unless, of course, you find a coffee table that sways back and forth charming).


Your Virtual Coaching Toolkit

How does video conferencing fit within the new coaching toolkit? 


I started using video in my remote coaching way back in 2010.  The good news is that virtual or remote coaching can be every bit as effective as in-person coaching.  Here are a few things that I’ve learned over the years, which have helped me to be more effective as a coach:


  • Use technology strategically. Just because we have a piece of technology at our disposal, doesn’t mean that we should use it.  (Think: swaying coffee table.) 


You need to ask yourself:  What do I want it to do for me and the person that I’m coaching?  How does technology support the coaching objective?


  • Recognize when the technology might be getting in the way, and then choose a different option. (Think:  Drill, not hammer.)


Here’s an example to illustrate how I’ve incorporated video conferencing into my coaching.  It’s also important to note that these steps can be used just on the phone as well. 


To give some background and context, I do manager coaching and support my clients in becoming sales coaches for their team.  As part of that process, they go through a coaching workshop with me, after which I observe them coaching one of their sales reps in a one-on-one session. 


Here’s what I have found beneficial:  

  • We use video conferencing at the beginning of the coaching session when we are getting warmed up. You might look at this as the rapport stage and setting expectations. 
  • When the rep joins us, we continue to use video conferencing. This allows the rep to put a face to a name, while allowing us to build rapport and get to know each other.
  • We continue to video conference while the manager coaches the rep. This allows me to observe the nuances of the interaction, including the body language of the person being coached.  
  • Once the manager has finished coaching the rep, I then “coach the coach,” evaluating the manager on their coaching effectiveness. This is when video conferencing technology might get in the way; I’m not saying that it always does, but it’s something to be aware of and consider.  I’ve noticed over the years that the camera sometimes adds performance pressure to the person being coached – that’s a barrier that we don’t need.  


I’ll never forget when I first discovered this back in 2010.  I was coaching someone who I had previously coached via phone.  She always had great reflection and self-awareness.  I immediately noticed something different when we were video coaching.  Instead of just being in the conversation with me, she was clearly searching for the right answer.  She also appeared distracted by trying to look at the camera.  As luck would have it, about 15 minutes into our coaching session, the internet connection dropped so we were left only with our phone connection.  Immediately, she was more present and real in the conversation.  As we wrapped up, I asked her how she felt during the session.  She immediately replied, “I felt so much more comfortable when I wasn’t worried about the camera.”  From that point on, when it came time for us to do our coaching, we turned our cameras off.


Since that time, I’ve been very aware of the pressure that the camera might bring for certain individuals.  I give the person that I’m coaching the option as to how they want to proceed during that portion of the coaching session.  The trend that I’ve noticed is that ten years ago, most people wanted the camera off; now, it’s about a 50-50 split.  In fact, according to, “59 percent of survey respondents reported feeling more self-conscious on camera than they do face to face. Millennials are the opposite: 58 percent of 25-to-34-year olds say they feel more comfortable on camera than they do talking to someone in real life.”


The key is that I don’t want to allow technology – or anything for that matter – to become a distraction that takes away from the coaching being as effective as it could be.


It’s really important to remember that coaching is a conversation between two people; whether that is in-person, over the phone, or via video conference.  Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of that connection and conversation.  I’ve conducted thousands of coaching sessions on the phone, with video conferencing or in-person and there has been no disparity in results. 


Technology is just another tool in our coaching toolbox.  As with anything that we do when coaching, we should be focused on the learning and development of the person we are coaching above all else.  As I learned years ago, not everything is a nail.


If this has been helpful and yet you still seek a tool to organize the way you coach, you may want to check out our Catalyst Core offer for free to get you started.  It’s up to you how much technology you use!


One of our Senior Consultants here at ASLAN, Bobbi is passionate about instilling the gift of hope, knowledge, and assurance that anyone can be more successful and fulfilled if they choose to. Find her on LinkedIn.

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