By Lauren Hopkins
Like most things, the increasing use of new technology has both a good side and a not-so-good side. These days we wouldn’t get very far without it, but technology has also presented its challenges over the past few decades. Having to stay up to date with changes and new software can be stressful and time-consuming, especially for those required to unlearn one method just to relearn it the tech-way – but without these advancements, we would lack efficiency in terms of time, communication, organization and other areas that are crucial to our professional development. Whether we are ready for it or not, technological change is coming at us at record speed, constantly.
Like the rest of the working world, technology has become a common part of coaching and professional development services. Understanding the positive and negative impacts of technology within the world of coaching can make the adjustment much easier for clients and coaches. A great starting point for coaches and clients new to coaching technology is to understand how technology is used by coaches, how it differs from more traditional in-person coaching, and how it is making coaching more accessible and effective for everyone.
How has advancing technology been benefiting professional coaching experiences?
Lower Costs and Higher Numbers
Coaching for professionals has traditionally been considered a high-cost activity only for those in executive or management positions. Because of this, only recently has the idea of coaching employees throughout all levels of an organization gained popularity. Using technology in coaching practices can help cut costs for organizations, allowing them to provide coaching to a larger number of workers, which results in a greater, more diverse group of employees who are coached and trained at a high level.
Connecting Coaches with Clients
One thing many of us have become familiar with over the past two years is using technology to connect and collaborate with others. Connecting virtually has never been easier and helps eliminate barriers and create opportunities for development. Videoconferencing allows for coaching to happen anytime, anywhere, and at a lower cost.
Technology-based platforms are also used for initially connecting specific coaches with specific clients. With many platforms, coaches can create profiles with introductions to themselves, outline their coaching style and highlight their professional experience. Clients can use this information and connect with a coach that matches their learning style and whose values align with their goals.
Think of it like it’s your FitBit or Apple Watch, reminding you to stand up and move around, or prompting you to reach your target number of steps. Coaching platforms with app integration give personalized reminders to help clients achieve their goals and allow access to resources such as podcasts, videos and webinars with coaches providing tips for success. This approach to coaching allows for a high level of personalization and flexibility in terms of scheduling meetings with coaches and practicing techniques, based on algorithms that create a unique plan for clients based on their needs and goals.
Virtual Reality for Situational Training
Virtual reality is often used with athletes for visualization of scenarios, preparing them for real-life competitive situations. It can be used the same way in professional development, specifically for the improvement of employees’ soft skills. Clients are immersed in a situational experience in which they interact with others, problem-solve, and develop soft skills such as teamwork, time management, and communication: skills that are becoming increasingly important to practice and maintain as many people shift to remote work.
What are the challenges associated with technology-focused coaching?
Lack of Human Connection
One of the most important parts of a professional coaching experience is the relationship developed between the coach and the client – a relationship built on trust. This can be difficult to create with technology-based coaching. Without face-to-face interaction, communication through non-verbal cues becomes eliminated which can make it difficult for either side to have a complete understanding of the message that is trying to be shared. Expressions, eye contact, and body language are all important parts of communication, and can be more difficult to notice these signals when using technology for coaching. Coaches and clients can overcome this by adopting clear, direct verbal expression in their coaching calls, a skill we all must build as virtual work becomes more common.
Security of Personal Information and Data
With the use of any and all technology, there are always concerns regarding privacy and the security of personal information. Coaches integrating new technology into their practice may face hesitancy with new or existing clients, for fear of how the app may try and track their information, use it, or distribute it without the client’s knowledge. It is important for coaches to protect their clients’ information when taking a technological approach. Likewise, clients must be aware of technological safety and take necessary measures to ensure their information is only being used for what they have consented to. Secure platforms like Coaching.com, used by our coaches, offer added security with data encryption, security permissions, and privacy shield certifications, so clients and coaches alike can feel safe about personal information while using the platform.
Generational Divide within Organizations
Coaches work with professionals with all levels of experience – from recent graduates navigating a brand-new job, to experienced managers who have been lacking motivation, to those experiencing a career transition, and everyone in between. There are difficulties that arise when people belonging to one generation are used to certain technologies in their professional lives, while those from another generation may be keener on updating the technology used in the workplace. From a coach’s perspective, the coaching strategy may have to be adjusted depending on the technology the client is comfortable navigating. To be useful, platforms need to be user-friendly and accessible to clients at all levels of technological comfort. It’s important to factor in the clients’ technical capabilities and comfort level when designing their personalized plans, and to prepare if they require more support.
Finding the perfect balance
Ultimately, we know that creating a balance in all things in life is the way to go – this applies to the world of coaching too! The most effective way to coach is by integrating the right technology and finding a balance between coaching based on a personal relationship between a coach and client, and technology-based coaching – the two complement each other. Knowing how technology can benefit coaching while understanding potential challenges and necessary adjustments will set you on track toward developing more inspired leadership.