Business coaching is a logical extension of an advisory offering for accountants or independent advisors who have successfully tackled simple strategy development or problem solving during meetings and are looking to extend the value they deliver to a client. Coaching (be it on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis) can become an essential part of creating and maintaining a trusted, long lasting relationship with a client, often forming the glue between strategic planning sessions, implementation of plans and ad hoc conversations. Coaching clients effectively ensures they remain on track, are held accountable for implementing change and have the skills to execute their plans.

Traditionally, coaching of clients is undertaken during 1-2 hour face-to-face meetings but along with many other aspects of professional services, coaching is undergoing some fundamental changes to create more leverage for busy advisors and their clients

Early adopters are now seeking to re-imagine the delivery of client coaching by using online technologies (such as Mindshop Online, Skype, GoToWebinar and many other client portals) to provide much greater frequency, intensity of contact and geographic reach. Importantly, online coaching allows advisors to maximise the use of their time, enabling them to coach up to 20 times more clients than traditional face-to-face methods (one Mindshop advisor is now successfully coaches 141 clients online!). Coaching in the digital world and blending this process with face-to-face interactions brings many other benefits over face-to-face coaching only:

  1. Reduced travel time – opportunities to work remotely with clients via Skype and other video conferencing programs means more frequency of contact and greater geographic reach
  2. Reduced preparation time – many online coaching platforms allow access to prebuilt workshops, tools and courses that can be leveraged by advisors to assist in coaching clients via online links
  3. Online systems can track activity, milestones and action items, capturing work created on whiteboards and uploading documents
  4. Reducing the amount of follow up administration – many advisors find that they have no post meeting work as it’s all completed online during the coaching session
  5. Ability to create one-to-many coaching interactions, where you can send one coaching post to many clients at a time.

A terrific model to help advisors re-imagine the way they leverage technology was developed by Dr Ruben Puentedura. His SAMR model has four phases to rethinking the way you use technology and can easily be applied to online coaching:

  1. Substitution: Technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change. Hopping on Skype instead of a plane to go to a meeting for example.
  2. Augmentation: Technology acts as a direct tool substitute with functional improvement. Using Skype with screen share functionality and recording the meeting adds to the experience.
  3. Modification: Technology allows for significant task redesign. Using task and accountability functionality on an online coaching system to keep clients on track, advancing the coaching experience.
  4. Redefinition: Technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously unachievable. Sharing courses, tools and videos in real time using coaching software is a good example of how online coaching can enhance the client experience over simple face-to-face meetings.

Most advisors current just apply ‘substitution’ thinking when they coach online by applying similar logic to the amazing technology at their fingertips rather than augmenting or modifying their behaviour. A ‘substitution’ mentality will most often lead to poor coaching results.

Here are some strategies for successfully moving to a blend of online and face-to-face coaching:

  1. Pilot online coaching with early adopter clients to practice working online and sustaining long-term relationships. Ensure where possible you can still meet face-to-face but potentially less frequently.
  2. Augment or modify your behaviour and your model when working online – engage clients with frequent online interactions, log actions during each face-to-face, Skype or phone meeting, chase accountability for agreed actions and timelines and provide rapid responses to queries.
  3. Find the right coaching platform to suit your budget and needs to improve the client experience, not simply using technology as a straight substitute for face to face interactions. Coaching online needs to be an enhanced client experience!

Good luck!