It’s commonly assumed that if you want to get the best from coaching, it has to be in person.

Yet, in the States and many other countries, most leadership and career coaching takes place virtually, whether that’s on the phone or using a video-based service such as Skype or Zoom. Does that surprise you?

When speaking to leaders and professionals thinking about coaching, this question comes up a lot. “Surely”, they say, “you have to meet me, to take in all of my non-verbals to be able to read me and know how to coach me”. “Surely if we are to have rapport, feel connected, and to go deep, we must meet”.

Back in 2002, when I first trained to become a coach, there were very few coach training companies offering face-to-face training in the UK. And so I trained with CoachU, an established training company in the US. We didn’t have Skype, WebEx or Zoom in those days, but we did have long-distance calls. The training was delivered exclusively then – as it still is now – through a teleconference line that you dialled into. I learned in my three-year training through regular practice and feedback, how to tune into the voice on the other end and listen deeply. In fact, my “listening module” had a list of no fewer than 77 things to “listen for” in any given client and coaching conversation. That’s deep listening!

Now that I coach in all modalities, that training has given me a sensitivity to feel into a client’s situation and work with them to transform it like no other training I have taken in- person since.

And in many ways, I prefer coaching this way. There is purity for me in working just with the voice and the client. I am not influenced by looks, fashion sense, race, religion, sexuality or anything else. We all like to believe that we have no unconscious bias. However studies show that unfortunately, we do – and that’s influenced by what we see.

Ten years into my business I threw an anniversary party for my clients, and when I finally met some of the phone clients I’d worked with in the early noughties, my clients and I were surprised and delighted that neither of us looked the way we’d imagined. That’s incredibly liberating – on both sides!

Working virtually has allowed people to work with me from across the UK and in the States, Dubai, Australia, Africa, Switzerland and elsewhere – who otherwise would not have access to Ros Toynbee Coaching’s services.

Yet many London professionals, who have the option to meet me in their central London office or at London Bridge, end up switching to virtual coaching because they prefer it. Over 75% of our clients work with us in this way.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. Psychological safety: They can call me on work-from-home days, giving them a sense of safety and confidentiality that they don’t feel when they are in the office or in a room hired for the purpose of coaching. When office rooms are made of thin glass, everything can be seen, and clients fear that their private conversation could be heard on the other side.
  2. Convenient times: They can receive coaching at 8 pm at night after the commitments of the day are over, they’ve eaten, the kids have had their bath and bedtime story. They can finally relax and that helps them get more from the coaching experience.
  3. No mad-dash commutes across town to meet their coach saving time, effort and tube fares (as well as helping to save the planet, a little bit).
  4. Coaching sessions cost less but are just as effective. There is a minimum of small talk and “settling in” so coaching starts sooner. The session feels focused and super-efficient.

Of course, if you prefer face-to-face coaching, we still offer it – provided you live or work in the localities that our coaches are based.

We just thought it was important to set out some of the advantages you may not have thought of to make an informed choice.

If you have been thinking about having coaching to reach a professional goal or navigate a career challenge, you can book yourself for a free no-obligation consultation.