I recently sent a survey* out to discover more about what people know about and want from coaching. One of the questions asked what types of coaching would they prefer, choosing between group coaching, face to face or Skype coaching or email coaching, among others. And many people commented or emailed asking what is email coaching? How does it work in practice? Is it effective?
So what is email coaching? Well it is very similar to any other coaching really. Questions and answers, exercises, exploration, goal setting, goal achieving. You develop, transform, become the person you want to be. Except it is all done by email.
How does email coaching work?
I can’t speak for other coaches, because I only know how my particular type of email coaching works. It starts with a questionnaire. I ask plenty of questions to get a feel for the client and what the client needs. I ask some clients to buy a notebook – one they will really enjoy writing in – and set it up in a specific way, with specific headings for specific pages. Based on the answers to the questions I will ask more questions, and more, and more. I will email clients links to articles or blog posts to read, and may give them tasks or exercises to complete. Every task or question or exercise is aimed at taking them closer to achieving the goals they wish to achieve.
Their notebook is their personal book of awesome, which as the weeks go by will be filled up with their goals, their hopes, their achievements. It is something they look back over and can see the progression of their development.
My client may email me when they are stuck on something, and we will work together to get unstuck, just as we would on Skype. Occasionally it is easier to transfer the conversation over to an instant messenger, so we do that. Every conversation in face to face coaching, and every written word in email coaching takes the client one step further towards shifting their mindset, moving them towards their goals.
Is email coaching effective?
Yes. It can be very effective. In fact a couple of the comments on my testimonials were written by clients coached exclusively by email. However, email coaching is not for everyone.
Is email coaching for me?
As I said above, email coaching is not for everyone. Firstly you need to be comfortable communicating in writing. I don’t mean that you need a massive vocabulary or perfect grammar. It’s more that you don’t mind not having someone right in front of you. But if you like letter writing, the idea of having a penpal, if you hang out on internet forums and love communicating using the written word, it would well be for you. Secondly you need to be pro-active – it is much easier to ignore an email from me than it is to ignore me when I am sat in front of you or on the other end of a Skype call. Thirdly you need to accept that email coaching isn’t instant. On Skype, of course, the reactions, answers, questions are quick. By email I may take up to 48 hours to get back to you. This works both ways of course – there are advantages of having the time to reflect.
Advantages of email coaching
– Time zones don’t matter. I do live coaching calls during school hours in France. Email coaching is a solution for those who really want to work with me but can’t find a convenient moment in our respective calenders. I work on email coaching between my live clients and in the evenings and early mornings.
– Background distractions are less of an issue. Have you ever tried being coached in a busy office space or with small children in the background? Email coaching is a solution for this as you can save to drafts when distracted and come back to it. If we are chatting on an instant messenger you can put your phone down, deal with the distraction and come back to it later. As can I.
– Taking your time. Some people prefer to have the time to reflect on their answers, sleep on it even. Email coaching takes the immediacy of face to face coaching away. This may suit you, or it may not (see disadvantages).
– You may genuinely not like the idea of talking face to face to someone, even by Skype. That’s OK. Email coaching can be used on its own, 100%, or can be used as a gentle introduction to coaching as we build up the coaching relationship. Your choice.
– You get to read back on our exchanges, admire your achievements, use the notes as a butt kick. Unless we record our Skype sessions, we don’t get that with face to face coaching. In email coaching every word is there for you to look at, read, re-read.
Disadvantages of email coaching
– It is time consuming. For both of us. To get the most from email coaching you need to be able to take the time to give detailed answers to the questions, take the time to do the exercises and write out what you got from them. Yes, you can fit that in around your busy schedule, which is fab, but somehow you will need to take the time, and it takes more time to get the same results than from an hour on Skype.
– As I said above, it is easier to ignore me by email than it is by Skype. It is easy to let life get in the way, and put off reading or answering emails. Yes, I will give you a little prod occasionally, but the onus is on you to answer my emails, keep on with your objectives, do the exercises even without the pressure of a fixed appointment in your diary.
– Not knowing who you are talking to. In email coaching we are taking away a great tool – the use of our ears and voice. Skype coaching is even better as we can see each other. As a coach when we actually speak I can hear you hesitate, hear you smile even if I can’t see you, and I can pick up so much from the tone of your voice. On Skype I can read your facial expressions, see your enthusiasm or occasional discomfort. And the same goes for you. This can be countered by a getting to know you phone or Skype chat if you prefer.
*Please feel free to fill out the survey – the answers will still be useful to me. Please note however that the associated prize draw is closed.