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Trainer’s Tip: Successful E-Coaching

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Coaching is so much about building a rapport, how can such a relationship be built if the people involved don't meet face-to-face? Spencer Harris offers some advice.


My top five tips for email coaching:
1. Agree a protocol, a contract for how you will interact. Including: dealing with tempo, silence, literacy (computer and otherwise), when you will communicate and how much time you have available (manage expectations).
2. Develop rapport: provide the opportunity for a relationship to form (actually invite this so that it happens). This could take longer using this media than with face-to-face coaching and will be an ongoing action (as it is in face to face).
3. Agree objectives and goals.
4. Encourage your learner to participate. Motivate them to utilise the process.
5. Keep a log of what you have discussed over your time together. This will help you both review the process, celebrate the success and see how far you have come together.

The list of five email coaching tips would not differ significantly, if I were to be asked to give five tips for face to face coaching. What would change is the context in which they operate, some of the issues/ challenges involved (such as protocol issues with email) and the differences that would then translate into the "how to do it" actions.

Reflecting upon what I have said here and from my personal practice, this list supports the view of online coaching and mentoring as an adaptation of face-to-face and not something different. The differences are in the way it must be organised and operated, all the fundamental basics of helping another to learn remain.

Other issues to consider:
Technology - Is everyone able to use it and is it available?
Media Richness - Interpretation is different without the non-verbal stuff. People also read what they have written and fill in the blanks mentally for things they miss out.
Social Presence.
Tempo and silence - how often/ did the other receive my mail as they haven't responded?
The 'online self' - people can be different in cyberspace to what they are normally.

* Read the question that prompted Spencer's response here.

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