Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Howard B. Esbin (Canada).

The word ‘coach’ derives from an invention that revolutionised travel throughout 15th Century Europe. This started with a new kind of horse-drawn carriage invented in the Hungarian town of Kocs. Over decades and centuries this type of carriage became known variously in Spanish and Portuguese as coche, in Italian as cocchino, and in Dutch as koets.

By the early 1800s, ‘coach’ had morphed into a slang term used by Oxford University students to refer to their tutor/instructors. The idea was they “carried” their students through their exams to success. By mid century, the term extended to athletic coaches as well. Meanwhile the original idea of coach as transport also continued evolving; hence the rail coach and airplane coach class.

A new technology has once again revolutionised transport. This time it is moving communication and ideas in ways and speeds unimaginable to earlier generations. And again this new invention is changing the way coaches help carry their clients and students to success. The article title is meant to encapsulate the full gamut of virtual coaching practiced today. That is one on one, with teams, and with groups. A simple distinction between team and group is the former share and work together towards a common goal; a group shares a common interest but as individuals working for their own ends.  A virtual coach therefore has breadth and depth of outreach and opportunity simply unavailable before the Internet.

However a virtual coach must first learn to navigate in a new environment. Working with others virtually calls for even more effective interpersonal, or “soft” skills to compensate for all the challenges that arise including time zone spread, broadband constraints, language miscomprehension, and cultural differences. To get a humorous sense of how this may typically play out, do watch the comedic video “A Conference Call in Real Life”.

Virtual Team Aptitude Checklist

  • Emotionally Mature
  • Empathic
  • Self Starter / Motivated
  • Takes Initiative
  • Committed
  • Responsive
  • Reliable
  • Flexible
  • Communicative
  • Patient

A quick informal Google survey confirms empirically what we know from professional experience and the growing literature more generally.

  • “Coaching” gets 103 million results
  • “Virtual Coaching” gets 87,900 results
  • “Group Coaching” gets 998,000 results
  • “Virtual Group Coaching” gets 13,800 results
  • “Team Coaching” gets 916,000 results
  • “Virtual Team Coaching” gets 3,850 results

Simply put, virtual coaching is still in a pioneering stage. This is certainly how we see it.  We are a virtual team, managing a virtual enterprise, offering a virtual team training resource called the Prelude Suite™.  The Prelude Suite™ helps accelerate virtual team trust. This involves facilitated exercises in self-discovery, self-expression, and team co-creation. The process starts with a unique self-assessment called iStar™, leads to creating a vision and symbol of team excellence and concludes with a Team Alignment Plan™ (T.A.P.). This contributes to developing and implementing a robust, meaningful Team Charter.

Because of its modular scaffolded design, the process moves from individual to team experience. As such, it may be used effectively in one to one virtual coaching as well as team virtual coaching. Team size is ideally somewhere between 5 and 10 members. The team’s entire arc of learning is experiential and interactive. Training and certification for new coaches is also online and equally compact. We welcome professionals working with virtual teams and/or individual clients online to schedule a complimentary one-one-one exploratory session. For those professionals thinking about learning to work with virtual teams I recommend contacting Lisette Sutherland, the CEO of Collaboration Superpowers. Lisette offers a powerful introductory online and in person workshop that prepares people for working virtually. Then please come see us to practice what you learn.

About Howard B. Esbin

Being the scion of generations of designers and artists naturally predisposed his avocation and career. Over the course of Howard’s professional life, he became intrigued with the ‘why’ of ‘visual thinking and communication. This led to a concurrent study of the creative process.

He developed the Prelude Suite™. The Prelude Suite™ is an experiential learning resource that empowers virtual team performance by strengthening trust.


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