New to Digital Coaching? Here’s What You Need to Know

When Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, was interviewed by Fortune Magazine, he told them the best advice he ever received was to get a coach.

“I initially resented the advice, because after all, I was a CEO. I was pretty experienced. Why would I need a coach? Am I doing something wrong? My argument was, how could a coach advise me if I’m the best person in the world at this?

“But that’s not what a coach does. The coach doesn’t have to play the sport as well as you do. They have to watch you and get you to be your best. In the business context a coach is not a repetitious coach. A coach is somebody who looks at something with another set of eyes, describes it to you in [his] words, and discusses how to approach the problem.”

There’s no denying the impact of executive, one-on-one coaching. But what if you’re looking to take it further than the C-suite, to implement a company-wide adoption of powerful new ideas? Ideas that can lead to a shift in thinking and behavior change within the entire organization and across multiple geographies. How do you implement learning that gets people to look at something with another set of eyes and practice a new approach so that they can be their best?

As a recent graduate of the ACC program at the Centre for Coaching, I’m familiar with the rigorous practices and methodologies that underpin integral coaching. So I was curious, how does digital coaching simulate what traditional coaching sets out to achieve? Here’s what I found.

One-on-one Coaching Digital Coaching in Cognician
Relationship – This first stage of the coaching conversation allows the coach to build a relationship of trust with the person being coached. Chat avatars – These friendly, often familiar faces are used to establish the mode of learning, in other words a simulated chat with a coach.
Questions – Open-ended questions prompt the coachee to think about issues from new perspectives that they might otherwise not explore. Each question inspires the coachee to examine their current concerns, or what’s worked for them in the past, and the future landscape they’d like to work towards. Prompts – The virtual coach can engage the learner with a variety of different prompts. In addition to traditional open-ended coaching questions, there are multiple choice questions and Likert scales, among others, allowing instructional designers to vary the learning experience.
Listening – A critical competency for an effective coach is to listen deeply, actively and without judgment. The coach needs to be aware of their own system of understanding, and how this might influence what they hear. Variables – By capturing certain responses as variables, we can reflect the learner’s words back to them and personalize questions and exercises, giving a strong impression of having been heard.
Narratives – Coaches can make use of narratives to describe how the person is living and help them to see the different possibilities that might arise from adopting a new narrative. Sidebars – Rich media, mini case studies and engaging stories are shared in the sidebar, inviting the reader to explore a model for a new way of thinking.
Self-reflection – Coaches help people to build greater self-awareness by giving them exercises that generate self-reflection, allowing them to start noticing their own patterns of behavior. User’s response field – The response field elicits self-explanations to capture reflections, keeping the mind of the user actively engaged.
Self-realization – These ‘aha’ moments are at the fulcrum of learning, when a person’s blind spot is removed (through self-reflection) and they start to notice what’s causing them to become stuck. Insights – Learners can share insights with the group, outside of their private chat space. Colleagues can comment on insights and start new conversations that enable social learning.
Practices and exercises – An opportunity for the person to practice the new skills needed to build certain competencies. Practices and exercises – The learner is guided to transfer their thinking into practice, taking new ideas into the workplace or home.
Support – A coach needs to be available to support the person between coaching sessions and help create a level of accountability. Follow-throughs – Inspired by new ideas, learners can commit to new actions and be reminded to follow through on predetermined dates by email.
Sessions – Coaching takes place over a number of (usually predetermined) sessions, at a set time and place. Spaced practice – The modules in digital coaching programs are spaced over time. Learners can access their coaching worksheets on any device, at any time. They can also share their worksheets with colleagues and instructors.

Whenever progress is made in digital technologies, people are quick to point out the benefits of traditional versus new methods, and some may question whether the new technology will supersede the former. Digital coaching, however, needn’t be a replacement for traditional coaching in an organization. It can form part of a blended learning program, allowing a far greater number of people to reap the benefits of personalized coaching.

How might digital coaching be used in a blended learning program in your organization?