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Leadership Coaching by Skype

Leadership Coaching and Executive Coaching by Skype *

(* or any of dozens of other providers)

Having been coaching at CEO and C level for many years, I asked myself this question?

How does face-to-face coaching compare to coaching using video call services such as Skype?  (You can see a list of some video calling alternatives at the end of this article).

Comparing face-to-face with Skype coaching

To make any meaningful comparison it is necessary to first bring to mind the key factors. Top level leadership coaching, as with any form of coaching, requires advanced listening skills. Listening at its most advanced is conducted actively with the brain, the eyes and the ears. (We also listen with our chemo-receptors, and that may be the subject of an advanced version of this article, subject to demand.)

Our ears determine what raw air vibration we pick up, and the brain processes that input. Of course, you knew that. You also know that a huge amount of tonal information is conveyed along with the meaning in the words. Here is where a real difference emerges between face-to-face and Skype coaching.

All recording and play back equipment filters out sound and distorts frequencies at multiple points:

  1. During recording (via the microphone- the perfect microphone has yet to be invented – don’t hold your breath; the technical difficulties are enormous).
  2. During electronic codification of what the microphone pics up
  3. During transmission
  4. During de-codification (turning the electronic signal back in to movement)
  5. During speaker vibration (no speaker is perfect)

What does that technical jargon mean? That much of the tonal information being conveyed (intentionally, and unintentionally) is never received.

For instance, the vocal tones that convey subtle doubt in a given answer are hard enough to detect face-to-face with perfect hearing. If those tonal changes are filtered out by video over internet technical processes, the implications can be huge. Experienced leadership coaches will know the biggest predictor of successful outcomes is the passion and commitment a leader has to those yet to be achieved results. As a coach you absolutely have to be able to detect how passionate and committed a leaders is to the plan you have agreed. Since you cannot rely on tonal communication, you have to be more overt with your emotional monitoring. (That too, can be another article.)

Exactly the same technical problems apply to the video component of online leadership coaching. In fact, the problems are worse visually. Much more of the visual information that would have been available face-to-face is filtered out.

To start with you can only see the head and shoulders of the person you are coaching. You know how much communication comes from the hands. That is gone.

Here is an example, you ask a leader what mechanisms s/he uses to assess their organisational culture. Face-to-face you see their feet slightly shuffling and their hands tightening, while you get a well-crafted PR-type answer. You hear the tone of voice changing. Face-to-face you already know that they don’t know what culture is, let alone how to measure it.

Using video over internet, you see the head and shoulders of a well-presented competent leader giving an apparently acceptable answer. You haven’t seen the foot shuffle, you couldn’t see the hand tightening, and the shift in vocal tone was filtered out. You have to depend on the words.

Fortunately, since you have written the breakthrough books on culture leadership you can tell from the word content that there is a knowledge gap that needs to be filled.

If you haven’t written those books, the PR answer that you just heard could go undetected as such.

Had you been there in person you would have picked up that you were being fed a standard line. You would have seen and heard that the person was unsure of their words. As a coach you would have been cued to explore that uncertainty.

What is the key point?


Video over internet filters out huge amount of valuable information that enables skilled leadership coaches to do their job well.

What this knowledge tells us is that we should be aware that huge amounts of valuable information is filtered out during video on line coaching. Vast amounts of information that we need to do our job, simply doesn’t get through.

That is not to say that online video coaching does not work. It can work. It does work. It has worked. It will continue to work… IF you are aware of and use the knowledge of the differences.

Overcoming Filtering

How can we make use of this knowledge? Keep it front of mind. Know that you are receiving much less information via Skype or any other video provider. Specifically, here is the most important step to take: ask questions to fill in the gaps. Ask questions to put back in that which has been filtered out.

Since you can’t hear, as well, how the person you are coaching feels about a given issue, ask them. Since you can’t see, as well, how they react, ask them.

Who can make Skype leadership coaching work?

Those with the most advanced communication skills. Let’s expand on that.

Communication skills for leadership coaching by Skype

What is meant by the most advanced communication skills? High levels of articulation? PhD standard writing skills? No, neither are necessary.

Advanced communication skills are based on such an in-depth understanding of real-world communication that the coach knows what is present and what is absent, in communication, and can adjust their communication approach to ensure communication is effective.

Here is a practical example. Driving in car creates a background noise of around 65db. People with an understanding of communication will alter their voice pitch and volume to be heard in that environment. Indeed, in every environment they alter their communication behaviour to ensure effective communication.

The most advanced communicators can use Skype for effective leadership coaching; they adjust their communication behaviour to suit the medium.

Here is the rub: as with drivers, 95% think their driving is above average, 95% of people think their communication skills are above average. Clearly that is not so.

Use Skype for leadership coaching, IF your communication skills are highly advanced, and IF you are aware of the communication that is filtered out by dint of the technical processes involved, and IF you know what to do to overcome the filtering effect (ask questions).

Communication issues covered, let’s move on to

Time and cost factors

You can save a huge amount of time and money by conducting leadership coaching online.

Firstly, you as coach, or you as coachee do not have to travel. That means zero travel time and zero travel costs. Which of course means that as coach you can deliver for your clients at a lower cost. For you as coach, that means you have more coaching time available for more clients.

As a coachee, video coaching means you can hire the best coaches in the world, wherever they have chosen to live. As coach, you can provide coaching anywhere in the world, wherever your client is, and wherever you are.

Practical issues

It should go without saying that you will want to check that everything is working before your scheduled Skype or video over internet leadership coaching session. Test the sound. Check the camera is showing you on screen. Check the lighting. Make sure everything you need is to hand. If you need to discuss any documents or use any illustrations make sure you use a video service that can show them, or have sent them before, or if they are simple illustrations, you can hold them up to the camera (that cannot work with complex images or written documents).

Leadership coaching online is still leadership coaching, meaning, the coaching role is still the same; you are providing a 1:1 development session for someone who wants to develop or refine skills, knowledge or understanding that will enable them impact many lives in a positive way.

What that means is that your array of coaching skills can be fine-tuned to work in a different environment.

Skype coaching works, and works well if you have great coaching skills, advanced communication skills, and, you adapt those skills to the benefits and limitations of the medium.

Happy Skype Coaching!

If you want to develop your leadership skills, advance your career, achieve better results, and wish to do so at a time and a place of your choosing, and for a lower cost than face-to-face coaching, contact PsyPerform.

Some providers of video call services

WhatsApp, Viber, Google Hangouts, Anveo, Thirdlane, Voca, Talky, ooVoo, AppearIn, Line, Tox, ICQ… and many more.