Contracting 17: Contracting in a Virtual/Remote Coaching and Mentoring context

Does contracting in a virtual coaching and mentoring context require additionality?

As we have seen in my previous blogs on Contracting, at the heart of great coaching and mentoring lies a great coaching and mentoring relationship. Effective contracting is the foundation upon which this relationship is at first established and then built. in my experience if something goes wrong it can usually be traced back to what has or has not been done as part of the contracting process. So – does contracting in a virtual/remote coaching and mentoring context require additionality in terms of your practice?

While there are some givens to contracting

. . . for example, clarifying the purpose of coaching or mentoring; exploring its underlying principles such as where the responsibility lies for learning; agreeing what is meant by confidentiality – there will always be a contextual element to consider.

Remote coaching can clearly be on the phone or, as seems to be much more likely now that technology has moved on a pace, visual as well as auditory. Remote coaching and mentoring clearly brings with it a very clearly defined context. You may wonder whether the inevitability of having less access to non-verbal communication might get in the way. In my experience coaching and mentoring by whatever means can be highly successful – as long as you get the contracting right!

So – what are the specific or additional elements to the contracting process that need to be kept in mind?

And . . .

  1.       are all these elements always present in a virtual/remote context?
  2.       are there others that will be specific to the individual context?

The second question is very easy to answer. Yes!

Every 1:1 coaching or mentoring session is will have an individual context. An on-line session will be no different and there will be a virtual context that is unique for each of your clients which may be related to the purpose of the sessions or to specific practicalities e.g. distance or disability that makes physical meeting impractical.

In terms of the first questions

. . . there are likely to be differences in all 3 elements of the Optimising Coaching 3P’s of Coaching and Mentoring – the Principles, Practice and Procedures or Practicalities.

1. What Principles may need to be discussed in a slightly different way when working remotely? What is it important for you and your client to have a common understanding about to ensure the coaching relationship works effectively in this on-line environment?

For example . . .

    • what do you mean by a safe space – what does that need to look and feel like in a remote/virtual context? Some people may find phone more comfortable or vice versa. And it may be that you move from one to the other over a course of sessions
    • what does the client having control of/responsibility for their learning mean in practice when working remotely?
    • as a holistic process coaching and mentoring involves both thinking and feeling – how will any emotional responses that emerge be shared/managed?

2. What specific elements of Practice need to be contracted?

For example . .

    • use of silence/holistic listening – what are these likely to look and feel like when working on the phone/on something like skype or zoom?
    • what additional elements need to be discussed relating to confidentiality particularly in relation to location and on-line security. Is the client sitting in an environment that will not be interrupted and where they will not be overheard. And what about you as the coach or mentor? This is all very obvious when you are physically together but unlikely to be so when you are behind your respective screens.
    • are either of you going to take any notes – if so how are you going to handle this in terms of ownership, time during the session to take notes etc.?

3. What Practicalities need to be considered?

Some obvious ones come to mind . . .

    • do you both have access to reliable technology that is comfortable so that it won’t get in the way of the process?
    • how will you handle any technological glitches – e.g. do you revert to the phone if you have made a decision to use a visual means?
    • how do you manage refreshments – e.g. if the session is only an hour do you start with a drink at hand rather than have a break?
    • what will the metaphorical tissue box look like? Is it a 2 minute break, a comfortable silence while it works its way through or . . . ?

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