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Lessons from Islam about virtual coaching

Pajama Working

In the first blog in this series we discussed the importance of the coaches’ presence in a session.  In the last blog we examined the disinhibition effect, which leads people to behave in ways they would not normally do because they feel ‘insulated’ or distant from another person, for instance when they are driving a car.  We discussed how the disinhibition effect can be operating when coach and client are not face to face and therefore the coach needs to be aware of the danger in order to maintain presence.

Which raises the question of how we can support ourselves to behave with grace and professionalism while virtual coaching and not end up like the woman in the above picture.  While I was on a meditation retreat I was introduced to the concept of Adab.  Adab is an Arabic word not fully translatable into English.  Linguistically it means to invite people for food.  But in the context of behaviour it means, “refinement, good manners, morals, decorum, decency, humaneness”.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adab) .  One the retreat we were encouraged to have high standards in how we behaved towards the physical environment we were in, our interactions with each another and in following the rules of the retreat in order to create the best Adab possible.  Interestingly enough the more care we took with our behaviour the better the retreat atmosphere seemed to become.

The relevance of Adab to virtual coaching is that it can help us maintain our standards and not fall into the trap of being ‘careless’ that will affect our ability to coach and will probably be communicated on some level to the client.  If we believe that the perceived distance from the client means that we don’t have to bother being fully present we are letting the client down in some way.  We may think that we can still impart our knowledge during the session and it does not matter how we look or behave if the client does not see it.  But, if we lack Adab we are not really brining our full self to the session.   In my understanding of Islam it is Adab rather than knowledge that holds the greater value and importance (https://adabinislam.wordpress.com/adab/  If we are to maintain our standards on virtual calls in the same way as we would face to face we need to have the same standards of Adab as we would if we were face to face.

So how to ensure we give high quality attention and behaviour on virtual calls?  Essentially treat any session as you would a real coaching session.  Here is a technological and personal check list for phone, video or text coaching:

  • Close any programmes you don’t actively need for the session
  • Check with the client if they are comfortable with this method of working
  • Agree in advance what you will do if you become disconnected/the technology is not working in some way
  • Turn your phone/other devices you are not using off
  • Clear your desk
  • Dress as you would for a real session
  • Make sure you start and finish on time
  • Don’t have anything distracting in your line of sight
  • Notice when you have a desire to multi task and find a way to give more attention to the client
  • Plan ahead to avoid interruptions
  • If the session is long offer the client a comfort/stretch break

If you follow these recommendations the client will sense you are truly present with both your skill and behaviour and will value the sessions accordingly.  You will also support the client in their Adab and help them to bring their full self to the session as well.  That is what I would call a win win.