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Virtual coaching gains momentum, but it’s not for everyone

Personal preference, availability and the right fit may be the best factors to build a relationship with an executive coach.

From virtual services such as digital FaceTime meetings and webinars to in-person sit-down sessions and seminars, a combination of options provides business leaders with many choices for professional development.

Whether it’s ongoing support or a fresh perspective on management obstacles, executive coaching offers a fresh lens in which to pursue professional growth.

“We needed coaching specific to our business,” said Paul Marrella, a financial adviser at Raymond James Financial Services Inc. in Wyomissing.

Marrella has used online and virtual executive coaching services for seven years. He found a good match for one-on-one specialized wealth management coaching in San Francisco.

He said his virtual coach brings a fresh perspective and objective view to his work style and professional development.

“It was hard to find someone locally, and [going digital] sort of shrinks the world a little bit,” Marrella said.

The coach emails topics for discussion prior to the virtual monthly appointment, often done using Skype.

“It’s not always what you want to hear,” Marrella said.

END GAME: BETTER PRODUCT

Marrella said other online group coaching services are weekly, monthly or quarterly, and as many as 100 people might log into the same session.

“I can ask questions during the webinar. Where there is real value is when the conversation starts,” Marrella said.

He also regularly attends in-person seminars.

“It [coaching and development] benefits our clients,” he said. “They get a better product.”

REFINING TOPICS

Girish Sud, chapter president of Lehigh Valley SCORE based in Schnecksville, said online coaching tools are growing.

SCORE is a national nonprofit, staffed with volunteers who often are retired businesspeople, with local chapters across the country. Its mission is to help advance small business and entrepreneurs by offering online and in-person mentoring, all free.

“Our clients do take advantage of the online webinars after the first or second in-person session,” Sud said.

While webinars are typically generic, mentors can help [tailor] topical areas, such as human resources, budgeting and finance.

“I believe the digital [format] is a growth area, but not everyone is comfortable talking to someone on a screen,” Sud said.

‘AN AMAZING TIME’

Arminda Lindsay is an executive coach and principal of Arminda Lindsay LLC, based in Raleigh, N.C. Her clients are worldwide, and she has worked with many in the Greater Lehigh Valley.

She said online and digital tools have expanded her business.

“We live in an amazing time with all the technology available,” Lindsay said.

She uses Skype most often, as well as Zoom, another platform for larger webinar offerings.

“Because space and time separate us, I prefer to see someone. I like to have my eyes on a client,” Lindsay said of working with Skype.

PATH TO DISCOVERY

Whether it’s face to face or FaceTime, a clear purpose drives the conversation.

Lindsay said her purpose is to help clients find their own meaning and discover their truth and answers.

“My job as a coach is to ask a lot of questions, and then be quiet. I’m here to help you get out of your own way,” she said.

FACE TO FACE

Other coaches prefer to work locally, in person.

“My clients prefer face-to-face coaching and interactions. They prefer to be sitting in front of me,” Ken Byler said.

Byler is principal and managing partner of Higher Ground Consulting Group LLC in Souderton, offering coaching and mentoring to business owners and managers.

He said most of his clients are a reasonable drive from the office.

AUTHENTICITY

Byler said technology can be a distraction, and you need someone to manage the technology while giving the presentation.

Authenticity in coaching is important and can get lost in a phone call or Skype session, Byler said.

“I can tell when someone is being honest, and I can provide empathy when that’s needed. The face-to-face is more personal,” he said.

Byler said the top three requests he gets for coaching are accountability, the need for a business partner or idea sounding board and for personal and professional development.

“A business owner may be great at the business, but not so good at the people side or sales, and they need someone to help get them to delegate,” he said.

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