Event – 14 September 2012

There is no spoon: technology, presence and ethics in online coaching

Held at i-coach academy, Central London

In this presentation I was interested in the role of neuroscience when it meets virtual reality and how we define our identity in a fast changing ethical code.

It started off with the impact I could see films were having on our understanding of technology. Then I noticed how much we were missing out in the way we use technology in the workplace. And, now, this work forms part of my inquiry into how technology impacts our digital relationships and my continuing exploration of being human in digital spaces.

In this talk I reviewed the strengths of the traditional face to face training, facilitation or coaching with the opportunities of working in a completely new way. This might include on-line collaborative communities, webinars, m-learning, e-learning, movement tracking, sound/bio-feedback response systems and virtual worlds.

Also, I presented some results from my findings where I asked other coaches about their solutions to this new world of opportunity. You are welcome to add your thoughts and ideas to this blog post


Listening to ignite the human mind

I have read with great interest the current debates on the importance of listening.

What has interested me for some time is the power of listening, real listening, just enjoying somebody’s thinking with no need to add or change or adapt the magic of their thoughts.  I suppose I think that people deserve not to be interrupted from their own discoveries.

Steffan Harris in his presentation at TED.com illustrates that there is no wrong note in jazz,  there is just an opportunity for a new piece of music. So, too, when somebody has space to think they are not necessarily thinking the wrong thing. Instead, they are thinking originally, creatively and independently in a way that is exactly right for them.

Listening is probably one of the most useful tools in my coaching box. I never cease to be amazed with the results. When I focus my intention on what they are going to say next without the need to comment they sense this and their confidence grows.

When I first met Nancy Kline and heard about the Thinking Environment model I was thrilled. At last, there was a process that named what I felt was right. The Thinking Environment invites a coach to keep in mind the vital components of good listening and the subtle signals that keep the thinker thinking afresh. She emphasized that our attention, when focused on where the Thinker will go next with their thinking, is much more exciting and unpredictable than we could ever imagine. In other words, we need to listen in a way that will ignite the human mind.

So the next time you are tempted to give your opinion as somebody is unraveling a thought do not succumb to the pressure to say something intelligent, relevant, or even catalytic. That the moment of clarity belongs to the person to whom you are listening.

If you would like to know more about how to use this model in coaching have a look at the Thinking Partnerships course. For on thing, you will know that it is a course where you will be truly heard.

Ethics of online coaching

Recently, I gave a presentation on the ethics of online coaching at Oxford Brookes University The question I wanted to ask was, what happens to ethics when we go into a digital environment?

Arguably, ethically, online coaching has the same issues as  face to face coaching. In that a coach will seek to create an environment where their client can trust them to help them to think well for themselves in order that they can move forward from their present situation.

However, the nature of contracting for any service online requires us to be much clearer about what is going on at any point in the contract. A friendly lawyer, who works for one of the many organisations who audits websites for a “trusted” status, handed to me a booklet filled with legal, regulatory, technical based criteria I needed to provide beyond the essential information that described my service. I can not deny that I was a little alarmed by the volume and variety of obligations I had to declare.

In summary, from my current understanding, an ethical policy for any online service will need to include:

  • A clear description of what the service is with the key aims, objectives and outcomes
  • An easily understood description of the choice(s) of communications via the Internet
  • Tutorials on how the communications technology works
  • A guarantee that all information, shared online, will be kept secure and remain confidential
  • A demonstration of compliance to legal, regulatory and insurance issues such as consumer protection
  • A demonstration of skill, competence, qualifications and accreditation of a recognised coaching model
  • A discussion to agree the contract. Times, process, potential conflict of interests etc.
  • A procedure for the payment process with an “acknowledgement of order” and  “right to cancel policy”
  • A code of ethics accessible for review online

This seems like a lot to do to be an online coach. So I decided to ask a few people to see what they do. How do you manage your ethical obligations in the digital ether?

To help me to gather some data I created two surveys using Survey Monkey. The questions were based on a number of sources as well as what I have learned from running my coaching sessions online.

The first survey asked a series of questions about what you do to create an ethical coaching practice as a coach.

The second survey set out to find out what the client thinks! What would they want to see their coach doing on the ethical front?

If you would like learn more about how to complete your own ethical audit on your coaching practice and/or you would like to see the results, send in your contact details with a request via the Strong Enterprises contact page.