The Challenge of International Executive Coaching at the point of need

The Challenge of International Executive Coaching at the point of need

How to start coaching executives digitally

Ben Ponne is CEO at NeoLeaders, Business Coach and Action Learning Coach at the world’s most well-known business schools. Since early 2017, Ben has been using Pluform to facilitate the contact between coach and participants. Read here why and how he uses Pluform.

Coaching in different timezones

With coaches and executives scattered across the globe in different time zones, there is no simple solution to make sure that each executive gets timely feedback and guidance. In today’s fast moving business environment, where Gen-X and Millennials start to move into executive seats, there is pressure to provide a quick response. Weekly face-to-face or online teleconference meetings still have their place in our coaching practice, but some coaching engagements demand faster feedback, particularly when we combine coaching with applied online learning on the job.

For example, NEO provides coaching services on some of the strategy and leadership development programmes of a global top tier business school. Executives from all over the world sign up for these programmes. The programmes usually take five to seven weeks. A key element of these courses is an action learning project where participants apply their learnings to one of their business challenges. For example, on the programme “Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption,” participants build an executable strategy in response to the digital disruptions that are likely to have a significant impact on their future business. 

These online programmes have been designed to sustain the motivation and engagement of participants, and have exceptionally high completion rates of more than 90%. One of the key factors for such a high completion rate is the individual coaching support. Experienced coaches are in continuous dialogue with the participants and also review the weekly submitted action learning projects. Some participants, often from the same company, form study groups and work together on their action learning projects. 

Stop using email to communicate with executives

With email as the main communication channel between coaches and participants, we encounter some significant challenges. Unless the coach organises the incoming and outgoing emails from each participant very diligently, multiple emails from the same participant will be scattered throughout the inbox and sent box. Submitted materials are attached to emails and coaches tend to store these in folders on their computer systems so that they don’t get lost. That means that it becomes a challenge for a coach to quickly build up a mental model of the full history of a participant, especially towards the end of a programme when significant history has been build up. Also, if a coach with a significant number of students, is unable to continue coaching, the handover to another coach is laborious and error-prone as it includes the exchange of a considerable number of emails, submitted material, and coaching notes.

Another challenge is the timely feedback on these high-paced programmes. There is an expectation of participants to get fast feedback. If Amazon can do same-day delivery of physical packages, why should participants have to wait longer for feedback delivered over the internet? With coaches in different time-zones, we offer 24×7 coverage. That requires a frequent handover of information as the day progresses, which is a bottleneck in the coaching service. 

Privacy and Security issues

In addition to the logistical issues, there are also privacy and security issues with the exchange of information by email. Often executives share their email accounts with executive assistants, and they don’t want them to see their private exchanges with their coach. Employers may also monitor incoming and outgoing email traffic to make sure it complies with business standards. These monitoring activities may seem harmless when it relates to automated security monitoring, such as spam filtering, but can be more serious when there is manual access involved, such as the technical help desk that helps employees who are locked out of their email accounts. It is not only important to protect the dialogue between the coach and the participant but also to protect the materials that are exchanged as part of the dialogue, such as the above mentioned strategic plans. These plans can carry significant business value, and it is important that they are stored and communicated safely.

It’s all about the dialogue

Based on the challenges we identified, we created a set of business use cases that we considered important for our future coaching business. We then set out to find a solution that would support these use cases. We conducted an extensive search, and we tested many solutions. Although Pluform didn’t tick all our boxes, we soon discovered that the dialogue based focus of Pluform, and the high levels of privacy and security, largely covered our needs. We started using Pluform in March 2017 and our experience, and the feedback from our clients has been overwhelmingly positive. Based on this positive experience, we decided to integrate Pluform in all our coaching and training offerings. 

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