video chats with executive coaching clientsIn my executive coaching work, I coach high-powered individuals with strong personalities, helping them to stay accountable to goals, working through issues that are holding them back from being more effective leaders, and often providing a sounding board for their woes and frustrations (when you’re at the top, there aren’t that many people you can speak to about your challenges without risking confidentiality or other issues).

But inevitably the question, “How will we meet? Skype? Video?” comes up.

Yes, many of my new clients want to meet, face-to-face, via video conferencing. And it makes sense. People want a chance to get to see their coach, get a sense of you, to feel that they can trust you. But in most cases, I dislike meeting my clients face-to-face when we’re in session, and I thought it was time that I explained why (and under which circumstances a Skype meeting does make sense).

I listen during executive coaching sessions. A lot.

During my executive coaching sessions, I’m listening. Intently. Over my fifteen years of coaching, I’ve honed my ear to detect subtle changes in the sound of my clients’ voices. I’m listening for pace and tempo, space between words, timbre, pitch, tone, intensity, volume…I can tell worlds just from the sound of your voice on the other end of the phone line.

When you add video to the mix, it floods my senses with a massive amount of new, additional data. So much, in fact, that I am almost unable to hear the details I can typically hear on the phone. I do my best work on the phone.

You’re more open during phone coaching sessions.

Did you know that clients are more open during phone coaching sessions? It’s true! You’re more apt to get to the heart of things sooner, and more likely to dive deeper into your brain junk if you’re not looking at me, wondering what I’m thinking. You can focus on you, what’s inside your heart, without seeing my facial expressions and wondering what they mean. Instead of worrying about judgement or perceptions, you open up and talk openly about the brain junk we’re working on. It’s a beautiful thing.

I take notes during executive coaching sessions.

I take notes like you wouldn’t believe. A big part of executive coaching involves memory – being able to remember names, details, events, important things you’ve said that I want to put a pin in and go back to – except that I have a terrible memory. So taking notes is crucial for me to do my best work for you.

Except when I’m on camera with a client, I can’t take notes. Clients like feeling heard, and in person, that translates to the person who’s listening to you actually looking at you. On camera, that means staring at the camera, and not taking notes.

I walk during executive coaching sessions.

When I’m in the midst of an especially intense coaching session, if I don’t need to take notes, I walk. I pace, I stroll, I wander, I keep moving because it helps me think. On camera, I can’t just get up and walk away. I’m rooted to my seat. For me, it’s a bit like being imprisoned.

Land line technology rarely fails me.

In a time when many business owners are 100% virtual, using their mobile phones for their primary line, I keep a land line specifically for my business. The quality of a land line still can’t be beat. Skype, on the other hand, has its down days, and if you’re not on an actual connection (e.g. not wifi), forget about reliability. And while, when I’m traveling, I dial into my conference line with my mobile phone, my standby is always a land line.

When is video appropriate?

When I’m working with an executive and I get the feeling that there might be some body language issues going on, that is when video makes sense. When I suspect that you don’t have a reasonably objective perception of how you come across, then I might suggest a single video session. Other than that, there are few, if any, times when I’ll work via video.

I work best when it’s just you, me, and the phone.

I love Skype. I fell in love on Skype. Literally. And after being on camera for 36 hours to break a Guinness world record, shooting tons of video podcast interviews, and recording my own videos for various business projects, I don’t really mind being on camera. But when I break it all down, this is what I know: I do my best work when it’s simple. You. Me. Working through challenges, roadblocks, daily frustrations, leadership issues, all of your brain junk.