Dec 12, 2020
6 min
read

6 Ways COVID Changed Coaching - Forever

Obviously, coaching has changed during coronavirus. Now that vaccines seem to be on their way, it’s worth looking at what coaching will look like in a post-pandemic world. Which corona-based changes are temporary and which are permanent? What does the post-COVID world look like for coaches and how can we best prepare for it?

To answer these critical questions, we surveyed experts both in and outside the Profi community of coaches. They highlight 6 major ways in which we can expect the post-coronavirus world to look different from the one we left in February 2020, even once the public health situation stabilizes.

1 - Online Coaching Becomes Part of the “New Normal”

One of the most obvious changes catalyzed by the pandemic has been the shift from in-person communication online. Many experts, such as Ethan Taub, CEO of Goalry and Loanry, agree that these changes will be permanent, at least to some extent: “The changes within the coaching industry will be there forever. Sure, we will be able to meet up again soon enough, but knowing the power of social media and the internet, and how we can still have strong connections online will open up a lot of opportunities for the industry.

Annabel Maw, Director of Communications of JotForm agrees with this premise, and also highlights some key success factors for this reality: “It's likely online coaching will be the norm for some time. To ensure success, it's important to have the right tools in place, such as an online form builder to gather, track, and manage client information. Having this in place will simplify tasks and prepare you for long-term remote work.

While we’ll discuss tech-enabled tools later in this article, it’s also important to note that not all coaches agree that today’s all-digital world is here to stay. Lucas Robinson, CMO of Crediful explains:

Coaching will go back to the way it was because online relationships can only do so much for a coach. We need to see those real reactions to people, and sometimes online conferences are just not the same. The gravity of a room when you say something uplifting is not something that can be replicated. Change is great but sometimes the old stuff holds a lot more power.

Similarly, Amy Sanchez of Swim Against the Current emphasizes the importance of in-person relationships and its advantages over online, opining that “people will compare the remote workshop to the live workshop and recognize how much more effective live workshops are and push to keep those intact when we’re able to safely gather again. The networking/relationship-building component to the in-person workshop can’t be duplicated online.

Perhaps these approaches are not completely contradictory. For example, Simon Elkjær Chief Marketing Officer of avXperten,  envisions a future blending the best of online and in-person communication: “While there will still be face-to-face coaching sessions, there will be touches of virtual techniques included. Coaches and clients will now be more open to video calls, online coaching, and the use of virtual assistance apps that can improve one’s coaching sessions.

2 - Importance of Authenticity and Humanity

With the pandemic keeping people apart from each other for so long, many coaching authorities foresee a post-pandemic world putting a premium on authentic humanity and human connection. Business Coach Marian Bacol-Uba, for example, notes that “clients are craving human connection now more than ever, so coaches should infuse their own funny/weird/quirky personality to stand out. It doesn't have to be all business and super serious. People are craving authenticity now more than ever.

This shift will affect not just how coaches present themselves but also their service offerings, according to Matthew Alexander of Hobby Hustler, who highlights “the need for personalization and for 24/7 support with that personalization. With everything going on online it’s tougher to find that human connection and I see subscription coaching becoming more prominent rather than just paying for hourly calls.

While it’s difficult to quantify, this is a trend we at Profi are seeing regularly as clients of coaching and consulting services - and people in general - are putting an increased premium on authenticity and personal connection with those with whom they work. Not only has 2020 reminded us all of our mortality and reduced the opportunity for human connection that we crave, but it’s also accelerated many people’s distrust in institutions and so-called opinion leaders. As more people prize their own individuality, they will seek others who do the same.

3 - Shift to Whole Person Coaching

Not only has the coronavirus put a premium on humanity and authenticity when clients look for coaches, but it has also affected how the type of services they seek. Kelly Perin of Little Bites Coaching sums up this dynamic with reference to her clients’ needs: “The pandemic has blurred lines of work and home for so many of us in so many ways, and I’m seeing more and more of my clients talking more openly about their out-of-work lives, work/life balance issues, and personal relationships. We are coaching the whole person, and clients are moving towards greater integration between their work and out-of-work lives.”

Dave Sinclair, owner of Business Transitions Plus, has noticed this trend as well, as clients seek help in answering “why” questions as opposed to “how”.

I have seen a definite shift from doing-based coaching to what I would call being-based coaching. I see a lot more people coming to me with the need to take a peek behind their motivations. There is more of a transformational aspect that goes hand in hand with psychotherapy. This is a year when everyone has had the opportunity to step back and examine their motivations, and it will certainly make a lasting impact in the world of coaching.

That said - and this point is crucial - the shift to whole-person coaching does not imply less accountability or “touchy-feely” consultations that don’t lead to results.  Amy Feind Reeves, CEO of JobCoachAmy, explains:

In a virtual world, there is less focus on the personal and more focus on the agenda. Just as an employee is now judged less for their time in the office and more for the results they produce, a coach will continue to be judged less for how they make a client feel and more for how they help a client advance. COVID has raised the bar on producing results for everyone, and that is unlikely to go away. Create a specific objective that is measurable with every client, and measure progress towards it. “Soft” coaching is going to become less marketable.

4 - Democratized, Ubiquitous Coaching

Coaching has become more widespread in the work-from-home world as alternatives like conferences and in-house training programs have become less accessible. Many experts believe that this trend will continue even as alternatives become available as organizations and clients that have invested in coaching have seen the value that it brings. As Kelly Perin notes, “With the pandemic interrupting many of the usual professional development opportunities, more organizations have embraced coaching, ...and that’s a change I think will stick as more leaders feel the benefit of having a skilled external thought partner in their corner.

In an earlier article “4 Ways Coaches Succeed in the New Economy” published just before the coronavirus changed our lives, we noted that coaching was no longer the exclusive province of senior executives.  Middle managers and functional specialists were also getting into the act.  As Amy Sanchez notes, by making people more comfortable with online delivery of services, the lockdown has accelerated this trend, which will continue even after the pandemic ends: “the cost for coaching is lower since travel fees are no longer a part of the pricing. This makes it more accessible to a broader audience.

Beth Noymer Levine of SmartMouth Communications ties all of these points together, noting that, “with everyone meeting remotely, we are seeing the democratization of coaching. Once utilized as a tool for the upper echelons of management and performed in executive suites, coaching is now more accessible to more levels of professionals within an organization (especially those who are non-desk-based) because it is being delivered virtually.

This growth and democratization of coaching opportunities have affected coaches as well as clients, as Levine observes: “For coaches, just like clients, remote sessions mean that coaches not based in the larger metropolitan areas don’t need to count themselves out for certain clients.”

5 - Specialization and Niches

Another trend that we observed before coronavirus hit is increasing specialization within the coaching industry. As we wrote at the time:

Clients (and their bosses) will want to know that coaches understand the environment in which they are working.  The coach who works with sales managers in finance and insurance will have a leg up over the generic “executive coach” for her or his niche.  

The work-from-home environment has accelerated this trend by reducing barriers to entry for the coaching industry. While experts disagree on the extent to which coaching will remain virtual in the post-pandemic era (see above), this disagreement is about the extent to which the industry remains virtual, not whether virtual coaching will disappear entirely. All agree that coaching will be more virtual in the future than it was in February 2020.  As Matthew Alexander explains:

The other major thing in the coaching industry that I see changing is niche coaching. It’s so easy nowadays for coaches to get started especially because it’s normal to be virtual more and more people are entering it which means that it’s going to be super saturated and coaches that really want to stand out really need to demonstrate their expertise within a specific niche.

One niche in particular that we can expect will grow is health and wellness coaching. As Claire Adams Director of Partnerships, Digital Marketing of FitSW: Fitness Software explains, “the pandemic has made people hyper-aware of their health status and how susceptible we all are to health risks. The demand for coaching will continue to rise because of an increase in health awareness.”  These implications extend beyond the world of health and wellness coaches specifically, also affecting clients who expect “whole person coaching” noted above.

6 - Tech-Enabled Services

Another trend we saw developing before the pandemic and has since accelerated is the increased importance of tech-enabled coaching services. Such services are no longer an optional differentiating factor for coaches; they have become the norm and a base standard that coaches need to meet in order to attract and retain clients.  Beth Noymer Levine explains that “tech platforms and apps are being developed that help coaches preview, assess, and provide feedback to clients, as well as some that will allow clients to measure and track their own progress over time,” with Profi as an industry leader leading the charge.

Similarly, Warwick Brown, founder of Account Manager Tips, gives a first-hand account:

My coaching practice has fundamentally shifted by moving away from the disparate world of conference calls, emails and attachments toward digital hubs in which coaching, communication and content converge within a single platform, where each coaching client has access to an entire ecosystem of resources and features that supports their goals:
* Schedule meetings
* Conduct video calls
* Transcribe and share recordings of coaching calls
* Content libraries
* Planning tools to track goal progress
* Instant messaging to ask questions of the coach when problems arise that can't wait until the next session.
Digital hubs like these allow coaches to offer digital programs that are flexible, responsive and seamless.   And they are here to stay.

Of course, as the industry-leading provider of these services focused on the coaching industry, this topic is near and dear to our heart.

Conclusion

It’s difficult enough to manage your coaching business during the pandemic, without having to think about a future with another seismic shift in how we do business. That said, it’s absolutely necessary to be thinking ahead so as not to be left behind.  This pandemic will end, it will end within months, and the consequences of it ending are predictable. Start acting now to position yourself for this future and be a leader in the field instead of a follower.  

If you’re stuck, contact one of our Profi experts for help, via the platform support chat.