Online coaching - what can businesses learn from Joe Wicks?

Written by
Louise Weston

07 Jun 2017

07 Jun 2017 • by Louise Weston

With summer looming and the holiday “silly season” quickly approaching, people are becoming more concerned with the way that they look. Diets become healthier, carbohydrates are removed from the equation of day-to-day life and fitness regimes go into overdrive. 

One interesting part of our nation’s seasonal obsession with fitness has been the ongoing frenzy around Joe Wicks. Otherwise known as “the Body Coach”, Wicks has recently become Britain’s sweetheart as he took over the best seller book list with his cookbooks and social media with his personal training program – which focuses on supporting people through emails, apps, Facebook, YouTube and telephone support. 

In this sense, Wicks provides “remote coaching” for his clients: offering videos and books as training for each individual, with customer service representatives on standby to help support his thousands of coachees. The Joe Wicks model, which has also been utilised by countless social media fitness stars such as Kayla Itsnes, has taken professional coaching to the next level: creating a huge clientele base and giving one person the ability to support thousands of clients. People have hailed Wicks and others using these methods as heroes: they have been able to give many members of the public access to the benefits of a professional personal trainer, for a much more affordable price and in a flexible way that suits their lifestyle. 

This desire for personalised training and high quality, highly available mentors is not exclusive to the world of personal training. It exists in the business world, too. More recently, this desire has been bolstered by two different meta-analyses produced across the past few years.

The studies mentioned have produced more credible evidence for business coaching’s effectiveness. Particularly in relation to shorter, focus and remote coaching sessions. The coaching world is evolving and shorter, focused coaching sessions are becoming more widespread and we think this trend is set to continue. 

Can remote coaching really be effective?

Previous research suggests that length and delivery formats do not really impact on the effectiveness of coaching: what truly matters in these situations is that the coaching itself is of a high calibre. 

However, to build a relationship with another person is a different thing entirely. It takes much longer to build trust when we are not in the same room with another person. We miss out on vital social cues – such as body language or facial expressions – and those non-verbal cues can tell us much more about what is going on inside someone’s head than their words alone can. Unfortunately, these cues can even be difficult to pick up and recognise via video link: making the building of rapport, which is vital to a strong coach and coachee relationship, much more difficult. 

This means we have to carefully consider how we set up relationships when we rely on remote coaching. Initial face to face meetings can be used to develop trust, and adapting and using approaches which aid clarity of communication (such as using “scaling techniques” to allow coachees to rate their understanding or feelings on a numerical scale) can often help in situations where consistent face-to-face coaching is not possible. 

Making coaching accessible for all

If we are successful setting up coaching relationships and adapting our coaching tools and techniques to work alongside remote technology, then the future of coaching definitely has the potential to be remote. Shorter coaching times and conducting remote coaching sessions are hugely beneficial as they make one-to-one coaching scenarios much more cost effective and accessible. We’ve seen this exemplified by the “Body Coach” model which has swept the nation and helped many people from all kinds of different backgrounds. 

The idea that business coaching sessions, much like sessions with a personal trainer, are exclusive or prestigious is one that we’ll see eroded as we move further into the digital age. New technology is making it much easier to access a coach and rapidly embark on building a relationship with them – and people will favour this kind of format as technology advances and digital communication becomes the norm. 

As preference towards remote coaching grows, we’ll see a rise in flexible, accessible and frequent developmental opportunities. Coaching sessions which have previously only been pushed out for high level executives are going to become the norm across all areas of an organisation – and businesses will be better for it.