How Soon Should You Adopt Virtual Tools for Executive Development? Can’t It Wait?

Take in information, and you’ll grow, right? Nah, it doesn’t really happen that way.

As speaker Les Brown recently said, “If information changed lives, then everyone would be rich, skinny, and popular.”

Digital media has an endless flow of data on how to invest, lose weight, and get along with even the most difficult people. Last time I looked, a lot of people are still broke, fat, and fighting.

So, what does it take for someone to change their ways?

We behave differently only when we see and feel a reason to do so. Philosopher Kevin Buck says, “Without reflection, there is no true learning.” Exactly — we need information plus time to reflect on its meaning. We need to see how it will fit into our own world. That is where executive coaching comes in.

No matter what you call the person, a coach, trainer, resource or mentor serves you best not by bringing you new information but by stimulating a reorganization of what you already know and believe. This can be done through any medium of interaction, but virtual coaching itself requires a reorganization of what we already know. Anyone will acknowledge the power of face-to-face interaction but many are skeptical of its translation into other media.

But let’s not ignore history. This same resistance was encountered when the written language was introduced to an illiterate world. It rose again with each new medium: printed language, telephones, radio, voicemail, e-mail, etc.

So, early resistance is natural and useful as we gain mastery of each new medium. I’m encouraging you to become an evangelist for virtual interaction. There are many payoffs for incorporating virtual solutions.

In the virtual world, there is an expanded capacity for reaching others in a meaningful way.

Between face-to-face meetings, there are myriad opportunities to influence others. I’ve personally used teleconferencing, video conferencing, e-mail coaching, webinars, and Skype presentations for many years. Don’t permit the cumbersome nature of technology to distract you from the personal interaction. The evolution of the technology makes each iteration more real, personal, and impactful — and the more natural it seems to the participants, the more deeply they process the experience.

Remember that, regardless of the medium, the quality of your personal connection will rule.

Here are five keys to a successful virtual session:

  • Treat it like a private, face-to-face meeting: minimize distractions and book the timeframe.
  • Apply all the same rules you would follow for a good in-person meeting. Agree in advance on why you are meeting, confirm the details, and be respectful of each other’s time.
  • Know how to use the technology before you even set the appointment time. Master your tools so you can focus on the personal interaction.
  • Skip the warm-up and small talk. Get to the topic early and clearly, and stay on point. This applies both to the coach and the client. If one of us is trying too hard to be social then the other will be short-changed of the value they could have gotten from the interaction. Remember why you are connecting in the first place.
  • Never go over on time. If timeframes aren’t respected, then the appointment won’t be respected.

…and one bonus key:

  • Cement the learning points and new choices, and confirm the actions that will follow.

Executive development is really about personal growth, the improvement of an individual. No matter what technology you use, it is still you and one other person seeking ways to improve.

A group is a collection of individuals and each is processing the experience in their own way. So group motivation is really individual motivation just happening simultaneously for several individuals.

It’s like the media coaching advice, “Speak to the camera as if it were your best friend.” You are always talking to each individual. And if you are the listener, take the message personally. The message is meant for you no matter how many others are present.

What matters most the medium or the message? Actually neither is the real value source; the real value lies in what you can do with the message in your own life and business. Speakers, sound systems, software, phones, web sites, iPads, webinars, etc., all are just parts of the delivery system to enable others to put into practice the gems of wisdom in the message.

Embrace technology as your keys to a new kingdom of results and become an evangelist for virtual executive development.


Jim Cathcart is the bestselling author of 16 books and a hall of fame professional speaker. He has worked with 2,700 clients worldwide over his 35 years as a trainer and consultant. Jim is the founder of Cathcart.com and a frequent coach to many of his colleagues and clients. He is also a professional guitarist and singer.

Category: Leadership

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Avatar About the Author: Jim Cathcart

Jim Cathcart is the bestselling author of 16 books and a hall of fame professional speaker.

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      October 12, 2011 at 6:21 am


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