This article was written by Geraldine Bown, who has spent 27 years working in the areas of women’s development, diversity and spirituality. A former President of the European Women's Management Development Network, she specialises in empowerment and leadership programmes for women. You can find out more about Geraldine at www.powerfulwoman.net.
Organisations recognise the need to support their women who are preparing for leadership roles; one of the methods is 'reach and teach' learning, based on the delivery of coaching and mentoring virtually. This concept can help organisations to engage with leading coaching professionals without having to incur the overheads of traditional learning environments.
Let’s take this scenario. A global medical supplies company wants to provide coaching for women preparing for leadership. But with geographical and different time zones, how can they do this in a cost effective way?
Enter the internet and the possibility of online programmes and coaches to suit all women and all learning styles.
Such programmes are not about ‘fixing the women’ i.e. separating them out to give them some kind of remedial training so they can subsequently join the ma(i)nstream again. This work is about renewal not development. Women have been developed to death. They need renewal and support- to remember to tap into the inner strengths and resources they already possess and put it to good use in their organisations. And support because they are taking their newly found strengths back into archaic, masculine cultures that have no room for them.
The higher up they go, the fewer women there are to connect with – the fewer women who speak the same language – the gender culture transcends geographical boundaries. Organisations should provide sponsors – someone who has your back. But mentoring is a powerful tool and often it is useful to have a mentor outside of the organisation.
What’s more, it’s often far more powerful to engage the help of a high quality mentor who has experience in delivering real, measurable results. Usually, price is the limiting factor, causing many to opt for cheaper alternatives which ultimately do not bring in sustainable results. For organisations who are committed to their women, virtual programmes provide a way of providing them with an experienced mentor at a fraction of the price
The benefits of virtual coaching and mentoring
So what organisational benefits do these kind of ‘reach & teach’ programmes deliver?
As someone who has been delivering these programmes successfully to organisations across the globe, I have found that flexibility is a big benefit. Women can work on the modules online whenever they choose and take them at their own pace. Modules are usually released in a specific time scale e.g. monthly but as the programme is self-paced some women prefer to wait and complete two or three modules together when they have a clear space in their diary.
A good programme will be broken down into manageable sessions so that they can be easily incorporated into the student’s current schedule. They can also stop and start in the middle of a module if something more important occurs and simply pick up whether they left off at a convenient moment.
There are a range of online solutions that enable learning to take place securely, whilst in the ‘cloud’. These solutions have enabled coaches and trainers to provide all the aspects of a face to face programme effectively as a virtual offering, including video, audio, workbooks and even interactive forum sessions. Most allow for personalisation with the coaches own branding or that of their clients, so organisations can even make the programmes look like an extension of their own training delivery if this gives them greater leverage.
It is also well known that people respond to different learning styles depending on their personal preferences and a virtual programme enables an organization to reach its employees through a variety of media, including video, audio and transcripts as well as group coaching and individual coaching. It essentially means that there is something to suit everyone, boosting the chances of the programme having a long and lasting impact on individuals.
Finally, what organisations really value is the ability to measure and track results. Individuals need to submit responses for each module to demonstrate learning, understanding and application, therefore reinforcing the proof that learning and development is taking place. It can be seen as a more tangible way of measuring the impact of training programmes than classroom-based learning.
As the internet, mobile working and buzzwords like ‘virtual collaboration’ become familiar terms in industry, so do the opportunities for training, coaching and personal development to be offered in other ways than the traditional classroom or one-to-one coaching format. It’s an exciting time for organisations, coaches and women in business as a whole.