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How enables 12boxes to deliver client-centred business development coaching to professionals

2011 August 23

Although there will always be clients who want a face-to-face meeting, there are many who need distance coaching. A client living in Aberdeen stills expects the same level of support if they move to work in Saudi Arabia. When I am in Tokyo, I need to be able to support clients in London. Sometimes, even when we are geographically close, the client needs a quick consultation and there is no time to set up a meeting.

Fortunately, distance coaching in 12boxes works well because the session is about talking through an opportunity and reaching conclusions that will be tested in conversation with the client. These are recorded in a table that fits easily onto an A4 document. The bottom half of the document, which is where all the preparatory thinking is set out, fits easily into most displays. So a combination of a voice line and a screen sharing program provides all the facilities we need.

Ever since it was launched, my screen sharing program of choice has been It is very easy to use, and has the advantage of being free. (It comes from the ‘logmein’ people, and I already subscribe to one of their other excellent products, so I feel no pang of conscience about using it regularly.)

Using could not be simpler. Everyone starts with the same screen and a simple choice. You either share your screen or join someone else’s. When we first started using, I would host the session. It seemed the polite and professional thing to do. I would type what the coaching client was telling me into the 12boxes table on my screen. At the end of the session, enabled me to offer the person I was coaching the resulting Word document and they would download it. It worked well without a hitch. However, without realising it, I was denying my client a major learning opportunity.

This penny dropped the other week. The person I was coaching had filled in a 12boxes template in advance of the coaching session and wanted to show it to me. It was obviously much easier for them to host the session so I could see what they had done. But it turned out that doing it this way round had another advantage. As we began to discuss the opportunity, I got them to do a ‘save as’ and invited them to revise the document for themselves. Instead of them suggesting amendments for me to edit and ‘helpfully’ put into my own words, they started editing the document as soon as the thought hit them.

To use a ‘driving instruction’ analogy, they were firmly in the driving seat and I was observing. This allowed them to work with 12boxes in much the same way that they would have if they were by themselves. They were in control, and when something didn’t seem right, they were usually the first to correct it. At all times the document remained theirs.

From my point of view the session was more relaxed. I had less to do physically and had more time to consider carefully any comments that I made. The client knew they had produced the end result, and it was expressed in words that they would naturally use with the client. All of this made for a sound ‘learner centred’ approach.

So now, because is so easy to use, there is no need for me to play host and set up the connection on behalf of my coaching client. Whenever I can, I ask the client to host the session. The client clicks the share icon, and allows the downloaded app to install. After a second or two they give me a nine number code, and I type it into the ‘join’ box on my browser screen. From that point on, I can see what they are doing, and we focus on the task in hand, hardly giving the technology another thought.

Many screen sharing applications have an implicit ‘broadcasting’ approach built in.  This inevitably colours the nature of the interaction. Even though does allow me to offer the client control of my screen, it would still be my screen and editing it is not the same experience for the client as they get when they are working on their own computer. Allowing them to host sends a clear message that they are in control. The resulting discussion then becomes truly ‘client centred’ and experience suggests the lessons learned are more easily be transferred into the real world.