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Episode 16

The Future of Coaching

As more and more industries face disruption through technology, how can coaches prepare for the inevitable (and do we really need to worry)?

David Peterson, Google’s very own expert on coaching and leadership, sat down with us to explain how this is already happening, why it’s a good thing, and how coaches can stay relevant ahead of the curve.

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Industry disruption comes to coaching

Although it may be an underrated topic of conversation, coaching does not exist in a vacuum; the disruption that is occurring (due to advances in technology) and will increasingly exert its influence in all sectors will not leave our industry unaffected. 

David suggests that many coaches are being complacent, often trying to get bigger, longer retainer style engagements and earn a lot of money for a long time, rather than shorter, higher impact engagements – coasting along in the “golden age of coaching” and not worrying about building resilience for the times ahead.

Just as the mobile and computer industry is in a continual evolution towards smaller-better-faster-cheaper, so the coaching industry is starting to experience pressure to follow suit.

So how do we prepare for the emerging pressures in our industry, and how do we adapt to consumer demands and simultaneously go deeper with clients and create more long-lasting change?

How will it manifest?

In a world with ever increasing complexity and a pace of change that is previously unheard of, leadership challenges are escalating exponentially as well. This means that for us as coaches, the demands around us are escalating rapidly.

A lot of change is coming from the technology sector. Physiological feedback devices (real time feedback and tips for what to do in the moment) are examples of how apps will increasingly assist people to monitor and modify their states and behaviour without the aid of another person. Just being someone who pays attention and listens is not going to be sufficient.

In addition, many things that leaders used to use coaches for they can now do for themselves; getting feedback, reflecting, accessing new skills and tools from the internet etc. 

Listening skills, conflict management and influencing for example are skills that are relevant in contexts that are continually changing – and (most) coaches are not keeping up with this. Essentially, we have to be shifting to the new paradigm faster than our clients are. 

Direct competition exists in the form of peer-to-peer coaching and mentoring; proactive HR departments; physicians talk about developing “coaching cultures”; low cost, immediately available online coaching resources etc.

Staying ahead of the curve

So how can coaches stay relevant ahead of this curve? David proposes three fundamental ingredients for staying viable and adapting to the future: 

  1. Attitude of experimentation – acknowledging VUCA (volatile/uncertain/complex/ambiguous) and implementing DNA (diversity/novelty/adversity), and intentionally seeking new experiences so we get good at handling this set of circumstances
  2. Reflection – reflect on your experiences to learn from them; this requires humility (“I could be wrong”) and genuine curiosity (“What’s another way to do this?”)
  3. Community – engage in dialogue with people around you, ideally diverse populations to expand habitual thinking patterns

Ultimately, to stay ahead of the market we need to have an orientation to deep service; to be asking the question, “How can I serve my clients better?” (not “How do I make more money”).

One of the keys in this work with leaders is becoming skilful at being able to move as fast as possible but know when to stop and step back to take a bigger perspective (taking time to reflect), to recognise the patterns, because otherwise we’re just working on symptoms.

Resources mentioned:

About David

Photo of David B Peterson
David Peterson

David Peterson has been an executive coach and innovative thought leader in leadership development for over 20 years. As Google’s head of Executive Coaching and Leadership, he works with senior leaders and supports leadership, learning, and executive development initiatives. David has published dozens of articles and chapters on coaching, is co-author of “Development FIRST: Strategies for Self-Development”, and “Leader as Coach” and co-editor of the Handbook of the Psychology of Coaching and Mentoring.

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