How Technology Is Transforming Executive Coaching – Harvard Business Review

Posted: December 1, 2019 at 1:45 am

Executive Summary

Coaches have always sought to help their clients improve. Moving forward, strategically applying technology alongside their own judgement, warmth, and integrity will be an increasingly important way for them to do so. The authors describe four key areas where technology can transform the act and the impact of coaching: 1) Technology can help monitor progress towards goals against a clear baseline. 2) It can build a richer picture of what the client is saying (and not saying). 3) It can develop options based on scenarios, simulations, and extrapolations. 4) It can use nudges to encourage and reinforce target behaviors.

Years ago, executive coaching was stigmatized as remedial help for underperformers. More recently, its transformed into an elite, high-cost activity, often reserved for the highest-status executives. But in both cases whether helping the worst or the best performers executive coaching has been inherently small scale, due to its bespoke, one-on-one nature. Organizations have increasingly embraced the idea of internal leaders providing more coaching to their direct reports.

Now, technology is now making it possible for far greater numbers of employees to benefit from outside executive coaching at scale. At a basic level, platforms are making it easier to find and select a coach, to do long-distance coaching via video conferencing or potentially evenholoportation in the future and to manage the administration involved.

Additionally, some coaching tech has enabled coaching conversations without the involvement of a human at a much lower cost. Bots, such as Pocket Confidant and People Squared, allow people to ask questions, work on simulation challenges, and practice their skills in competitive games. Technology and AI permit this to happen anytime and anywhere. Some companies, such as Axa and IBM, are encouraging their adoption to provide large-scale access to coaching.

But perhaps the biggest impact of technology will come from how it enables individual executive coaches (or leaders who act as coaches) to better connect with and serve their clients. This will help to supplement their powers of recall, observation, interpretation, visualization, and encouragement. There are four key areas where technology can transform the act and the impact of coaching. In many cases, the tech solutions have emerged from applications in other contexts, such as sports coaching and customer research.

Of course there are perils to avoid. Too much technology could impede the efficacy and experience of coaching. Coachees could become overly dependent on the answers provided by a bot. Coaches and coachees may hold back, editing what they say for fear of how the app will use their information. The coach may feel overloaded with information, which could result in inertia or confusion.

But in many instances (think humans and chess), weve seen that the mix of human and machine insight is superior to either alone. It may even become harder to coach without technology as its application increases. Coachees will expect it over time, not least because AI and analytics are playing more prominent roles in their lives, from Netflix recommendations to AI-enhanced customer service. Indeed, there are some scenarios in which people prefer the judgement of algorithms to that of humans for example, when they are given advice in response to a question.

Coaches have always sought to help their clients improve. Moving forward, strategically applying technology alongside their own judgment, warmth, and integrity will be an increasingly important way for them to do so.

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How Technology Is Transforming Executive Coaching - Harvard Business Review

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