Coaching at scale
What Kubler-Ross floated in 1969 still stood true as we experienced collective grief over more than a year while battling the pandemic. It was indeed a roller-coaster ride as we swam through stages of shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, until we were able to finally generate acceptance. That ‘accepted’ reality is what we have dubbed as the ‘new normal’ of today.
The most significant addition to the change curve was made by David Kessler, who co-authored a book with Kubler-Ross, just before the pandemic. He introduced a critical sixth stage – meaning. Kessler argues that it’s finding meaning beyond the stages of grief that can transform grief into a more peaceful and hopeful experience.
“Your loss is not a test, a lesson, something to handle, a gift, or a blessing. Loss is simply what happens to you in life. Meaning is what you make happen.” – David Kessler from Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief
This earnest urge to meaning making has turned people more towards coaching. It is coaching that provides a safe space to examine our beliefs and thoughts and propels us to take actions for a better future.
The crisis has hit everyone in a different way. Most couldn’t move around with limited socializing. Some were out of jobs, whereas others faced increased work pressure and virtual meetings. Some shared the space in the home with distinct boundaries between family members, some didn’t have that luxury hankering for more space and some longed for the house to be filled with more members to beat loneliness. However, the common thread that ties all of this is that people were robbed of what is an innate human desire and that they have considered dear since the establishment of modern society – freedom of choice.
This has led to a mass epiphany to attempt to reclaim the other and more significant part of our lives which we had unconsciously mortgaged in exchange for quasi-entitlement of designations, perks and benefits. Global data and subjective validations indicate a surge in use of coaching since mid-last year1,2. However, the more interesting trend is that people and organizations are exploring different aspects of their lives through this. Hence, relatively newer streams – career coaching, relationship coaching, stress coaching, change coaching, wellness coaching etc. – are on the rise. Coaching is not being restricted to the ‘vital few’ just focusing on leadership and executives, rather it is being democratized and becoming a more inclusive form of talent development3. This is not an evolution which is gradual but is comparable only to the Arab Spring that dawned a new era.
The number of professional coaches has increased by 33% since 2015, with about 71,000 coaches across the world4. Considering the surge in demand, this number seems paltry. With every part of our lives now being integrated with technology, the moot point becomes whether sufficient Artificial Intelligence can be built into a machine to do the job of a coach5,6. Coaches themselves have been in denial citing that softer aspects of a human conversation like empathy, semantics, inflection can never be replicated by a bot. However, the debate has been intensified by tech solution providers broaching that bots can be utilized to deploy questions that generate insights. Additionally, bots are devoid of the bias that humans might subconsciously bring into a conversation; thereby, creating more empowerment for the coachee to set direction and pace of the conversation.
On one side are the solutions like Ezra by Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), AceUp etc. where algorithms guide people through a self-driven experience that recommends coaches based on their needs and goals. The user, who is the coachee, vet their coaches to make sure they find the right fit. This is also creating easy access to virtual coaching from superior coaches across the globe and most solutions provide on-demand coaching which is just-in-time throwing the concept of a pre-fixed schedule and duration of a lengthy on-going engagement out of the window.
On the other side are tools that are meant for human-machine interaction, the likes of IBM Watson Career Coach, PockcetConfidant etc. offering “self-coaching” experiences enabled through technology. The core belief of this school is that everyone can have powerful and personalized conversations with digital interfaces to transform their challenges into learning and competence.
The key takeaway is that a chatbot is not a coach but can have coaching conversations. Whether this hype translates into popular reality will only be told by the intelligence of future machines in a world that has become more virtual and digital post the pandemic.
*Views are personal
- Business coaching takes centre-stage amid pandemic: Freepressjournal.in
- Why coaching is exploding since COVID-19: HRexecutive.com
- Freelance Coaching Is Growing As Managers Face Post-COVID Leadership Challenges: Meet AceUp: Forbes
- 2020 ICF Global Coaching Study – Executive Summary: Coachingfederation.org
- 15 Trends That Will Redefine Executive Coaching In The Next Decade: Forbes
- How Technology Is Transforming Executive Coaching: HBR.org