I became a certified coach in the year 2001 – that is almost 20 years ago. From a time when we had to evangelize the primacy and benefits of coaching, we are now seeing more and more seasoned professionals embrace coaching as a fulfilling career and more and more organisations embracing coaching and preparing the ground for its meaningful application.
As I look at the current state and the days ahead, I am convinced that it is all coming together to create an unbeatably strong and positive trend for the future. I am convinced that 2020 will be the decade of coaching. If you are a coach who has what it takes to deliver value, rejoice – this decade belongs to you!
A decade when coaching will not be sold but bought; a decade when coaching will be consumed not because there are coaches but because it works.
Here are eight strong reasons for my huge sense of optimism about the decade belonging to coaching and coaches.
1. The rise of talent management as a function and the separation of leadership development from learning & development have taken coaching closer to business leaders and their decision making process and away from calendar based training. That means, business leaders are leveraging coaching to solve leadership needs and opportunities with business implications.
2. Coaching as a strong option within long-term leadership development programs has helped coaching earn its rightful place among reliable developmental experiences. While class room training has long existed alongside action learning options, coaching has come in as a breath of fresh air and is holding out great possibilities for bespoke learning and change.
3. Increasingly, Boards and CEOs are beginning to place as much emphasis on means as they are on ends. They are waking up to the reality that the right leadership behaviours are as important as the best business outcomes and leaders having challenges with that are being encouraged to seek help.
4. More and more Boards, Business leaders and Venture investors recognize that given their closeness to the business and their emotional involvement, it is best to give their CEOs access to a coach to grapple with their emerging executive agendas. Support from an outside professional who has the clarity of distance seems well accepted. Books like the Trillion Dollar Coach have just nailed it!
5. From a socio-cultural perspective the average family has had a far higher level of collective experience and acceptance of seeking help in one form or the other. Kids in schools have a counsellor, teenagers are happy to meet one or have one for help. Elders are constantly counselled by professionals about self-care. The word coaching has deeply penetrated our everyday language and relationships and therefore stigma is slowly but surely fading away.
6. We also live a world and time of contradictions – at one level, more and more people are WOKE – are moved by social issues and display compassion empathy. At another level, we have failed or forgotten to display rudimentary emotive empathy to people just around us. So, people will be pushed to “buy listening” from a range of helpers going forward.
7. There are enough positive stories about coaching and related forms of help making a difference. The positive buzz is strong. Those who have benefitted will be the greatest evangelists and propagators of coaching.
8. Changing business models and labour market structures have enhanced the primacy of the individual over the large corporate. The individual is beginning to recognize that it is up to her or him to do what is needed. More and more individuals are now taking charge of their health, their finances, their diet, their leisure, their grooming and of course their development and business after business is being created to make these individual choices possible and workable. Coaching now joins the long list of services that are now within the reach of individuals and most importantly, individual will soon be ready to pay for it.
For these and perhaps other reasons, Coaching is centre stage and will thrive, when delivered well.
So, what are the trends I foresee as far as coaching is concerned? Here are a few that come to my mind.
1. From a ubiquitous and one size fits all practice, significant specialization and applied offerings will emerge to address varied needs and contexts. The format, the durations and the applications will be limited by the imagination of providers.
2. From being tentative and somewhat unsure, HR will reach a place where they will be able to help businesses make well informed decision about coaching. These will be supported by sound internal processes to institutionalize the use of coaching.
3. Coaching will earn the distinction of requiring the highest level of involvement as far as the sponsor is concerned. Unlike training, coaching will require sponsors to play a hugely active and supportive role and that will make coaching a hugely educative experience for sponsors. Thanks to coaching, sponsors will be far better informed about how people learn and change.
4. Team coaching will evolve as a natural extension of individual coaching. This will require coaches to master not just coaching competencies but also group facilitation skills – the interplay of OD and coaching.
5. Coaching will become a critical managerial and leadership competence. As a result, creating a coaching culture and embedding coaching into all conversations and relationships at work will become important.
6. Of course, as with any profession that sees proliferation, concerns about quality and inappropriate application and ethical transgressions will remain.
7. For coaches to be successful, they will need to overlay their foundational coaching competencies with additional skills to address special needs. There will be iconic coaches with a hugely successful track record and reputation and there will also be coaches who will struggle to find meaningful work. This decade will see the growing importance of competence over credentials.
In summary, I think that any leader who is open to seeking help will get help and will no longer have to struggle and suffer in isolation. That will help individuals, their families and of course their businesses do better.
It will also be a great time for coaches who have got it right.