Hello Leader,

The future always wins. The Mayan end of the world and Occupy Doomsday are growing but we are definitely in the future business. The future is thrilling and it wins in the short and in the long term. We offered a magnifying glass on The Accelerating Universe and suggested at the beginning of the year that Be Surprised by Nothing is a mindset you need to cultivate going forward. We then focused the Future of Work. In this KEY we focus on the Future of Coaching.

"You have to listen inside...you have to find your pace..." Those were the words of my coach as I prepared for the cross-country running championship. My goal at age 13 was to win the Israeli long distance running championship, but my coach saw beyond the one race. He focused on building endurance and on learning to listen to what was going on inside, to be able to think through the race. He wanted me to run my own race. That year I won the championship. Soon I was coaching the younger runners in our athletic club. Translating my learning and passing it on to others was natural.

At that time, a coach was someone you associated with sports, with helping people reach peak performance and win. But for me, I discovered I was coaching others everywhere I went. It was a combination of several things: intense curiosity; a deep need to learn; the love of continually finding new questions to ask, and the desire to help people clarify their thinking, open up possibilities, and move forward.

This became my central preoccupation before coaching turned into a professional business. It was a great way to learn and to help others to develop, grow, and create breakthroughs. I have been very lucky. As my consulting practice evolved I was able to work closely with brilliant managers who taught me a lot. I work with senior executives to accelerate learning, catalyze collaboration and innovation, and create new futures. "You intuit the issues we grapple with and you help me transform our process and get rapid results," I was told by an executive I worked with earlier this month. He pointed out that there is tremendous benefit to including coaching in our project. In my work, coaching is not a separate discipline but rather a critical subset of the collaboration we create. Coaching is a vital component of the capabilities and knowhow we bring to help leaders create radical growth. In this KEY, I share with you observations on the future of coaching.

Listen to a unique podcast: The Future of Coaching. We are always glad to hear your comments.


Aviv Shahar

The Future of Coaching

As coaching entered the business arena, coaches were asked at first to offer remedial help. They were hired to help "fix" people with "problems," especially individuals whom managers did not know how to manage or motivate toward higher performance or creativity.

Coaching became mainstream in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when companies realized that the best coaching application and ROI was to support top talent. If you wanted to become a top performer or to get into a bigger game, you sought out a coach to help you.

As the Internet exploded, two classic counter-trends followed: Coaching ubiquity and institutionalization. Many who wanted to become a coach seemed to decide one Monday morning to start calling themselves one, so coaching became ubiquitous. Some people tried to establish the "profession," to build credentials for the "discipline" and define the "field." Coaching schools, academies, institutions, federations and conventions were popping up all over the place. It was a smart business model, too. Licensing the hope for prosperity and independence was highly lucrative.

Coaching drew people from distinct groups with different levels of competence and knowledge:

  • Psychologists who discovered the limitation of the dependency paradigm and used the rise of cognitive modalities to shift the focus from dysfunction to performance.
  • "New Agers" who had spent a lifetime on the workshop circuit and figured a way to turn their New-Age air miles experience into a coaching practice.
  • Pastors and ministers who decided to shift their spiritual pursuit from preaching to asking questions.
  • Wannabe consultants and HR professionals who found that coaching offered a bridge to independence.
  • Executives who completed a corporate career and decided to go out on their own.
  • And anyone else who was looking for a new career path and/or felt called to be a coach.

Overnight, everyone was coaching. Google the word "coaching" and you get about 276,000,000 links: "life-coach"-29,700,000; "executive coach"-10,800,000. It's a brilliant business opportunity for search engine optimization scams.

What transpired during the early 2000s looked like this:

  • The coaching market became saturated.
  • Many saw themselves as a life coach.
  • Coaching was integrated into business paradigms.
  • Coaches shifted into executive coaching to differentiate and build a reliable customer base.
  • Companies looked for ways to differentiate coaches by model, experience and recommendations.
  • Certain business schools integrated coaching as a tool.
  • In some cases, coaching supervision was imported from the therapeutic model and created another income stream.
  • Some coaches shifted from modality-based engagement (NLP, Gestalt...) to outcome focus.
  • Coaches consolidated into coaching organizations and groups.
  • Then companies looked to reduce expense and replicate with internal resources what they thought coaches were doing.

With the 2008 economic meltdown, many coaches went out of business overnight. Others struggled to adapt. A smaller group of coaches differentiated themselves and have done extremely well.

In a future KEY I will share with you the five practices I've distilled in my work with senior executives and what I observed with successful coaches. If you choose to go into coaching or make coaching part of your consulting practice you will need to develop some of these practices in order to stand out in the crowd.

Now it's your turn. Turn the key. Discover the practices of successful coaches. Cultivate learning and coaching culture. Be in the future business. Create new futures for people and organizations.

© Aviv Shahar