Bit of a large one this but it condenses some thoughts I’ve been trying to put down for a while. It comes from a part of my NEW BOOK 'How to be a Great Executive Coach' available at www.coaching-coaches.com
There is no doubt that because the future of society is becoming more and more individually focused so too is management. Evidence already shows that business leaders and managers are concentrating not on their staff as an indiscriminate mass, or even as groups, but as highly individual people, each with their own background, personality and aspirations. Each person we meet is be motivated in a different way, inspired by different things and guided by different criteria. Leaders and managers who are not aware of this will need to be so very quickly.
Also, given the average period spent in a job in the West is around 2.3 years, organisations will have to get used to fast throughput of staff or learn better how to satisfy different individuals - and for longer. Either way, coaching, as a bespoke management technique, is probably the only thing that can meet this challenge. Yes, there are many coaches already, and a lot of organisations use it but the demand for them or the skill is likely to increase. Moreover, managers generally will have to develop sophisticated coaching skills that make workers feel that they are cared about as individuals and that their career aspirations are taken seriously and catered for in appealing and practical ways in order to attract them in the first place.
Individual coaching is well established as an executive skill for the future of management. But when exactly is the future. And what future should we be preparing for? Is the future 10 years from now? Or is it 20 years from now? How about 5? Obviously the future is all of these and we need to be preparing for all of them. What ever we speculate there are a couple of things that present and future managers, leaders and professional coaches will need to be working on in the development of their coaching skills.
One of these is technology. The rate at which technology is developing and changing is likely to mean that many people may be communicating remotely via video conferencing technology. It is quite conceivable that we will be coaching people that we’ve never met in person. It is possible that we will be coaching people in different parts of the world over video connections and it is possible that will take place on big ‘three dimensional’ screens. This will likely change the dynamics of interpersonal interaction. The other thing we really need to keep an eye on is psychological and social research that informs us about motivation and what kinds of interaction influences people. The research that has spawned the success of coaching is all fairly recent but given new insights it is likely that we will become far more sophisticated in our understanding of the human person and therefore more complete in our ability to help and motivate them.
The future of work
The future of work will be an intriguing one. The 21st century will be one in which this awareness and fascination with the individual self is deepened further. While our knowledge of the wider universe is becoming increasingly sophisticated, our knowledge of the brain and psychology is still very limited – scientists say that we are aware only of about 2% of how the brain works. The 21st century is likely to provide insights that will revolutionize the way we understand interaction, motivation, influence, and how we measure personal achievement.
Work in the future will mean more flexibility. The 9 – 5 job is already changing with staggered work patterns and flexi-hours. People work not so much around the clock but at different times around the clock. They work times when it fits in with their other commitments such as their families. Short-term contract work is on the increase as is part-time work. It is possible that high ranking professionals and managers could have more than one job (provided there aren’t clashes of interest). This of course means there will be less long term commitment for many companies, but given the prevalence of fast movement in business development it is likely that new regimes of knowledge transfer will have to compensate for the decline in static workforces.
People may be moving around a lot more than they do at present. Shifting from job to job. Remote working (normally from home) is already a reality and quite common. This is likely to increase further for reasons such as road congestion, pollution and climate change (which petrol cars contribute to) and for reasons of time saving and fuel saving. Electronic and computerised video technology will advance hugely to make this a more viable option for organisations that need to have close contact with their people on a regular basis. Freelancing will become even more common than it is at present. As ‘being employed’ brings a little bit of security, this will be considered not as great an advantage as it is at the moment. It will be weighed up against personal and professional freedom, and the aspirations people have to ‘do their own thing’. All of these, and more, are likely developments in the future of work – a challenge that demands coaches begin thinking hard about them and the implications for the future of work –especially their own! These are scenarios you can also present to your clients – they will be impressed by your foresight and your ability to anticipate a range of possibilities.
The future of management practice
These future work scenarios will make for a change in the practice of management. It will mean a change in the way that managers think about what it is they are doing, it will also mean a change in the way bosses strategically configure the organisations and companies for which they are responsible. Given the high level of personal orientation to job roles and tasks management is likely to become far more person-centred than it is at the moment. Although we are more task-oriented at present, more and more evidence is emerging that suggests people will demand roles that align with their personal skills, personalities and preferences, and managers will have to find ways of accommodating this, which is likely to be a move toward more person-centered approaches. This will also occur because individual’s (employees) lives will be so complex (personally and professionally) that time and energy will need to be given to managing this and orienting this complexity to the benefit and the overall good of the organisation. This, as we have mentioned, will mean a greater, unprecedented levels of flexibility. It will also mean a more strategic approach to aligning individual talent and skill, personality and time when bringing people into organisations and providing roles that are more suited to the things that they enjoy doing or that they are good at.
Although this is a response to the demands for flexibility, it may in practice mean a greater level of control and strategic planning on behalf of CEOs. In order for individuality and flexibility to be fully realised this will need a concerted and carefully managed vision and a clear operational process to implement successfully. By then, coaches will be well positioned to act as consultants in such implementations. The issue of cultural diversity will also feature. There will be a requirement to understand and empathise with a variety of cultural views and different ethnic perspectives. This is already the case but as countries become even more ethnically diverse the greater will be the requirement to see how cultural identities can best be integrated. ‘Diversity’ training is already high on the agenda of many public sector organisations in the US and the UK.
How coaching the industry and skills will respond to this future
The full-time professional coaching industry will develop to cope with these changes and will also act as an agent in bringing about change. But initially it will need to develop and be flexible enough to fit in with people’s individual needs. My prediction is that competition among full-time professional coaches will become more intense with those that are truly outstanding in getting results becoming separated from those who are less so. But each should be able to develop their own niche. The profession will become specialised much in the way that sports coaching is and in the way that psychotherapeutic counselling is. This will mean there will be coaches for top leaders, others will cater for senior executives, middle managers will have their coaches and junior mangers will have theirs. Perhaps different kinds of activities such as team working, change and projects may have dedicated coaches too. Organisations may well develop teams of specialized coaches so as to share knowledge and good practice throughout the organisation. At the moment, while coaching is widely practiced and popular it is likely to be more organised. Already there are plans to regulate the profession so as to maintain a minimum standard of service throughout the industry.
Like many other aspects of management, coaching is likely to develop its own tradition of research and study. Academics will look into the various kinds of coaching techniques and how effective they are. This has already begun but with the growth in the industry as it is this can only develop.
The Internet is not only likely to be a dominant advertising medium for coaches it will also be a medium for its practice too. The growth in the development of video technology and web cam technology means that coaching face to face may become less frequent. Distance coaching will probably be far more common and electronic interactive coaching is a distinct possibility – perhaps even with computer-generated responses to standard client needs, questions, and goals.
I’d be interested in hearing any responses to this article at firstname.lastname@example.org
This comes from my new book 'How to Be a Great Executive Coach' available at