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Coaching and The Digital Era-Part Three

What We Debate

In “Coaching and The Digital Era, Part One and Two, we discussed some thoughts on how executive coaches can prepare their clients for the Digital Era. In this last of the series we take a look at competencies and skills.

Determining what competencies and skills may need to be added or further developed for people in leadership roles to be successful in the Digital Era has been a topic of debate for several years now. The responses from various sources range from “no change necessary” to moving abilities higher on the scale of importance to leadership success. Some seem obvious, such as communication skills being further developed and conflict management skills moving higher in importance. Some seem counter productive, such as “ability to do extreme multitasking” and others suggest that one can be a great leader in the Digital Era without being technical or needing a degree in computer science. Another line of thought stated that a Digital Era leader would need to know which of the digital strategies and tools are relevant to their business model.

What We Know-Act Now

We need to increase our awareness and skills, while being able to appropriately filter information. Ultimately it may be the ability to delegate, to push responsibility, accountability and decision-making further out in the organization. How quickly this happens will depend on the current culture and the willingness of the senior decision makers to commit to the change.

Preparing For The Future

What are the implications for coaches in all of this? We need to best serve our clients by focusing on the skills that will carry them through most situations and remain resilient. Creating a framework for behavioural and interpersonal skill development that can be customized according to a clients need is perhaps more helpful than working with a set product or method. A set product or method can be helpful at certain times to quickly resolve some immediate issues. For long-term benefit pay attention to what this client needs for the future. Products and methods eventually saturate the market and lose their effectiveness as a competitive advantage. Flexible skill development offers agility, adaptability, alignment and laughability [Eileen McDargh defines resilience this way] and resilience is both an individual and organizational imperative.

Is Resilience That Important?

Yes! Resilience is important as it is widely recognized as being critical to remaining able to handle change. One note from working and researching in the change field for a long time is that people transition through change at different speeds and often may appear to move to new beginnings. Then suddenly slide back to the neutral zone or to the behaviours prior to the change. This may be because more change happens when they are still figuring out how to handle existing change. The effort required to learn something new or the glitches that come along with a new system or process is frustrating and demotivating. Additionally, the influence of those around us affects how we view the current state. A state of confusion, feeling anxious, unsure and frustrated can only be tolerated for so long. The stronger our resilience, the better able we are to handle what comes along.

Filters and Focus

Connecting the dots between coaching, technology, and leadership asks that we look beyond the obvious, that we look outside a narrow focus of attention, but that we do so using appropriate filters and the ability to know when to move ahead given the information on hand. Connecting the dots in general helps us look forward to prepare for what will challenge us next, for the opportunities that may not be obvious right now, and as a coach, to help us offer longer term benefits to our clients. Focus on what will create the longest lasting results, the ripple effect, rather than the quick fix. Your clients deserve this and so do you as a coach.


Coaching And The Digital Era-Part Two

In “Coaching and The Digital Era” connecting the dots began exploring why executive coaches need to be aware of how to connect the dots that are often not obvious to others. Often, when a client signs on with an executive coach they are asking for help to resolve a specific challenge. During the coaching contract it is possible to simply focus on that specific challenge and your client will be satisfied. In business coaching this may be a good outcome for a client. In Executive Coaching it may be the least effective outcome for a client. Executive coaching primarily focuses on behavioural and interpersonal skills that clients need to be effective today, and must also serve them well in the future. This is part of creating resiliency, which is a non-negotiable requirement for individuals and organizations.

Eileen McDargh offers a positive definition of resiliency:

  • It is about growing through
  • It is about possibility
  • It is about advantage


Resilience Is More Important

The Digital Era makes this even more compelling because our behaviour and interpersonal skills become increasingly public and are open to opinions or reactions from a broader range of humans than in the past. I hope that by now more people are aware that simply not participating in online activities does not inoculate us from the effect that digital technologies have on us.

The Order Of Things

A comment often heard is that business leaders try to solve problems by buying technology without appearing to be aware of the effect that the technology will have on the people in the organization. Simply bringing in new tools will create a ripple effect in the organization although whether it turns out to be positive or not may be left to chance. The skills required for success in the Digital Era are the same skills that business leaders must use when making technology decisions.

Technology and Behaviour

As a coach that focuses on behavioural and interpersonal skills I see the need to understand the variety of ways that people react or respond to technology before, during and after introduction. It is pretty much the same kind of reaction and responses that we have seen in other types of change projects over the past twenty years. We humans are wired to sort, label, and box our solutions when we are confronted by change we don’t initiate. We seek to control, to the extent possible, how the change will affect us. And even in this reaction to control we affect those around us. We also can miss connecting the dots and therefore lose the best possible outcomes.

Different Thinking Patterns

Some of us are hardwired to be more comfortable with change [indeed even deliberately create change] than others. It is in open dialogue that we can find the best possible solution. I sometimes encounter people in management positions who declare that they can’t please everyone and that for multiple reasons must make all decisions unilaterally. I also encounter managers that seem to hover in the realm of ambiguity.

In organizations the ability of the leader to bring both the unilateral and ambiguous thinkers together to arrive at the best outcome is an ongoing challenge. In the Digital Era being able to work collaboratively, spark creativity and innovation are necessary to the sustainability of an organization. Outdated management practices reflect a failure to connect the dots.

Putting It Together

How does this connect to the Digital Era? Digital technology offers us the ability to bring more ideas and solutions forward than ever before.

In the past access to this level of information and collaboration through digital technology was either not available or very expensive and time consuming to get. In the Digital Era, we need to adapt to use it effectively and this requires understanding how individuals will interact and react differently with technology. Coaches that understand the importance of this can offer their clients a level of awareness that will place them ahead of the curve.

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