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What will be Coaching’s Future: AI vs. Human

THE CORE IDEA

The coaching profession is at a crossroads with the advent of AI, challenging the traditional model and emphasizing the need for a human-centric approach. 

WHY IT MATTERS

The essence of coaching — human empathy, insight, and connection — is being tested by AI’s efficiency and scalability. Coaches must re-evaluate and reinforce their unique contributions and value to leadership development. 

LET'S DIG DEEPER

The coaching landscape is undergoing a seismic shift due to the rapid advancement of AI technologies. Its ability to scale, democratize access, and reduce costs is undeniable. It also brings the risk of commoditizing coaching services, eroding prices, and potentially creating a race to the bottom. All this brings us to a pivotal inquiry: How can human coaches assert their irreplaceable value in an AI-driven world? 

Before we answer this question, I believe it’s important to really understand the impact of AI on coaching. When I was in grad school, I learned about Joseph Weizenbaum’s pioneering AI research at MIT. In the late 1960s, he created a chatbot simulating a therapy session based on Rogerian psychotherapy. The early experience with this technology offers a lens into the current predicament we face.  

His chatbot’s ability to elicit human-like connections showcased AI’s potential to replicate aspects of a therapy session and even a coaching experience. This intriguing potential of AI, as demonstrated by Weizenbaum’s early experiments, raises questions about the future of coaching and the role of AI in it. 

Over time, the team developed a deeply personal connection with the chatbot. They then personified it by naming it ELIZA (named after the fictional Eliza Doolittle from George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion), essentially making the chatbot a human.  

Weizenbaum was surprised at how open his team was in disclosing personal information to ELIZA. This immediately made him concerned about the power of AI and its relationship to humans. Moreover, his early experiments raised critical questions about AI’s role in society. His concerns from over fifty years ago are as relevant today as ever. 

As AI continues enhancing its capabilities, coaches must redefine their roles. The future doesn’t necessarily mean the obsolescence of human coaches (though it might), but it does signal a transformation in the services they provide. I believe coaches who are adept at offering what I call transactional coaching are most at risk of being displaced by AI. Conversely, those who impart strategic value and deeper business insights will likely remain sought-after. Will you be one of these coaches? 

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

Here are some ideas for you to consider so that you remain relevant and impactful: 

  1. Deepen Your Expertise: Cultivate a rich understanding of business strategy, organizational development, cultural dynamics, and effective change management. Leaders confront many strategic challenges and require coaches who can provide comprehensive support. Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself: Am I equipped with the knowledge necessary to guide leaders through complex business landscapes? 
  2. Strengthen Business Acumen: Foster a robust connection to the business world and the specific industries of your clientele. This facet of coaching transcends traditional coaching skills, positioning you not only as a coach but as a business thought leader. Regularly evaluate your understanding of current business trends and client industries. Ask yourself:  Do you see yourself as a mere facilitator, or are you integral to your clients’ strategic thinking? 
  3. Articulate Business Impact: Move beyond celebrating developmental milestones and focus on the tangible business outcomes of your coaching. The most effective coaches understand that demonstrating measurable business impact is paramount. Assess how your coaching interventions translate into real business success for your clients. Ask yourself: What quantifiable business improvements have resulted from your coaching?

FINAL THOUGHTS

I believe the demand for human insight, creativity, and connection will endure as AI continues to reshape the field of coaching. To me, the narrative isn’t about displacement but evolution. Coaches must leverage their uniquely human attributes while embracing the changes brought by technology. By fortifying their strategic value and business relevance, coaches can continue to play an indispensable role in shaping leaders equipped to navigate the complexities of the modern business environment. 

About Leadership Contract

We are Leadership Contract Inc (LCI), your partner in strategic leadership development. We help you operationalize leadership accountability at all levels of your organization so you can drive strategy, shape culture, and spark change.

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