A universal challenge for every business and leadership coach is the struggle to scale his or her operations. Unlike professionals in other industries, coaches have a fixed number of hours to support a limited number of clients. And because the relationships between coaches and clients are personal, there is a serious risk that the rapport (and the quality of support) might degrade as the client list expands. The good news is that technology is giving coaches options to scale their practices without sacrificing the integrity of their client relationships.
At its best, coaching begins with a meaningful assessment so that the coach and client can agree about goals and create deep insights into how to achieve them. As with improving in any area, clients have to practice – when they’re not with their coaches – in their day-to-day work lives. Coaching can’t exist in a bubble, removed from the “real world.” The more serious and deliberate this homework is, the better the results will be.
But homework isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Some tasks are too hard for certain clients, and others are too easy, so part of the challenge is to provide homework that is in their “sweet spot.” For example, for a new leader struggling to inspire his or her team, practicing talking about the importance of the team’s work and the group’s exciting future might be an appropriate stretch assignment. But for a highly charismatic leader, this homework won’t be especially useful, because he or she is probably already good at these basics. On the other hand, even great public speakers can become more inspirational by working on their exciting non-verbal behavior when telling their best stories and using highly memorable and meaningful metaphors. It depends on the individual, and there is no cookie-cutter approach that works for everyone. That’s why coaching is so difficult to scale.
Instead of having a session after completing the assignment, the client can use that time to detail his or her experience in a journal. This process gives clients the opportunity to analyze their progress on their own, create useful materials to discuss in the next session and dramatically increase the number of clients a coach can work with at once, because not every interaction requires an in-person meeting. Crucially, it makes coaches more efficient by giving them a private window into what their clients are doing with their homework between scheduled sessions. This approach is what scales coaching, because clients can do meaningful work outside of the restrictions of a scheduled work day.
Build the New Generation
Two important factors are driving the ability to scale coaching practices effectively. The first is that people born after 1990 are swiftly moving up the corporate ladder. Millennials became the largest generation in the U.S workforce in 2015, and baby boomers are retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day. A generation of executives who need help with leadership skills like strategizing and teamwork are steadily filling up leadership positions, presenting incredible opportunities for savvy coaches who want to work with the next generation of leaders.
Second, because millennials are so comfortable with technology (and in particular communicating and learning with it), coaches can be successful without relying on in-person sessions exclusively. Technologies like AI and mobile messaging also help support better coaching. Using these new technologies, coaches have the unprecedented ability to help create new leaders and scale their practices in ways that benefit their clients more than traditional coaching models.
Coaching is certainly a difficult practice to scale. No technology can completely replace the expertise of an experienced coach in moving clients toward the set of skills that they need to succeed. But beneficial scaling opportunities exist, and they exist in a way that can improve the experience of clients. Using time for reflective assignments that might otherwise require in-person sessions gives clients time to deepen their understanding while giving coaches a private window into their progress (or lack thereof) between sessions. By taking on millennial clients as they emerge as the next executive generation, coaches who use technology wisely can provide better results for their clients while also opening up new ways to expand their own practices.