by Marshall Goldsmith
The art of developing leaders will evolve with the technology that connects people through both wired and wireless networks. Tomorrow’s leaders will learn in new ways. They will tap into a vast network that connects almost all accumulated knowledge (the global mind).
Leaders will learn what they need to know, when they need to know it, from the source best able to teach it. Executive coaches will be those people who can help leaders find the knowledge they need. They will be e-coaches who recognize the realities of the global mind, maximize potential benefits, and minimize potential costs.
The global mind represents both a fantastic opportunity and an incredible annoyance for leaders.
The global mind provides a fantastic opportunity for leaders. It allows you to:
– Access the “best in class” thought leaders.
The executive of the future will readily access thought leaders who are the experts on almost any relevant issue through a variety of print, audio, video, and electronic media. Thought leaders will be available for high-quality video conferencing that is streamed to the desktop. A library of audio and video “wisdom bits” will be available so that executives can get answers to frequently asked questions without having to access a thought leader. Text will be categorized so that executives can review books and articles aimed at their needs. All of these tools can help leaders learn in efficient ways. E-coaches will be personal learning consultants who access these resources (without having to be the “expert”). Coaches will direct their clients to appropriate sources for help in different areas.
– Get help when and where you need it.
Traditional courses can be a very inefficient method for learning. They may not be designed to fit the leader’s needs. All participants have to hear the same content, delivered in the same way, at the same time. Leaders of the future will take online courses tailored to their needs. Parts of the course that are less relevant can be skimmed or skipped. Course material that is quickly applied on the job is more likely to be retained. E-coaches will help leaders find relevant information and design a customized curriculum that meets their learning needs.
– Use “push” technology to help leaders change.
Leaders who identify desired behavior to change, involve their co-workers in the change process, and follow-up are much more likely to improve. “Push” technology can give leaders an ongoing stream of reminders and ideas for change. This reinforcement dramatically increases the probability that leaders will persist with their change effort.
Traditional, people-centered techniques for follow-up and reinforcement tend to be expensive and time-consuming. Technology tools for follow-up and reinforcement can be more efficient and more effective. Tools such as 360-degree feedback and mini-surveys can be done online, at low cost as needed. E-coaches will use tailored reminders, measurement tools, and reinforcements without having to be physically present.
– Provide coaching for more leaders.
Traditional coaching is expensive. In most cases, the coach has significant in-person interaction with the leader being coached. Even when the coach is local, travel time can exceed the actual time spent coaching. New technology will allow leaders to receive asynchronous coaching. Coaches can work from one location and communicate with leaders worldwide. By using many of the tools, one coach can work with many leaders.
The global mind can also be an annoyance to leaders, causing them to:
– Drown in a sea of information.
A common concern is “too much information, too fast.” Asynchronous communication, rather than leading to more free time, has led to a 24/7 lifestyle where executives feel they are almost always on call. The e-coach will be to help leaders sort out what is most important and let go of the rest. The last thing that most executives want is more e-mail with “to do” lists! As the volume of information increases, the amount of useless information will grow. Getting to the useful advice and avoiding “noise” can be a real challenge. The e-coach will need to quickly find the relevant information that can help the person being coached.
– Experience difficulties while searching for high-quality leadership development tools.
Many e-learning organizations try to transfer traditional learning methods (classroom training or video) directly into e-learning. This seldom works. Many e-learning tools for leaders are poorly designed. They are often long, slow, awkward, and boring. They are not been designed to take advantage of new technology. Leaders will not use them for long. So, e-coaches must help leaders find relevant content, and development tools that have a real impact.
– Have shortened attention spans for in-depth learning.
While short “bytes” of information can be highly efficient in helping leaders solve specific problems, they may be dysfunctional for dealing with long-term issues requiring deeper analysis. In many cases, leaders need to improve long-term interpersonal relationships. Seldom can this be done quickly, no matter how great the advice.
The Role of the E-Coach
The e-coach will be an individualized learning consultant. The e-coach will not have to possess the knowledge but will need to help the client find the needed knowledge. The process of e-coaching will involve five steps:
1. Helping clients diagnose their developmental needs.
The e-coach will need to know the unique needs of each client. For example, some leaders may need to change behavior; others may need functional training in marketing or finance. Each developmental need requires a different learning strategy.
2. Assessing the resources that should be allocated and expended to meet these needs.
Before designing a learning strategy, the e-coach will need to understand the client’s optimal resource allocation. The first factor to consider is time. E-coaches will need to determine the benefit of the learning as compared with the cost in time for learning. A second factor to consider is money. E-coaches will need to assess learning options and weigh trade-offs. A third factor is bandwidth. If the leader has access to high bandwidth, learning options expand.
3. Analyzing the range of learning options available to meet these needs.
Leaders will have far more learning options, but will struggle to understand and evaluate all of these choices. E-coaches will need to know what the learning options are and how these alternatives can help their clients.
4. Connecting leaders with the highest value-added coaching and learning opportunities (given their unique needs and resources).
The e-coaches will be match-makers – personal learning consultants who can help leaders diagnose needs, assess resource allocation, analyze learning options, and connect leaders with the best value-added resources.
5. Providing ongoing coaching and support to ensure results.
The field of executive coaching is experiencing huge growth. This trend will continue. Leaders will have greater needs to learn. Coaching (when done well) can be a very effective way to help leaders learn and achieve positive long-term change.
No leader or coach can know it all. E-coaches must “let go” of ego and match client requirements with the resources available in the global mind. LE