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Blog post

The VUCA Coach

VUCA. A bit overused but nonetheless descriptive. The future we can see will be volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.
July 15, 2019
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By Jim Gavin

JMEC_VUCA

Into this world we will have the maturing face of professional coaching – a field that emerged in the 1990s to meet the challenges of our rapidly evolving world. It’s hard to tightly pin down what coaching is since it has a quality of continuously reinventing itself. By design, coaching is a field that prides itself on being in front of the curve of change – as if in these times that’s even possible.

Sure, you can still call yourself a coach once you’ve completed some basic requirements, but that doesn’t mean that you will have met the VUCA test – that you will match the speed of change with your own propulsive professional development that will be required for success.

The VUCA mandate is one of serial transformation, requiring people to upskill themselves with a set of talents yet to be defined. In this world, coaching becomes the support system for those personal and professional transformations. That’s a lot to expect of any profession, but coaches remind us that this is what the job entails – staying multiple steps ahead of explosive and unprecedented growth in directions that can’t be fully imagined.

Will coaching overpromise and underdeliver? I doubt it. Word on the street at the turn of the century was that ‘anyone can be a coach’ – and that attracted droves of coach wannabes to an almost inexhaustible number of startup coaching schools. Most of these schools didn’t screen applicants, but just ran checks on their credit cards. The good news is that the current landscape is really different. Sure, you can still call yourself a coach once you’ve completed some basic requirements, but that doesn’t mean that you will have met the VUCA test – that you will match the speed of change with your own propulsive professional development that will be required for success.

There will be a high demand for exquisitely trained coaches to assist ever increasing numbers of people who need to revision their lives and rapidly build new competencies in order to thrive or even just to survive.

Futurists who talk about coaching say that a lot of it will be delivered virtually through AI systems equipped with virtual and augmented reality learning processes. These developments will refine the predominant focus of coaching to skill sets and insights that AI can’t deliver, including the softest of soft skills, the intuitive touches of human wisdom and the empathic appreciation of interpersonal dynamics that informs creative solutions

Bottom lining this takes us to the realization that coach training will become more sophisticated and intense. Many of the more straightforward goal setting coaching needs will be satisfied more and more through machine intelligence. Yet, there will be a high demand for exquisitely trained coaches to assist ever increasing numbers of people who need to revision their lives and rapidly build new competencies in order to thrive or even just to survive. As noted, coaches themselves will be on continuous learning and transformation journeys of their own as they support others in their evolution.

If you ask how all this is going to come about, I will tell you to simply look around.

That describes the VUCA coach, but there’s another face of coaching that you can’t see in the landscape just presented. This one depicts a culture of coaching that will increasingly become a way of working and a way of relating in large and small organizations. In this purview everyone will be a coach – or, more accurately – everyone will strive to communicate in a language that invites collaboration, that focuses more on what is working than on what is broken, that is future oriented rather than scanning life through the rear view mirror, and that points people in the direction of critical actions to achieve success.

If you ask how all this is going to come about, I will tell you to simply look around. Most organizations today support coaching in various ways – through having internal coaches, by training managers using a ‘coaching approach’ to leadership, by offering coaching options as an employment perk.

What about the training of coaches? For most of its brief history, coach development happened outside the walls of academia, but that too is changing. Universities are awakening to the hard evidence about coaching outcomes. Research stands solidly behind not only a coaching approach to human relations but to the profound value of coaching for individuals and organizations amidst the exhilarating and sometimes turbulent moments of change in our times.

 

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