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How to choose digital tools to supercharge your coaching practice

For those of you joining me now, this post is part two in a series I’ve written about recent workshops on the use of digital tools in coaching practices to help clients along their corporate development career path. In my previous post, we looked at whether digital tools detract from the coach-client relationship. This post will address how to select the right kinds of digital tools to enhance your coaching practice as well as some other important issues.


It was a wet Monday morning; I arrived at our meeting room, happy to escape the rain and cold and to step into a dry, warm place, filled with both familiar and unfamiliar faces. It was exciting to see that more coaches had decided to join our exploration of digital tools. But it was also great to notice how differently those coaches who had attended last time looked - surely understanding how digital tools could guide clients along their corporate development career path. At our previous workshop, the room had been full of worried faces, intent on believing that digital tools would damage their coaching practices. Fortunately, we’d cleared that all up and those who’d participated last time were eager to think about how to choose the best tools out of the seemingly endless selection. 


After everyone had warmed up with a cup of coffee, it was time to start. I began by welcoming everyone, especially the newcomers, and reminding those who already knew me that I approach digital tools as I would any other business decision I have to make. 


I acknowledged that when making any choice, we all experience some degree of anxiety and even fear of making a big mistake. And when it comes to technology, these feelings could be even stronger, as there might be information we didn’t even know we should’ve checked. Sometimes, it’s even paralyzing. 


When I began using digital tools, I felt all of this, until I took a step back, realizing that during my career, I had already made thousands upon thousands of decisions. And as the years have progressed, I’ve gotten better at it. So what I decided to do was to examine how I make choices so that I could apply this methodology to selecting the best technology. Today, I’d like to share with you how I make such choices.


Before I begin searching for anything in life, I first define the need. To illustrate this, let’s leave business for a while and go to my personal life and one of the decisions I always find difficult, and I’m sure there are some of you who can relate to me: choosing a pair of shoes. In my younger days, shoe shopping meant entering a store, seeing what was new, what was on sale, what was my size, and then having fun trying on different pairs until I left with a pair or two. But very soon my closet was overflowing with the results of these carefree shoe shopping expeditions. And to be honest, I ended up giving away most of these shoes, as I didn’t really have the need or occasion to wear them. As I got older, I realized that my system was flawed. My decisions had to be needs-based. I resolved that I would only buy shoes that I needed. 


And this helped me turn around the way I made decisions, because once I had a need, I could define the kind of shoes I wanted to buy - instead of letting the store, sales, etc. decide for me. So if I needed shoes for the gym, it was sneakers. If it was shoes for a party, it would be heels. Then I could further define my needs. For example, the color of my outfit would dictate the color of the heels. In this way, I was defining what shoes I needed according to specific criteria, so by the time I was at the shoe store, I could be laser-focused on what I was going to buy.


I could talk about shoe shopping all day, but now let’s return to the subject of today’s workshop: selecting the right digital tools for your coaching business. I’m sure that many of you, having heard my shoe analogy, know where I’m going with this. 


What’s important when choosing digital tools is to begin with your coaching goal. For example, say you’re aiming to improve teamwork at your client’s organization. In such cases, I would want to map out a picture of the relations among the team members, so I would need a digital diagnostic tool to help me facilitate this effectively. With this knowledge, my search becomes much more effective than if I were to begin googling strings such as “digital tools for team building.” As you can see, my approach is to search for a solution to a need, thus not wasting any time getting mired into the hundreds of possible tools out there.


Another advantage to this approach is that as we become experts at defining needs, we can help our clients better. As we discussed at our last workshop, the best way to serve some of our clients is by providing them with digital tools to work with, either on their own or in conjunction with face-to-face meetings. As such, helping clients choose the right digital tools can and should be part and parcel of our coaching practice. In effect, we become digital tool experts - a resource for our clients to turn to.


So if I had to summarize how to choose the right digital tools, I’d say to use the same kind of logic you’d use when making other choices. There really isn’t much of a difference, except perhaps a bit more anxiety due to the unknown often associated with technology. I still say trust your own instincts and approach the decision from a needs-based perspective. We’re all pioneers these days, moving forward together.


With that, I asked the participants if they had any questions.


The first question addressed an issue we’d talked about at our last workshop, the Executive Mirror Program (EMP), which I’ve recently developed to help managers position themselves for promotion. I was asked what my motivation was for “pouring” all of my knowledge into a self-contained online program which participants study on their own, practice what they’ve learned at work, and receive feedback. Wasn’t I afraid that developing the EMP would somehow cannibalize my coaching business?  


I answered that the EMP is indeed the closest reflection of what I’ve been doing in live coaching sessions for over 35 years. Its technology and sophisticated algorithms are designed to provide managers with the feeling of personalized coaching. 


And with regard to the question of whether I feel threatened, my answer is “no.” The EMP fits right into the same vision I’ve had for over four decades: helping as many managers as possible at the same time. I have certain limitations, both in terms of time and space. The EMP, however, has helped me realize my vision, turning time into a non-issue and breaking the geographical barriers that existed when I was limited to live sessions. 


On top of this, the EMP has allowed me to help managers who might not have necessarily benefitted from face-to-face sessions with me, for whatever reasons. Now, instead of going through their careers without any support, thanks to the EMP, they can benefit from what coaching can provide to them.


The second question wasn’t much of a surprise. In fact, it was sort of the elephant in the room. I was asked why, despite all of the benefits that digital tools can provide, do coaches still feel threatened by them.


I told the group that I was (briefly) there myself when first posed with digital tools. But I didn’t let my fear of them take control. Instead, I reflected on my own core values of innovation, creativity, and helping managers achieve their dreams. These values had accompanied me throughout my career, and I developed a curiosity as to how digital tools could help me improve at working towards these core values. So I challenge all of us to put trepidation aside and to replace it with curiosity and wonder.


When I finished answering this question, I could almost see the wheels moving inside the heads of the audience members. People began chatting with their neighbors, and then a woman raised her hand, asking how digital tools could help increase the volume of her coaching practice.


I first put out my usual disclaimer that I’m not a marketing or business consultant. But then I told the audience I’d share with them how digital tools have benefitted my business. But, as usual, I reiterated two challenges:

I can’t necessarily adjust myself to perfectly fit the needs of every client.

There are only so many clients that I can help - that is, until I am able to traverse time and space at supersonic speed.

In my practice, the EMP has helped me meet both challenges, thus expanding my coaching practice and its offerings. Digital tools will let everyone in this room do the same.


With this answer, I brought the session to an end, wishing everyone good luck with their exploration of digital tools.


And always remember: 


Great managers are made. Not born.

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