Carol Braddick's picture Submitted by Carol Braddick August 5, 2019 - 5:26pm


In his May IoC webinar, Siegfried Greif shared his work on the important ways coaches help clients bridge the intention-action gap.  As Margaret Moore wrote shortly after the webinar, coaches support implementation intention activities such as action plans, coping plans and ongoing reinforcement.  There’s a clear role for a coach at this point - aka the last mile - in the client’s journey.    

Start-ups disrupting the coaching market with digital tools are also focused on the intention-action gap. This post takes a look at two platforms - LeaderAmp and Saberr - that support individuals and teams in acting on their implementation intentions.  As in my previous (and future!) posts on technology, highlighting a vendor is not an endorsement. Instead, these examples of new technology are intended to spark conversations in our coaching community about:

  • What steps in coaching can be automated now, and would improve coaching if automated? and

  • What are human coaches better at than technology (in its current state)?

LeaderAmp believes that coaching - even when combined with stakeholder support – needs an additional means to support successful implementation.  The gap between coaching sessions is usually too long, often leaving the coach in the dark about how clients are progressing.

To fully leverage this period for client practice with support from the coach, LeaderAmp is distinctly clear on challenging the conventional wisdom of non-directive coaching.  The combination of their assessment methodology (Rasch fans, take note) and AI enables delivery of adaptive push suggestions calibrated to the level of challenge clients are ready for. It keeps clients at their developmental edge with evidenced-based suggested actions linked to their assessments and goals.  Influenced by Teresa Amabile’s progress principle, LeaderAmp chips away at the Goldilocks challenge – not too much of a leap, not too easy a challenge.

What is the human coach doing as her clients receive suggestions?  IOC member, Executive Coach and LeaderAmp client Gabrielle Ostrognay uses the tools to see: where each client is at; what they are working on; their coaching intentions; how many times they have engaged in reflection; and the content and quality of their reflections. In her experience, the system makes it easy to send messages of encouragement and quickly identify which coachees are on track or lagging in their practice and reflection.  She finds the ‘bite-size’ actions suggested by the system pitched at the right level for clients and achievable in the period between coaching sessions.

The support of stakeholders also has potential to boost clients’ implementation successes.  If you’re a stakeholder of a leader using LeaderAmp, you’re also receiving prompts - Nurture Notes - the AI has selected.  You’d already know what the leader wants to change, because he’s been asked to make a public commitment.  Your reminders consist of practical suggestions on ways you as a stakeholder can support implementation with ongoing reinforcement and creating more application opportunities.

What of intentions and implementation plans that are all about having deeper connections among members of a team? In contrast to fears that technology increases isolation and generates only superficial connections, Saberr’s CoachBot prompts team members to talk more often with one another about how effective they are as a team.  It guides teams as they set a foundation of team goals, purpose and behavioral commitments on how they work together.

However, as Siegfried explained, goal clarification is not enough to sustain regular implementation of actions in support of a goal.  Clarification of purpose and behavioral promises also have limited impact without implementation plans and support. CoachBot has been designed to provide this implementation support by helping teams have two types of conversations more regularly.

The team retrospective conversation is a check-in on what’s working well and what needs more attention for the team to be more effective. In between retrospectives, team members contribute their observations and feedback via mobile or web on how well the team is working together, deciding to share, e.g., a learning; something to celebrate; or an improvement.  The team starts the next retrospective conversation with these most recent adds. If you’re coaching the team and facilitating team retrospectives, you’d have this information before the team session.   

Let’s say CoachBot identifies that the team is falling behind on its goals.  It will remind them that successful teams review the activities they are involved in to ensure they are aligned with their goals.  And it will ask each team member if it’s time to have a conversation about this. At the next team meeting, the team gets a summary from CoachBot that suggests - based on input from the team - the most important things the team should be talking about together.

Team members also need to have 1:1 conversations with one another and with their Team Leaders.  To give them a better start for these conversations and ensure they cover what’s important, CoachBot works with both members of these dyads to create their shared agenda for their 1:1s.  There are post-1:1 reminders too.  CoachBot might ask both parties about their actions following the 1:1 conversation, e.g., “how are you and (other) doing on realigning your goals?”.

Both digital coaching platforms are helping clients do the hard work that needs to happen between individual or team coaching sessions.  They are designed to boost the probability that people will do this hard work by introducing new cues in the form of personalised reminders about intentions users have said they will act on: the leader practicing; the stakeholders supporting the leader; and team members talking as a group and in dyads.    

These two platforms are examples of the many digital products entering the market in which we are the incumbent providers. Like other start-ups in this niche, they sell directly to the same organizational buyers that make purchase decisions on our coaching services, buyers in roles such as Learning and Development, Talent Management or Leadership Development.

They also certify coaches to use their tools within their coaching practices.  This business model is already familiar to our community; providers such as Hogan Assessments certify coaches and offer ongoing support for successful use of their tools.  This approach enables coaches to create a best-fit mix of human + technology for each client and team.

So, leaders in your client organizations may already be users.  And you’re likely to hear about more coaches using these types of tools.  As market incumbents, we can frame these new tools as competition or take the plunge keeping four Es in mind:

  • Explore what’s available;

  • Experiment thoughtfully; and

  • Exchange Experiences within our community.

When I took the plunge to introduce a team to Saberr, I agreed to include their UX Lead in a team meeting.  Positioning this with the team took extra time, but was key to a successful experiment that yielded useful design feedback while preserving an environment for the team to engage naturally with the tool and, most importantly, among themselves.    

As session facilitator, it was initially odd to have a new type of participant in the room.  But if we want our coaching domain knowledge built into product design and user experiences, we need to partner with technology providers on user research.

Don’t let hyperbolic warnings of “robots are coming!” deter you from exploring and experimenting with technology.  There aren’t any robots coming for human coaches. Instead, diversifying our coaching practices with new digital tools is already here.  Let’s hear about your experiences!

As you look at your client base of individual leaders and teams, how are you currently supporting their implementation intentions? What opportunities do you see to have an even greater impact on successful implementation? As you consider those possibilities, what’s the potential value of using technology to support some of the tasks - or parts of tasks - you currently take on?   


Learn more:

Webinar: Using self-determination theory to predict turnover intentions and wellbeing