11 January 2021

Coaching Q&A Call

Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst


  • This Q&A call focuses on the importance and emerging trends that we are seeing in the market for Coaching
  • Dani and Stacia discuss what the differences between Coaching & Mentoring
  • We spend time answering why coaching is so important right now and who should be involved
  • We present on what tech vendors are out there and what they offer when it comes to coaching
  • We hear insights from other industry experts that share what they are beginning to do for coaching within their organizations

Q&A Call Video



Dani Johnson (00:00):

You don't want anybody in the world to hear what you're going to say, then, then we when we record so that we can provide this to a wider audience to our members. And so yeah, feel free to feel free to share, but please keep it friendly, especially after yesterday. So welcome to our first Q & A call of the year, which is coaching. I've been waiting to do this call for a while now. We've stationed and Heather and I have all had spots on coaching for about six months because we're seeing so much go on in this space. And so we're pretty excited to talk about it. And we're really thankful for those of you who submitted questions which will get us something to talk about here. Just a couple of things before we jump into your questions, this is RedThread.

Dani Johnson (00:50):

If you don't know us, then you should get to know us. We're awesome people. We're a research and advisory firm and we focus on these things. Our latest offering is a membership that we kicked off last fall. It gives you access to all the research. It gives you access to some analyst hours and makes sure that you're staying on top of everything that we're doing. So if you want more information about that, contact us and we'll be happy to share it.

Coaching & Mentoring: Differences?

Dani Johnson (01:14):

So a couple of things to start with, one of the questions that we always get is what is the difference between coaching and mentoring? And I forgot to put the source on this, but this is actually from Kent State University. Coaching is more performance driven, designed to, to improve the professionals on the job performance. If you think about executives, that may be a completely different skillset than somebody on the front line, but coaching is for performance to help people perform better on their job.

Dani Johnson (01:42):

Whereas mentoring seems to be a little deeper and a little broader, it's more development driven looking not just at the professional's current job function, but actually beyond that. And so it takes a much more holistic view or what would you like to do, you know, where would you like to go? Where are your skills? Have you, can I contact for you those types of things going on? So before I sort of, before we move past this slide, I'd love your thoughts on these two definitions. They seem to be the most common out there, but in your organizations, are you using different ones?

Speaker 1 (02:13):

You know, it's interesting I've coached different people on performance, but I've also coach different people on their development career. So for me, I didn't really look at it differently. It just depending what their needs were.

Dani Johnson (02:34):

Yeah. I think that's really fair. And, and quite frankly, I hadn't really considered the differences. And so until we started looking into the organizations vendors often, well, until we started looking at it a little differently vendors and organizations sometimes really separate those two things. And sometimes they're the same. What are other people saying or how are defining coaching and mentoring differently or are you?

Speaker 2 (03:02):

And we are. I'm just looking up. Cause, cause we're actually rolling out a program next week called developing a coaching mindset. So I have that. I have like kind of three things on the side of their vendor. It's a Venn diagram of mentoring, coaching, and feedback. Because I think people get those kind of confused with one another. And so you know, for mentoring what we're saying, we're positioning it as more of a longer tail engagement with somebody where it's focused on, you know, kind of helping somebody through, whether it's, whether it's a performance or development thing. Whereas coaching is more goal oriented and has a shorter kind of life cycle, if you will, where it's really focused on a specific goal or task that you're trying to get people through. So I'm actually, I'm just looking at my notes to see what my definition, is in it, excuse me, when I find it, I'll put it in, I'll put it in the chat just to share. But what, what we're saying is when we talk about coaching here a lot of people do confuse it with mentoring and they any kind of are using it interchangeably. So, so part of our educational program that we're rolling out next week is it's trying to get that delineation between the two. And when you, as a manager are putting on your coaching hat versus when you're either putting on a mentoring hat or recommending somebody to a mentor who is more of an expert in a specific field of study or specialty,

Dani Johnson (04:34):

That's really interesting. So, so you're looking at it as sort of longevity, like sell this immediate home versus longer term. The other thing that struck me about what you said is well, the question that I had was are they often the same people? Are you focusing on the manager, given that you're rolling out this thing as a manager that is doing the coaching and the mentoring?

Speaker 2 (04:55):

I think it's, we're coaching or we're educating managers on how to have more coaching conversations and, and be more of a facilitator in asking open-ended questions to help people drive the answers themselves rather than you being directive and giving it to them. And I think that's the nuance of a mentor. And I was just looking at my notes here where, you know, what, what you're saying is a coach asks open-ended questions to drive job performance, whereas a mentor answer answers, direct questions based on prior experience to support development. So I think a coach is more open-ended they may know the answer, but they're not going to give it to you right off the bat, whereas a mentor it's, it's much more let's cut to the chase and get you to know quicker proficiency.

Dani Johnson (05:39):

That's really interesting. So you're also looking at it in terms the manner in which it's still delivered. That's interesting.

Speaker 2 (05:44):

Yeah, we're trying to, yeah. We're, we're trying to start with the manager and then a manager. If they recognize a coaching opportunity, they would go into coaching mode. Or if they, if they've recognized, Hey, this person really needs some additional support or that support of an expert, they may, you know, which may not be, you know, if I'm a manager and I'm like, and there are people asking me about finances, you know, maybe you should go find a mentor who really specializes in finances. It may not be me as a coach. I mean, a manager coach. It may be me pointing someone to a resource that they might connect with to help them through.

Dani Johnson (06:14):

Okay. Others.

Stacia Garr (06:21):

Okay. Can I, can I share something in here? Oops, sorry. You go first.

Speaker 3 (06:25):

Oh, no, I you know, I am three days into a new role with a company called coach hub. And so this is really an opportunity for me to learn from you all. But it's very interesting to hear Kelly, you know, kind of how you've been thinking about those three different pieces for coach hubs specifically right now, our focus is on leadership development coaching but democratizing that capability across organizations and not so that it's not just an elite you know, kind of opportunity. And that being very similar to what you described goal-oriented although not necessarily short term where a coach can help an individual, whether they're leading others or even an individual contributor or you know, someone that's got high potential to help them understand where their areas of opportunity might be and just decide what they would like to focus on on a long-term basis for growth. And then kind of see how they're doing and measure that over time.

Dani Johnson (07:55):

Yeah. I think that's an interesting observation. Debbie, congratulations on your new role as you, as we go into the next slide, that's one of the things that we're seeing is it's coaching really is being scaled at a level that we haven't seen before. So that's a really interesting observation. Any other comments on this one before we, we click over?

Stacia Garr (08:13):

I just want to add something. Yeah. And, and, or a question maybe for the group, which is, you know, I do a lot of our work on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. And a lot of times we see sponsorship kind of being in the mix here of coaching, mentorship, and sponsorship. And so I'm wondering if you all are thinking about that kind of in this, this cluster of concepts, or if that in your organizations tends to kind of live over within the diversity and inclusion group where it's not something that you're focused on at all.

Speaker 2 (08:51):

I'll just, I'll jump in and just say it's being, it's being brought up more of kind of organic grassroots topic from our employee resource groups specifically from the women's network and, and black employee networks. And, you know, so they're bringing it up as, Hey, you need to find a sponsor. You need to find an advocate, kind of create your own board of directors, et cetera. We haven't taken an ethic, so I sit at the corporate level and we haven't taken it on as a specific discrete project with resources and programs around it. In my, like how I view it is that's all part of social learning, what I would bucket under social learning. So to me, social learnings, you know, that peer learning that includes, you know, your mentors, your coach, your expert, your advocates, your sponsors. And so that's how I categorize it, at least in my brain, but we haven't created a specific program around it. That's putting it in people's development plans or, or even compensating people for, for being a sponsor,

Stacia Garr (10:01):

Any others or any thoughts on this?

Speaker 4 (10:05):

Just one thing I mentioned, just a flavor of coaching that hasn't been mentioned is because we see it along with our clients with like process roll out. So if you're implementing agile or project management or six Sigma or something like that, there's typically a coaching component. I think it fits the definition. You have, it is performance driven. But it's not strictly like you know, your manager is your, is also your coach. It's a, it's a separate role.

Dani Johnson (10:34):

Okay, cool.

Speaker 5 (10:35):

It's definitely a separate for coaches and it has been quite a firm as we're trying to position the term coach within different roles. We've developed internal coaching as well as professional coach. So the target disease is very much in developing, not an individual, but it can be teams or it can be organization as well. And it's differentiating the role and this case because you can learn and demonstrate coaching skills without being a coach per se. So that's quite a key difference as well.

Dani Johnson (11:22):

So it sounds like, you're building it into the culture. So it's not just, it's not just a role that somebody has, you're actually building it deep into the culture so that everybody has that skill.

Coaching & Mentoring: What We See

Dani Johnson (11:38):

All right. Let's switch over to some of the things that we've seen in the last little while, which is why we're talking about this. Cause I would like to research it a little bit deeper this year. The first thing is that we're just seeing more of an emphasis than we ever had before. So it's existed forever.

Dani Johnson (11:54):

I mean, yes. And since we all use the apprenticeship model but there seems to be much more of an emphasis on it. And with that, we're seeing it being pushed down to the lower levels. It's not just for senior leadership or executives anymore. It's actually being pushed down quite far in the organization. And we're seeing vendors like better up and others that are providing an offering that allows this to happen at a much more scalable level. And then we're seeing more of it and I wrote this slide, so Stacia please jump in, but we're seeing more and more handled by the L&D functions. It's, it's being considered part of the learning process rather than a standalone thing. Some of it's still exists in executive development and leadership development, but a lot of it is being wrapped into just L&D Hey, you know, coaching is part of what we do to learn in this organization.

Dani Johnson (12:45):

So like how do we, how do we integrate it into the culture? So it's part of how we learn versus a separate standalone thing to peoples feel special. And it costs a lot of money in order to implement in the organization. And then we're also seeing more emphasis on different kinds of coaching. So we talked about integrating it into the, and we'll talk about these a little bit further because some of the questions that were submitted, sort of talk to these, but we're seeing different types of it. So peer to peer coaching, manager coaching, external coaching, all of these different types of technology, technological coaching coaches on the shoulder, the technology we're seeing a lot of those sort of being handled differently in organizations that you've seen before. It used to be, you got a coach from the outside, you brought it in, you sat it in front of this EO and they talked and they figured out what you needed and then pick up everything was magically better.

Dani Johnson (13:39):

We're actually seeing, you know, as organizations are starting to figure out how to scale this, all these different ways of doing it, we haven't necessarily seen it before. We're also seeing different topics of coaching, so used to be just performance coaching. But in the last couple of months, things like financial coaching, financial wellbeing coaching, we've seen wellbeing coaching, we've seen health coaching. And so a lot of these things are being offered as benefits to organizations, to help with burnout, to help with stress, to make sure that that we're taking care of the whole employee, which I think is really interesting. And then the last one is we're also seeing just a ton of tech. And we'll talk about that in a little bit that is enabling some of this stuff. So let me talk, well, let's stop again on this slide. What are, what are we missing? What else are you all seeing when it comes to coaching and mentoring? Or do you have comments on anything on the slide?

Speaker 1 (14:34):

Yeah, I'm interested in more either discussion on the tech side. That's kind of an area where I got interested in, in it last year with the app from noom and, and and then I have seen it a little bit work with reemphasizing some of the learnings you take away from a, say a class or whatever, and then reform some of those learnings automatically whether by text or email so that, you know, all the things you forgot in the class you remember, and then you start practicing them. So I'm interested in that cause I'm I'm wanting to pilot something next quarter in our company around that. So anything around that would be interesting.

Dani Johnson (15:28):

Okay. Yeah. We'll, we'll definitely hit that question. We've got some data and some slides that'll, that'll help understand that space a little bit better. What else?

Speaker 3 (15:38):

Yeah, just to kind of follow on that, I happened to have spent a lot of years in the space of learning analytics. And you know, one of the things that I know from that time is that the effective application of what's learned in any program is largely driven by the support that they get on their job. And it's always been a tremendous challenge for organizations because they have to first give visibility to the managers into, you know, that program and what is expected. And then the manager has to have the time and attention to be able to follow along. And that's always been a challenge. And so, you know, I see, you know, with the tech companies you know, part of the opportunity is to help elevate your return across your learning investment. You know, with kind of supplementing that with having a coach, be able to support your people to actually apply those skills and make actual behavior change.

Dani Johnson (16:50):

And I think that speaks to kind of maybe why L&D is taking a lead on integrating some of this into the organization because we are seeing it sort of be a carry on from the formal learning experience in ways that we haven't seen before. Kelly mentioned that something that may be missing from this is non-human coaching and I've lumped that into tech. We'll talk about some tech.

Speaker 2 (17:13):

Okay. When I looked at tech, I was thinking for some reason in my brain, I was thinking re-skilling people like moving people from one position to another and that the distance thinking technical people. So if that's it, if that's what that means, then yes, that's great. And then the other point that I put in was it's also being outsourced, which I don't know if that's something that you would capture under different kinds of coaching, because it's obviously it's going to take me a lot longer to get the culture, to adopt coaching as part of a mindset and, and practice. Whereas like you mentioned some external lots And lots of people are cropping up in this space to provide that coaching service for us. So, and that's definitely something that we're rolling out this year for us at our companies.

Dani Johnson (17:59):

Outsourcing it? Interesting. That's interesting.

Speaker 2 (18:02):

Yeah. Cause our, our theory is that you can to really understand what coaching is. You need to experience it for yourself. So we're rolling it out to our people managers first.

Stacia Garr (18:17):

One thing I wanted to add here, Dani, cause you were talking about more of an emphasis than before and why that's happening is maybe just kind of a little bit of a zoom out. And we think about the changes that have happened with performance management and the focus on kind of a much more continuous focus on conversations and, and ongoing conversations and the like you know, when we were at burst and we used to talk about the competitive assessment model of performance management and the coaching and development model of, of performance. And I think, you know, we've now seen just the complete domination of the coaching and development model of performance. And so that's then cascading down into, well, how do we make sure that managers can have those conversations or the entire organization can, can support in these conversations? So I think that's another reason why we're seeing this just so much more broadly than we did, you know, even five years ago.

Dani Johnson (19:06):

To that point, Stacia, I also think we're seeing the expectations of the employees change. So they're in a lot of cases they're forcing these conversations where they didn't force them before. And the messaging from the organization is you should be having these conversations with your manager which again, sort of forces it or encourages it in ways we haven't seen. Yeah, absolutely. Other thoughts on this, what else? Or what else are you all seeing that we, that we missed?

Stacia Garr (19:36):


Speaker 5 (19:37):

Maybe not that you missed, but definitely, you know, having a coaching accessible to nearly everyone in the organization is definitely something that is happening.

Dani Johnson (19:50):

Yeah. Yeah. I definitely think so. We are doing a podcast on skills and we had a really interesting conversation yesterday about sort of the equalization that, that, that organizations are trying to do, offering opportunities to everybody in all levels of the organization where it used to be just reserved for, for those that they were investing in in quotes, that's in quotes for those of you who are not watching. I think that's, I think that's really interesting that coaching is sort of following that as well. It's it's following employees all the way to the bottom of the organization, not just being held at the top.

Speaker 5 (20:26):

With something that is still not completely clear, I think, you know, in, in behind the term coaching, what do we mean by coaching? I think that quite various understanding underlying what coaching is.

Why is the coaching and mentoring conversation important right now?

Dani Johnson (20:41):

Yeah, yeah. I think you're right. We, we throw out some definitions that are fairly common at the beginning, but every organization of handled it differently. Yep. Yeah. All right. Let's get to your questions. The first question we got is why is the coaching and mentoring conversation so important right now? And I want to, I want, before I, before we take a stab at that, I'd love to open it up to you all. Why do you think this coaching and mentoring conversation is so important right now? And maybe, maybe I'll start by throwing out a couple of reasons. I think the first one is we've seen the workplace radically changed in the last nine months. And some of the connections that we used to have with peers and with the organization have been lost or diminished just because of the way that we're working with with folks now.

Dani Johnson (21:36):

And so even though we saw sort of a wrap up to coaching and mentoring before it has become a very, very important thing, particularly with respect to managers and how they connect the individuals back to the organization. So I think one of the reasons is just, just the, just the environment that we're in has, has forced us to think a little bit more about how we are coaching and how we are mentoring individuals and how are we getting to know them given that we don't see them every day. We're not meeting in the, in the break room, et cetera. So I think that's one of the reasons do, do people have other ideas,

Speaker 1 (22:10):

You know, job roles and skills are just rapidly changing. So what you may have graduated and come in with over the years tends to really drastically change now. And, and so I think people in some people are, I wouldn't call them lost, but you know, don't really understand all their options and are struggling to, you know, kind of develop their own career paths. And so they need some support from others that may be, can give them some guidance, ask those right questions, because if you don't, they tend to languish in the same position for years and tend to become obsolete almost in their job roles.

Dani Johnson (22:54):

I think it's a really interesting point. We're doing some research right now on mobility and I'm actually writing the final paper right now. And one of the things that we've realized is that most of the organizations that we talked to said, well, I don't know, you know, we, we want high employee ownership of their own careers, but none of the systems and processes that are in place to support high employee ownership of their own careers. And so I think what you're sort of alluding to is that exact thing, they need help to figure out what their options are and they need the connections of their managers and other people to figure out how to get from point a to point B if we really want them to own their careers. Other thoughts?

Speaker 2 (23:31):

So two things for me with coaching, I agree with what Stacia was saying earlier in terms of a lot of companies have moved to continuous performance management and being able to coach in the moment, give feedback in the moment.

Speaker 2 (23:46):

So to me, that coaching aspect of it, I think it's, it has become more important for managers to kind of play that role and really recognize what their role is in, in that kind of new framework. So for us, that's why we're, we're talking about it is to, you know, help drive high performance and get to that high performance culture, which is which coaching is a cornerstone. For mentoring, for me, what I was thinking is, you know, there's, there's a lot of experts internally that aren't being tapped and a lot of knowledge that's about to potentially walk out the door. And so I think mentoring and especially having kind of a formalized program around mentoring that helps people to connect with one another in an easy way, really helps get to that knowledge transfer from one generation to the next potentially, or even a generation upwards. Right. So I think mentoring is just a good,

Dani Johnson (24:44):

Oh no, we lost, you lost your sound.

Speaker 1 (24:51):

Follow on to some of the discussion. Maybe you had earlier around coaching and asking questions. You know managers in the past, I find you know, when I started as a manager, I thought I needed to be the smartest person in the room, and I needed to tell people what to do. And over the years I realized that's really not the right formula, especially when you have really smart people working with you. And so being a coach and asking the questions and being more facilitative I've become a lot better in that area. And I think, you know, other managers should emulate that type of behavior where they're asking questions and empowering their people versus telling them what to do. And I think you know, our employees of today are asking for that.

Dani Johnson (25:49):

I think that's a good observation.

Speaker 5 (25:52):

Yes. I would agree. I think under there's as well as the complexity of the environments we are in now more than ever, but usually, you know, it's getting things are getting more complex and there's not someone having the answers you're looking for and when they expertise are as well, you know, very deep and complex you need people to be able to come up with novel solutions to problems and coaching can really help to tap into people's own potential and expertise, and not only for their own growth, but as well to help them develop their own and new solution again for the individuals, but as well for the teams in terms of a team coaching, for example. Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (26:44):

I agree.

Who are the main recipients of coaching, and what are the trends on that?

Dani Johnson (26:48):

Let's just in the, in the interest of time, let's move on to the next question, which are, who are the main recipients of coaching and what are the trends on that? I think we've already talked mostly about this in the introductory area, mentoring and coaching, unfortunately still resides at the top of the organization. It just does. But we're seeing it, we're seeing it creep down more and more, and we're seeing technology enable that and make sure that it is, I think you called it democratized, which I'm assuming, you know, it takes advantage of those within the organization to, to make it happen. But then again, there are vendors that we'll talk about in a second that are doing all kinds of things to make that scalable and approachable, even for people on even the frontline level. Any other thoughts on this question?

Speaker 4 (27:36):

Yeah, I think you hit the I mean, executives, we also see a lot with new people leaders get some kind of coaching intervention, but like you talked about, it's just getting pushed into more and more places in the organization and the more and more it's getting democratized use your time for sure.

Dani Johnson (27:55):

Be a lot less sort of thing as well. It's not as formal and stayed and kind of yeah. Formal as it used to be. It seems to be creeping into all kinds of places, which I find.

Speaker 1 (28:08):

Yeah. The other thing is, I mean, the recipients, you know, executives tended to be the ones with who are receiving it and they still are today. In our company, we tend to outsource to, you know, high end coaches for our executives. But we can't do that for everybody in the company. So that's why we're looking for ways to make it more affordable to give everybody the opportunity, maybe not, you know, valet you know velvet glove treatment, but some access to some type of coaching for everyone. Yeah. I think also you know, the younger generations perspective is a lot more around PR personalized experience in general. And so the appeal for them is, you know, a high focus on development of course, in their careers. And so I think that also plays a role in organizations being motivated to expand upon who is the recipient of coaching, especially now, as you mentioned earlier just given the environment, the concern over mental wellbeing you know, kind of supporting a diverse culture and, and all of those factors are kind of leading organizations to start thinking about how do we, you know, better support our people.

How can technology enable coaching conversations for performance and engagement?

Dani Johnson (29:41):

Yeah, I like that A lot. All right. Let's move on to the next question, which is how can technology enable coaching conversations, board performance, and engagement. So this is a question that it seems like most of you have around the technology behind and Heather Gillmartin has done a ton of work on our technology landscape or learning technology landscape, which encompasses a lot of these things. And so I've included three, three slides from that discussion. Heather, if you wouldn't mind walking through it, that would be very,

Heather Gilmartin (30:17):

So basically they're, we've seen tons into, as you guys know that we've seen tons of tech providers jump into the space too, as we've talked about democratized coaching in various ways. And they're kind of some, some of the providers do things like just match employees with a human coach, others do more of kind of a coach, Oh, I think this is jumping to the next slide. But yeah, yeah, but basically, yeah, so we're seeing just, just lots and lots of new functionality coming up and basically three different types of coaching that are coming out. So the first is, as I mentioned, if you can go.

Dani Johnson (31:05):

Would you mind if I just stop on this side for one second. I think one of the really interesting things is if you look at some of the, so the nameplates on this slide, you wouldn't necessarily consider them coaching softwares. So some of them you've got your traditional ones like river and Kronos is in there and Everwise. Ones that you would, would associate with traditional coaching. But when we asked them, Hey, do you do some sort of coaching? Every single one of these vendors popped up. And so we're seeing it, we're seeing new entrance for sure, but we're also seeing some of the old guard say, Oh, this is becoming a really important thing. And so we need to add this, this functionality somewhere in here, so that we're covering that part of our learning.

Stacia Garr (31:45):

I would, I would also add some who are kind of crossing over from what would be their traditional area to include nudges that are designed to help with coaching. So you think about Humu, you know, they're an engagement platform fundamentally, but you know, they're real different from other engagement platforms is, is the nudges and the way that they're trying to get people to change their behavior. I think actually I think that one's a really interesting one.

Dani Johnson (32:09):

I'm glad you brought them up. Stacia because they are an engagement platform. That's how they, that's what they say, but the way that they're doing it as they're nudging, both the manager and the individual at the same time, Hey, Susie, doesn't speak up in meetings, Susie, you need to speak up in meetings. But at the same time saying to the manager, Susie, doesn't speak up in meetings, do what you can to focus, needs to speak up. And so it sort of hits it from both sides, which is a different way of doing it. But yeah, so, so coaching is sort of being a station mentioned that's being implemented or integrated all of these other things that we wouldn't necessarily consider coaching in the past. Okay. Sorry, go ahead.

Heather Gilmartin (32:45):

No yeah, I think if you can go onto the next slide. So some, as we, as we talked about some vendors pair, a pair of humans, human with human interaction. And I think this is obviously this is not going to go away because there's certain kinds of, there's certain conversations and types of conversations that you can't have with with technology. And so the, the, the interesting thing that's happening here is that these platforms are allowing scale or they're, they're allowing that matching at scale which is something that traditional coaches we're not, we're not able to do. Right. just as, as, you know, sort of a single coach or a coaching consultancy type organization would not be able to sort of reach out into the organization and say, Hey, these people should talk and these people should talk and these people should talk. So that's really the power of, of these kinds of matching platforms.

Dani Johnson (33:51):

Yeah. And this, this one, particularly like these, the brands that just that you're seeing on the screen are ones that pair external coaches with internal people. And so they're not necessarily using the peer to peer, they're actually matching external to internal, which is the most traditional way that we think about coaching, which as has everybody here on the phone has mentioned is definitely not the only way to do it. And we're seeing much more internal coaching and culture building than we've seen before.

Heather Gilmartin (34:16):

Yeah. And then the, the other type of coaching is sort of a coach on the shoulder, sort of you know, examples might be a Fitbit. That's telling you, you know, how you're doing in your performance. Your, you know, how, how you're, how you're doing it on a moment to moment basis. Another might be you know, a platform that sits on top of email and, and gives you feedback on how, on the language that you're using with your teams. The one, that's the one that pops to mind, my husband just got like a golf simulator and it gives them all kinds of really great feedback on like, was his club head open or closed. And what I love about about these platforms and Dani, you mentioned, mentioned sort of put, you know, pushing down the information to the people that can take action on it.

Heather Gilmartin (35:10):

What I, what, so for me, you know, if you think about coaching, you think about a coach. And I think I might've been Kelly that mentioned this, or maybe it was Debbie that mentioned this early on, right. That you're asking, you're asking open-ended questions and you're helping people get to their own solutions to a problem. That's sort of the fundamental ethos of what a coach is. And I initially had this assumption that only a human could do that. And what I realized, especially, especially by watching this golf software, which is weird, but was that, that in simply providing the data back to the person, to whom it is most relevant, that is sort of prompting the same type of 10 prompts, the same type of self-reflection and, and iteration and practice that, that yields really good improvement that that's sort of what a coach is for. So I would say you know, it's not, obviously it can't solve all problems, but I think this, this, these types of technologies are really, really powerful in prompting behavior change in the people who are most interested in doing so with facts.

Dani Johnson (36:25):

I think a lot of these solutions are super elegant. So Cultivate, as Heather mentioned, it sits on top of your email and sort of reads your email for the last six months and helps you understand how you interact with your teams. So it can provide famous tribe.ai has all kinds of functionalities, but one of the things it does is it listens in meetings to tell you how much you talk versus how much you've listened to the questions that you answered. Cogito I think Stacia knows a little bit more about, but it does something similar. And it's geared toward sales folks and you're on mute, but yeah, sales folks and especially customer service representatives, make sure that they're, they're gaining these skills as they go along as a part of the work. And then if you haven't checked out, Mursion, it's one of my favorites, part of it's.

Dani Johnson (37:09):

I just like the people over there. But they they're using avatars and situations. I remember when they first briefed me, they basically got on the phone and they said, okay, we're going to put you in this situation. Then it was a coaching situation where I was supposed to coach an employee instead of just using the technology, they actually have an actor or someone that sits behind. So it's a combination of this technology versus, you know, expertise on the backend to sort of make it better and clearer, but it reads your facial expressions. It measures your pauses. It helps you understand how you're reacting, how are you being perceived to somebody on the other end, which technology isn't quite good enough to do. But we also don't see a lot of that kind of role-playing happening with the real live mentors. And we definitely don't have the data that goes across different people in those same situations. So we don't know what's going on if we're not using a software like this. So I think these are incredibly fascinating. I've had several conversations with organizations that say, if there's not a person involved in it, can't be real coaching. But I'm kind of in Heather's boat. I think these types of softwares can offer just all kinds of data that people can add on that, that make it incredibly scalable for your organization. So we've talked about trying to remember if we.

Heather Gilmartin (38:31):

Kelly, what is Bravely?

Speaker 2 (38:32):

So briefly is kind of up and coming On the market for coaching. So, you know, when I think of BetterUp there, probably like top shelf, right? Bravely is more of an emerging platform that does connect people to external coaches. That's actually who we're going forward with. So we're, we're planning on rolling this out next month. Or also, I'm also trying to bring in cultivate as an AI coaching system as well. So so Bravely is much more accessible when you think in terms of cost per person per month. And it's unlimited coaching that you can provide for people, right? And they really try to align with the key moments that matter and the mostly around probably the performance management cycle, right? So they see a spike during goal setting, career development planning. But they're kind of pitch really is to make it more accessible to all employees.

Speaker 2 (39:29):

And how I've been positioning this since I'm doing kind of like human one-on-one coaching and AI coaching is, you know, I think about like a coach can tell you the things that you should be doing and all of us know probably what we should be doing, whether it's for our health or fitness or whatever, like you mentioned a Fitbit, but an AI is actually catching you in your behavior and it's passively listening and it's being able to show you those blind spots. Right. So, so that's how I'm trying to position it. You know, here is, you know, we're bringing in this whole coaching kind of philosophy and approach and, you know, one-on-one coach, you know, work with them and then you take it away and you, you know, you forget it potentially the AI can really help you catch whether or not you're actually applying it. So, so for me, it kind of marrying those two. And it's funny, DanI, that you mentioned Mursion as VR. That's another thing that we're planning on bringing in later on this year to practice with them, inclusion and diversity type things. I don't think it's probably what we're planning on doing. Isn't as sophisticated as being able to read facial expressions and things like that, which I think is pretty fascinating, but yeah, that's, it's very cool to see, you know, these kind of put together we're doing the right things. I'm happy. Like that makes me happy.

Dani Johnson (40:45):

Two questions for you, Kelly, first of all, you don't know Bravely, if you wouldn't mind facilitating an introduction?

Speaker 2 (40:52):

Yeah. They've been, they've been fantastic with us. Yep.

Dani Johnson (40:56):

That's the first and then the second is toward the end of the year. Can we check in again?

Speaker 2 (41:01):

Dani you can call me anytime, but yeah, of course. Yeah. I mean, yeah, cause I'm not really struggling right now and maybe we'll get to challenges and things. And I think I submitted a question on the confidentiality aspect of coaching. Cause that is one where I'm putting a pretty big investment in this. So how am I going to prove, am I going to prove it out right now? Like I'm, I am really struggling with thinking how we're going to do that, but yeah, there you go.

How can we prove coaching is having an impact?​

Dani Johnson (41:28):

There's a question for your question. Thank you. This is the question, that's the question for all of L&D it's a question for all pretty much everything that we invest in as far as people. And I think it's a really good question. I know Stacia probably has an opinion on this. She's our people analytics person. Do you want to take a stab at it first Stacia and then I'll follow up with a little bit?

Stacia Garr (41:54):

Yeah, sure. I mean, I think like anything we need to be clear in the beginning, what, what we're trying to impact, right. So are we trying to impact that, that employees feel like they get better feedback or that we trying to impact actual performance metrics? You know, what, what is it that we're trying to impact and, and starting with a baseline before we, we begin the intervention and then measuring over time. I think, you know, obviously the, the challenges is that many of the things that we're trying to impact can be qualitative. And so that can be hard to measure. But what I have tended to see organizations doing more of is, is things just like my manager gives me actionable feedback, or I understand the feedback that my manager wants me to, to do, or they actions they want me to take.

Stacia Garr (42:41):

And then doing that as, as a baseline and then you know, basically happening, good old experiment, you know, control group in an, in another group that you're trying to see if the intervention actually made a difference. So that's what I've tended to see on this. Because I think, you know, just a like, you know, do I like bravely, you know, the smiles shades is just, it's not gonna, it's not gonna be so helpful. One thing I have heard of though actually in regard to one of these vendors, I'm not going to say who it, who it was was that but it was one of these coaching vendors was then it's important to make sure you understand that along the longevity of the engagement. So was talking with one organization that said, Hey, look, when we asked how people felt about this vendor, the initial response was actually great.

Stacia Garr (43:33):

But then when we correlated that against some of those metrics that I just mentioned around people feeling that their manager gave them great feedback, or even their manager's assessment of the employees change in performance. They found that those who had done, I think it was three or fewer coaching engagements. They actually, they actually performed force on all those outcomes. But when they had gotten up to a threshold of, I think it was six or more of those interactions, they performed dramatically better. And so kind of having that sense of the longevity and the potential impact in doing a bit of a deeper dive on the analytics of what's happening with people could make a pretty big difference. So what they did is they went back to the vendor and they said, Hey, you know, w the three up to three is not acceptable. You need to be able to ensure that we're getting at least six reps with each of the people who are engaging with the coaching platform, blah, blah, blah. And they changed their whole approach based on that analysis of, of what was actually happening. So I think, you know, if you need to kind of be thoughtful in terms of what may truly be driving, changing behaviors and over what time period.

Dani Johnson (44:41):

Yeah. Kind of, kind of tag onto that. I know L&D particularly, but HR in general has a tendency to go after the, the all important ROI. I don't, this particular thing lends itself to very well to an ROI. I don't actually think anything does, but particularly this one first of all, because it's too easy to gain. And secondly, because the ROI is a lot of times, as Stacia mentioned intangible and qualitative versus quantitative. And so understanding that the behaviors that you want at the end, and then looking for ways to create actionable metrics rather than dead metrics like an ROI, we don't want to know how we did. We want to know what we need to change in order to continue to, to drive those behaviors is a much deeper problem and much harder to sell, but that actually gets you where you want to go.

Dani Johnson (45:32):

I think the other thing to maybe take into account is understanding what the expectations are from the organization. So what, what do they mean by having an impact? What are they trying to change? How, how, what kinds of metrics that they like to see that are going to help them get where they are? And so a lot of it is communication and making sure you're on the same page, but a lot of it is also relationship making sure that you're constantly checking in with them, making sure that any other thoughts here on this one, has anyone else tried this?

Speaker 5 (46:07):

Maybe there's also, you know, the beginning of the coaching, the contractual realization part where you decide and I'm with the coach, but with the managers as well. And maybe with someone with the HR for example, doing a, quite a PR what we call in France, quite we partied sessions where you have the coachee, the coach, the manager on someone from the HR where you, you, you discuss what would be the objectives of the coaching and you discuss upfront what could be the KPIs, so that you've got your reference points to come to otherwise, you know, it's going to be very subjective and it is in the subjective part of it is. So you want to objectify something, you, you need to have two reference points to see the difference. You know, even if it's in perception from the coach and the manager, do you do perceive that changes happened? How can you see that? What has been demonstrated? So it's qualitative, but observable. So in some way, you, you, you can see the manifestation of changes.

Dani Johnson (47:13):

I think that's a really interesting point now that we've been talking sort of meta what the organization gets out of it, but you should always take it down to the individual level as well, and figure out what those metrics are. Those KPIs that you're trying to hit and have that conversation to make sure that it's at its meaning.

Speaker 5 (47:29):

That's a starting Point. I think, you know,

Dani Johnson (47:31):

Particularly where a lot of organizations are implementing coaching specifically for engagement really, really important thing. Thanks for bringing that up.

Speaker 2 (47:40):

I think that's where I'm struggling though, is getting down to that personal individual level cause right. So I have people analytics team who's really annoyed at me for bringing in a vendor that will allow us to get individual data because of the confidentiality, because we want to be able to say, okay, the managers who have higher engagement scores, you know, on our annual survey report have done these things, you know, and we're kind of locked out of being able to see and less people opt in. And so that's one of the things I'm going to be discussing is if somebody, if the people who are participating in it, if they want to opt in to let us know that they're actually using the service or not.

How do we tackle the issue of confidentiality and privacy?

Speaker 2 (48:20):

So I think it's just, you know, culturally it's, it seemed very different, you know, from, in our folks, in APJ area, they, they see it as am I being punished? Is that why you need a coach? Right. So they don't want people to know it, you know? So I think there's so much around this that we just haven't, we haven't fully been able to crack yet. So I can take the aggregate and be pretty happy with being able to see, you know, return users, activations re you know, things like that to see whether or not it's actually working, but in terms of getting down to, is this really helping a person become a better manager? And if I'm gonna be able to get that?

Dani Johnson (48:58):

A really interesting point flipped over to the next question, which I think was also yours. How do we tackle the issue? Of course. Yeah, no, it's a really good question. Are others dealing with this?

Speaker 5 (49:12):

But definitely I think the confidentiality issue is key. But it's a question of distinguishing, isn't it? What is being shared between the coach, if we're talking about the human coach or, you know, other kinds of data, but in, in what happens in the interaction during the interactions between the coach and the coachee. So, and this is absolutely confidential. Otherwise it's going to impact the quality of the conversation themselves on the progress, because if you know that at any time or any point what you are to shared, you know, and if even more, if it's sensitive and if it's sensitive that there isn't, it's all very likely that it's going to have an impact on you and your performance. So the most sensitive, the more confidential it has to be. But if you agree from the beginning, you know, on, on some KPIs with the managers, you you're, you've got two different things, isn't it? The KPIs is something that it's, it's the ROE somehow the expectations of engaging into the coaching. So that's, what is maybe the agreement that you can get some that done, not in the content of what has been shared doing the parties.

Dani Johnson (50:43):

Yeah, I think, I think this is a really interesting question because the organization is providing the service and so they need some data to show that it's working or not working. We've seen that addressed in a couple of ways. Some organizations are choosing external coaches for this very reason. Like they want, they want that confidentiality to be in place. And so they're less worried about getting the data, then they are making sure that the individual has a sounding board or some, someone to go to, to talk about things that may be difficult to talk about with a manager and an internal mentor. So for example, if somebody, if your organization isn't really good with you moving on or moving to a different position, it's much easier to talk about an external person than an internal person, because you're worried about job security and all kinds of other things.

Dani Johnson (51:24):

The other thing that we're seeing is for some of these vendors that are like the coaches on the shoulder there is an opt in, and the reason that there is an opt-in is because they get enough good information to help them themselves, that they're okay. Sharing that at least at an aggregate at an aggregate level going up. So for example, cultivate, I'll just use them as an example, cause they're a top of mind right now. They, they aggregate information based on a set of competencies or skills that they're trying to build with and managers. And so instead of looking at the individual and saying, this person, you know, is bad at this, they, they kind of take a look at all of the information across everybody, and it is an opt-in, it's absolutely an opt-in, but those managers are willing to opt in to share their data.

Dani Johnson (52:10):

If there are five or more people that sort of go into that, that bucket because they want the information out so bad, that information is very helpful to them to become a better manager. And so it's a, it's a trade-off. And so I think a lot of times it is sort of looking at that trade-off, it's not, it's, it's the way that we communicate in the way that we message about what we're doing here. Hey, we're only using this information for, you know, the better measure of society in general, versus to captivate you when, when we know that something's wrong with you specifically. And it really, really depends on the trust that the organization has with its employees. And that can be a hard pill to swallow in some organizations. Other thoughts on this?

Stacia Garr (52:50):

I would just add in here, you know, the kind of the other option is to do dedicated, you know, match pairing, study focused just on this and just on the specific questions you want to understand, you know, did you, did you practice, or did you focus on these things through your coaching practice, you know, XYZ things asking the same question of the employee, you know, did your manager improve at these things? Did you feel like you got what you needed in, in limiting it? And so you're not getting the data from bravely or from whoever, but you're getting it directly from them. And, and, and at least even if you're not even if it's confidential, so you're still at least getting the pairings. Even if you don't know exactly who the pairings are, if you need to address that level of confidentiality.

Dani Johnson (53:41):

Yeah. Any other thoughts there? All right. We obviously did not get to all the questions left but this has been a really, really good conversation. And we'll be talking about this more this year. We'll be looking into coaching and mentoring and how it's changing and what we can do to implement it better to organizations. So thank you so much for the initial call. We'll be putting out a recording for those of you who are members of red thread. And as always, if you have questions or additional insights, please feel free to reach out and contact us would love to have a chat. Thank you all. Thanks everyone.

Stacia Garr (54:20):

Have a good rest of your day and a good new year. Thank you. Happy new year to everyone!

Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

Stacia is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research and focuses on employee engagement/experience, leadership, DE&I, people analytics, and HR technology. A frequent speaker and writer, her work has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as well as in numerous HR trade publications. She has been listed as a Top 100 influencer in HR Technology and in D&I. Stacia has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.


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