The Future of Coaching: Inspiration in the IAC Masteries
By Aileen Gibb
“This is what my leadership team has been learning from you already, Aileen” said my client, owner of a mission-driven, fast growing, entrepreneurial business. She handed me a paper from the program she had just attended at Harvard. That paper, ‘Leadership is a Conversation’ by Groysberg and Slind calls it conversation-powered leadership. I call it ‘coaching-style leadership’.
When I started out in this work, my team took on a challenge to see if we might inspire clients to use the ‘love’ word: virtually unheard of in the corporate cultures in the closing decades of the 20th century. Today, as another century unfolds with new generations of leaders, it’s ‘Harvard approved’, given that the first element in the above paper is intimacy!
Intimacy, Interactivity, Inclusion and Intentionality! They missed out ‘inspiration’ which is the word I use, taken from the work of one of my early mentors who opened my eyes to the possibility that ‘motivation means getting people to do what you want, while inspiration means creating the environment for people to create what they want for themselves’. A fundamentally different way of approaching leadership and business, and one which has inspired my work over the past two decades.
It is an approach which has gained ground with the growth of coaching and coaching cultures in business. And it’s rapidly gaining ground with some of today’s most popular entrepreneurs and business leaders. I just came across www.BTeam.org, started by Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and a team of global leaders committed to creating ‘a world in which the purpose of business is to become a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit’. They are taking action to move beyond the profit-first or profit-only driver for business. A shift which truly inspires me, since it heralds more genuine caring and concern for people and corporate impact. Like my client, many entrepreneurial start-ups are experimenting with new forms of working and definitions of success. Since I first encountered coaching, I’ve believed that this was the path it supported. That coaching, when understood and adopted by leaders, offers us a way to truly change people’s experience at work.
Over the years I have stayed true to this belief and today it is even more evident that emerging forms of business require leaders to develop essentially the same skills we have now practiced for many years as coaches: the skills of deep listening, genuinely curious questioning, trust in each person’s potential and an open-ness to what new possibilities might emerge in order to facilitate growth and positive change in our organizations and across our society.
This year, I have introduced my entrepreneurial client to the IAC Masteries and we have embarked on an exploration of trust, potential, listening, presence, clarifying, expressing, possibilities and support; looking at how each of these areas of mastery play out for them as leaders in their current environment. This expands how these leaders think of ‘coaching’ and invites them to first listen to and understand more of themselves, before seeking to lead others. In my client’s company we aim to support continued business growth by inspiring a culture of conversation that engages and empowers everyone in the organization, without having to add in expensive layers of management and control as it gets bigger.
When I look at these new forms of business, I see an emerging force that’s pushing positive growth and change. I believe that coaching provides a form of steward-ship for the positive evolution of individuals, organizations and our society. The IAC Masteries provide me with a foundation for my work not only as a coach, but as a leader who influences, inspires, empowers and encourages; question by question and conversation by conversation. So I know coaching has changed my world, the world of my clients and their organizations.
I think we may be only at the beginning. Our IAC Masteries have a sense of timelessness to them. Thomas Leonard was forward thinking and inspired in their development. The teams who have taken them forward have made sure they are universally applicable around the globe. And we may now be approaching an edge where those Masteries are needed even more urgently in a wider field that what we currently call coaching. It is for us to ensure their impact continues to expand and equip, inform and inspire the leadership conversations that will steer us through our current challenges and allow new forms of being together in business and in society to emerge.
My work has taken me around the globe and to conversations with people from many different nationalities, cultures and organisations. Wherever I’ve gone, the power of real conversation, founded on intentional listening and enlightened questioning, has been welcomed. It’s a core piece of our humanity to create the space for conversations that matter and to build connection and meaning with members of our family, our business and our communities.