September 28, 2021

Jonathan, can you share with our readers a little about your background and who you are?

I am a professor at Henley Business School with a particular focus on coaching and behavioral change. I have been the director of the Henley Centre for Coaching. Over the last 5 years, I have been working in that university to accredited Henley’s coaching programs, internationalize the offer, increase student numbers and build a strong continuous professional development offer for professional coaches: a sort of Netflix of Coaching.

Prior to my work at Henley, my background was in consulting. I worked for IBM Business Consulting, PwC and OPM, mainly on leadership development, coaching and on change management. Prior to that, I held a number of leadership positions in the public and private sector.

While I have been engaged in coaching since the late 1990’s, I have actively been contributing to the coaching research since around 2008. I have published around 30 books, and over 100 scientific coaching related papers, and am now probably the most widely published coaching researcher in the world.

Why are you a firm believer in coaching and what it can do?

Coaching provides a space for individuals to reflect, to prioritize, to set goals, and provides a personalized support mechanism as they move towards creating the best version of who they aspire to be. We all know how hard behavior change is. We may make plans on New Years Eve only to find by February many of these plans have fallen by the wayside. Coaching helps people overcome this: by setting realistic goals, planning intermediate steps, thinking through barriers, and hurdles which may get in their way, as well as who can support and champion them on their journey. These features contribute to higher levels of goal attainment.

Over the last 20 years, research has confirmed that coaching is a highly effective, personalized tool, which delivers behavioral change and contributes to enhanced performance outcomes. Maybe it’s not surprising that almost all elite athletes, as well as senior executives, have a coach.

With the pandemic and everything that has to do with digital transformation, came much uncertainty. How can coaching help manage in uncertain times?

If we are to cope with the “new normal” we need to firstly understand what we are moving to: What are the ‘new’ ways of working for us, our team or organization, or what options are available. Coaching can help individuals think through these options, the benefits and risks, and also consider how they can optimize their performance and wellbeing in this new world.

What is different about coaching relationships compared to many of the other HR interventions, is that coaches are in service of the individual and the conversations are confidential. So unless there is a risk of harm to the individual, or there is serious legality, then that conversation is just about what the individual needs and there isn’t a worry that the contents of the conversation gets shared around the organization. This confidentiality gives the individual a sense of confidence and leads to greater self disclosure, enhanced self awareness and ultimately better outcomes.

Why have you joined CoachHub’s Coaching Lab?

I think the coaching market is going through a period of change. The coaching industry pre-2000, was small scale and just starting out. Over the past 20 years the industry has gone through its teenage years, establishing standards, training and there has been a growing professionalization. The next two decades will see what I might describe an industrialization of the industry, as we move away from what might be a cottage industry provision to large scale contracts requiring hundreds of coaches, across 10, 30 or 50 countries and in 10, 20 or 30 languages.

This scaling up of the industry comes at a time that science and technology can enable this change through synchronous online meeting platforms, through asynchronous digital learning content and through a deeper understanding of the science of behavioral change.

The result is digital platforms like CoachHub, able to deliver coaching 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, in multiple languages to thousands of clients, in hundreds of organizations. Providing the scale, flexibility and cost effective solutions which modern organizations need in a hybrid working, globally connected world. In my view, digital coaching providers will represent more than 50% of the coaching market in 5-7 years time, as large organizations increasingly recognize this is the best way to deliver high-quality coaching: It’s the best way to provide coaching at scale across a global organization. It’s the best way to make optimum use of technology, minimizing the cost and environmental impact of travel. It’s the best way to provide a personalized, cost effective solution to develop and retain talent. For all of those reasons, digital coaching platforms are likely to be the next stage in the evolution of coaching.

The field of researching coaching / the science behind coaching is relatively new, what trends and challenges do you see in this academic field?

In the past, it was always a challenge for universities to carry out research because they can struggle to find sufficient numbers of participants. As a result coach research tended to focus on small scale and qualitative studies. But this is beginning to change.

I think one of the benefits of the professionalization of coaching is the creation of professional associations. A second positive step has been the emergence of universities starting to provide high quality and research informed coach training for the profession. The third step has been the emergence of large scale providers, such as CoachHub. Bringing these three elements together, will provide a real opportunity for collaborative large scale research, helping us drive forward the science in this field.

What is your vision for the future for coaching and for CoachHub?

For me there are a number of key aspects to explore. Firstly, digitalization and how we optimize digital platforms as learning spaces for coaching and wider learning.

Secondly, I think what is very important for the coaching industry, as well as the wider HR organization industry, is to address the issue of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). Recognizing that the people who turn up for work are diverse and we need to find mechanisms as organizations to be as inclusive as possible, so we can leverage the talent across the whole organization.

A third strand is sustainability and the environmental impact. COP26 will focus attention on this issue, but we all have responsibility as individuals and organizations to address this challenge. This is now an existential threat. If we fail to act, the world will be very different from the one we operate in now, with associated risks and negative consequences for businesses as well as individuals.

One clear benefit of platform based solutions is if your coach doesn’t have to travel to you and if you don’t have to travel to your coach, this is a simple way to reduce the carbon footprint for doing business. The reality is of course we need to extend this to other aspects of the way we work and the way we consume the world’s resources.

A fourth area of importance is around the coach matching process and how we can get smarter in understanding the matching process. There are a variety of different models around this and at CoachHub we have a strong model. We will be working to further enhance and develop this to
maximize the coach – coachee chemistry and thus coaching relationship outcomes.

That brings me back to an overarching aspect of the way the Coach Lab will work, which is a focus on collaboration. I strongly believe we are stronger together. We’re stronger when we work in partnership with our clients. We are stronger when we collaborate with others in research partnerships. And we are stronger when we collaborate with other partners to create win-win outcomes for the benefit of the many, not the few.

When we collaborate, what we’re doing is raising the overall level of the water in the pond so we can all rise together. That’s the ambition and the vision I have for the Coaching Lab for the upcoming decade.