Superhuman Coaching: Coaching using new technologies

Superhuman Coaching: Extending coaching using new technologies

The OR Podcast

Given the rapid development of technology and its impact on just about every aspect of organisational operations and the personal lives of many people, many new technologies are being embraced by coaches around the world. In this interview, David talks with the author Sam Isaacson about his recent book ‘Superhuman Coaching: Ten technologies that expand coaching beyond what’s humanly possible’.

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Sam Isaacson

Sam is a coaching consultant, author, coach supervisor and is Chair of Coaching Professional Apprenticeship Trailblazer scheme and is the father of four boys. Sam lives in London and has been involved in coaching for many years including previously leading the coaching services business for Grant Thornton, which employs more accredited coaches than any other coaching provider. Sam has advised hundreds of organisations on technology innovation, digital transformation, risk management and coaching. He has worked with everything from local charities, councils and ultra-niche insurers through to some of the most recognisable and large organisations in the world. He was also subject to a Forbes article about his work and history.

The Book: Superhuman Coaching

The book Superhuman Coaching: Ten technologies that expand coaching beyond what’s humanly possible is available at all good bookshops and can be purchased here:

Listen to Sam’s other Podcast

How to Coach in a Digital World and What is Coming Next?


Sam Isaacson – Superhuman coaching
[00:00:00] David: Okay. Today we welcome Sam Isaacson back to the podcast and we’re discussing Sam’s new book, Superhuman Coaching 10 Technologies that Expand Coaching Beyond What’s Humanly Possible. Welcome, Sam.
[00:00:12] Sam: Thanks David, and it’s great to be back with you today. I seem to remember last time we spoke, I had a really, really bad throat, and so it’s nice to be with you, feeling a bit healthier.
[00:00:21] David: All in one bit.
[00:00:22] Sam: Yes.
[00:00:22] David: Sam was last on the podcast almost a year ago actually with his previous book, How to Thrive as a Coach in a Digital, and I’ll put a link to that podcast in the book in the show notes, and it’s great to have you back on the podcast, but before we start, can you just bring us up to date with your moves because you’re not where you were and what you’re doing now.
[00:00:41] Sam: Yeah. Since we last spoke, I might I’ve moved over to Coach Hub, which is a big digital coaching provider, and so over the course of that time, you know, I’ve moved into that coaching technology space as my full-time job. I’ve continued writing about coaching with technology on my LinkedIn and of course with this new book, Superhuman Coaching. [00:01:00] So, yeah, it’s good to be part of the professional body’s work as they’re starting to think more about the way that technology’s influencing on the profession and getting more and more involved, which is nice.
[00:01:09] David: Yeah. Brilliant. We’ll talk a little bit more about Coach Hub. I’m quite intrigued. So let’s just turn to the book, Super Human Coaching. What led you to write the book?
[00:01:17] Sam: Well, it was really the experience from having done how to thrive as a coach in a digital world. You know, of course I had lots of conversations with you and with other people and at conferences, and lots of, you know, there are some nice intellectual conversations that people were having around, oh, what could technology mean for the future of coaching? You know, let’s think about flying cars and that sort of thing, but then in practice, what people really wanted was, I’m a coach, I’d like to use more technology in my coaching and what should I do very practically and there’s a bit of an element of that in the previous book, but I thought that just devoting a book to, okay, you’d like a place to start, here are 10 ideas, you know, that will just start the ball rolling and maybe give a hand and give you some as to what was possible. So it was that.
[00:01:59] David: Yeah, I [00:02:00] really enjoyed the book, I’ve gotta say, and it’s given me all sorts of ideas, not just for coaching, actually for training and some of the work that I do in higher education. It intrigued me when the book arrived, you know, the term superhuman coaching, I’m assuming it’s got nothing to do with capes and masks, so why Superhuman Coaching? What do you..
[00:02:17] Sam: Yes. So as I was writing how to thrive as a coach in a digital world, this idea had come to me that, when you use a piece of technology, you are augmenting your body to a certain extent and I thought about writing it in that book, and I didn’t, there weren’t enough space for me to expand on it really it seemed a bit frivolous, but the idea stuck with me, and so the more that I then encountered new pieces of technology, the more that I thought, oh, you know, what that’s doing is it’s taking this part of our body and it’s putting it outside of ourselves. And so in the book then I talk about you know, our ability to control fire or the invention of the wheel and what sort of technology is doing, is it’s taking a part of our body like the wheel was taking our legs and making them superpowered, you know, it’s turning into [00:03:00] some kind of superhuman and so it isn’t inside the body like Superman gets his strength from inside, the body can travel very fast, but actually, we can sit in a plane and we can fly, you know, we’re becoming superpowered, it’s just that the technology is outside of our body. And so that was really the idea that, you know, if we want to be a superhuman coach maybe we could use technology to enhance, augment, add to what we are able to do as coaches, and that makes us superpowered as coaches. So, I’m quite playful I suppose that’s where I got it from.
[00:03:28] David: Yeah. No, I like it. I like it. And I like that idea about thinking about extending what we can do as humans but which is what technology’s about because it’s meant to be an enabling thing, but also as coaches extending what’s capable as a coach, both in terms of our practice, but also for our clients as well. And I suppose technology is kind of impacted just about everyone’s life on earth to some degree or other, and it’s also had a huge impact on organisations, businesses, and activities like learning, et cetera, and given that [00:04:00] coaching is essentially a learning process, it’s not surprising that, I’m gonna say, you know, it’s hugely impacting what’s, in fact, I would actually go as far to say revolutionising coaching. As in life, people have a wide range of relationships with technology from people who hardly use it, in fact, I’ve got an uncle that don’t even use a mobile phone, all the way through, you know, kind of geeks and people who are enthusiasts right through to kind of technology experts who kind of spend their life doing it and that’s how they are in the living. And given that, how do you think coaches’ attitudes towards technology in general impacts their engagement and experimentation with technology in their coaching practice?
[00:04:38] Sam: Yeah, I think it’s fair to say that we could all be put on a spectrum of people at one end who are absolutely in love with everything to do with technology. As soon as something comes out, they feel a need to play with it somehow, and at the other end, people, you know, like your uncle who, you know, feel like technology is this negative thing and we should be going back to some kind of golden age where we weren’t overwhelmed by the level of [00:05:00] technological change that we’re currently experiencing. So we’re all on that spectrum somewhere and I think as technology continues to change and continues to move into a space where we are trying to operate and coaching, you know, for the last several decades has worked in essentially the same way it always has, it’s two people sitting in a room having a conversation as it’s beginning to encroach more and more, we’re responding to that at an emotional level in a positive or negative way, and so some of that feels like, oh, you know, I’m not able to do things the way that I used to, while other people are feeling like, oh, this isn’t enough, I need to be introducing more and more innovation into the coaching and sometimes one or other of those attitudes can help or hinder and so I think it’s good for us to be aware of, you know, where we put ourselves on that spectrum and what the right thing for us to do or to be in our practice.
[00:05:44] David: Yeah. And, trying to turn it into something that’s both useful for the coach and for the client, I suppose.
[00:05:49] Sam: Yeah..
[00:05:50] David: In your experience, what’s the kind of best attitude for a coach to take on when it comes to extending their capabilities using technology then?
[00:05:58] Sam: Yeah, so you’ve read the book and [00:06:00] so you’ll know that I present this little model of kind of how interested you are in technology, how much you know about it, and I think it’s important for us as coaches to continually be learning more about technology that is available to us. So if we are using a technology because we have to, and there are some technologies that we just have to use, it’s good for us to understand what’s happening in that technology so that we know, you know, what’s this contract change that we are introducing to our coaches? And I also think that it’s good for us to be curious about what new technologies there might be out there that could enhance our practice. So I say this to everybody and nobody believes me, I’m not an evangelist for technology, I think it’s good for us to know about it and know what to do, but I think we should hold technology in a nonjudgmental state. So we should be continuing to try and learn as much as we can and also treat as what it is, it’s just a tool, it isn’t inherently good or bad, you know, it can do good things and it can also change things in ways that are unexpected and in some cases unethical, so for us to just hold it [00:07:00] nonjudgmentally and continue to learn more and more to challenge ourselves and to serve our coachees, I think that’s a good place to be.
[00:07:05] David: Yeah, I like that idea about exploring with the idea of challenging ourselves, and also just thinking about, you know, how can I use this and trying some things as well, I think that is important. Towards the beginning of the book, you’ve got a really interesting little kind of story of vignette about the Dinka people from South Sudan, and the issue of trade offs and technologies. Can you just explain, wasn’t expecting that in the book I’ve gotta say, can you just explain the connection between the Dinka people and technology and what we can learn?
[00:07:34] Sam: Yeah, it’s a fascinating little story and I’m not gonna do justice here at all. So, you know, I’d encourage listeners, if it piques your interest, go and do some research about it, but the Dinka people have a very strong part of their culture is that you grow up to a certain point and then you have a song sang over you, and this song will last for several hours and it’s unique to you and you only get to hear it once, and then the [00:08:00] expectation is that you’ve heard this, and bits of that song will then stick with you for the rest of your life and will to a certain extent define your identity, and so there’s this role called a ping, which literally means hearer who and their job is, their full time job is to come up with these songs for people, sing it over the course of couple of hours and then that’s it, they’ll only ever sing it once and so people will go along to hear their song and they’ll bring a hearer with them who’s got the capability to remember this two hour song that they’ve heard once so that they can recall parts of it to the person, and what happened was there was a large migration of people from South Sudan over to the US in particular, to other places where, particularly to the… or in the late 20th century, I’m not sure exactly when, but anyway, during that time then somebody had brought a cassette recorder and none of the Dinka had ever experienced this technology before, and what that gave them the ability to do was that as they were moving away from their people into a different country and potentially losing this role of the ping, they could take the cassette recorder and record the song [00:09:00] that was being played to them, so that they could then play it to themselves while they were in this different country, and so this extraordinary, you know, it’s very simple, you know, and for those of us that, you know, when I can’t remember the cassette tape, not existing, it feels like it’s just a basic piece of technology, it’s outdated now, if anything, but for these people, it completely transformed their need for the ping in the same way it always has done, so it’s super helpful on the one hand and also changes the way that they’ve lived in a very traditional way with, you know, these pings coming with them to listen to the song and therefore playing a different sort of role. So I suppose the purpose of the story within the context of my book is for us to be thinking about when we use technology, yeah, it can be really, really helpful and at the same time is gonna have consequences that we might not always intend and so if we think about it carefully, particularly as we’re working with somebody and it’s going to affect them, I think that’s a good responsibility for us to bear in mind.
[00:09:53] David: Yeah, I think it’s a brilliant story and one of the things that really kind of caught me about it is the impact of [00:10:00] technology on culture.
[00:10:01] Sam: Mm. Yeah.
[00:10:01] David: So, culture obviously within the Dinka as they’re kind of moving around the world, but also when you start to think about it and there are increasing number of research papers looking at the effective technology on organisational cultures, for example, and therefore, by dint of that, there’s probably, well there will be a quite an impact on coaching culture as well, and relationships between the coach and the coachee, it is a brilliant story, I’ve never heard of it before. Nicely done.
[00:10:29] Sam: Yeah. Thank you.
[00:10:30] David: Just going back to the kind of coaches and technology thing, when many coaches think about coaching and technology, nowadays they tend to think about the use of Zoom or team to run coaching sessions. Largely, pretty much from what I’m gathering, the running the coaching sessions pretty much as they were or are their face to face sessions, now this book goes way beyond that and largely highlights 10 forms of technology that coaches can use in their coaching. Can you kind of give us an overview of [00:11:00] the types of technologies that we’re talking about?
[00:11:02] Sam: So I broadly categorised them into five, I think I call ’em semi categories in the book because they, oh, they looked like pairs in my mind but the categories, they’re not the sort of categories that you’d come up with if you were doing a research paper on this, they’re just little buckets to put things in. So the first of those five is the technologies that are quite popular, and coaches already are aware of them and a lot of them use it, which it feels to me like if you’re a coach who doesn’t use any technology and would like to use it, then you can use one of those, so an example of that is the simplest sharing your screen while using Zoom, where I think most coaches would know that that’s an option, not all coaches actually use it in their. The second category would be, technology for visual stimulation that you can then use visual cues in a coaching session and that I think sits nicely inside a coach’s toolkit where most coaches probably wouldn’t be aware of the way that you can use technology to do that in a very creative way. The third one is to use technology to tap into kind of multisensory [00:12:00] experience, so thinking about creative writing tools and sounds scapes as a way to make a coaching session really unique and different and to tap into a different part of the mind, and that’s something that didn’t really happen when people were coaching only in person and so it’s a way that technology can actually change the way that we’re delivering our coaching in a positive way. The fourth category is the use of computer games engines to create a three dimensional space in which you can explore metaphor storytelling. And then the fifth category is the kind of most cutting edge end of that which is using virtual reality technology, and particularly as metaverse is becoming much more of a conversation nowadays, it felt like it was important to highlight some ways that we can use virtual reality technology today to help us to deliver a coaching that’s really good.
[00:12:45] David: Yeah. Nice. And they’re nice categories actually because they kind of covered a whole series of almost sensory activities that you can do with the main senses. So just going to the front end of all of this, kind of the more, I suppose the simpler end in one [00:13:00] sense, the kinds of technologies that a lot of people are used to, particularly with Zoom and Teams, kind of screen sharing on Zoom. What kinds of things have you found that people are sharing, coaches are sharing, that have been useful use of this technology during coaching session?
[00:13:15] Sam: Mm. I mean, I think there’s a couple of ways that are the most obvious, one of those would be simple sharing of content. So I remember when I was a coachee, actually, one of the first things that I was told to do was go away and listen to this talk that had been recorded somewhere, and so we had this conversation, you know, the coaching conversation and the coach suggested, oh, you never heard this, maybe you’d like listen to this TED Talk or something, I can’t remember exactly what it was, and then what had to happen was I went back to my office and she went back to her office and then when she got to that on her list of things to do, then she emailed me the link and so by the time it was two days later or something that I received this link and I happens to listen to the talk, but I could imagine many coaches being far too busy and this email arrives and I think, oh, I’ll do something [00:14:00] about it. Well, what we can do live in a coaching session is, if we’re connected virtually, then we’re already accessing the internet because we have to in order to speak that way, so actually it’s not that much of a break in the conversation for me to say, do you know what is gonna be really helpful here is if we just watch a two minute video of somebody illustrating this point, clearly go and search it, find it, share my screen, we can watch the video together, and then we can have a reflective conversation about it, that feels a lot more dynamic, it’s in the moment, the coaching conversation’s benefiting, and we don’t feel like we’re kind of dragging out the time in order for the coach to get to that point eventually, so that’s one very simple way. And another way, and probably the most common way is to use some kind of PowerPoint slide that you’ve then populated in advance as the coach, which would have, I dunno, could have a coaching model or some kind of psychometric, you know, the graphic that captures all of the different outputs you can have from it just to aid in reflection, or even some kind of false space, so we’re just gonna create a blank slide, I think the example that I use in there, I [00:15:00] drawn a quick scribble of an island because it becomes what you want it to be, doesn’t it? And just stick a couple of icons on there and say, okay, coachee I’m gonna give you access to edit my screen and you can just move these little icons around on the screen and tell me what you creating while you are doing it, so I’m putting some trees here because that reflects my ancestry or something, it means whatever they want it to mean, doesn’t it? And so it’s so simple and we all have access to it, and suddenly it gives us a huge list of options of new tools that we can draw in a coaching conversation.
[00:15:31] David: Excellent. Well, one of the activities that I’ve used in that kind of vein was a kind of follow on from some research that I did years ago, which was to do rich pictures, which is kind of get them to put themselves, draw an image of themselves in the middle of the whiteboard. Why are they seeing themselves like that? And then draw each of the relationships with the people within the organisation, but in terms of distance, so how far away do they feel from people and where would they put them within 360 and why? And start to explore [00:16:00] those relationships and it becomes quite a graphical thing that they can then take away and think about. So those kinds of activities I find you know, really, really interesting. In the book, there’s a couple of quite a few things that you’ve come up with that I’d never even heard of and never played with, so, I’d like to look a little bit deeper at a couple of those, digital picture cards, what are these and how can a coach use them?
[00:16:21] Sam: Sorry, you broke up for a moment there. The question was digital picture cards..
[00:16:24] David: Yeah. Digital picture cards, what are they and how can people use them?
[00:16:28] Sam: Yeah. So, February, 2020, I went out and bought myself a pack of those postcards that have got images on and little coaching questions on the back, because I really wanted to use it in my coaching and then immediately got told I wasn’t allowed to leave the house, and so this box is still sitting in my drawer and I’ve used it with one coachee since, and so, you know, I quite like that idea of you just spread out a bunch of pictures on the table and say to the coachee, something along the lines of which of the pictures that you can see best represent your current situation, and then they select one and they [00:17:00] say, oh, it’s a picture of, I don’t know, a house in the middle of a field, you know I feel quite isolated, but it’s my comfort, they’ve come up with that meaning themselves and I said okay, and which different picture is where you’d like to go? And then they pick a different picture, and I quite like that experience, I think a lot of coaches use that sort of thing and of course there are different sorts of decks you can get with values printed on them or some kind of priority around task management or something like this, you know, in a deck of cards. Well, there are websites that have done that digitally and so it will create a set of cards that you are then able to, you could share the screen, or quite often you can just click on a link and the coachee can access it from their machine, we’ll select a picture and then that picture comes up digitally in order for you to then have that conversation, and so it’s the same experience that you’re doing it remotely. I was in a training session, this was early 2020, which was happening remotely where coach supervisor was trying to use that in the supervision and did it by tipping her screen down so that the [00:18:00] camera was on the table, and then she placed the cards out and then we were in a group, and so no, we selected which one represented us and that feels like a really clunky way that just reminds you, I prefer being in person, whereas doing it digitally feels like, oh, you know, it’s been designed for us to use this way, it’s very smooth, and it’s a very natural interaction, and yeah, I think that’s really nice and people know already what it means so I always like that kind of..
[00:18:23] David: Brilliant. Like it a lot. And you’ve also, the other one that caught me by surprise and I really wasn’t expecting to see in the book, was AI generated artwork. As I say, I wasn’t expecting to see it in the book using about technology on coaching, I was kind of vaguely aware of AI generated artwork. In fact, I’ve got a friend who actually does it, but, can you just explain what that means and how can you use AI generated artwork in coaching?
[00:18:46] Sam: I love this. So what it’s basically done is, it’s taken an extremely large data set of different sorts of artwork that it has been told this is what good artwork looks like, and the tool is then learning from that. [00:19:00] So, okay, I can use this blend of colors, I can create this kind of shape and so when the name of the piece of artwork has got the word time in it, there tends to be a picture of a clock, it’ll kind of notice that sort of pattern and then it will be able to replicate it so that if you say, draw me a picture that represents time, it will put a clock in there more often than not, sometimes it will try and think creatively and do something different, but you know, most of the time it was quite reliable. And so in a coaching conversation, what you can do is you can use one of these tools where you select an art style, knows kind of what it’s using as its base and it puts in some words, and so what I typically say to a coachee is, what’s the goal that you are working on today? Or how do you describe this situation in, you know, in a few words? And I’ll just put that in the text box and then it will generate live in the coaching conversation, a brand new unique piece of artwork that didn’t exist before, and as soon as you click X in the window, it ceases to exist, as if it never existed in the first place. So in the coaching conversation, we’ve got a unique piece of artwork that nobody else has ever seen, nobody [00:20:00] else will ever see if you don’t want them to, you could copy it if you wanted to download it, but then we can have a conversation about it and there’s something about the digital picture cards where when you see the picture, what you think is, oh, well, this is close to my situation, but it isn’t quite right because this person shouldn’t be there, they should be off on this side or something. With AI generated artwork, you haven’t got that excuse because it only exists for you, it didn’t exist for anybody else, and so it creates something that’s really creative, I mean, some of the stuff that it creates is extremely abstract, you know, it doesn’t actually look like anything really, but because you know that it means I’m struggling with my relationship with my boss, then you somehow create this meaning of, well, well, I actually think that that dark patch there represents a conversation that we had three weeks ago and x, y and z and so it injects some creativity, and I suppose for me, you know, I like just seeing, I get quite excited about just seeing something new and unexpected happening, and so that inner coaching conversation I think is a really [00:21:00] nice edition.
[00:21:00] David: Yeah, I love that. And you’ve got some really nice kind of examples of AI generated artwork in the book. And I kind of take me back, so I teach lecturers to teach at the university and pre covid one of the activities that we used to do on the course is, I used to take them to an art gallery and we’d do some work in very, very similar basis, but this allows you to do it online, and through Zoom, which was becoming a problem. In fact Wednesday I’m lecturing at Cardiff, I’ll be using some of this. Yeah. The other area that I’ve kind of played with over the years and I’ve used, and I kind of still use old kind of virtual reality worlds, we mentioned this on the previous podcast about Second Life, I’ve been using that for years and it must have been around for about 15, 20 years now, Second Life in its various forms and it’s free, and I’ve run training courses and meetings with it and within for quite a long time now, but in the book you mention a service called Virtual Speech, and I hadn’t actually heard of this. Can you explain what it is and how coaches can use it?
[00:21:57] Sam: Yeah, so virtual speech is a [00:22:00] tool where you put on a virtual reality headset, and the way that you would use this as a coach is that you would do it when you were in person with a coachee typically, you wouldn’t have to, but that’s the most likely use case. You’ll bring a virtual reality headset along with you that’s preloaded with virtual speech and if the coachee is wanting to work through their public speaking ability, then you can load a scenario in there that’s gonna be close enough to the situation they’re actually going to experience. So it might be that they’re delivering a presentation in front of the board, and so there’s six around the table, you’re gonna have to present to some slides, and that could be quite goes into the app and then the coachee will put the headset on..
[00:22:38] David: Oh, hold on a second, for some reason it dropped out there. Can you just start at the beginning of that. Sorry about that.
[00:22:44] Sam: No worries.
[00:22:44] David: …going on there?
[00:22:45] Sam: So the most likely use case for this is when a coach and a coachee are meeting in person and the coach will bring along with them a virtual reality headset where they’ve already downloaded the app, virtual speech onto it, and will be working with a coachee about public speaking, and then they will load a [00:23:00] scenario into virtual speech that’s as close as possible to the coachees scenario that they’re wanting to talk through. So it could be presenting some slides to a board meeting, six or so people sitting around a table, could be extremely intimidating for some people, somebody else might be presenting a conference to several thousand people, and it’s the first time they’re stood in a stage that big, and so you can load these scenarios in and then the coachee will put the headsets on and then be fully immersed in that environment, sitting at the board table with people sitting there looking at them or standing on a stage or whatever it happens to be, and then they will present their slides in the way that they intend to present them and virtual speech while you are doing that, not only are you getting the immersive experience, and so it feels very much like you’re standing on a stage and that those people are sitting or standing and looking at you, also, it’s tracking where your eye movement is going, and it’s listening to the words that you are using and then will give you a little report at the end, and the report will say, you know, you looked to the left 85% of the time into the right only 15, and you [00:24:00] used the word 20 times in the course of five minutes, so whatever it happens to be, and the speed at which you were speaking was at this pace and you should speed up or slow down, and so that allows you to then have some kind of real content, true data, you know, nonjudgmental data about what you’ve done, to be able to have a coaching conversation around, so you look more to the left than the right, is that good or bad? You know, they’re set to you to reflect on it, it can feel like if you’re using the app in isolation, it’s presenting you with the answer, it should always be 50%, well, maybe it shouldn’t, maybe you know there’s a particular person there that you’re focusing on, I dunno. So it can be useful in a coaching conversation to generate an experience that’s a lot better than you’re delivering a speech, well, let’s just sit face to face and you read your speech to me, ah, it’s a little bit helpful, but it’s not quite the same as feeling like you are in that space where when you put the headset on, you can’t escape from it.
[00:24:52] David: Yeah. The photograph that you’ve got in the book seem to have, so there’s, you’re in a boardroom by the looks of it, and there are people sat [00:25:00] around with real faces. Are they the faces of the actual people within the organisation? Can you do that as well?
[00:25:05] Sam: No, you can’t do that yet. I mean, these technologies are constantly developing, so, I mean, since the last time I looked at it, maybe it is possible. It’s a series of animations that have been filmed as part of the development of the tool, and so it’s the same people, the truth is as the coachee you maybe are gonna use it once or twice, as a coach you might think like, oh, you know, it’s the same people again and again, but actually when you bring it out for different coachee, it’s gonna be adding a different sort of experience for them, so.
[00:25:30] David: Yeah. Yeah, it would be useful to be able to slot people’s photographs in, cuz especially in those kinds of meetings, it’s usually, you know, the boss’s face is a trigger.
[00:25:38] Sam: Yeah, yeah. You know.
[00:25:39] David: Anyway, I’m really fascinated to know cuz the book’s full of kind of, apps and pieces of technology. There’s some great stuff that I’d, you know, really I’d never heard of, Riter, fantasy name generators, various other bits and pieces as well. Is it Womba? That looked really interesting. What’s your favorite technology for coaching?
[00:25:57] Sam: Yes, it would probably be one of those AI generators [00:26:00] or and one of the particular technologies that I highlight there is called My Noise. And, I really love this website, it’s a collection now, it’s constantly growing, but now it has more than 300 sounds scapes that dynamically generate as you are listening to them and you can edit precisely what you are hearing. So, for example, you could create a soundscape of walking in a forest, and if you want it to feel like you are walking, you can add in your footsteps, or you could just take them out all together, or you can make the birds a bit louder or you can make it feel as if it’s at nighttime and so the crickets gets a bit louder and the birds are quieter and using that in a coaching session. I was talking to somebody about this last week actually, where they were talking with a coachee and they were helping them to visualise where they would be in 10 years time and the coachee was finding it extremely difficult and was saying the sort of thing that coachee say, oh, I’m just not the sort of person that can do this. Well, the truth is actually when you close your eyes and you put yourself in a three-dimensional dynamically generating sounds scape, your brain takes, you know, when you are listening [00:27:00] to the sound of the waves on the beach or the sound or conversation in the background and people typing at computers, you suddenly have been transported into that space, and so I use it personally as a kind of productivity tool, have it playing in the background a lot of the time, I like the sound of bird song, I dunno, anybody who doesn’t, and in coaching conversations it’s great for visualisations, it’s really helpful for mindful moments, it’s even got Binaural beat generators on the website and so you are able to, I’m not sure of all of the science behind it, it seems to be a little bit contradictory at times, but you know, sometimes to be able to tell people this is what’s gonna happen and suddenly they believe they’re gonna relax and they listen to it and then they relax that’s helpful still. So I find that really nice. I like sounds.
[00:27:40] David: Yeah. Lovely. Yeah, I like the way because it really does put you into a situation and a place and you can probably also use it for kind of examining things that were in the past as well to think about them and reflect on them, and really interesting. Yeah, I use music quite a lot, particularly for focusing and when I’m writing and things like that, and I’ve seen two studies actually I’ve [00:28:00] got with the research briefings that’s coming through at the moment about Binaural beats and the impact of them, cognitively. So it just seemed to be having some effect, I haven’t read the full paper yet, but..
[00:28:09] Sam: Oh, I’d love to see that. There’s another one actually, I haven’t mentioned this in the book, so you getting this one as little freebie. I’ve got an app on my phone, it only works on Android, it’s called Mindroid and it will flash the l e d light on your phone to whatever frequency you can set it to, and you can create patterns over time and what you are meant to do and this has gone through, this has had peer reviewed research done in it, that if you close your eyes and then hold the phone in front of your face, it generates those brainwave patterns at the frequency which is flashing, and so I’ve used that in coaching conversations to help with visualisations because as it’s flickering, then your eyes are kind of making shapes out of what’s appearing, you know, on the inside of your eyelids and it’s great. I love that kind of thing.
[00:28:51] David: Interesting, I’ve seen headsets like that. So fellow travelers on planes and things like that, you know, put them on and you can see the flashing and..
[00:28:59] Sam: Yeah
[00:28:59] David: …but I’ve never [00:29:00] tried one, I’d give that a go. Interesting, really interesting. And there’s so much in this book for, you know, any coach wanting to extend their coaching practice particularly evolving technology and I’ve really enjoyed reading it and it’s just about every page is like, oh, I’ve not seen that before.
[00:29:14] Sam: Mm-hmm. Thank you.
[00:29:15] David: And before we go, I’ve got a couple more questions. The first is, you know, if you were to give a coach three pieces of advice about getting started using technology in their coaching, what would they be?
[00:29:26] Sam: Three pieces of advice? Well, the first one I would say is ask yourself why you are wanting to use technology in your coaching because I think this that would do two things. Firstly, it would help you to check your motives for it. So sometimes, you know, you might think, oh, why am I using technology? Oh, it’s because I wanna impress my coachee, well, that’s not a very good reason actually, you know, if that’s the reason why we’re doing something, so it kind of gives us a chance to check our motives, and also it helps us to provide some clarity because when we are looking at technologies, there’s just so much that’s out there it’s very easy to get overwhelmed and it’s very difficult to know where [00:30:00] to look if you don’t know kind of what is it that I’m actually allowed to look for. So just ask yourself kind of why is it that I want to use technology? Maybe the reason is I’m really, I find it really dull to help a coachee set a goal, and so I end up skipping over that part of the conversation quicker than maybe I should, well, you can use a robot to have that bit of the conversation, and research has shown that they’re just as effective as humans, and so you might as well use a robot to do that little bit and then you can get stuck into the more interesting part of the coaching conversation, so, but start off by asking yourself why, and then when you know why, then that provides clarity for, my second, piece of advice would be, buy and read superhuman coaching. . I think.
[00:30:40] David: Of course.
[00:30:40] Sam: … maybe that’s a short answer to, you know, the longer answer would be go out and research which technologies are gonna be most helpful for that particular use case. So, clearly, I mean, in my mind, what I’m thinking about technology most all for in coaching conversations is to inject creativity. I think it’s easy to have a nice, you know, cognitive conversation, and I want something [00:31:00] that’s gonna spark something different and bring a different tangle in, well, that’s my bent and that’s where the technologies that are in the book tend to be towards, it isn’t just that, but you know, there’s clearly a good half of them are doing exactly that, and if your use case is slightly different, then at least when you know that, then you can go and research what kind of technology could be out there that would help with that. And then the third thing would be experiment with it and experiment properly, you know, don’t go on and try it for 30 seconds and feel like, oh, I don’t really like the interface, because the truth is you get used to an interface over time. When you find a technology that you think might be a good fit, then do the free trial or find one that’s just free, anyway, there are plenty out there, and give yourself a solid half day of just sitting and playing with it, of just seeing what does this button do, I’m gonna click it and just see and then you can take all of the risks, make all the mistakes, maybe you could buddy up with another coach who’s also curious about it, and then you can kind of practice using it in coaching on each other and then you’ll be in a much more confident place cuz the problem is when you’re using technology and coaching, you’ve still gotta be a [00:32:00] coach and you’ve gotta be technical support if something goes wrong and so if you’ve used it a lot then you’re able to take on that role particularly if you use, I tend to prefer really simple technologies, and so once you’ve used it a couple of times, then you appear to be an expert, but, there you go. So ask yourself why, do your research and then have a…
[00:32:15] David: I think that last point about, you know how a play is really important because you are right and you start to have realisations whilst you are playing with it about, oh, hang on a minute, we can use it for this even though it wasn’t intended for that, and it’s a bit like the art generators actually weren’t intended specifically for coaching and it’s that kind of process. And we did, just going back to your first point about using robots, about goal setting and things, there was an interesting piece of research, it was either earlier this year or late last year, I’ll send you the research briefing actually, that was showing that AI, robots and chatbots are really good at exactly what you’re saying is, about, kind of goal setting and integrating AI into the coaching rather than kind of being frightened of it, and it was [00:33:00] showing that actually coaches who do tend to have better outcomes with their clients, but I’ll send you the research briefing. We’ve also got, sorry, go on
[00:33:07] Sam: Nicky Terblanche, is that a coach beachy?
[00:33:10] David: I’d have to go and have a look at the briefing. It was just as you were talking, I just kind of went, oh, I remember this briefing. So..
[00:33:15] Sam: Yeah. Well, I mean, I’d love to see it. That’s the only one that I’m aware of. So if there’s others, yeah, I’d love to kind of see what else is going on. Yeah.
[00:33:22] David: Yeah, quite a few of our members, who are coaches use the research briefings in their coaching. So they’ll either send the research briefing to whoever they’re coaching about leadership management and then what they’ll do is they’ll discuss it, which is another use of kind of technology, or they’ll share it on the screen and just talk over a particular finding around some area of research that can help them. Now lastly, you’re now with Coach Hub, I’d never heard of it. So can you just explain a little bit about what Coach Hub is and what it does for coaches?
[00:33:49] Sam: Yeah, so I think we’re probably the biggest coaching provider in the world. So we’ve got a global pool of more than three and a half thousand coaches, and all of those are accredited and you know, they’ve gone through all [00:34:00] the right qualifications, they’re all experienced to a certain high level, and they’ve all got experience in leadership roles in organisations as well. So it’s a really good quality global pool across every time zone, speaking more than 60 languages, I think is the stats. And so what that allows us to do is to deliver coaching at a scale that hasn’t historically, has never really been possible, you know, there hasn’t been a network that big where you can just go to one provider and get coaching that big and with that scale comes the ability for us to offer it at a more efficient price because you’re not having to contract with lots of smaller providers. We do all of that through a technology platform, and that technology platform is then given to each of the coachee, and so when they first log on, they’ll get an email link, when they first log on in creating their account, then they’ll do a little coach matching questionnaire and there’s a very simple piece of machine learning that is saying, oh, you know, this is what you are looking for and this is the coaches that we’ve currently got in your time zone, or, you know, within a couple of hours and with the right availability and skill set, and so it’ll suggest, oh, maybe one of these [00:35:00] three coaches is gonna work it, it can offer you up to a six, most people select just outta the first three, and then they choose a coach, coach to work with, and then that’s their coach and they’re matched in, and then they can have as many coaching sessions as they want over the period of their license. And so from a coach perspective, it kind of guarantees you a level of work, you don’t have to do all the business development because Coach Hub’s got a team of people who are going out and selling the thing, the price per hour is lower than you would get if you were going out yourself, and so you are still allowed to go out yourself as a coach there’s nothing in the contract that stops you doing that, but because you are kind of getting a lot higher volume of work then it tends to balance out as actually as a coach, what we like doing is coaching, and so it’s kind of taking away, the sort of overheads that come with running a coaching business that you’d probably rather were a little bit simpler or kind of taking that away. And then it adds more value back to the organisations as well, because they can get some insights using the data in terms of how much coaching’s actually being used, whereas in most organisations, if you have got an Excel spreadsheet that’s telling you who’s getting [00:36:00] coached by whom, you’re towards the more mature end of the spectrum, it gives you the option to start to think about coaching in a little bit of a more mature way, at a larger scale, particularly across the entire planet. So it’s exciting to be part of the journey.
[00:36:13] David: Interesting. Actually, so that raises two questions for me. One is, so coaches can come to coach to Coach Hub and how does that work?
[00:36:21] Sam: They will apply to become a coach and in certain regions then it may be that we are already at capacity. So it’s not helpful for us to have 10,000 coaches in England all speaking English, because then none of them will get enough work to justify them. So there are some countries at which we just at capacity and so are the regions where we’re still actively hiring, so South America, Asia, we’re still actively hiring coaches in those areas. Once you apply, then you go through kind of criteria check to make sure that you match the quality standards, so you do need to be accredited, it does need to be a PCC or senior practitioner EMCC standards, or whatever equivalents there are across the world because those bodies haven’t got [00:37:00] reach into every country in the way that we might like to, and you need to demonstrate certain level of skill and experience, and then there’s an interview process as well, where you are interviewed and you are observed doing some coaching and then you do the coach hub onboarding training. So actually there’s quite a lot of hoops to kind of jump through but the reward at the end of it is, you know, you get this good certificate to say, I’m a Coach Hub coach and of course it takes out the business development challenge from it. So, hopefully it’s a win win win scenario, you know, Coach Hub wins, coaches win, and the coachees we getting coaching to lots of people that wouldn’t get it otherwise.
[00:37:32] David: Yeah. Interesting, and the other side of that, I’m assuming the clients are both individuals. Do, are organisations buying into Coach Hub?
[00:37:40] Sam: It’s only organisations. As an individual actually, we don’t allow individuals to just sign up and get some coaching, and the reason for that is because each organisation is taken on in a spoke manner. So it might be that you’re getting coaching as an organisation as part of, I dunno, a women in leadership program which is quite typical, you know, I’ll give some [00:38:00] coaching to some people, it makes sense to give it to Coach Hub because you’re doing it across lots of different countries, and so actually to find coaches that you trust in each of those regions that can do it and have got the right capacity is difficult, but what that does mean from our perspective is we need those coaches that are getting matched and we don’t know in advance who they’re going to be, they’re just from the pool, they need to know they’re working for this organisation and it’s for this particular program, and this is a sort of information that you should be aware of, like the organisational values or something like that. So those coaches in advance of a conversation will get the information so that they kind of know, oh, okay, this is the context. So to do that, and that’s done relatively manually because it’s through a conversation.
[00:38:40] David: Yeah.
[00:38:40] Sam: So to do that for lots of individuals is just not scalable in the same way. So maybe in the future, who knows but for now it’s just organisation.
[00:38:47] David: Interesting. Really interesting. And your job at Coach Hub, is what?
[00:38:51] Sam: Yeah, so my job title is Global Director of Consulting, which is one of those messy job titles that means nothing at all that sounds quite exciting, and in [00:39:00] practice I work within what we call the coaching lab, which is led by Professor Jonathan Passmore, who was previously Henley Business School, he’s a great guy, I like him a lot and we’ve got a global team of behavioral scientists and learning experience developers and designers who then work across with our sales teams and with our clients to make sure what we’re providing for them is aligned to the science and is actually good practice coaching and isn’t, you know, filled with misconceptions and preconceptions, and also working internally across the whole organisation to make sure the product is lined up with science, and that the way that we are doing our marketing is truthful, and the way that we are hiring our coaches is launch good practice. So, for example, in South Africa, neither ICF nor EMCC is particularly big and so the professional body that’s most prevalent there is COMENSA, well, it’s nice enough to say, well, the biggest coaching professional body is this one in this country but actually we want to make sure that we are partnering with the right sorts of professional bodies and so for us to be able to say, yeah, we know COMENSA, we’ve [00:40:00] spoken to them, you know, Peter Hawkins has spoken at their conferences, we know what their accreditation criteria are like, and we can sign to, yes, if you employ coaches that have got that accreditation, it’s the equivalent of X, Y, and Z, that’s a really helpful role that we can play.
[00:40:12] David: Brilliant. And how many coaches, sorry, this is interrogation now. I’m fascinated, how many coaches have you got worldwide then?
[00:40:17] Sam: More than three and a half thousand.
[00:40:19] David: Right. Okay. Brilliant.
[00:40:20] Sam: It’s a very big pool. I think it’s the biggest pool of any provider.
[00:40:23] David: Fascinating. Really interesting. Anyway, Sam’s very kindly given me an extra copy of Superhuman Coaching, and if you share this podcast episode on social media by the end of November 2022, as we are now, I’ll pull somebody’s name out of the hat and send you a free copy of the book, there’s share buttons on the podcast note page, otherwise, the book Superhuman Coaching is published by Hanwell and is available now at all good book shops and obviously Amazon, kindle version?
[00:40:51] Sam: Yes, there’s Kindle version as well that’s on Amazon, and if you come to my website, which is there’s a PDF and you can buy the [00:41:00] book there, if you use the discount code Oxford, you’ll get 10% off, so, bear that one in mind, so if you don’t win the book, come and get it for a little bit cheaper. Anyway, the advantage you get in the PDF is that there’s some beautiful illustrations in the book, which have been done by really skilled artists Miranda Reed and so if you’d like to get the pictures, you can’t get those in the Kindle version, and it’s technologically possible, but logistically extremely difficult. And so if you come to get the pdf, then you’ll get the pictures that way, and that’s a bit nicer.
[00:41:28] David: And the discount code is Oxford.
[00:41:30] Sam: Oxford. Yeah. All covered.
[00:41:31] David: Great. I’ll put the link in the show notes. That’s great. And as ever, this has been fabulous, Sam. I really appreciate it, and if people do want to contact you, how should they go about doing?
[00:41:40] Sam: LinkedIn is probably the easiest. Or you can reach me on the website as well, but, LinkedIn is probably most straightforward. Yeah. Great to hear.
[00:41:46] David: Brilliant. And, if people are interested in Coach Hub, either a coach or they’re an organisation, where can they find that?
[00:41:52] Sam: Yeah, coach
[00:41:54] David: Okay.
[00:41:54] Sam: And yes, it all, there’s an easy book and demo here button. So if you an organisation, that’s the way [00:42:00] to do that, and if you’re a coach, then there’s an easy apply to be a coach button as well, so you’ll find your way around.
[00:42:05] David: Fabulous. Thank you so much, Sam. I really appreciate it. I’ve really enjoyed this.
[00:42:09] Sam: Lovely. It’s really great to be back with you. So thank you for having me.
[00:42:12] David: It’s a pleasure.

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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page