Executive Coaching in the Digital Era: Helping Clients Adapt

 Executive Coaching in the Digital Era: Helping Clients Adapt

Executive coaching can help leaders be more successful in the Digital Era by increasing their resiliency and adaptability to changing technologies. In particular, leaders must recognize that their behaviour and interpersonal skills are increasingly public and open to opinions or reactions from a broader range of humans than in the past. They must be aware that simply not participating in online activities does not inoculate them from the effect digital technologies have on them and their organizations. (December 3, 2013)

Author: Karin Wills


This is Part Two of a three-part series on Executive Coaching in the Digital Era that Karin posted on her own blog. You can view the original post here.


Part One of this series, “Coaching and The Digital Era”, began exploring why executive coaches need to be aware of how to connect the dots that are often not obvious to others. Often, when a client signs on with an executive coach they are asking for help to resolve a specific challenge. During the coaching contract it is possible to simply focus on that specific challenge and your client will be satisfied. In business coaching this may be a good outcome for a client. In executive coaching it may be the least effective outcome for a client. Executive coaching primarily focuses on behavioural and interpersonal skills that clients need to be effective today, and must also serve them well in the future. This is part of creating resiliency, which is a non-negotiable requirement for individuals and organizations.

Eileen McDargh offers a positive definition of resiliency:

  • It is about growing through
  • It is about possibility
  • It is about advantage

Resilience is More Important

The Digital Era makes this even more compelling because our behaviour and interpersonal skills become increasingly public and are open to opinions or reactions from a broader range of humans than in the past. I hope that by now more people are aware that simply not participating in online activities does not inoculate us from the effect that digital technologies have on us.

The Order of Things

A comment often heard is that business leaders try to solve problems by buying technology without appearing to be aware of the effect that the technology will have on the people in the organization. Simply bringing in new tools will create a ripple effect in the organization – although whether it turns out to be positive may be left to chance. The skills required for success in the Digital Era are the same skills that business leaders must use when making technology decisions.

Technology and Behaviour

As a coach who focuses on behavioural and interpersonal skills, I see the need to understand the variety of ways that people react or respond to technology before, during and after introduction. It is pretty much the same kind of reaction and responses that we have seen in other types of change projects over the past twenty years. We humans are wired to sort, label, and box our solutions when we are confronted by change we don’t initiate. We seek to control, to the extent possible, how the change will affect us. And even in this reaction to control we affect those around us. We also can miss connecting the dots and therefore lose the best possible outcomes.

Different Thinking Patterns

Some of us are hardwired to be more comfortable with change [indeed even deliberately create change] than others. It is in open dialogue that we can find the best possible solution. I sometimes encounter people in management positions who declare that they can’t please everyone and that for multiple reasons must make all decisions unilaterally. I also encounter managers that seem to hover in the realm of ambiguity.

In organizations the ability of the leader to bring both the unilateral and ambiguous thinkers together to arrive at the best outcome is an ongoing challenge. In the Digital Era being able to work collaboratively, spark creativity and innovation are necessary to the sustainability of an organization. Outdated management practices reflect a failure to connect the dots.

Putting It Together

How does this connect to the Digital Era? Digital technology offers us the ability to bring more ideas and solutions forward than ever before.

In the past access to this level of information and collaboration through digital technology was either not available or very expensive and time consuming to get. In the Digital Era, we need to adapt to use it effectively and this requires understanding how individuals will interact and react differently with technology. Coaches that understand the importance of this can offer their clients a level of awareness that will place them ahead of the curve.

What initiatives have you tried or experienced that helped going ‘digital’ easier for leaders and their organizations? What else do you think executive coaches can and should be doing to help their clients be successful in the Digital Era?


Karin WillsKarin Wills is a certified executive coach and owner of Evolve Executive Coaching, with 20+ years experience supporting the development of executives and emerging leaders. She provides one-to-one and small group coaching sessions, behavioural assessments, and training to executives and emerging leaders who are committed to developing their leadership skills.

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