The Year of the Coach and Other Professional Development Trends for 2015

Wondering what’s hot in leadership development and talent management for 2015? I attended a webinar hosted by The Marcus Buckingham Company (TMBC), a leader in strengths-based professional development, and I’m excited to report the trends as predicted by TMBC founder Marcus Buckingham and CEO Jason Averbook. As a strengths zealot and longtime follower of Marcus and his work, I wanted to hear what these guys see as relevant for talent management this year. TMBC is calling for a radical shift in the way we manage people (more on The Year of the Coach below), and noted 5 trends for 2015.

1. Personalization – Remember how excited you’d get when you were a kid and found a little license plate or key chain with your name on it? Or how disappointed you'd be when your not so common name was nowhere to be found (i.e., Gloria)? And how super excited you were when you finally found one? Everyone wants a personalized experience, including in the workplace. It captures our attention, like those little license plates.

The personalization trend in talent development can be implemented by providing training and coaching that’s individualized, intimate and focused on the person, not the organization.

Buckingham gave the example of personalization in onboarding, which should be less about why the company is great and more about why the person is a great fit for the organization. We need to focus more on our people's strengths and let them see how they can be an asset to our organization.

Jason Averbook said it well:

Averbrook talent quote

This is the power of a strengths-based approach: it sets the stage for a personalized coaching experience, focused on the unique strengths of each individual on the team.

What’s your vision for increasing employee engagement this year? How can you get the best out of each member of the team with a personalized approach? What do you think would happen if you asked each person what would help them work at their best?

2. Focus on the team leader. You know that the team leader is the one who makes things happen. Without that local oversight and structure, a project can fall apart. The team leader sets the tone, creates structure and motivation and brings together performance and engagement.

TMBC suggests it’s time to go micro. If we’re measuring employee engagement, we need to be asking the right questions of the right people at the right time, related to the projects people are working on, the teams where people are functioning. And the team leader is central to this process of increasing engagement.

buckingham on teamsThe trend is to give team leaders the tools they need to function at their best and to offer personalized advice, coaching and recommendations for action to their teams. That's what will create more effective organizations.

#3. The shift from Big Data to the Right Data. Over the past year, big data has been a big thing, with technology tools enabling us to cull information across millions of data points. But that boils everything down to an average mass of information.

Remember trend #1? Big data is far from personalized.

Another issue with the data we typically collect is the amount of evaluation error in the multi-source performance appraisal (e.g., 360 degree assessment). We keep using these tools, assuming that with enough time and training, we can teach people to reliably rate others on their performance.

However, recent studies reveal that no matter how much time and training, we can never become reliable raters of someone else’s performance. Our ratings are considered to be part of an "idiosyncratic rater effect" which is more about us than the people we're rating. About 61% of a rating can be attributed to this type of bias (if you're interested in the research, you can access it here).

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 8 28 07 AM

That’s a lot. And makes you realize we need to rethink the tools we’re using. Again, a strengths-based, personalized approach can help us collect and apply the right data to help people work at their best.

#4. Feedback is not coaching. Thank you, Marcus! This is an important distinction to make. Feedback is typically focused on the details of what’s not succeeding in what you're doing now. It's threatening, typically unwelcome and evokes defensiveness. Not good!

Coaching is typically focused on the future, a productive process that looks at strengths, successes and solutions. It's the type of positive attention we all seek. Attention that makes us better.

In fact, Marcus proclaimed 2015 The Year of the Coach.

He said, "We'll see companies more and more realizing that coaching is the fastest way to excellent performance." Can you imagine a sports team without a coach? A musician without a teacher or conductor? We don't question that coaching helps elicit and amplify a person's talents. People flourish into excellent performance with an excellent teacher or coach.

So this year, TMBC sees the trend of providing coach training for team leaders (see #2). According to a live poll of the webinar viewers, about 85% of managers spend less than 25% of their time coaching. How can we improve those numbers to help each member of the team be more effective and get the personalized coaching he or she needs?

The Year of the Coach!

I liked Buckingham’s suggestion to establish a coaching ritual to get team leaders and members in the habit of regular and ongoing coaching. It can be as little as 10 minutes a week, as long as it’s focused on strengths and helping people reach their project goals.

How can you practically implement coaching at a scale that’s needed in your organization? TMBC forecasts training that consists of simple, quick and usable learning modules that teach coaching skills. I like it!

#5 – Technology. The final trend is technology, which is an integral part of our lives.  This is how we work now, so this is how we should be helping people be at their best.

Expect mobile technology that will provide relevant information personalized (there's that word again) based on a set of assessment results. Think of an autoresponder, where you can schedule and drip personalized content to people based on their interests. This is becoming widely used in changing behavior in many realms, including healthcare, with programs that push health information based on your specific medical concern, whether diabetes, obesity or heart disease. An app can send a pushed message about  making healthy food choices in the late afternoon, when someone is considering what to have for dinner.

For professional development, TMBC is already doing this with the StandOut assessment and program. And they recently partnered with SurveyMonkey, so no doubt more cool stuff is on the horizon.

I think these trends are exciting and spot on. The discussion was rich and full of examples, too many to mention here.

If you'd like to view the entire webinar, check out the recording on YouTube: http://youtu.be/QCcRfHkJE_g

And come back for Part 2 of this post, “Putting Trends into Action."

Wondering how to implement these trends in your own organization? Give me a call at 805-482-1625 or send me an email at gmiele@optimaldevelopmentcoaching.com and I’d be happy to help you find the right solutions to be on trend in talent management in 2015.

Can $50 Worth of Stickers and a Mason Jar Make Your Goals a Reality?

Did you do any New Year’s rituals or activities to get prepared for 2015? The case on resolutions is mixed, with some statistics showing that 92% of people do not keep them, though other studies have shown over 40% success after 6 months. Some may feel more comfortable setting intentions or goals for the year ahead, which are well-articulated and focused on process and small steps. Look back and reflect on your accomplishments in 2014. Celebrate your successes and decide what you want more of in your life. You can pick a word or a quote for the year. You can also do a vision board or create a container for notes about gratitude or happiness.

I must admit, this year I’ve done a bunch of these. I’ve been revising my business plan in a marketing program and working on my goals for the coming year.

I’m attending a vision board workshop, where we'll create collages with words and images that reflect what we want in the year ahead. I bought a bunch of fun stickers for that and a New Year's craft project with my family.

Yeah, I’m serious about laying things out and creating a solid plan for 2015.

Another thing that caught my eye on New Year's Day was a hashtag on Twitter: #3words.  Basically a challenge to come up with 3 words that you want to define your year.

After some deliberation, I decided on Focus, Enrichment and Gratitude (Persistence and Compassion are runners up). And here’s why:

Focus: Candidly, this is one of my big challenges. While I like to “focus” on my strengths, I don’t always focus on the tasks I need to complete. I am a notorious multi-tasker, even though I know I do better work when I’m doing one thing at a time. I’m also easily distracted by social media (I’m a fun-loving, relationship-oriented extrovert, after all), which can really wreck my – ahem – focus.

One thing that worked for me last year was using a version of the Pomodoro Technique –  choosing a simple task to accomplish and working on it for 25 minutes before taking a 5 minute break; then coming back for another 25. The trick is to do this with minimal distractions and work only on that one task. It’s amazing how much more I can accomplish when I close my browser and email program and put my phone on airplane mode. I may need to get a picture of a tomato for my vision board….

Enrichment: Are you a lifelong learner? If you're reading this, chances are yes!  I’m always taking a class or reading an article or going to a show or something that enriches me. I’m also keen to enrich others, which is why I love being a trainer and coach. As a result, enrichment seemed like a good word for the year.

After last year’s enriching experience of taking a writing and acting01afc5939363da54c87fddf76a66872112c7784e9d class, one way I've decided to flex my creative muscles this year is by taking a watercolor painting class. I’m really excited to see what I can create under the expert direction of a local artist. Here’s what I came up with just playing around in her studio over the weekend.

Gratitude: As a student of positive psychology, I’ve been delighted to see the explosion of research over the past few years around gratitude and other positive emotions. There’s an entire research institute at UC Berkeley devoted to understanding how experiences like gratitude, compassion, altruism and happiness are related to education, relationships, career and health. It's so simple yet so powerful.

Even though it seems simple, we are so focused on fixing problems that we're not always grateful for our accomplishments or even the little things that lift us up. This year, I'm working to keep gratitude front and center for myself, my family, my colleagues and clients. I like the following quote too.

"Everyone wants to be appreciated. So if you appreciate someone, don't keep it a secret." -- Mary Kay Ash, Entrepreneur

Last week I went to a local craft store and spent some time in the scrapbook supply aisle with all the stickers (holy cow!!). About $50 later, I was out of the store with sticker sheets in themes I knew would appeal to my family: musical notes, guitars, graduation symbols, inspiring quotes, and more. We sat down and decorated our jars and have been doing a pretty good job reminding each other to add a note every day. As a new habit, it might take some time for us to keep up, but we're working on it!


If you're feeling you'd like a little extra help working on your goals, visit my website to download your free workbook, “Strengths-Based Goal Setting.” This series of questions and activities will get you thinking about your goals through the lens of your past successes, strengths and achievements. Check it out!

What are the #3words you'd choose to define 2015? What other steps have you taken to prepare for the New Year? Comment below!