The View From The Bridge

An interview with Gerard O’Donovan

Gerard O’Donovan has been one of the driving forces in the Coaching Industry since 1993. He is more than a master Coach and Blogger, Gerard is the founder and CEO of The Noble-Manhattan Group. Europe’s premier and longest established professional coaching and coach training organization; The Founder of The ALPHA Group- the leading Peer to Peer group to help owners of SME’s in 21 countries; The President of the IIC&M (International Institute of Coaching and Mentoring) The World’s leading accreditation body for professional coaches; The Owner and MD of Westminster Indemnity — Insurance provider and Chairman of the ICN — International Coaching News- the World’s largest Coaching Publication.

I caught up with Gerard to talk about his view of Life Coaching in 2017 and looking forward.

Malcolm: Life coaching has seen phenomenal growth in the last few years and you’ve been a driving force in it since 1993. How do you see the life coaching industry today?

Gerard: The term Life Coaching and everything behind that was really created by Thomas Leonard back in the 1970s. About five years later it came over to the UK and swept into Europe and beyond.

And we have seen it go through many, many changes. Today it’s the second fastest growing industry in the world, behind the IT industry. By coaching, I don’t just mean Life Coaching, but the whole coaching piece. It was ridiculed in initially, then went through a funny period about 5–6 years ago where people were embarrassed about calling themselves Life Coaches, so many called themselves a Life Strategist or similar. Which is fine as now we are seeing people standing up and proudly embracing the terms Life, Business and Executive Coach. And then we started to get hard data in the early 2000s, with organisations coming out with measurement tools that actually prove the real benefits of coaching and how you could measure both tangible and intangible benefits.

So, what is Life Coaching? To me, it’s everything to do with your health, wealth, relationship, career, money, peace of mind, spiritual growth, work/life balance, stress. And that’s growing as well. When we launch in a new country, it goes through all the same phases, but in a more condensed way and with an individual twist — and that’s now about 150 countries!

Now it’s often the corporate that drive a lot of the development as they tend to have the budget for coaching. Many companys’ coaching budgets exceed that of training. People like Eric Smith, the head of Google has said that “Every single manager should have a coach!”.

Looking at the big picture, there is a wave of aggression and violence sweeping the world right now, the way we have never seen before, not just physically, but in TV shows and films, the hero’s always aggressive and violent, leading people to choose a path that is not conducive to their health; we are all being conditioned to accept violence, aggression and bad behaviour as being the norm. And so coaching links into two elements in the world: Force versus Power.

Force is acts of aggression, violence and bad behaviour. Coaching is on the side of Power. We are about empowering people in a non violent, gentle and holistic way. And I think when people really understand that, they are drawn to coaching. Often until someone physically experiences working with a really great coach — and the positive impact it has on his or her life — they don’t really understand how powerful it is.

We live in a time where we are more connected to everyone else, than we ever have been. We have got dozens of apps, enabling us to connect with other human beings and yet we see two interesting things. People are feeling lonelier and more disconnected even though we are technologically connected. There’s also a need to impress — to display significance. We have a deep seated need to feel significant and the problem with Facebook, LinkedIn and so on is that everyone is projecting an image that they are leading the most wonderful, perfect lives, with big smiling photographs, talking about their success or what a wonderful home or family or relationship they’re having. And the truth about that — is that it is not true! So it leads many to believe that they themselves are losing out by not having this supposedly perfect life. And people have this huge need for both significance and worthiness and they are feeling a lack of those in their life right now. Even as the population grows, as the world becomes smaller, becomes more connected, people are feeling less significant.

We are seeing a number of trends occurring. We see a huge increase in the number of people wanting to train to be a professional coach — for example in Turkey, which is going through a very challenging time, politically and financially; and yet they are still coming along. It’s wonderful to see.

Then we have a lot of people who have become coaches creating their own coaching models. There are new models and tools available to coaches to help them work with their clients, which is great. It can seem a little bit overwhelming at times. Nevertheless, that’s good. So we are seeing that happen.

And we are seeing coaching being embraced in places that you would not really imagine — hardcore engineering companies, mining organizations and far flung geographical areas.

It’s like a waterfall from business to life coaching. Companies pay for some of their managers to have their own executive coach and all of these executives are ordinary men and women — two arms, two legs, ordinary bits, they are ordinary people, who see the benefits of coaching in their working environment. Now, that then flows down and out from the workplace into the home and communities. And those people then embrace personal coaching.

One of the things that we have touched on is what’s going on in the world and without doubt we’ll look back and see 2016 as a period of major change — there’s a lot of dissatisfaction and anger which is surfacing around the world. And I gave an example of Turkey still embracing coaching despite everything is going on around them. We are not talking trivial issues here. It’s about a new American presidency where the style is autocratic. That’s going to give messages, which will again flow downhill, which will be picked up by some people.

Actually, I have a very good feeling and though I don’t have hard facts and figures I will say that the media love horror stories, bad news and so on and yet there’s so much good news out there that’s just not reported; it’s not exceptional and so on. The only constant in life is change. We are having a huge change within Europe and North America and I think it’s good. It will shake things up. Now I’m not politically aligned to any party — But I have this strong feeling that it will work out, actually very well.

I think it’s the commercial changes that are about to sweep the world in the next 5 to 7 years that will impact every man and woman on the planet and most people don’t realise it’s going to be huge. For example, driverless cars — can you imagine every taxi driver in the world out of a job? Or Artificial Intelligence — the banking and insurance industries will lose 50% of all of its workers within 7 to 8 years There will be new industries soon that don’t even exist now. And there’s a quickening out there. It will have a huge impact on families everywhere and all of these people are our family.

From the coaching perspective, I don’t see any negative impact on what is happening and what is about to happen. This is where coaching can play such a significant role to help people to readjust, refocus, set new goals, get new ideas, new careers, new directions, new paths because on the one hand it is going to be exciting, yet on the one hand negative for people.

Our plans at Noble Manhattan are about bringing our services to the desk and the homes of tens and tens of thousands more people over the next 3 to 5 years. In the last 3 months we have opened new offices in Zurich and in Richmond, Viriginia. And in the next 3 months, we are going to open up in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Johannesburg, a second Office in Singapore, one in Hong Kong, Italy and Australia. And we’re going to accelerate from there on to the end of the year.

The Alpha Group, which is our peer to peer executive board is growing. Our readership of iCN is increasing on a monthly basis worldwide. As long as we can continue to add value and bring interesting and helpful news and information into people’s lives then hopefully we will continue to grow. Coach Radio International is a source in two ways; For new ideas, messages and inspiration and we have some incredible shows which are free to listen to, with top coaches in the world speaking about so many different topics and subjects. We’re connected to ITunes etc, and anyone can login and listen. Or, if you are coach or a student coach, interested in building your brand and presence, you can have your own regular monthly radio show, which we are broadcasting all over the world on our internet platform in eleven languages. So there are opportunities for people to broadcast in their own language. It’s something that’s growing, with more people seeing the value of podcasts to link to websites. And we’ll be starting videos this year as well.

We are doing all these things in our own special way and we’re trying to give value and it’s unique.

We are blessed. We are in an industry that is growing and is filled with really nice people and is a force for good. Coaching is all about empowering people and giving them back their power, their control, helping them to get in touch with their own values. And that’s a pretty wonderful thing.

About Malcolm Nicholson

Malcolm Nicholson is a journalist for iCN and an interviewer with Coach Radio International. He is also an experienced business person, entrepreneur and much in demand executive coach, the Internet of Things Coach and is the owner and Coaching Director for Aspecture. He has worked successfully with a wide range of senior business people for over 17 years, enabling them to improve business results through transformational changes. To find out how he can help your organisation, contact him malcolmnicholson@aspecture.com or on +44 1932 267597

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