Connie Charles remembers leading a team of 40 engineers about five years ago, all of whom were men. And yet, there was a diversity problem.
“They were all different people,” she says.
Charles’ challenge was to help create a culture in which all members could thrive, and to do that, she had figure out how to get a group of disparate personalities to work together productively, even though they all had the same profession and gender. In that setting, she did it in person. These days, the founder of the 12-year-old iMap Strategic Solutions in Wilmington works with clients through a variety of platforms, many of which involve technology designed to produce a greater level of efficiency and effectiveness.
“What’s happened is that what used to take days can be done in minutes,” Charles says. “We used to create a booklet for a company with a diagnostic look at its needs that we would send through snail mail and then have to sit with them for two hours. Now, we can deliver the same value in 30 minutes.”
Charles and iMap are not the only coaches making use of technology to improve their service to clients. Thanks to a variety of avenues, including teleconferencing, smart phone apps, virtual reality and artificial intelligence, coaches and the companies they serve can connect more quickly than ever before.
Charles’ firm has developed a website, iMapMyTeam2.com, that allows clients to develop, track and implement goals. The tool creates profiles of individuals and groups that allow employees to learn about themselves, their co-workers and their supervisors. Managers can learn how to relate to their team members and create cultures that promote success. It allows for continued growth and development after, or in lieu of, face-to-face sessions and lets people within a company grow together and individually.
“The quality of relationships impacts the performance of a team,” Charles says. “We help build quality relationships, so businesses can flourish.”
“One of the biggest roadblocks to the coaching industry is that business owners don’t have enough time,” says Bruce Rushton, a growth coach in northern Delaware. “Any technology we can use to be more efficient with time is beneficial.”
Rushton went into coaching in July 2018 after working in training and development for a division of DuPont and for Mack Tools, a division of Black and Decker. The software he uses for small and mid-sized companies — “Our sweet spot is five-to-10 employees,” he says — is coachaccountable.com, which helps provide direction and ideas between the quarterly sessions he holds with companies.
“Clients can leave our meetings with strategies to help them and use the software to input and track goals,” Rushton says. “I can push things out to them through the website and app. It’s a good use of technology.”
Shelley Hastings, founder and CEO of Synergy Empowerment Coaching LLC in Seaford, works primarily one-on-one with executives, but they rarely meet face-to-face. “I do primarily everything through teleconferencing,” she says. “It’s very convenient.” While clients are often hesitant at first, she reports that they adapt quickly. Even their acceptance of the format is a positive step. “Part of coaching is to help people grow,” she says. “If they are wary of technology, this can help them.”
Technological advances aren’t just the province of coaches. Large employers are able to make use of sophisticated training devices, too. At Christiana Care, health-care professionals are able to learn new techniques in the Virtual Education and Training Simulation Center. There, they are able to run through a variety of procedures to replicate treatment options on just about any medical situation imaginable, using mannequins and a variety of equipment that recreate challenges faced every day. Just as it is for coaches, the goal is a more efficient process that leads to better results. And the tech advances will continue.
“We’re using artificial intelligence to help businesses collect data on future and current employees and then make the best use of it,” Charles says.