Joel DiGirolamo: The future of coaching, AI coaching, and overcoming the human biology.

Joel DiGirolamo is the Vice President of

Research and Data Science for the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a

professional organization of over 50,000 coaches in 156 countries. Joel leads a

research team whose goals are to advance the understanding of how coaching

works and to understand how coaching is evolving and enhancing society. Robust

research is the foundation of tools that can be used to build high performing

organizations. Joel is passionate about developing innovative and robust

research that will provide this foundation for continued exploration.

He has more than 30 years of staff and

management experience in Fortune 500 companies and is the author of two books, Leading Team Alpha and Yoga in No Time at All. Joel holds a

master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology from Kansas State

University, an MBA from Xavier University, and a bachelor’s degree in

electrical engineering from Purdue University. He is a member of the Society

for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), the Society of Consulting

Psychology (SCP), the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Society

for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Joel is an Associate Editor for

Consulting Psychology Journal and the author of numerous academic papers and

book chapters.

In this session we cover a number of topics in

a free flowing conversation. We talk about the differences and similarities of

therapy and coaching, coaching skills and their effects of their use,

measurement methods and unexpected results in the research work and AI in

coaching as well.

Transcript
Zoltán Csigás:

Hello, my name is Zoltan Csigás, and this is Zoltan Podcast ON COACHING. In this series, I'm talking with internationally renowned coaching scientists and coaches. We explore their personal and professional insights on the science of coaching and the helping professions. Are you interested in how they got close to this profession? Are you curious about the new frontiers they are exploring right now? Join me and listen to the conversation, inspiration, and some fun is ahead. My guest today is Joanna DiGirolamo, vice president of research and data science at the International Coach Federation, and the associate editor of counseling psychology journal. Welcome, Joe, I'm honored to have you, thank you, it's always great to be here with you, I was really thrilled to have someone from the ICF, who head of research. Because we've my background as em past Vice President of Research at EMC, CA, I always had a professional curiosity on what might be going on at the big rival. And they knew that we are not rivals. And we are all working on the professionalization of coaching and on bringing coaching to all who needs it. And I still had an curiosity on what may be going on behind your seats. So that's why I'm really thrilled to have you here. But I wouldn't like to focus on on your ICF role. I'm more interested in in you as a person and you as a researcher. If you allow me then my first question would be What brought you to coaching and coaching research?

Joel Di Girolamo:

Wow, that's a that's a lengthy, it would be a lengthy answer to that question solely. Because my background goes back to well, inherently, you know, from a trait characteristic, if we think of psychology, I'm a very curious person. And so I've always wondered how things worked. And, and I was, if you could ask my mother today, she would talk about me taking things apart. But now he's getting them back together.

Zoltán Csigás:

I wanted to see how they work. But again, couldn't, couldn't always get them back together. And so I went into engineering into the field of engineering. And that's my first degree. And I had this curiosity of how things work. It's really fascinating, because my father, he was manager of a manufacturing plant when I was young. And I would occasionally go into the plant and, and watch him interact with people. And it was fascinating because I learned what charismatic leadership was from him. And I learned about motivating people and connecting with people. But yet, what I also saw was, was really fascinating, too, because here's these people were working on assembly lines, and, and they were trying to be as efficient as possible. And I'd asked my dad about that I'm like, who figures out how to put the assembly line together and how the people work and what, what operation one person does, and then sends it to the next person. And he said, well, there are these people, efficiency experts. And you know, I've learned later through IO psychology that there, you know, those kinds of Taylorism Frederick Taylor, I was like, wow, I want to be one of those people. I want to learn how to do that. Right? And because that was the engineering part of me, as well as the people, part of me that it's like, okay, how can people work more effectively? How can we be more efficient. And when I think about, you know, now for the last 30 years, how we can be really more mindful and better about taking care of the people, and so they don't get repetitive stress injuries, and things like that. But part of me says, sadly, my father didn't know if he had known about IO, psychology, industrial and organizational psychology. I would have gone after that first, but he didn't know my high school counselors didn't know. So I said, Okay, fine. I'll just go and be an engineer like my father.

Joel Di Girolamo:

And so I went to the same school as he did, and pursued that path for quite a while. And then I got an MBA, a master's in business administration. And then that helped me to understand how businesses work, learn a little bit more about management and leadership. And it was interesting, too, because again, this curiosity thing that I would read about management agreed Peter Drucker and some of these other guys and but I always felt that there was something deeper. How do we understand you know, what's under under the hood, there was a guy that we had in the States, a business person named Ross Perot, and he was from Texas, and he had this kind of nasal sounding and like, that kind of look under the hood. So if we think of a car looking under the hood, you know, he's right. You gotta you gotta look underneath and see what's in there. I probably would have studied industry Organizational Psychology right out of the gate at university. But the engineering background, the business background, have been incredibly helpful to me. So when I do a research study in psychology, and I need to delve into the statistics, numbers are my friends. I'm familiar with numbers. And it's really interesting because I worked at IBM, straight out of university. And we had some courses called Design of Experiments. And there's a guy, Marv smoke was his name, I can still hear His voice. And he would say, look at your data. Look at your data. Look at your data. And I tell people that today, look at your data because your data has a story. It has a story to tell. So it's our job as researchers to gather our data, no matter what we're studying, look at that data and see what is the story here? What's it trying to tell me? And so I think that's absolutely fascinating. So I got the industrial organizational psychology degree, and went on to study human behavior. And so industrial organizational psychology is human behavior in the workplace. It's about people and how they behave. And then coaching. I just happen to see this job come up. And I'm like, Ah, that's pretty cool. Well, I saw the list of what they were looking for. I could do that. I could do that. I can do that. Wow, I see if there was supposed to be pretty good. So I looked them up. Wow, they're in the town where I live. I had no idea. And so I thought, Okay, well, I guess maybe I should apply for this job. So I did. I was working on my own at the time, and it was new position. I went in interview, got the job offer and, and arrived and asked him, What do you want me to do? I said, I don't know. You tell us. Yeah, so it was great. You know, I've gotten to shape the job of there's now a department, six of us full time. And then some part time people, we use a lot of contractors as well for our projects. And so it's grown dramatically. Since I think there were really two of us doing research, myself doing academic research, and another person to remember industry research. So we've grown quite a bit. And I'm very, very proud of the research that we've all done.

Zoltán Csigás:

I like the whole story, the transition from the engineered so the guy who creates the lines. So the guy who, sorry for calling you, the guy, the guy who looks under the hood. So to get into the human details, they will see the journey. In the background, you be focusing more and more on faithful on things beneath the hood. And what is the story of your data? That's really a compelling picture for me. I have small kids, so I'm reading a lot of stories for them. And I just simply like it, the story that your data is telling, it does a more soft picture of research for me? Because usually we have these okay, what are the statistical probes? Or what are the methodologies you are using around your data? How did you collect it? How are you analyzing it? And just asking about the story of the data? Sounds kind. But I know that doesn't mean that you are not rigorous in using metal, I just laid the picture. And what is your favorite story? Or what is your recent favorite that you are engaging with these days?

Joel Di Girolamo:

One of the studies that we're doing right now, that is, I think, really compelling, is a study on coaching culture. People have talked about coaching culture in organizations, and they've talked about everybody having access to a coach, coaching have a line item in the budget. But the approach that I'm looking at it from is the behavioral standpoint, and I was having a conversation with Jonathan Pasmore A while back, and we were talking about this and he's like, Well, what do you what do you mean, he used the expression of looking at it from the other side of the spoon. You know, people have looked at it from this corporate view, to me sort of sterile view of what's what's in the, what does HR say, and, and that sort of thing, that human resource department. But we're creating an assessment and one of the people in our research department actually, she got her PhD on part of this study. And that is what are the importance in an organization, what's the importance of certain characteristics and certain values of a coaching culture. So she did a very good literature review. We did. We did I created a hierarchy structure for all that material and you know, there's different material there's Dan Dennison and his work on coaching culture, in course, Edgar Schein his work, we looked at, you know what goes on in people's heads, we looked at the behaviors that people exhibit or the organization exhibits. And then we look at as Edgar Schein talks about the artifacts, what are the artifacts, and these are the things that we see in the organization. So, our approach, in the study, this assessment that we're developing, is to have mirrored items or questions in the culture assessment. And so coaches could use this to help assess what the coaching culture really is inside an organization. So the two sides that this will look at are what is the organization promoting or encouraging? And then what are the behaviors that the co workers are exhibiting. And so the beauty of this is the way this is going to be organized, and who knows it could totally flop because I've never seen an assessment like this before. But you know, we're trying it. And so what the organization can assess how well their message is getting out and what the message is, as to what they're promoting or encouraging. And then then can also get an assessment of the worker behavior and what people inside the organization are perceiving. And these are around again, the values and characteristics and the coaching skills. Right. So when we did a study on managers and leaders many years ago, and we asked about manager behavior, in terms of coaching skills, we didn't ask, Does this manager or leader use coaching skills? No, we asked Did they? Do they ask questions that create powerful insights or awareness? So we don't use the word coaching? If we can, I feel that this could be a really dramatic instrument for coaches to use inside organizations to help promote coaching skills use more broadly. And eventually I'd like to talk about that a little bit more in our conversation. I'm happy

Zoltán Csigás:

to hear even more right now. And what really catches my attention is that you are experimenting with the methodology. That research or your your approach is not just about taking a new question with something you'll find value of well used or Well, evidence method, but you are using a different method, you're experimenting with the way how you are going to assess the way how you are going to, to address the question itself. So it's not just the content that is changing, or is interesting, but the method you are using is is an experiential thing. And what is interesting for me, well, I, I really interested in research, no question, but what I'm really interested in these days is the innovation in the methodologies. What What can we use? How can we address the complex and complicated questions of coaching, and the things under the hood as well as people are? We are not simple things. And I think that's a really very kind way of saying that humans are complicated. Here we go boats, measurement innovations,

Joel Di Girolamo:

we are so complicated. I remember going from engineering to psychology. In engineering, you're looking for correlations of point nine. So in correlation, a one is perfect. So if I would always move this left hand, and then the right hand moves at the same time, or move the right hand. So my hands are moving together. That's a correlation of one that's perfect, right? If it happened some of the time, but sometimes it doesn't. That's a lower level of correlation. And so in engineering, you're looking for very, very high levels of correlation. Right? And, you know, remember, numbers of point nine five being not that good. In psychology, a point three is considered good.

Zoltán Csigás:

We have found something.

Joel Di Girolamo:

Yeah, exactly. I'm like, what, you know, when I first was reading the psychology, research papers, I was astounded. It took me about a year to get used to that.

Zoltán Csigás:

When I was teaching at a university, and when I was discussing research very early in my conversations, I think that's the first step is to give proper context to the numbers that when a study says that well, we have found we have found evidence that these things are correlating at significance or considerable level and we are happy, then it's always important to add that Well, in this study, the level of correlation was 0.3 which means this that in every third occasion, around that we have seen To better on emerging, and there are all the other occasions when we are not. And it's important to ask the questions from this point of view, what else is happening there? Or what could be facilitating this relationship? Or what could be going against it? That's why I have in my mind when I was laughing with you,

Joel Di Girolamo:

yeah. And you bring up a good point. So in research, you know, we have qualitative methods. So those are interviews and focus groups and hearing the words that people use. And then we have quantitative methods, which we've just been talking about where there are numbers. And some people view these as sterile objects that you do a T test and a confirmatory factor analysis and it met the level clip level of yes, this is good. And this is not is it statistically significant in everything. There's, you know, as well as I do mixed methods, where you combine qualitative work with quantitative work. And so maybe you do some qualitative work, you talk to some people, and you find out some interesting things. And you're thinking, wow, I want to, I want to dig into that. And so then you learn, you know, what, what you want to dig into, or how big the problem is, and, and I, I often use the analogy, do we have a bread box, you know, a small box of bread would fit into? Or do we have a refrigerator? You know, a big, large thing, you know, what, what are we dealing with there, and qualitative work will tell you that, and then you can move to quantitative, you can develop a survey, you can do your statistics, and all that fun stuff. And then you could say, wow, there's something really interesting here, I wonder what that's about. And then you can dive into the qualitative again, and do some interviews, and dig in and find what's in there, sort of the stream is endless to be, you know, people talk about a body of knowledge, I don't believe in a body of knowledge, I believe in a stream of knowledge, because it's always flowing, it's always moving.

Zoltán Csigás:

So for me, that's an important thing about research that, that we are not just a static thing, which is being done, but it is something very iterative, dynamic, and it's all evolving.

Joel Di Girolamo:

And that's, frankly, why I bristle a little bit at this term body of knowledge, because it's not a body. It's a stream, and it is always dynamic, it is always moving. You can think of a of a river with a bunch of little creeks, we would say, flowing into the creek. And so if you follow back, when I'm doing a literature review, I follow back and I'll start to collect things my wife kind of laughs at me, she when she started seeing me work at home, she saw Oh, now I see how you work, you kind of I call it hunting and gathering. And I'm hunting and gathering the basic pieces of literature back in time. And then I'll start with the back in time pieces. And then I'll move forward in time. And see what followed that kind of research. And, you know, there's a lot of incredible researchers out there. So over in Europe, think of the Bern School of of researchers Closs Garowe, Daniel Gassman, Leslie Greenberg was involved in that. You look at the people like Bruce sampled, very Duncan, who've done a lot of this seminal research, and it's in therapy. But it's about what causes change. It's interesting, Zoltan, because maybe I'm going off on another tangent.

Zoltán Csigás:

I'm just sensing that we are getting to another topic. And I'm, I'm just curious. So please go on.

Joel Di Girolamo:

You know, it's absolutely fascinating to me, because I remember when I actually before I even started the job, and it was, like pretty sure I was going to take the job and I was sign up to their conference, the Society of industrial organizational psychology. And it got me to thinking all Well, here's all the research about how we as humans change, why do we change? And fundamentally, if you look at the NLP, folks, they talk about, we're moving away from something or we're moving toward something. And so we generally move away from pain or we move toward something and you hear the term seekers, people are seeking something higher. So I think, fundamentally, it's about one of those one of those two things. And so I asked myself, okay, so what causes change? What causes what triggers people to change? And I thought, you know, there's got to be really good research out there, right.

Zoltán Csigás:

It's such a fundamental question.

Joel Di Girolamo:

Yeah. And you go out there and there's, frankly, there's, it's just, it's scarce. There's hardly anything around that. And there are a couple of things I mentioned here. And that is some of the work by the late costs Grawe and And Daniel gastrin in Bern, and that is about what they call a resource activation. They found that they did a study and broke the therapy sessions into into three groups. One was successful one was so so and one word when set were unsuccessful, and they used a one minute increment of analysis in the sessions, and they analyze them. And they two of the facets that they looked at, were problem activation, and then resource activation. And what they found was that for the successful sessions, that there was a lot of the resource activation, how were the therapists, activating resources in the clients. And as coaches, coaches do the exact same thing, right, there is no different. So this has been a revelation to me in the past couple of months, this whole time. And that is we talk about coaching versus therapy, right? coaches do and what in terms of what therapists do. And I have long look, therapeutic literature, as well as the coaching literature, and the coaching folks we borrowed from the therapeutic literature, sometimes appropriately and sometimes inappropriately, but fundamentally where I come out, I believe to this to this day, and I may be wrong. And I may change my mind in the future. So I hold that option open. But fundamentally, coaches are doing the same things as therapist activating these resources in the client. And if you read or listen to this guy named Jeff side, and Milton Erickson, I'm sure you've heard of Milton, if I think of him as father of hypnosis, excuse me, he he is not the father of hypnosis, but he really popularized it, right? I watched some of the sessions I read about him, I listen, if you try to decipher what he did, it's really, really hard to say, this was Milton Erickson's process, because he didn't have a process. But one thing, Jeff Zeig, who was one of his students, Jeff side, came out with his he said, You have to be like a heat seeking missile to find what is going to motivate the client. And that's that, that's really Yeah. And if you're coaching, it's the same thing. Right? Yes.

Zoltán Csigás:

But I just want you to see that that's in your definition, that we are helping the clients move towards their goals, Soldier own tools and resources. But I'm quite sure that we don't have that exact definition in any of the textbooks. But this what you're saying really resonates my understanding of coaching.

Joel Di Girolamo:

Yeah, absolutely. And if you think of the work on motivation, you know, DC and Ryan's work, you know, they're the motivated, internally motivated people, the extrinsically motivated people, you have to give them a reward, if some sort of a motivated people are probably not going to get off the couch, right? Yes, we know is that those intrinsically motivated people are inherently easier to work with. Right. Exactly. And that's what Jeff cycle is talking about finding that hook, right? How are you going to hook the client into being motivated to want to go work on their issue or their work on their goal? And then you know, as a coach, you're just a facilitator. Right? You're just helping them find the hook? And then maybe, you know, helping them sort out? Do I do A, B, or C? And that's the idea about asking the powerful questions, right? Or is like, Well, okay, hey, okay, well, let's go down that path. What does that look like? Now, we're back to Carl Rogers. And then I think 50s, where the client has all the resources they need to heal themselves or to meet their goals. So I think kind of come full circle

Zoltán Csigás:

is so wonderful. Historically, we are back at the foundation. And what is doing what is inspiring in this whole line of thought is that things to be self justifying, perhaps I'm using the wrong words here that, you know, by getting the circle, it gives me the impression that well, we are right in saying this, that this is some kind of fundamental truth that we are finding here. And there was so many interesting things that I could pick up. And let me circle back a few a few moments ago. But and this will be a sideline, but I really got this when you said that there were instances when we coaching folks inappropriately borrowed from therapy. And I will be very curious, do you have an example? Do you have something in your mind but what you would say that well, that was that was naturally a good bye It's nice that we have done that.

Joel Di Girolamo:

Fundamentally, I don't believe for the most part, what coaches do is different fundamentally, from what therapists do. What is fundamentally different are the clients. So if we go to core keys work, what he did was he kind of sorted people into three groups, the flourishing group who are very, very mentally healthy, the moderately mentally healthy group that he that he talked about, and then the languishing group, so people who might be depressed, they may have some some true mental illness, schizophrenia, paranoia, you know, the whole DSM, five stuff, what I have always maintained is the distinction should be the client, that coaches should not be working with clients who are languishing. And then the coach should be referring them to a therapist. So so once once a client says, Well, you know, I'm really feeling sad, most of the time, I wake up some mornings, I don't want to get out of bed. And then that's, you know, when a coach still keeps working with a person like that, then I think that's inappropriate. So I think does that answer your question? Yes,

Zoltán Csigás:

yes. And I like this, this approach of differentiating your long slides, that tells a story for me. Definitely. And when when you mentioned this, versus the inappropriate borrowing, it was more in the context of methods and tools. But as you were answering me, you will just put it into into a different context. So it yes, it doesn't seem a question and a true statement that you believe that there is a there is no fundamental difference between what coaches and and therapists are doing. These were not your exact words. Because I tend to agree with that. And I think it would be an interesting COVID interesting discussion. Okay, what are the important differentiator points? And what's your ID on that? So what is the thing that's very, very coaches, and therapists, we are doing something very different, we'll make sure that we can draw some boundaries between the professions,

Joel Di Girolamo:

we have some tools on our website to go to the ICF website. On the research tab, there's a set of tools on we call it referring a client to therapist, one of the kind of mean indicators that we use are what are called ADLs activities of daily living. And that if the client talks about, as I mentioned, having difficulty getting out of bed or feeling sad, a lot of the times are they have difficulty, you know, I'm hungry, but I'm having trouble getting myself motivated to go make some food to go eat. I'm having difficulty, you know, going out and meeting friends, you know, I realized I shouldn't should meet with my friends, but I just can't be motivated to do that. So when these activities of daily living start being becoming difficult for the client, then that's a that's a big sign. That's a, that's a key indicator. And when we did that work, so Alicia Hollinger, at ICF, she did the vast majority of that work, what we did was we interviewed coaches, who were also therapists. And I talked about them about the differentiation between the two. And then we wrote a lot of stuff up, went back to them and said, Here's what we've come up with. Do you agree with this or not, and then adjusted accordingly. And so that was our methodology. And,

Zoltán Csigás:

and I think it's still important to detach the the boundaries between professional like coaching, mentoring, therapy counseling. And then I mean, when I use the word boundaries, for me, boundaries are not just things that separate certain areas, but with a link those areas that act as points of connection between them. And I like this phrasing of boundaries. And I think it's an important thing to to keep an eye on what are the developments in these adjacent areas? Or in these neighboring areas? Or how and what can we learn from each other? What are the things that we should avoid, to not get to areas of professional activities that we shouldn't be doing from ethical reasons? So whatever, I think this is a very important discussion points on how we are doing what what are we borrowing from the other sides? What are the circumstances under which we can do this? I'm just thankful for you for bringing in this, the client approaching that.

Joel Di Girolamo:

Sure. So if I could take a few moments to talk about a commonality, please. Okay, so I've mentioned some of these researchers, Leslie Greenberg, class gras, Berry Duncan, Bruce sampled like Michael Lambert. So back in the 1990s, there was this idea that I've talked about what causes As change and so when I delved into the literature asking that question, I came across some of this literature, and in the stream and in a lot of the work I say was in the 1990s, about the active ingredients of coaching or therapy and, and I think it's actually kind of sad because it's been overused. And Michael Lambert had a paper where he kind of guessed at some numbers, and people took these as gospel. And so now you have people quoting these numbers for decades at literally. But if you really dig into the literature, what you'll see is there was a project called the heart and soul of change. And it was around therapy. And this goes into this idea about the stream of research. That's, that's absolutely fascinating. They came out with a book in 1999, on the heart and soul of change. And Michael Lambert's chart was in there with active ingredients of therapy, then, and then they worked for another 10 years. And they came out with another edition of the book. And they basically said in the second edition of the book, they said, We're sorry, we left out the client, in our research. And they said, we really think the client has a lot more input into this than what we gave credit for in the 1999 version. And when I was coaching, I would ask two questions. In this moment, how much do you feel you need to change? And I would ask on a scale of one to 10. And then secondly, the second question would be, in this moment, how committed are you to change what I believe and I don't have data on this? Yep. And I'm hoping someday we can do the research on this. But I believe that a lot of the change that happens within clients is because of what we call likelihood to change. People talk about coachability, but really, in a more generalized fashion, its likelihood to change. And that can be around a lot of things. And I won't go into those psychological constructs. But the idea that the client comes in, with some likelihood to change. And as a coach, in terms of research, we talk psychology research, we talk about a moderator. So your coaching can be a moderator to that likelihood to change, you can turn up the likelihood to change or you can turn it down. So I think it's really important that out of that research, that especially this group, the heart and soul change project, that what they found was that the client has a lot of in the research community, we call it contributing the variance, the amount of variance into the outcome, right? You can understand that

Zoltán Csigás:

a very precise description.

Joel Di Girolamo:

Right. So in lay terms, the client has a lot to do whether they have positive change or not.

Zoltán Csigás:

I was aware of this research, and that they have looked out the clients. I was nothing to the depths of it. But why am I picking this up is that sometimes we just see new new stuff, unexpected things come into view is and and what I'm interested in is that were there any results or studies that drove you unexpected results, or unexpected new ideas? Or on some of your favorite topics are in let's be more specific in in coaching or in or in personal change? So are there any things that like, Who would have thought that? Were there any moments like that for you?

Joel Di Girolamo:

Well, that yeah, there have been several, you know, we have a paper that was published in 2019 and consulting, psychology journal, titled something like an exploration of managers and leaders using coaching skills, which is ended up being actually a pretty popular paper. And you talk about that differentiation of, of these boundaries of mentoring, coaching, and you know, inside organizations managing and leading, and we talk about that, and we, we provide very crisp definitions in there, because that's extremely important. One of the first things when you're doing a research study, of course, is to define what it is you're studying, we define those things very well. And we talk about a spectrum of managers and leaders from being directive to being participative are facilitated. And when you're using coaching skills, you're being on that participative end of the spectrum, which is very important at times, but it also times it's very important to be directive. You know, when the emergency crew comes out, if I've had a heart attack, and they're in my house, they're not going to say, hey, you know, what do you guys think you think we should give them a new objection of this staffer, you know, they're not going to be participative. It's like, hey, Fred, get the syringe and get it in him now. So there are times for both. Anyway, what are the surprising findings? So, in that study, it was an exploratory study. And we wanted to study if there was some correlation of the use of coaching skills by managers and leaders with other things. And so, you know, you talked about the kind of sterile assessments, you know, and they're not sterile by any means. But you know, we have some very well validated assessments out there, there's the Utrecht work engagement scale, excellent scale, we validated against that. The W AI, the working alliance inventory, Horvath and hacia scale. And then there was a short intention to quick scale from cola relly that we use. And so what we did was we made some questions about managers and leaders and it was frequency of use. How often did this manager or leader ask a question that offered a profound insight in what we did was we actually use the ICF core competencies, ask questions that were those core competencies, but again, did not use the word coaching. And we asked how frequently, we ended up with nine items around those the time to the 11 core competency. So we asked around nine of them. And we found a very good correlation of those nine items. With the engagement, the working alliance and the reduced intention to quit, we had no idea that we would see that none. And so there was a serendipity of finding an assessment scale that people can use, you can get the paper and you can use that assessment. And it was like, wow, this is pretty cool.

Zoltán Csigás:

Yeah, you have accidentally invalidated your coaching model, or the competency model. That's what I'm, that's what I'm hearing. Yeah. Great. I love these unexpected findings in the research world that can just inspire us to move on and ask new questions. And we ask what are the questions you are pondering on right now? So what is besides the coaching culture that you have mentioned in the beginning? Are there any big questions that sizes that are occupying your mind these days, besides the coaching culture, if there are any other things,

Joel Di Girolamo:

I think fundamentally, that the use of coaching skills can really, really help to enhance dialogue in our planet, and across all human beings, all homosapiens one of the things that we we did a literature review a couple of years ago, on the social impact of coaching, and we'd like to do some more rigorous research on this, and how is it that coaching the use of coaching skills, impacts people sort of upstream, right? So you and I can have a conversation, that might be a better conversation, because I've learned coaching skills, and that has an impact on you, right? And then you go on to have an impact on, say, five of your students. And so, you know, there's this proliferation of the impact of those of those coaching skills. So I believe firmly that for intentional, the use of coaching skills can be used more broadly, they're already used broadly. And we think about 20 years ago, 25 years ago, coaching was thought about as this one to one professional relationship, excuse me, that people had, and then, you know, it's been broadened into managers and leaders using coaching skills, team coaching, we did a 18 month project on team coaching competencies. And, and you know, that's out there now. And we'll we'll kind of have certification for that. And now we're working on coaching culture. So how are the coaching skills proliferated more in the organization? Now, let's go beyond that into communities. And, you know, community developers already have been using coaching skills I met many years ago with somebody locally here who they are a professor at a university, and they do economic development, then go out into communities and and then he said, Well, here's our process. Here's what we do. I said, well, that's just coaching. You're using coaching skills. And he said, yeah, there's this book, and I look at this book, and it's just coaching skills. And it's like, wow, this is really cool stuff. Marshall Goldsmith and the nonviolent communication, right? How can we take the coaching skills and do the same thing and proliferate the coaching skills on a global level and work on climate change? I'm working on on wealth inequality, on differences of political views of, you know, we all fundamentally across the globe, we all want the same thing, right? We want decent jobs, we want a decent place to live, we want to clean water, we want access to healthy food. We want to have a community that supports us, all of us fundamentally, everywhere want the same thing? So how do we have a dialogue to help to build a better world? And that's what I that's to me that okay, that's my, I guess, my big, big question. And so, if we look at what's coming online, you know, AI, artificial intelligence coaching, has come online, is there it's effective. There's research that's there that has shown that AI coaching can be effective. How can human coaches work effectively, with the AI coaching to proliferate, the idea of coaching, and fundamentally, the AI coaching could really enhance the interest in coaching, to where the human coaches could be actually, more in demand. There's a fundamental human trait that I believe we have to overcome. And the more and more I've read, the more and more I believe that human behavior is fundamentally driven by one, one thing, and again, I have no data on this, I could be proven wrong tomorrow. And that is in group out group. So if you look at how we have come into being into where we are as a species, you know, we were out 10,000 years ago, we were out in the savanna floor, we were foraging for food, we were hunting for food, we were hunter gatherers, right? And we lived in tribes, there was the safety of our tribes, fundamentally, when we see someone and there's good data around this, when we meet someone, we decide internally, are they safe or not. And if you look at some of that research, within three seconds, we will have made a decision. And that's that in group out group bias. And that's in our DNA. And as a coach, what we're doing, we talk about building relationship, we're establishing rapport, but we're trying to get the client into our in group. Fundamentally, that's all we're doing. So we're trying to build that rapport, we're trying to say, hey, client, you're safe with me, it's not as much about building relationship is about the client feeling safe. If you look at some of the brief coaching, brief therapy work, they don't spend a lot of time on relationship building, right. 20 minutes is their session, they just get down to it. Hey, let's let's talk and talk about they build the safe space very quickly. They get into goals, they work on it, and boom, they're done.

Zoltán Csigás:

And they do a lot of resource activation. Yeah, circle back to our previous topic.

Joel Di Girolamo:

Yes. Yes. If you think about in coaching, how can you get the client to feel like they're in the in group with you? How do they feel safe? How do you activate their resources? How do you get them into that likelihood to change find out what their goals are, and facilitate the change? That's it

Zoltán Csigás:

sounds so beautiful and simple. I'm a fan of, of studies that give very detailed and sometimes hard to understand outcomes. But when we find something that can be put in such a simple and beautiful manner, I, I have a sense that well, we have found some fundamental truths, right. I'm always amazed when we find something that that can be simply and beautiful approach. And I love your words in this. So thank you for that. And one thing that I did a lovely what you've been saying is the democratisation of coaching, that it is getting more and more available to everyone. And I really agree with that as a goal to bring it to everyone because, yes, as you've been saying, it's it builds relationships and relationships while they heal, they solve problems and they bring us closer to each other. So I think we definitely need to my my challenging question for the single political thing would would come from biology. But I have to admit I'm not a biologist, but I studied I read said that the that we have an evolutionary limit of around 100 or 200 peoples that we would consider to be as, as in group members as our tribe because That is the community or that is the amount of people that we that we are wired to work together which

Joel Di Girolamo:

we connect intimately interact with.

Zoltán Csigás:

Yes. And which and how does that? Has that changed? How could check Knology help us with that? How could using coaching skills consciously help us in rewiring that or in or in overcoming that, that biological boundary? And I love this line of thinking?

Joel Di Girolamo:

I have thought about that? Because that is I think that's kind of a critical question that you're on so often. And that is, how do we overcome and I think of overcoming it, because, you know, it takes a long time for us to genetically rewire this DNA, you know, it's, it's coded into us. And, you know, I've been reading a book about bonobos and chimpanzees. And it's fascinating, because we'll have some characteristics of Bobo's, we have some characteristics of chimpanzees. It is to me it is overcoming our DNA. And there yeah, there's the kind of the 12 limit of a team, there's the 10 limit of a community. And when, you know, when you look at with the advent of agriculture, and you know, the cities state nation paradigms, you know, and how that, how all that came about, that, I believe we are working against that DNA, and we have to overcome that fear. Because it's fear. It's fear of the outgroup. We don't know who these people are, we don't know what might happen. And so yes, absolutely, we have to overcome that. So how do we, how do we make people feel safe, that it's okay to have the dialogue, that it's okay to experience that and have those deeper conversations and have the meaning meaningful dialogue? You know, you take Israelis and Palestinians, right, you they can be, you know, like this, and then you sit them down at the dinner table, and they have a conversation, hey, tell me about your kids. Right? Oh, your kids are in high school, I have a kid in high school, too. Right. And then they find all these commonalities. And that's, we need to have those dialogues to understand that we are all the same. And we all want the same stuff. Yeah, it is fighting against our DNA, because we're scared or fearful. And here in the States, you know, you see, the sort of a stereotype is of, you know, people in kind of rural areas, they stick to themselves. They have fear of, of people from outsiders, you know, and, and but then a lot of times what happens is students will go to a bigger city, go to university, they get educated, they start experiencing people from different cultures. And they're like, Wow, this is pretty cool. And they go back, and they're, like, go back home, and they bring their friends from different cultures. And it's like, whoa, wait a minute here. I don't know. Should you be bringing this person around? The beauty of that, is that integration, that works, but it's a it's a sometimes a stark contrast, seeing those disparities? So yes, absolutely. We are working against that DNA. And and that's what we I believe, as a species, to overcome the climate problems that we have to overcome the disparities that we have in terms of inequities, and in many ways, right, we need to have that dialogue we need to meet and have those discussions and coaching skills can enhance those discussions.

Zoltán Csigás:

I really agree with that. And I that's where I would like to circle back to one of your previous comments on on the effectiveness of AI coaching, and the presence of technology in our in our profession. And I'm curious on what's on your insights there. So how do you see the presence of AI in coaching? And what do you see as a potential trend for it?

Joel Di Girolamo:

That's an excellent question. So like, in psychology, you'll see a lot of inverted U shaped curves, you know, and goal theory. Take take it and and you know, if a goal is too hard or too easy, then the goals are too low and you're you'll underperform and the inverted U curve that I drew was x axis is time. So the coach working over time, and then the y axis the vertical axis is cognitive use of cognitive tools or, or capabilities. And if you imagine when a coach starts out, they're learning coaching they may be learning tools and techniques and and you know, they may use the GROW Model for example, in and they're starting up this car I'm going to occur. And so they're going down in time. And I use the term they accrete right. They gather more tools and techniques, they go to workshops, they go to retreats, and, and they do learning online with people. And again, they're learning more models. And finally, they're like, at the apex, or they're at the top and, and they're like, Wow, I know all these things, I've found my way, I've learned all this. And then they keep coaching. And then they start down the backside of the curve. And the back side of the curve, is there's a lot of pieces and parts of this. And one is, you know, the expertise literature, where the expert embodies whatever it is you look at, there's a Hungarian Archer, and there's this beautiful video that is gone now. But he, he talked about riding the horse and shooting the arrows at the target. And he said, you don't think about it, you just do it, you feel the horse, you feel the motion of the horse, and you just shoot the arrow, there's no cognitive thought in that. You think of a coach, at that level, a very experienced coach, and they're just doing it, you listen to those conversations. And it's just fluid, it's dynamic. Everything is happening. They're assessing how well the client is progressing in the session. And you can't tell the coach is doing it. Right. Yeah. And so they have moved down the backside of that curve. If you look at what a an AI, or an artificial intelligence coaching bought, or, you know, chatbot or whatever does today, they're using that modeling, they're at the downside of that curve, just that the model based level. And I have seen data that people have taken where the AI coach is just as good as the human coaching. But can you get to what I just talked about, about that? That fluidity of conversation? No, they're not there, it's going to be decades, until we could begin to get there are not going to supplant or replace the human coaches anytime soon. But for some people, they can get a taste of the coaching with the AI bot. And they might say, Wow, this is pretty cool. It helped me, I want to get a human coach now, though. And so that's why I'm saying it could actually create more demand for human coaches, I think the AI coaching will have a place. And I think it will actually be very useful to us in the long run. We at ICF, we have a group of outside developers that are building these tools. And they're helping us to build some AI coaching standards. So that's really important, you know, how ethical are the bots, what happens to the data, who has access to it, there's a whole host of questions out there and some standards that really should be met. And so these guys are extremely bright individuals. And I'm really honored to be working with them on some of these standards. And so, you know, hopefully that will, we'll move this forward, as well. And move the idea of coaching fold.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you. And this is how I'm working, I just have another flash points on which I could continue a conversation, because I have read so many articles on on bias chatbots for example, how they are learning the biases of their partners as they are having conversations. So as they are just chatting with people or they are just harvesting data from different parts of the internet. And so being deep, not bias being Yeti cold. These are all key questions for me when talking about generally coaching, and especially when talking about technology and coaching, when we are outsourcing certain decisions to algorithms, right? Or not people actors who may not have these moral compasses that we should be having as people

Joel Di Girolamo:

and the training data that they use to train these if it's got machine learning in it, right? Was there a bias in the training data? Is there any bias in the algorithms? Yes, these are huge problems that people working on today. Extremely important.

Zoltán Csigás:

And what I'm thinking right now is that while collecting all those MC level exams, you know, recordings, that could be a nice set of data to teach some coaching boats. I hope I have not revealed some secret ICF plans here.

Joel Di Girolamo:

But it's interesting a year ago, we started a study to compare the differences between so we have three levels of coaching credentials, associate, professional and master. And we started I talked about mixed methods studies, and we started a quality If study and then we also started studying, what were the differences based on assessor? People who assess at these levels? What's the difference that they see at these levels, you'll see some work come out of us that it does a better job at differentiating at these levels. And it's absolutely fascinating. Again, it, it gets to that curve I was talking about, you know, that I theorized back five years ago or so. And that at the lower level, there, it is more model based, it is a little bit more prescriptive, but can't be can't have those fluid conversations, those very wide ranging, open conversations I, I actually had a chat with a bot not too long ago, and it got in a loop. And so I sent them an email and said, I think you got a little problem here. You know, they're not there yet. Totally. But but some of them are really darn good. I have experienced some that are excellent.

Zoltán Csigás:

Interesting to hear. And, you know, from the practitioner perspective, what I'm hearing that, in your opinion, the the AIS will be here to raise awareness of coaching and to generate more interest for coaching. If I'm taking the evil look at it, I could say that AI is here to compete with the, with the juniors, or the not so well experienced coaches. And you know, I can, so I can think of the dynamics at that level that if, if people would have a demand for human coaches, wouldn't they have a demand for more experienced coaches, those who could give them more than what an AI could? And then what would happen to those professionals, or those coaches who are just entering the markets? I'm just talking about extremes here. I'm aware of that. But how can they get the amount of practice that that would avoid that would allow them to grow beyond the levels of AIS? Now,

Joel Di Girolamo:

it's a very excellent question, and one that I have had posed to me before. And it's like, well, that's a very encouraging Joel. But fundamentally, and we talked about this in the standards work, the AI coach, coaching, platform tool, whatever, can be used as a training tool for the coach. And so I believe these platforms will, will come into existence. But you're right, it does kind of raise the bar for the coach. And, you know, that's okay. It's, it's like any other field, right? Things are dynamic. This gets back to our our stream conversation, right? Nothing is static, it's always changing. And you have to up the game at times, right? And so it's interesting, I, I, when I went to engineering school, I was sitting there thinking one day, and I thought, you know, what I learned in two years, and in my engineering program, was what my dad learned in four years. That's, I'm not learning more, because I'm smarter than him. Not at all. I'm learning more, because we know more now. And that gets into the whole idea of what I call schema, what the psychology world called schemas, but I believe that schemas are extremely important in how we learn, and how we can learn more quickly. And so I believe the AI coaching will help us understand certain schemas, and that the coaches will be able to learn faster, more quickly, they will be able to overcome that level of coaching, they will become better coaches. So I believe that through the AI coaching platform, so be able to be number one be better coaches, and number two be better coaches more quickly. I think it's okay, you know, but that's the way the world works. Look at radiologists, right? There's AI for radiology, that now they found that actually some of the AI bots can read X ray is a little bit better than the radiologist. But there's still some stuff that the humans can do better. So, you know, it's it's the world it's the universe, the universe is not static. And we need to just hop on board and ride the train and enjoy the ride.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you very much. And I just have the okay yeah, and more and more in all kinds of questions. Why there's so time is nearing to its end I would. I would just like to say Thank you for being with me today. I really enjoyed the conversation. And they would be happy to have you back to continue this because I have questions. So for ideas about intuition, or their coaches or experienced coaches being logged into their intuitive patterns. And I would be curious on your insights,

Joel Di Girolamo:

absolutely be delighted to explore that topic. We actually did some research in that, and we call it the coach's journey.

Zoltán Csigás:

Can you tell me just a few thoughts on these that you have just mentioned, the journey of the coach, like is as a teaser for for our next session that we may have?

Joel Di Girolamo:

One of the studies that we started out to do as the kind of research question was, how do coaches stay fit for purpose. And as we started doing, it was a qualitative study and interviewed a lot of coaches and Alicia Hollinger, what she found was that the very experienced coaches the very, what we believe to be successful coaches, that they never stopped learning, that they always ask the question, what's next? What's next? What's more, how else can I evolve? And how else can I develop? And this idea of continual learning, this continual path of, of, you know, what new is out there? And it's not just about a creed, another tool or technique, but it's, it's about the field of, of human development or human potential. And, you know, some of the coaching came out of the human potential movie movement. You know, you think of epsilon and California in a lot of this kind of work. And that is what it's about, that is about it is about how do we as humans, move forward? On our planet? How do we survive? How do we succeed? How do we thrive? How do we build this better world? So how do we keep learning and growing? And that's fundamentally extremely important for I believe for successful coach. You never say okay, I'm there. I've arrived

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you for listening to on coaching podcast, where I have curious conversations with virginal coaches and researchers. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure to rate us and subscribe. I also invite you to visit Zoltan she goes.com where you can access more resources regarding the coaching industry very well.

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