“Don’t you need a human coach to benefit from coaching?”

It’s something I’m often asked when people ask about what we’re doing at KultraLab to shape the future of digital coaching. 

In reality coaching is a spectrum – human coaching at one end, coaching-style leadership in the middle and digital coaching at the other end. For me, all coaching, whether human or digital, is founded on the same principle – that the person themselves is the one who unlocks their personal and professional potential. It’s not a training intervention, it’s not mentoring and it’s certainly not performance management. Coaching is about a fundamental belief that the person themselves is capable of change – humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers called it “unconditional positive regard”. It means that a digital coach is not there to solve your problems for you, it’s there to help you solve them for yourself. 

I myself am a trained and certified coach, accredited by the International Coaching Federation. And I’m a strong advocate of the philosophy that nothing can reproduce or replace the very powerful dialogue between the human coach and the thinker. But at the same time, I’ve always been a strong believer in the need to find ways to broaden access to the coaching mindset. In January 2022 two of the first truly self-coaching books were published. ‘You Coach You’ by Tupper and Ellis focuses on how to overcome challenges and take control of your career. And my own book ‘The IDEA Mindset’ helps you to figure out what you want from work, and how to get it. Both share two things in common that makes them distinctive, first the invitation for deep self-reflection, and secondly turning thinking into action through writing and regular practice. Many of the best-sellers in the self-help genre are those I sometimes refer to as “eat the breakfast I eat, and you too will become a millionaire!” books. They sell a lot of copies for sure, but they are very far removed from the principles of true coaching. 

As we developed the content for the habit-activating journeys in our pioneering CoachTech app Kultra, we took those same principles of coaching-style questions and used the power of technology to embed them in a dynamic and responsive journey of discovery, reflection and commitment, activated by timely and motivating nudges and notifications. The questions in Kultra invite you to reflect on your own context and think about how you want to turn new self-awareness into action that helps you to be at your best and to help those around you to thrive. 

In the Kultra model on Active Listening, Kultra asks the user: 

“Think about a time when you really needed to talk about something and the person you shared with really made you feel seen and heard. Where were you when you had the conversation? What did they do to make you feel like they were really listening? How did you feel after sharing with them?” 

Inviting the user to use all their senses to place themselves in that moment helps them to reflect more deeply. Later Kultra continues: 

“Reflecting on your listening skills, what might you like to do more of, or less of, to show people they’ve got your full attention and help them feel truly heard?” 

Like a human coach, Kultra doesn’t have an opinion on right or wrong and she doesn’t know your context. It’s for you to set your reflection in the framing that is most authentic for you. Kultra’s questions are shaped by human coaches to apply to everyone regardless of context. 

When it comes to time to practise, Kultra invites the user: 

“Let’s try an exercise. While it’s fresh in your mind, observe someone listening to someone else today. Make notes on what you see and what you hear. Reflect on how actively the person was listening during the conversation. 

Then you’re going to schedule to repeat this reflection through the coming week. Each time you schedule the reflection, write down some notes on what you noticed – what you saw and what you heard. Write down what was great and what could have been better.” 

Here Kultra is also inviting the user to practise observing without judgement, a foundational principle of the coaching mindset. Turning reflection into writing and repeated intentional practice is our approach founded on behavioural science that begins the process of activation and initiation of habit formation. 

At KultraLab we’re on a mission to unlock the potential in all your people using the power of coaching at scale. Everyone should have a coach and through Kultra we are broadening the reach of the coaching mindset. By bringing together an impressive team of coaches, behavioural scientists and technologists, we’re creating a new genre of digital coaching accessible in the palm of your hand at a cost low enough that you could deploy it right across your organisation. 

If you’d like to hear more about what we’re doing at KultraLab then follow us on LinkedIn, and if you’re a senior business leader in a medium to large organisation who would like to find out about our pioneering CoachTech platform, Kultra then get in touch!  

Dr Gary Crotaz, PhD – Chief Coaching Officer at KultraLab and ICF-accredited executive coach. ‘The IDEA Mindset’ was named Coaching Book of the Year 2022 by the Henley Centre for Coaching