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Could Siri Become Your Leadership Coach?

Mike HobanWhat if you had a resource—a personal advisor shared with no one else—that could help you be a better leader? An advisor with great listening skills, who knows you extremely well and is available 24/7? Someone that can be completely trusted with no hidden agendas, that literally remembers every word you say and how you say it? Oh, and one other thing—this resource also learns to be a better advisor to you every day.

Could Siri Become Your Leadership Coach?If offered such a resource, I think most leaders would shout, “Yes, yes!” But here’s the catch: that resource would be a machine. A device. A collection of bits and bytes, of 0’s and 1’s. A bot.

When we think of today’s artificial intelligence (AI) bots like Siri, Alexa or Cortana, they’re nowhere near sophisticated enough to serve as a leader’s personal coach and confidant for situations such as resolving conflict with peers, managing staff performance issues or even developing leadership skills.

But perhaps in the next 15 to 20 years, a future version of Siri—let’s call it “Bob”—may be ready and able to help.

Meet “Bob”

As with any new relationship, Bob will start by getting to know you. He’ll ask the same kinds of questions that any new acquaintance would: where and when you were born; your education; the names of friends and family members; your work history. But Bob will also ask you about your greatest hopes and fears—in fact, many of the questions Bob will ask would be considered intrusive if they came from a new acquaintance who happened to be human. But Bob needs to know all about you, including insecurities and vulnerabilities, if he is to bring high value to you as a leader.

During the conversations, Bob might ask why you got slightly emotional with one of your responses.  You see, Bob has access to even your most subtle of physiological changes in heartbeat or breathing rate because, thanks to the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), the physical sensors woven into your clothes and embedded in your jewelry are sending constant streams of data about you. After a few days, Bob will know which words or situations will elevate your positive state or, conversely, bring you down.

Perhaps a month after you and Bob have become “friends” there arises an opportunity to seek advice from him. You have a peer who leads another department, and her priorities and her staff conflict with yours. This peer has a reputation for being thin-skinned and unapproachable.

Your interaction with Bob about this situation might go like this:

You: “Bob, I have a situation I need some help with.”

Bob: “What is the situation and what sort of help can I provide? And by the way, while these days it is of conventional usage, I must note that you ended your sentence with a preposition.”

You: “I’m looking for some coaching from you. You see, I have a colleague named Karen…”

Because you have identified this as a coaching situation, Bob, who has instant access to coaching best practices, takes an inquisitive and “guided discovery” approach to the conversation, as opposed to jumping immediately to prescribe a solution. Bob asks probing questions to make you think through potential solutions.

Four days later, Bob, like any good coach, asks you how the conversation went. He asks what you did, what you said and how you executed the plan the two of you created. Then he asks what you would do the same and do differently next time, giving you the opportunity to learn and improve. He might also set up a role-playing activity for the two of you tomorrow to address another challenging situation.

Get comfortable with “Bob”

Get comfortable with this kind of technology. Experiment. Be curious about it. Be a possibility thinker instead of a probability thinker. The Millennials entering the workforce now will have been in the work world for 15-20 years when Bob becomes available, and they have always been surrounded by devices and gadgets and technology. If it’s built, they will come.

Siri is a trademark of Apple Inc.

Mike Hoban is a senior consultant for DDI who works with executives in many different industries. He led DDI’s consulting teams in Hong Kong/South China and has written for Fast Company and DDI’s Talent Management Intelligence blog, and was also a business columnist for a Chicago area daily newspaper for many years. He takes way too many pictures of Lake Michigan sunsets.

This blog is excerpted from the essay Could Siri Become Your Leadership Coach? from DDI’s Challenging Thinking Series. Read the entire essay to learn what the experts say about the likelihood of Artificial Intelligence replacing human coaches.

Posted: 25 Apr, 2017,

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