Virtual Reality the Future of Coaching?: Insights from the ICFA Conference

IECL was a sponsor of the ICFA Conference held on the Gold Coast, Australia, 26-28 October, 2017.

IECL was represented by John Raymond, IECL’s Head of Coaching and Dani Mathews, IECL’s Coaching Development Partner. John and Dani co-presented a session on the “Systems approach to wellbeing in organisations”. John also convened a panel discussion on the topic of “what coaches need to do to stay current for today and prepared for tomorrow”. The following is a recap and reflection from John about the conference and the future of coaching that came out of the speaker sessions and panel discussions.


Virtual Reality/Technology.

When David Clutterbuck spoke about virtual reality being utilised in coaching I felt old and out of touch! But what an opportunity to bring colour and movement to change and development. This will be a game changer for the industry, especially when you look at how technology is being used in Gen Y and Z and even Gen X. Watch this space in China as it transforms itself into a nation of innovation and world leading R&D.



Another very strong theme that came through, and I highlighted in the panel I hosted, was the use and need to use a systems approach in our coaching. Magda Mook talking about societal progress. David Clutterbuck talking about ‘coaching cities’. Tammy Turner and Geoff Abbott talking about the need to understand organisational systems to coach effectively. But bringing it back to our practice; the impact on us within the systems we live in, and the increasingly complex nature of our lives, means we need to actively bring systems thinking into our coaching.


Team and Group Coaching.

This is another emerging and maturing field for coaching in the region. Organisations are first attracted to team and group coaching because they see the financial benefits of coaching many people at the one time. But what is emerging as this area matures is the value of coaching the system and the flow-on benefits that ripple effect can have. Stay tuned to this. I would encourage anyone looking to explore this field of coaching to get some training designed specifically for working with teams and groups. My experience has been that it is ‘same same but very different!”


Evidence-Based Practice.

I was very encouraged to see evidence based approaches being made explicit in this conference – more than any other I have been to before. Australia has been a world leader in evidence based approaches, often spearheaded by Tony Grant from the University of Sydney, as well as other Australian academics. It is important to keep in mind that evidence-based includes research and science, combined with practitioner experience and knowledge, the evidence your clients present, and your own life experience. It is the balance of all of these factors that I believe delivers the best results.



Speaking of evidence-based, it was very encouraging to see neuroscience being presented more scientifically, rather than an individual’s opinion or interpretation of a MRI result. If you are going to bring neuroscience into your coaching, I would encourage you to check what you are referencing to ensure it is more science (evidence) based than popular opinion.


Coaching and Leadership.

Coaching for leaders and coaching as a leadership competency continues to expand. However, how it’s done and who is doing it is changing. David Clutterbuck said he noticed that skills and performance coaching is trending towards internal coaches or leaders themselves to do more of the coaching as their coaching skills develop. He observed that the role of the executive coach is to do the more sophisticated transformative or developmental coaching, and so suggested that we need to hone our skills in this area if we wanted to stay current and employable!


The ICF continues to hold the space for professional coaches and professional coaching to develop and flourish, and the importance and relevance of the ICF will only increase. And it will need to keep up with the changes emerging in the industry across the globe. This is one huge challenge!!


I hope you found some great insights of your own and I would love to hear from you about them.


IECL offers coach training as well as one on one coaching and leadership development programs. Follow the links or contact us to find out more.