Reflections from the 2024 Institute of Coaching Conference

Last week we spent two immersive days at the Institute of Coaching 2024 conference hosted by Harvard Medical School. We've been reflecting on the practice of coaching and inferences for leaders and organizations since. Here are a few takeaways.

1. Mattering matters

Beyond meaning and purpose, humans need to feel they matter. To matter is to feel:

  • Loved, valued, appreciated, seen, and heard
  • Our thoughts, feelings, and actions are noticed and important
  • We are making a valuable contribution and have impact or influence
  • Others rely on us and care about what happens to us

Leaders, colleagues, organizations, and coaches have an important role to play in the mattering movement, from how we show up for a difficult conversation with a team member to helping clients navigate midlife.  

2. A whole-person approach to thriving and well-being

We need to do a better job of tapping into the interconnectivity of systems. For example, if we are working with leaders on creativity, pay attention to the three building blocks: imagination, awareness, and focus, three intersecting neural networks.

3. New frontiers in human potential  

AI was a theme, but not the most dominant. AI applications were presented as an 'and' not an 'or', a kind of collaborative intelligence where humans remain front and center. One example was the use of AI to develop profiles on individuals drawing on streams of consciousness and demographic data.

4. Proactive over reactive

There was an emphasis on preventive interventions, for example (1) integrating metabolic health, mental health, and healthy aging to promote well-being, rather than relying on reactive treatments to mental illness, (2) cultivating social connections to promote lifelong well-being and to prevent decline, and (3) using coaching programs to build resilience and prevent burnout among healthcare workers.

5. Mutuality

Formal and informal structures of power, status, and expertise together with win-lose mindsets limit or prevent mutuality in relationships. Whether it’s in our work or personal connections or in the coach-coachee paradigm, we can reach different outcomes by practicing mutuality.

These themes and examples were informed by the work of: Dr. John Paul Stephens, Dr. Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, Dr. Christopher M. Palmer, Dr. Martin Seligman, Dr. Anne PJ de Pagter, Chip Conley, Dr Robert J. Waldinger, and Dr. Amy Edmondson, who all presented at the conference.