I spent a few days in sunny Orlando at the International Coach Federation Converge 2023 conference in August. The gathering was momentous – the first in-person global ICF conference since 2019 in Prague and it lived up to the anticipation!
My key takeaways:
- The Power of Convening: With over a thousand attendees from all corners of the globe, the conference was a remarkable gathering of diverse individuals. I was thrilled to catch up with so many people – former students at Georgetown, potential customers and partners, collaborators on the ICF coaching platform committee, and even a classmate and dear friend I haven’t seen in years who serendipitously appeared in my path like a gift! The energy was strong and the conversations rich throughout. I came away with new ideas and inspiration to propel our ongoing work. It served as a potent reminder of the value of congregating as a community and how even in the vast expanse of global connectivity, our community can feel close-knit.
- Coaching is Maturing as a Profession: Having been a coach since 2004, I was struck by the evolution of speakers and topics from the early days when the profession was trying to define itself and “life coaching” seemed to dominate the ICF conversation. Orlando had something for everyone, but refreshingly brought research and case studies about the impact of coaching on organizations. Conversations spanned topics such as developing a coaching culture in organizations, building an internal coaching practice, coaching for culture transformation, coaching as a competitive organizational advantage, and coaching for leadership development. The value of blending individual development through coaching into organizational development initiatives was clear.
- Powerful Questions: While I regrettably missed the opening keynote by Diana Kander titled “Unleash Your Curiosity,” I felt like I absorbed Diana’s wisdom from the attendees who were there to hear it. Diana provocatively suggested that prioritization involves deciding what to focus on while also identifying what should be excluded from consideration. Throughout the weekend, I heard participants pondering this challenge in various discussions, and I imagine many coaches have since asked their clients, “What will you remove from your to-do list altogether?” This experience reminded me of the power of a great question. There’s nothing like it.
- The Buzz Around Technology in Coaching: As is becoming more common these lately, one of the most energizing themes of the conference revolved around technology in coaching, particularly AI. While generative AI is not yet sophisticated enough to replace coaches, and may never be in some cases, the practical uses of AI abounded. Vendors and speakers talked about the ability for coaches to get feedback on coaching skills through AI-powered tools (Ovida), to gather input from key organizational stakeholders (Loupe), to match coaches with clients, and to prepare for coaching meetings. These conversations left me inspired as we at Optify thoughtfully contemplate the integration of AI into our practice and product offerings.
In summary, my time at ICF Converge 2023 was enriching. I returned with new insights, connections, and inspiration. It reinforced the power of human connection and the ever-evolving and agile nature of our profession.