The Democratization of Coaching

Over a decade ago when I began coaching, my clients often fell into a couple of categories - executives who were high flyers who wanted to hone their skills, clarify their goals and move to the next level of performance; or those who had an essential skill to a company, but also had some behavioral issues that they needed to address before they could effectively lead. Coaching was exclusive and something only executives received. And it was expensive, with coaches often flown in from across the country for a 2 hour meeting.  

My experience as an executive coach reinforced to me that while I firmly believe everyone can benefit from coaching, in those early days we did a disservice to our middle managers by making coaching so exclusive. When I first started coaching, many of my clients at the executive level had been operating in a certain way, with a particular style, over decades. I remember being briefed by a human resources director about one of my clients saying “he’s gone as far as he can go unless he changes this behavior”. Seems like something that could have been addressed a lot earlier, right?  

Over the past decade I’ve seen several shifts in coaching. A focus on women and underrepresented minorities - often times to coach them to “fit in” with a corporate culture. (Perhaps we should be coaching those who shape the culture to make it more welcoming? But that’s a blog for another day…). And more recently, something I call the democratization of coaching, bringing coaching to new and first level managers and individual contributors in companies. Moving it out of the executive levels and to the people in companies who are the “doers”.  

This is a welcome change for me, and where I prefer to focus my coaching efforts at this point in my career. I find it more fun and rewarding to coach someone who is early in their career, navigating the politics of a matrixed organization and learning how to lead. Breakthroughs happen quickly, and opportunities abound. One of the main ways I coach today is through Pluma, because it provides me an opportunity to work with these kinds of clients. The vast resources Pluma provides as well as the video and chat platform makes it easy to connect with my clients and makes coaching accessible to a much broader audience in an organization. Pluma makes it possible for companies to roll out coaching as a benefit to many more people.  

There is still a very important place for executive coaching and I am always grateful when I learn that a leader in any organization has engaged with a coach. Coaching at the executive level is essential, especially as organizational complexity grows and the stress and demands on senior leaders increase. But I am thrilled that we have moved coaching out of the upper echelons and into the places where the strategies becomes action. It is my hope that through the democratization of coaching, and platforms like Pluma, we can build a generation of leaders who understand the support a coach provides over their entire career.

Written by

Melissa McVicker

Melissa has over 8 years of coaching experience working with clients across a number of industries including technology, education and non-profit. She currently serves as an Associate Vice President of Communications at Stanford University where she leads a team to develop and execute internal communications campaigns to engage, educate, and excite employees while helping them to embrace change and new ways of doing business. Melissa also worked for over 15 years at Intel Corporation in various leadership positions. She earned an MBA from UCLA and a BS in electrical engineering.


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Leadership DevelopmentExecutive Coaching