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Top Ten Takeaways From ICF Converge 2023

Updated: Mar 22

International Coaching Federation Conference - Trip Report

Image of ICF Converge 2023 Conference
ICF Converge 2023

I recently returned from the International Coaching Federation, ICF Converge 2023, conference in Orlando, Florida. For those who don’t know, the ICF is the primary trade association for the coaching industry. The conference and people were terrific, and I wanted to share some insights I came away with. 

#1:  It’s Imperative To Stay Curious.

Diana Kander's “Unleash Your Curiosity” talk was the opening keynote, and she was amazing. Wow. Just wow. Two things I took away from her presentation were: First takeaway. If you take the posture of “the expert,” it’s easy to stop being curious (You know it all now, right?). If you assume the "expert" posture, realize your potential for blindspots increases. Stay curious and maintain a beginner’s mindset to counteract this tendency. The more you think you know, the less you may know. This risk is higher in fast-changing industries (think tech, AI, etc.). Second takeaway: Find your “Zombies,” as she calls them, and stop doing them. Zombies are activities where the value generated is less than the effort required to do the task. They generate net negative value for you. Find them and eliminate them. Personal Comments: I have always been a super curious person.  Because of that, I have to be purposeful about focus, too - it's a constant balancing act. If you are in a fast-changing industry (tech, etc.), consider hiring super curious people. They can help you see around corners. Counter-balance them with people who are execution focused.  Doing so protects your culture from developing "bright shining object" syndrome. Make sure you talk about managing the constructive tension between the two styles.  

#2:  Being Relatable is as Important as Being Credible (maybe more).

James Robilotta, CSP®'s talk on “Leading Perfectly - The Value of Being Authentic for Coaches and Human Beings” was excellent. My takeaway from James was that people want to “relate” to others through shared success, struggles, and failures. Behind every success were countless missteps, mistakes, and failures. Share the journey. Share the ups AND the downs. People want to see themselves in your actual journey. It helps them connect to you. He pointed out the distinction between being credible and being relatable. Being credible is essential. Being relatable by sharing the journey is also important.  Perhaps more.  Being credible and relatable = a killer combo. 

Personal Comments: To illustrate the concept of credibility and relatability, my head compares the two Top Gun movies. Just watch the two trailers: Top Gun OG TrailerTop Gun Maverick Trailer In the OG, Maverick was cocky and invincible. We all remember the "I am dangerous" line. You respected him, but it was hard to relate to him. “Too perfect” isn’t real, and people can sense that. In Top Gun Maverick, he showed his competency in the test run scene AND his relatability (his vulnerability in the Iceman scene), and the latter made us able to connect with him. Yes, the storyline was excellent.  Showing his battle scars, aka what it took to make him the best (what he lost along the way.... Goose... Rooster's trust... promotions), took the movie to the next level.  The bar scene where he’s watching Rooster sing Great Balls of Fire and tearing up because of the flashbacks to Goose’s death brings me to tears each time. It’s touching because it’s real. It’s human. It begs the question. Which kind of leader would you want to follow? Which one would you sacrifice yourself for?  

#3:  Change is Hard... Sustained Change… Even Harder.

Change and “Sustained Change” are two very different concepts. The first one is hard, the second even harder. There is a benefit alone from “change” - because it shows change is possible. That’s good. Think “progress is more important than perfection.” Change is also the precursor to sustained change. You usually don't get sustained change without changing and failing repeatedly. Grace and patience with ourselves and others are essential. Don’t underestimate the strength of the human tendency to revert to the way things were. Homeostasis. Understanding the reason behind the inability to change is essential to overcoming it. The reasons can be multi-faceted and multi-layered.  

#4:  Context Matters. Big Time.

Miriam Meima, M.A., MCC's talk about “Executive Coaching in the Context of Business” was terrific. My big takeaway from her talk was that context matters in nearly every experience you are in. It's tempting to pattern-match and make assumptions about a person's circumstances based on a situation you've seen.  Yet, the context in which circumstances occur can be far different.  The "what do to about it" can be vastly different solely because of the contextual difference. 

Personal comments:  I believe this reality is why coaching can be much more effective than advising. Why? It isn't easy to understand someone’s proper context.  If you offer them advice based on your experience, you can miss the mark on their actual needs because of contextual differences. If you are a thought partner, like a coach, you work within their context to help uncover what they need. What’s holding them back? With advising, the vantage point is more of an outsider’s perspective.  With coaching, the vantage point tries to be from within. Both are helpful yet effective in different ways.  

#5:  Humans are Not Good at Constructive Conflict Resolution

Cathy Liska's talk on conflict coaching was powerful. One takeaway is that each participant in the conflict needs the chance to share their version of events. Uninterrupted.  Unedited. Without pressure. When sharing versions of events, expect disagreement.  That’s likely a factor for why there is a conflict in the first place. You disagree with each other—another takeaway. Successful conflict resolution requires that the parties offer more than one potential solution. Requiring more than one possible solution forces people to think creatively. Offering potential solutions also shows the parties are willing to invest in an outcome.  Skin in the game. 

Personal Comments:  Recently, I have been struck by how "not good" humans are at conflict resolution. We are not good at constructively expressing our issues or desires, and we are not good at constructively receiving feedback from others. Question:  What would happen if everyone got 20% better at conflict resolution skills?  It’s a worthwhile question for yourself and your organization. 

#6:  Executives Are Humans Too

Mark Thompson’s talk about Succession Planning in C-Suite was excellent. Mark is highly accomplished and was voted the #1 CEO coach by Thinkers50.  A takeaway here is that the C-Suite executives are people, too. And most of them want to create a life that matters. They want to move the needle. A big struggle for C-Suite executives is that they don’t have a place of safety where they can show their fears, uncertainties, and mistakes.  Not having such a place can make things pretty lonely. 

Personal Comments: We all need a release valve.  What’s yours?  

#7:  Don't Wait To Go For What You Want...

Sebastian Terry provided the closing keynote and knocked it out of the park with his “Goal Setting to Live Well talk.”  Sebastian is the creator of the 100 Things list, a list of things he wants to achieve before he dies. He asked a profound question: "If we only have one life to live, why do we wait to go for what we want?” Take a purposeful step out of your comfort zone and see what happens. Answer... You’ll find you survive. So, what’s holding you back? Once you start something, you find that you are surrounded by people who want to help. All you have to do is ask. (Sidebar - reminds me of Steve Jobs's quote about the importance of simply asking - most people don't take that simple action) The loneliest place is often when you haven’t started. If you care about something, you minimize the obstacles. You. Find. A. Way. So, find out what you care about and watch the challenges disappear. If you write down your goal, increase your chance of doing it by 42%.  So, write it down. If you share your goal with someone continuously, you increase your chances of doing it by 95%. So, find an accountability partner

Personal Comments:  I like the deep look at what stops us from going for what we want.  People admire those who get in the arena because most (all?) of us are scared to do it for various reasons.  Once you are in the arena, the people in the arena become your friends.  You are not alone.  

#8:  Cool Tech 1: Wordly - Real-time AI Translation

I love tech things, and the last three items are tech-related. This was a conference with attendees from all over the world. Many of whom spoke limited English. To help accommodate such situations, there are now real-time AI-powered translators available. The conference used a company called Worldly, and I heard the results are quite good.  Keep this tech in your back pocket should the need arise for live real-time translation.  

#9:  Cool Tech 2: Make your sessions more interactive. ICF Converge 2023.  Slido

Slido is a great way to make meetings or presentations interactive.   Several conference presenters used it to get real-time feedback from attendees (think word clouds, attendee polls, etc.). It was a much richer session experience, and I’m sure the audience engaged more. And, more engagement means attendees will likely remember your content more.  

#10:  Cool Tech 3: Use QR codes in your presentations to capture audience attendees and drive traffic to your website

Several of the presenters used QR codes at the end of their presentations as a way to provide slides to attendees. To get the slides, the attendees captured the QR code at the end of the presentation.  They were then taken to the presenter’s website. The attendees then had to register for the slides using name/email and were emailed a copy of the slides. The attendee gets the slides, and the presenter gets to increase their contact database.  Win. Win. Summary: There were many great speakers at this conference, and I highly encourage other coaches to attend future ICF conferences.  I learned a lot from the speaker sessions I went to, and I thank them for being willing to share their learnings and expertise. Attending conferences like this is a great way to stay abreast of industry trends and get fresh insights and perspectives. It was great to meet the Genos North America people in person.  Shout out to Debbie Muno and Jeff Summers.  The Genos Emotional Intelligence product is fantastic, and they do a great job!  Great people.  Great product.  Killer combination. 

About Me.

As an angel investor and entrepreneur, I have coached CEOs for many years. Recently, I formalized that experience into an Executive Coaching practice called The Nexus Initiative. If you know of anyone needing an Executive Coach with real-world operating and investing experience, please feel free to send them my way.

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