4 Lessons For Coaches Interested in AI: An Interview With Brian Wang
Coaching has always been a human-centric profession. It’s all about human connections, building relationships with a client, and offering people what they need to become better versions of themselves.
However, everything changes — including coaching. Technological advances have become things coaches use every day to help their clients, from video messaging to online check-ins.
The newest advancement that is currently changing coaching and nearly every other profession is AI.
Proponents of AI see it as the next best thing for coaching, helping coaches streamline their businesses and offering more value to their clients. Others will see it as antithetical to the practice of coaching, just another set of tech companies trying to come between them and their client.
To shed some light on AI and its current (and future) role in coaching, we spoke with coaching superstar Brian Wang from Dashing Leadership.
Brian co-founded Fitocracy, has worked in venture capital, and now helps executives reach their full potential with his mentorship.
In this interview, Brian explains the four things he’s learned since he began working with AI. We get into his experiments, issues with clients, over-reliance problems, and the bright future of what AI could mean for coaches everywhere.
Interested in seeing how AI can help you transform your coaching business? Join our waitlist to be one of the first coaches taking advantage of the benefits of AI in the only coaching-specific AI tool on the market.
1. Don’t Waste Time on Bad Experiments
It’s easy to get carried away when you’re trying out a new technology. Coaches new to AI may find that these systems end up costing them 10 hours to save them 8.
That was Brian’s initial reaction when trying out AI.
“In the early days, I used it to try to write something, like a blog post or a LinkedIn post. I already had an idea of what it’d look like, so I tried to use AI to flesh it out a little bit.”
“I tried doing that with a couple of tools, like ChatGPT and Notion’s AI tool, to take a basic draft and try things like changing the tone or editing things a bit.”
However, Brian found that despite it being an interesting experience, he often found these general tools didn’t do a good job for his specialized purposes, i.e., coaching.
That’s why one of his first pieces of advice was to “go find a specialized tool, something that's designed for you, like Heyday.”
“I think that the reason [you should] forget about the generalized stuff is it's easy to waste time. I've looked at generalized outputs and realized that it’s creating more work for me. I don't like this tone. I need to change this and that. So, I think the more specialized a niche you can get, the better on the tool side.”
That doesn’t mean it’s been all bad, though. Early on, Brian found a tool that he still uses to help him with his meetings.
“I recently started using a tool called AudioPen. It's kind of cool. You record an audio clip, and it'll spit out a cleaned-up version of what you wrote and maybe even rearrange things and change the tone.”
“I can just riff on something, and it’ll make sure I don’t sound like a bumbling moron. It might feel really incoherent when it comes out, but it's something that, with a clean-up and some structure, becomes something really promising.”
So, what’s Brian’s advice for people interested in trying out AI? Find a tool that helps you with a problem you have (like cleaning up your audio recordings), and then “allow the tools you’re testing to create a certain amount of outputs and see if it's any good and continue to play with it and take it from there.”
That way, you get to try new things that can fit into your workflow but don’t waste too much time on products that aren’t going to help you in the long run.
2. Be Open With Your Clients
Coaching is an inherently private thing. It’s you and your client (or clients) working together in a safe space.
One of the challenges Brian has faced with AI is that he knows many of his clients won’t be pleased about AI being a part of their sessions.
“You know, I'm a weirdo in the sense that I'm perfectly happy to have my own stuff recorded. And if some tool's gonna analyze what I'm saying and respond to it, I'm all for that, but I also know a lot of people, including clients, won’t be. Some don’t even wanna be recorded at all.”
“There are even some people who don't want people to know that they’re working with a coach. Then there's gonna be people who will say, I'm okay with being recorded, but they'll feel uncomfortable with a third-party system listening in. I think it's one thing if I'm recording a conversation and the only people who ever see it are me and the other person. It's another thing entirely for a third-party system to take that data, suck it up, and do a bunch of stuff with it.”
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about this. As time progresses, hopefully, more and more people will be okay with AI being used to augment coaching, but until then, here is Brian’s advice.
“I do think that being really clear and upfront about what's happening and what's not happening is supercritical.”
“When it comes up, I've said I'm experimenting with this thing. It's gonna spit out some notes, I’ll send those notes to you moving forward, and other humans are not looking at this.”
“[And so far] I've gotten a largely positive response to it. But I could imagine if a client knew that their anonymous data might help create a blog post or something, it’d make them feel more uncomfortable.
So, the long and short of it – just ask. Some people may be like Brian and not care what you use. Others will ask you not to. All you can do is respect their wishes and use the tools that best suit that client.
3. Avoid Over-Reliance on AI Outputs
One problem that faces any professional using AI is that it’s easy to become over-reliant on the product. It’s hard to do your job, and it’s far easier to sit back and let AI do all the heavy lifting for you. However, that would be a mistake, especially in coaching.
“I think where AI could go wrong is when coaches become overly reliant on AI's opinion or its summaries. Then, I could imagine a world where I'm becoming less connected to my client. They're becoming just like a case study to me or something.”
So, if overreliance is a problem, what does Brian see as the sweet spot? In his view, AI works best when it’s able to do some of the busy work that distracts him from being fully there with his clients.
“If I trust that the AI is doing a bunch of background work for me, then I can really truly be in the moment and tune into the client on a deeper level. It means that we can really just pay more attention to what's going on for the person in a nonverbal sense.”
“I can really tune into their emotions and energy. But if I’m concerned primarily about what the AI is gonna say after this meeting, then that does a disservice to the work. So, hopefully, that makes some sense.”
So AI can help with things like meeting scheduling, textual analysis, and marketing, while the coach can focus on what humans do best.
“If we consider what the limitations are, AI is not going to really pick up on the nuances of what's happening for a client on an emotional or nervous system level. It's gonna be great at doing some textual analysis, but will it be able to actually infer or understand that someone is really dysregulated in a particular situation? There's something important about a coach being able to handle a client's dysregulation and having their own capacity to detect it, allow it, and work with it.”
“AI generally is not going to be able to detect that for the most part. It can't feel that. Maybe that's the other thing to note — the keyword “feel.” The more I think of places coaches can go to where the AI can't is in the realm or the domain of that feeling and that energy.”
“If coaches can use AI so that they can focus on those areas, then that's going to strengthen the coach's capacity in working with clients and prospects and all that good stuff.”
4. Be Excited For the Future
The other thing that is clear throughout our interview is that Brian is excited about where AI can go, not just where it currently is.
“I really hope to see whether AI could, over time, start to notice trends and patterns in a particular client.”
“In other words, I know on the surface, they're showing up to their work, to their relationships, to their life in a certain way, but underneath, there's a whole bunch of underlying factors making that happen, which are harder to get at.”
“What I would love is for a tool to suggest, like, “Hey, it seems like Brian has a people-pleasing tendency.” Or, “It seems like he is afraid of conflict because it brings feelings of low self-worth and abandonment.” Now, that could have surfaced directly in a conversation, but if the AI could even start to guess at these things based on our conversations, that would be interesting.”
“AI could even extend into guessing at what might be happening out in the real world. [It] could say, “I've noticed that this person tends to make these certain choices, and it seems likely that it's impacting the people that work with them in these different ways.”
“Those are some of the things that are on my mind. If an assistant could really engage with me in that way, that would be incredible.”
The other thing that makes Brian excited about AI is the potential for it to do the jobs he hates — specifically scheduling.
“Right now, I work with a remote EA to handle scheduling stuff. God bless my EA, but I wish I could just tell the AI, “Here's my working hours. I really prefer not to have any meetings before 11 o'clock. I also wanna make sure that I don't have more than three meetings on these days.” If it just knew that those are my parameters and if anytime a client needs to reschedule, AI could handle the back and forth with emails, that’d be fantastic.”
“Another use case would be for setting up recurring schedules with new clients I'm onboarding. Right now, if a new client and I want to set up a recurring schedule, I need to look forward over a few months and make sure that, for example, Thursdays at 2 p.m. are free every two weeks. Right now, I just have to do it myself, or my EA will do it, but if AI can just look for me, that'd be great. It can just tell me, “Hey Brian, here are the safe times that you can populate in the schedule.”
Finally, Brian sees the potential for AI to help him in the marketing department, allowing him to narrow in on what makes the biggest impact on his clients.
“One of the things that would be really cool is if AI were able to go back on all [my client] conversations and say, “Hey Brian, it really seems like here are the three things that really hit the hardest with your clients.” It could look across three dozen clients and say, “We've really seen these three themes that tend to generate the most energy or have the biggest shifts and insights.”
“That would be interesting because then it would do some work for me on the marketing side. It’d be cool if it could just tell me here are the things that seem to really shine the most about my practice. Great, now I know what to say when I'm talking about myself. I think that that would be super helpful for me as a coach just because, half the time, I don't even know what it is that I'm doing.”
Introduce AI Into Your Coaching Practice With Heyday
Heyday is an AI-powered thought partner that helps executive coaches be more present with clients. If you’re interested in trying an AI tool built for coaches, join our waitlist.