‘Future proofing your practice’ was our theme for the EMCC UK conference in January, our first conference in four years. Almost 100 EMCC UK members and visitors spent the day together, focusing on the question of how our work in coaching and mentoring can adapt and flourish in a workplace that is constantly changing and evolving.
The conference, held near St Paul’s in London, included a choice of interactive workshops, lively networking, and a brilliant and inspiring keynote address from Dr Nicola Millard, who is Head of Customer Insight and Futures in BT’s Global Innovation team.
Rita Symons, President of EMCC UK, said: ‘I am delighted with the feedback on our conference. The keynote really set the tone to challenge us to think about our role in society and the world. Often as coaches we can get absorbed in the practice, but EMCC UK's role as a professional body is to push boundaries and ask the big questions, giving people space to reflect about the future and what it means for them.’
Dr Nicola Millard speaking at the EMCC UK Conference.
Nicola Millard gave an address which was educational, highly stimulating and included some very engaging moments of humour. ‘As we all know, WiFi has become part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,’ she quipped. She gave a presentation filled with fascinating and well-chosen research data, and more than lived up to her reputation as ‘human caffeine’. She shared a people-centred vision of where technology, innovation and collaboration are going, and how we can work with them in positive ways.
Speaking about collaboration, she said: ‘Pretty much everyone agrees that collaboration is a good thing. But it does not happen by magic. It happens by purpose. Purpose has nothing to do with technology, but instead is entirely a challenge of leadership. So how do we clarify, as leaders, what our purpose is? Leadership is now less about command and control, and is around creating purpose and connection so that people start to collaborate.’
She also spoke in depth about the way different technologies are reshaping the workplace in unexpected ways, and the challenges and opportunities they bring with them.
She said: ‘The biggest tool for collaboration within organisations at the moment is not an enterprise collaboration tool, but WhatsApp. We organise our personal lives on WhatsApp. We live and die on WhatsApp. And increasingly, we organise our working life on WhatsApp as well. This is uncomfortable for our IT decision-makers, because it’s a GDPR nightmare, and it’s not necessarily secure either. So the IT people tell us, “You can’t do this.” But of course, we’re humans and we do it anyway, and we don’t tell them.’
Jon Sleeper, an individual and team coach, said that ‘Nicola Millard’s talk was asking how do you collaborate and create an environment of trust, particularly in a world where we don’t necessarily work face to face all the time? There were so many stimulating thoughts and ideas in what she said – and a lot of data – which has given me plenty to go away and think about.’
Nova Ferguson, Head of QA Coaching Faculty at QA Ltd, said: ‘The keynote speech was fantastic. My brain is just fizzing and fizzing with ideas about how we need to embrace technology more in coaching, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of relationship, human to human.’
Speakers at the EMCC UK Conference (left to right): Auriel Majumdar, Rita Symons, Peter Duffell, Nicola Millard, Diane Newell, and Bill Henry.
Alongside the keynote, three workshops were available, led by Peter Duffell, who shared recent research into how we can best work with young professionals; Diane Newell, who focused on the need for sustainable change at the individual, team and organisational levels; and Bill Henry, who explored how individual coaches and mentors can make their practice commercially viable in the current marketplace. Auriel Majumdar also facilitated a discovery session, with everyone working in creative teams to learn more about themselves and EMCC UK.
‘This is my first time at an EMCC conference,’ said Michael Omer, who is an executive coach in the creative industries. ‘I’ve found the networking part of the day just as exciting as the actual sessions. A coach often works on their own, and it can be quite a solitary experience, so simply receiving affirmation from other like-minded people has been just brilliant.’