The coaching industry is big, and it’s only getting bigger. With an estimated annual growth rate of 6.7% and having already become a $20 billion market by 2022, entrepreneurs are seeking the guidance of seasoned professionals to talk them through challenges, unpack their limiting beliefs and facilitate the growth they know they’re capable of.
With the growth of AI content and tools, and with 83% of businesses saying that AI is a top priority for them, will AI fill the need that human coaches do now? I asked coaches, AI experts and entrepreneurs to weigh in on this debate, to tell both sides of the story when it comes to personal and professional development.
Can artificial intelligence replace coaches? The debate.
Yes, AI will replace coaches
Konstantinos Kaloulis, owner of Negotiation Agency, thinks the answer is simple when you look at the history of technology. “Email replaced letters, AI will replace coaches. It’s happening everywhere,” he said. “In fitness, people prefer apps that tell them what to do versus personal trainers. Now imagine that app being a hundred times smarter as well as being conversational.” AI sales consultant Zach Hynek agrees, adding “it’s clear people are still vastly underestimating the power of technology,” akin to “credit cards, the internet and automated kiosks,” each of which went through what he called their “this will never work” phase.
Social media marketer Danielle Miller can see how AI coaching can be set up, since she said, “all you need is the right prompts and baseline content examples and you can ask AI to act as the coach, billionaire, or businessperson of your choice.” She thinks the majority of people will “be able to get similar insights and perspectives from AI.”
Founder of prompt engineering company Enigmatica, Edward Morris, said the answer depends on the definition of “coach,” which has different meanings across sport and business. Morris said he has “helped pharmacies and other medical professionals, as well as ordinary citizens, to implement AI coaches or consultants into their lives to help diagnose illnesses and provide over-the-counter or natural treatments.”
Viral content strategist and CEO of Viral Marketing Stars, Kayta Varbanova, believes that “AI will replace the least talented coaches because it provides a level of speed that no human can meet.” Email list professional Nellie Jordaan added it will “replace the output, systems and strategy,” but not the “emotions and awareness.” It’s complicated. Kat Young, engineer, consultant and technologist, thinks AI can disrupt coaching with “personalized and scalable solutions to analyze data, including performance metrics, L&D benchmarks, and individual goals,” all of which human coaches would struggle to do without technology.
AI entrepreneur Vee Khuu took this argument one step further, saying “AI will destroy coaches who keep their knowledge a secret and think the only way someone could get that knowledge is by buying their courses or coaching programs.” The challenge is for them to leverage AI to work in their favour, not shy away. Ultimately, he said, AI coaches “can’t motivate people to do the work or understand a client’s body language to dig deeper and find the core issue,” but believes this is only a matter of time.
No, AI will not replace coaches
“AI won’t replace coaches, but it will introduce a new dimension in coaching,” predicts AI entrepreneur and digital creator Anna Poplevina. “Imagine complementing monthly coaching sessions with daily AI insights tailored to your progress and challenges.” She said this approach is more than 24/7 access, in that it “creates a personalized growth journey where AI complements the human touch in coaching in a way that’s never been done before.”
Rapid transformational coach Joffrey Berti has a similar view, believing AI will not replace coaching, it will add to it. “The future of coaches lies not in the replacement of human factors but rather in the harmonious integration of AI.” He thinks at first this looks like AI simply “recognizing patterns and drawing data driven insights,” but with humans still working with clients and bringing empathy and other human emotions, including “working with subconscious minds, where AI is not yet able to reach.” Berti is excited for technology and humanity to converge and “unlock the fullest potential of individuals.”
Ex-Google AI educator Alex Northstar doesn’t think AI will replace coaching, but believes “AI will do the coach’s grunt work.” He said that “in the next ten to twenty years, people will still crave connection,” and doesn’t see anyone “trusting an AI coach enough to pay $5-10k per consultation.” But Northstar encourages us to ask the real question, which he said is, “will AI coaches be better than human coaches?” an answer he believes is no, but only for now.
Author of Prompt MBA David Boyle, who has been studying AI’s impact on business advisory and psychotherapy, doesn’t think AI will replace coaches “because human experts plus AI beat AI alone… for now.” However, he predicts “AI will significantly increase the number of people who are coached,” which can only be a good thing. Entrepreneurs succeed faster with guidance, and coaches are essential for that to happen.
“AI will augment the work of coaches by allowing them to be more available via an AI version of themselves,” explained Kyle Balmer, coach and educator, as well as head of the AI Business Breakthrough Academy. “Imagine 24/7 access to your coach alongside your normal weekly in-person sessions. That’s what AI-assisted coaching can offer.” Balmer sees that “for coaches who seize this opportunity, their practice can be supplemented by AI rather than replaced.
Tina Dahmen, founder of Coach Marketing Hub, also knows of platforms where “you can fully clone yourself and train your AI version with your frameworks, tone of voice, and coaching style.” This AI version “can even be programmed with empathetic responses, integrating soft skills into its capabilities.” But Dahmen said whether or not AI replaces coaching will depend on “how the market responds to AI coaches,” including if they prefer a human connection.
Professor of Education Innovation Sarah Jones said she has “used a couple of platforms for this kind of thing and although it doesn’t replace it, it does offer immediate responses to think differently about things.” Publisher and asset creation coach Debs Jenkins also believes in a complementary effect, in that “AI will enhance and extend their capabilities,” but won’t replace coaches completely. She does, however, appreciates AI’s prowess in, “processing vast amounts of data, identifying patterns and offering insights,” all of which can supplement a human coach’s success with their clients.
CEO of That Strategy Co, Lisa Johnson, doesn’t think coaches need to worry because they “offer unique perspectives, adaptability, and emotional intelligence, forming connections that AI can’t replicate.” She continued, “in a world craving authenticity, personal brands will always triumph.” Rob Da Costa, founder of Da Costa Coaching, concluded that “clients want empathy and understanding and to look you in the eye when working with you.” However, having already made an AI version of himself, Da Costa has replaced some elements of his work with AI coaching, giving access to his knowledge to “a wider audience who can’t afford my coaching fees and therefore wouldn’t normally work with me.” Da Costa’s own AI, AskRobAnything agreed, adding “AI is unlikely to fully replace the role of a coach!”
A hybrid approach: the best result all round?
While some believe AI replacing coaches will never happen and others believe it’s inevitable, it’s safe to say that humans and robots can peacefully coexist when it comes to coaching. The best coaches can leverage their personal brand to expand their impact, reach more people, and supplement their exceptional service with AI tools, data and insights. The worst will be commoditized like many professions before them. In the long run, whatever clients demand will prevail. Astute coaches will be asking the questions and listening for clues, to work out how they pivot and what they keep doing.
As with most elements of AI, if humans are being replaced by robots, the winners are the ones building the robots. The winners are those seeing the lay of the land and deciding how to make their move, before being the first to take action and reap the rewards. Whether that’s in providing a hands-on experience a robot could never imitate, making an AI version of you to supplement your sessions, or simply using AI to automate your admin, coaches in every field must smartly adapt to survive and thrive.
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