Using AI to develop leaders FEATURE
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Artificial Intelligence helps managers become stronger leaders.

Some say people are born leaders. Some say they're groomed to be leaders. Now, artificial intelligence is helping to coach managers into leaders, by teaching them soft skills like clear communication, teamwork, and problem solving.

According to the Harvard Business Review, most companies wait 10+ years to train managers. If you combine this with the fact that a top reason people leave jobs is due to poor managers, it's clear why building positive soft skills within managers is so important.

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The AI-driven AI software Butterfly is designed to train managers to develop key soft skills needed to evolve into stronger leaders. Because the company's main customers are large enterprises and Fortune 500s, the tool is is built to address large numbers of employees and a sizable number of mid-level managers. When the tool collects data, it's also able to understand if work problems are linked to stress, works environment, or lack of communication. 

How does it work?

"We use a set of ongoing surveys that are sent to the manager's team, in order to grab key KPIs about the level of engagement and well-being of the teams, and we use data about the team, such as who's reporting to who, gender, seniority and age," explains David Mendlewicz, CEO of Butterfly. "We then track the situation in the which the manager is failing or succeeding, based on the report we get from the team." 

The firm DecisionWise also uses employee surveys tools to help leaders within companies.

At the organization level we utilize AI to interpret benchmarking trends and comments. This allows us to create accurate profiles of leadership effectiveness."We use surveys at the organization, team, and individual levels," says DecisionWise President Greg Zippi. "At the organization level we utilize AI to interpret benchmarking trends and comments. This allows us to create accurate profiles of leadership effectiveness. We also include several third-party assessments to create a comprehensive aggregate report based on algorithms created for predicting leadership success."

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Taking things a step further, Butterfly uses machine learning to train managers through personalized and dynamic coaching plans. This is all done administered through the AI coach, Alex

How does AI coaching compare to human coaching?

With the business leadership coaching industry currently worth $1 billion in the US, one begs to ask how an AI coach like Alex is better better than a human coach. 

Mendlewicz says Butterfly basically does the same thing a human coach would do. First the AI coach assesses how teams feel using a set of questions that were developed, based on applications and studies. The AI coach can then turn those KPIS to algorithms used to create automations of content for specific situations.

Sounds a little more complex and technical than how a person coaches, right?

Mendlewicz says Alex is helpful for companies that want to coach at scale.

"We still think that due to the current tech available the exchange of a real coach can be more targeted and tailored," he says. "The problem is that coaching is not available for every manager in a company. The largest number of managers are entry-level and mid-level, people that are managing small teams between 5-10 people. They're never coached, and receive little support. That's the gap that we think our cost effective tech fills."

While DecisionWise keeps its coaches human, the company uses assessments to inform its coaching services. One of its most popular coaching programs is  the 100-day Lens™, which includes many of the services personal coaches offer like bi-weekly scheduled calls and unlimited access to coaches via e-mail or phone.

Regarding further AI use, DecisionWise uses it to analyze open-ended comments, and identify recurring themes and the sentiment around them.

Like doctors and educators, AI might not yet fully replace leadership coaches, but it's definitely complementing their work. 

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About Melissa Jun Rowley

Melissa Jun Rowley is an award-winning journalist, on-air host, and content strategist with a passion for all things tied to social innovation.