Article (June-2021)


Coach is a catalyst of transformation

Ashu Khanna

Designation : -   Founder & CEO

Organization : -  Arka Leadership, Mumbai


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Does Coaching really work in organisations and help transform the business?

AK Yes, I can say with utmost confidence that coaching works! The rapidly growing coaches community globally and engagement of coaches by more and more organisations is proof of its power and effectiveness. Over the last 15 plus years, I too have personally experienced the transformational impact of coaching and worked with many leaders from Indian and multinational organisations, NGO's, entrepreneurs, family businesses, students etc.

An offering of the West, Coaching has gained momentum in India over the last decade or so. Coaching is actually the guru-shishya parampara of India, that has been given framework and set of competencies by the West. The anchored presence and expertise of a coach or guru facilitates another to walk down the path of self transformation to grow into a masterful leader.

The fundamental requirement for coaching to really work is the 'willingness' of a client to be vulnerable and curious to develop awareness of self and shed the false ego. Many organisations and leaders engage coaches to transition to senior roles and responsibilities, change organisations, explore career options, seek to grow holistically or take an entrepreneurial journey etc. Coaching also works effectively with organisational teams to develop self awareness, align the team with the vision and values, work collaboratively and ignite the entrepreneurial spirit etc.

I recall working with the CEO from a multinational organisation, who noticed that in his zeal to achieve the bottom line, he had overlooked the scorecard of his relationship with the team. His assumptions and expectations had hampered his ability to engage effectively. He decided to spend time with his team to know them as 'human beings' and not just 'team players'. Through this, he developed a new sense of ease in communication. The team too felt more comfortable and confident to speak up without feeling judged or fearful. The enhanced levels of empowerment and trust, created space for the leader to grow the business. The best outcome of coaching was that he was able to look at life as a play rather than feeling stuck or anxious and thus, be exploratory and experimental in his attitude. This instituted a significant change in the culture of the organisation, enhanced productivity and pushed the profitability by 300%.

What are the coaching skills a coach should have?

AK Coaching is a process of self discovery, wherein the role of the coach is to evoke awareness and expand the observer of the client. To be a catalyst of transformation, a coach plays multiple roles as a confidante, relatable sounding board, anchored presence and reflective mirror. To play these role with dexterity, the coach most importantly needs to commit to self transformation as a way of life. When the coach evolves in alignment with Natures' play of life, the coach is personally aware of the pain, challenges, possibilities and miracles of life. The compassionate presence helps the client unfold and be agile and resilient in the face of life.

The International Coach Federation ('ICF') has designed globally accepted core competencies to help coaches engage in an effective and meaningful manner. One of the most important competencies is the relatability and presence of the coach that sets the tone for establishing a relationship of trust. Trust in self and trust in the wholeness of the client, gives space to the client to explore their emotions and voice their thoughts vulnerably.

To create value in a coaching conversation, the coach must establish a clear understanding of goals and desired outcomes. This clearly sets the context and focuses attention of the client. In a corporate sponsored assignment, it is advisable to have involve stakeholders to ensure transparency, form a realistic understanding of the clients personality and developmental goals and garner support and acknowledgement for the ensuing change in behaviour.

Shedding the persona by accepting and letting go of fears, attachments and perceptions is not easy. The coach needs to have the capacity to manage strong emotions and flow with ease. The emotional maturity of the coach to discern when to give space or communicate compassionately helps the client to go deeper to assess their reality and shed their persona.

Also, when the coach is fully present to the subtle nuances in the client's behaviour and listens deeply, he can shine light on the inner resourcefulness, paradoxes, patterns and triggers.

Using the leaders language and learning methods, sharing relevant stories, metaphors and experiences are some additional skills that can effectively support aleader to think outside their comfort zone. Additionally, acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of the leaderhelp the leader to take a pause and feel empowered and resourceful.

Last but not the least, the proof of the coaching lies in action. Successful leaders are driven by the need to excel and grow. Powerful insights catapult the leader to design creative solutions and hold themselves accountable to keep moving forward. As hygiene, at the beginning of every coaching session, I always ask them to share how the intervening period has been and at the end of a coaching session, I request for a recap of the key take always and what will they do differently to achieve the goals. Additionally, I recommend clients to maintain a journal such that it helps them realign with their goals, strengths and values as well as celebrate their achievements.

Is coaching required to be redefined in changed business environment? If so, what factors should be taken into consideration?

AK Life is dynamic and therefore, getting stuck or needing a sounding board or feeling swamped is not unusual for leaders, especially in crisis. Through the pandemic, I have experienced that clients have mostly needed the safe space to shed their turbulent emotions and feel empowered to move forward with imperfect data. They have required a coach who is comfortable with not knowing and exploring as well as wearing different hats of an coach, advisor, mentor and guide to evoke awareness.

In a changing business environment, coaching can be used effectively for teams as well as senior management to realign with the vision and values and facilitate collaborative action. Also, an organisations needs to appreciate that coaching is not a remedial tool and neither is it limited to managing transitions or developing only senior leaders. Coaching is a relationship that fosters to unleash potential by expanding awareness in everyone. The expanded awareness facilitates leaders to be agile, compassionate and courageous in a crisis.

A coach who is deeply anchored in the inner self has the capacity to be fully present, compassionate and agile. The deep sense of rootedness gently pierces the persona of the leader and allows him to take a pause, recalibrate and take decisions that are right in that moment. Also, the anchored presence integratesthe thoughts, emotions, senses and energy of the leader. This helps the leader to embrace their authentic, vulnerably open themselves to explore in the face of unknowns and take support from others.

In difficult times, it is critical to ensure that the client does not get stuck in their feeling of helplessness. Recently, a client who is the senior HR leader of a large manufacturing business has been facing the possibility of loss of life and jobs due to the pandemic and decline in demand and profitability. As a coach, being empathetic and rooted in the inner self has helped client dig deep into their inner reservoir of compassion and courage. Additionally, listening compassionately and patiently, while constantly keeping the context of the coaching agreement alive, served my client to confidently launch new initiatives with speed and present maverick solutions to the Board of the organisation.

Another client who is a senior leader for a software solutioning company has been most fearful of losing business and therefore, passing the ensuing stress to his team. We have been working together to deepen his faith in his ability to develop new business, design processes to let go and allow the team to take more responsibility. To build patience to ride the waves has required a frequent reminder of 'what's exists' rather than being stuck with 'what if'. Also, acknowledging his achievements and celebrating the team for delivering extraordinary results hashelped himstep off the treadmill and be more strategic and empathetic.

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