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Executive Coaching in India

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In India, Executive coaching is an idea whose time has come. The idea is catching on as more and more organisations are turning to coaches to build a leadership pipeline faster.

IBM has more than sixty certified coaches among its ranks worldwide and Microsoft has trained coaches in many locations. Scores of other major companies have made coaching a core part of executive development including Agilent, Nokia and Ericsson. The belief is that, under the right circumstances, one-on-one interaction with an objective qualified third party can provide a focus that other forms of organizational support simply cannot.

It is understandable that there is a fair degree of confusion related to coaching, given that this is relatively a new professional field. The differentiating borders between coaching, mentoring, consulting and counseling can be narrow which is why ICF (International Coaches Federation) has come up with a definition. Here is what ICF says:

Professional Coaching is an ongoing professional relationship that helps people produce extraordinary results in their lives, careers, businesses or  organizations. Through the process of coaching, clients deepen their learning, improve their performance, and enhance their quality of life. In each meeting, the client chooses the focus of conversation, while the coach listens and contributes observations and questions. This interaction creates clarity and moves the client into action. Coaching accelerates the client’s progress by providing greater focus and awareness of choice. Coaching concentrates on where clients are now and what they are willing to do to get where they want to be in the future, recognizing that results are a matter of the client’s intentions, choices and actions, supported by the coach’s efforts and application of the coaching process.

In an Indian context coaching could help in three ways.

1. Post Training (Follow-Up) Coaching.

A large number of Indian organisations invest huge amounts of money and considerable time in Leadership and skill development programs. These programs are usually outsourced to external agencies or top B schools in the country. Follow-up Coaching has been known to increase the ROI on these training initiatives and enable participants to actually implement the learning’s at the workplace.

Prof Kirkpatrick who studied evaluation of training programs created a four step model evaluation model which essentially measures:
Reaction of student – what they thought and felt about the training
Learning – the resulting increase in knowledge or capability
Behaviour – extent of behaviour and capability improvement and implementation/application
Results – the effects on the business or environment resulting from the trainee’s performance

Usually it is difficult to measure, for most training initiatives at the moment do not measure the 3rd and 4th levels – the behavioural change or Business Results. Post training coaching and help in translating learning into work place applications thus creating positive results.

So, should you have a coach? And which managers in your sphere of responsibility might benefit from working with an outsider to help sharpen skills and overcome hurdles to better performance?

The right approach to answering these questions still varies a great deal depending on whom you ask, but input from several dozen coaches, and executives who have undergone coaching, does provide a useful framework for how to think about the role of coaching.

2. Coaching with a Problem Resolution Focus.

This can be to help specific executives to improve certain competencies or skills that are not helping them to grow within the organization. I hear a story of a senior executive who was not selected for the CEO’s post of a large telecom company, as after repeated feedbacks he could not improve his interpersonal skills and sensitivity. An executive coach would have been the ideal solution in this case. I also remember working with a newly appointed sales head of a pharma company helping him to cope with the new culture and the team.

Most organisations do a training need analysis (TNA) and would find 2 people have a need to be more assertive, 3 people have a need to be more people oriented and so on; they would then look for a suitable training organization or solution to improve these competencies. Coaching, rather than training, would by far be the more effective option in such situations.

3. Coaching with a Developmental Focus:

Coaching is the most effective tool when it comes to developing leaders, supporting high potential individuals, and supporting senior management. This could be by way of enhancing emotional intelligence, creating a healthy work life balance, adjusting to a new leadership role, managing the Board, managing ambiguity and business challenges, etc.

A large number of organisations provide coaches to their senior management with a developmental focus. We ourselves worked with a 12 member Executive Committee of a Telecom Circle, coaching them for six months with a focus on supporting them with their business goals and work life balance.

Who can be a Coach

The recent coach certification workshop we conducted was attended by a CEO, two HR heads, two Training heads, one Marketing head and a mix of several consultants, facilitators and trainers. What we heard them describe as their motivations/reasons for stepping into the coaching arena were:
1. They like people and want to bring out the best in them
2. They want to do something more fulfilling in their lives
3. They want personal and financial freedom
4. Their family, friends and colleagues previously turned to them for advice and help – they have natural ‘people’ skills

Over and above, understanding complex human behavior, organizational dynamics, inter personal and intra personal dynamics and professional training in the process of coaching is essential to be a good coach.

As India Inc. steps up to occupy center stage in the global markets, there is an ever-growing need to groom top-notch Leadership talent, unearth more CEO’s and create a large skilled workforce. Increasingly, organizations have embraced Executive Coaching as their way forward – in the coming years it will bloom and grow exponentially as an idea whose time has come.

“You can resist an invading army; you cannot resist an idea whose time has come.” – Victor Hugo

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