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Coach your boss, change the mindset

Executive coaching is an in-depth professional intervention and is becoming popular in the Indian corporate world, says Garima Pant.

india Updated: Jan 24, 2006 10:34 IST

Executive coaching is an in-depth professional intervention which enhances managerial functioning through multiple interactions with key executives, one-on-one or in groups.

Coaching is most effective when it includes senior level officials, as it then helps change mindsets, and influence behaviour throughout their organisations.

It is customised to the specific needs of employees, is based on on-the-job experience, has direct application to work situations and thrives on the feedback of participants.

The exercise involves continual guidance, follow-ups and learning.

Shyam Viswanthan, Chief Executive, Corporate Education, Grow Talent, defines executive coaching as, "The process of helping an executive 'develop' by turning his day-to-day work situations into learning opportunities, in a planned manner – and by helping him reflect on the learning to become more (capable) than he previously was."

However, misconceptions about this kind of coaching still persist.

Says Aanal Bhagwati, Principal Consultant, Human Capital Management, Ahmedabad, "In our country coaching is confused with mentoring and is looked at in a very negative manner. It is often kept a secret, which goes against its prime objective."

Executive coaching usually involves three parties -- the coach, the coached and the client (or employer), who pays for the service.

It is different from conventional training, which often does not have long-term benefits, and also the mentors hired do not feel the responsibility to execute the core values.

Says Avinash Kirpal, Advisor, Entrepreneurship, Development and Client Relations, International Management Institute, New Delhi, "The executive coach supports the coached over an extended period till he has acquired the competencies required for his new job."

Executive coaching does not involve any fixed pattern or methodology of training. It is tailored to the needs and the objectives of a client.

"The content of coaching is not pre-determined and does not follow a programme, it is decided by the coached; it is said that the coached decides the agenda, and the coach guides him or her."

Some main elements of coaching include 'Active Listening', 'Powerful Questions,' and 'Direct Communication'," say Dr Nick Pothecary and Christer Soderberg from Value Added Thinking, a Delhi-based consultancy firm.

Amita Virmani, an HR Consultant, says that the first priority for a coach is to have an assessment done at the simplest level so that the preferred way of coaching can be gauged and the best results achieved.

"The coach need not be from the same functional area. A good coach always possesses the skills to ask the right questions at the right time that helps in finding the perfect path," she adds.

Coaching a leader can help change his style and behaviour and this can further enhance the effectiveness of his team.

This method is also beneficial for small and budding companies to move ahead and grow in a well-planned manner.

But why is there a sudden need for coaching? Explains Viswanathan, "Coaching helps an executive reflect on his performance in a specific area with the assistance of an informed, objective coach. The focus is not only on using the knowledge and skills but also on reviewing attitude and approach."

Comments Kirpal, "Managements of most Indian corporates which are striving to become major players in their sectors are immersed in day-to-day issues and often do not devote adequate time and effort to build long-term strengths in their organisations. The executive coach is the catalyst encouraging and supporting the CEO and his team to build an effective management."

The concept of executive coaching is not new to the world. It has flourished in the US and produced magnificent outcomes.

However, in our country, coaching is still in its formative stages. Bhagwati says that the Indian mindset needs to change to adapt to this practice.

"A limited number of organisations have made use of this coaching methodology. It needs to be understood that coaching is not always a remedial measure but more of a developmental technique," she adds.

Says Kirpal, "The experience of the US and European corporates shows that executive coaching delivers a better return on investment than other investments in capacity building.

"Research indicates a spectacular improvement in performance after coaching. A more intensive use of coaching will be a cost-effective way to improve the competitiveness of Indian corporates in global markets."

First Published: Jan 24, 2006 10:34 IST