Does Coaching Work?

“What are your thoughts on your blind spots and what do you plan to do about it?” probed a gentleman with a powerful voice. He was my Executive Coach and the other person who was asked this question point blank was me. Although this question framed as a statement had been conveyed to me in the past by my boss during appraisal discussions, the introspection guiding manner in which it was queried upon this time around made the whole difference.

This was my very first one on one Executive Coaching experience, as a Coachee years ago. I was then a middle level executive. This was a time when coaching in India, was slowly trying to find its foothold. My organisation had identified external Coaches to work along with 3 peers of mine and myself as a part of an in-company career fast-track intervention.    

When I was first informed on the Coaching initiative, I had no clue as to what I was getting into. Due to the rigorous conditioning of the educational system in India, the word “Coaching” for me was more synonymous with private tuition / coaching classes which find its overwhelming presence across all major cities and towns out here. There was also a dab of self-doubt within me, trying to over-think on whether the coaching exercise was a mode to correct serious flaws which were visible to others, however not yet identified by me. Was something really wrong with me?

However, I was in for a pleasant surprise. The Executive Coaching process was one of revelation and deep deliberation, enabling profound insights such as:

1).Its All About Habits: Success has a direct correlation with behavior and mindset. To change the course of one’s life, one needs to alter one’s behavior and thought process for the better. Modifying one’s behavior, requires one to change his / her habits. Making adjustments or going in for “Control-Alt-Delete” pertaining to one’s habits not only envisages time, it is also a painful process.

2).The Blurred Line: Coaching is distinct from Mentoring. Many of us are confused on this or refer to the terms interchangeably. While Mentoring provides you with on-the-spot guidance, Coaching is a reflective and evolutionary process, wherein you have to find the solutions to your own challenges. The Executive Coach would be a catalyst in this journey of self-examination and ask the right questions, so as to enable the Coachee to identify the path ahead for himself / herself.

Post this initiative, I had been a part of a couple of other Executive Coaching interventions and got coached. One as late as the year 2018-19, when I was pursuing my almost year long program at Harvard Business School. Each time the experience, albeit positive, had distinct nuances and takeaways from the other. This possibly had to do with the fact that I was at different phases of my career, when I was a part of each one of it. 

I have also been bestowed with the opportunity to coach executives myself. This has not only been an eye-opener, it has also enabled me to obtain meaningful value by harnessing the power of contemplative discussions. Several of my peers and friends, have been also been through the coaching process, primarily being nominated for the same by their respective organisations. Have obtained beneficial perspectives on coaching from them too. 

Executive Coaching has gradually been coming of age in India, with several organisations turning towards it for both – turbocharging the effectiveness of their star performers as well as a methodology of course correction for underperformers. However, despite this surge in demand, I have come to realise that coaching may not always work well for the Coach, Coachee or the organisation. 

There are 3 critical elements which could positively or adversely impact the efficacy of the coaching process.

1).Compatibility: The  length and depth of a coaching intervention requires that both the Coach and the Coachee have a reasonable level of compatibility in terms of approach, temperament and outlook. I am aware of many organisations, which mandate an ice-breaker session between the Coach and the Coachee prior to moving ahead in full steam. In case of a lack of comfort or compatibility, an alternative Coach may be requested for the concerned executive being coached.

2).Preparation: A coaching intervention is an education of the mind and soul. Drawing a parallel with formal education, this activity too requires due homework and preparedness. The entire process can be derailed in case either of the individuals are switched-off or distracted, do not come prepared with the necessary groundwork or are just going about it for the sake of it.

3).Feedforward: As Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, renowned Leadership Coach and Author, once mentioned to me – “imbibing feedback and integrating it is the lifeblood of the coaching mechanism”. Since the process targets clearing the path and propelling oneself ahead, it is “Feedforward” and not just feedback. Humility in accepting feedforward is the cornerstone of a coaching initiative. Since coaching is a symbiotic process, it can never be truly forceful in case the Coach and the Coachee do not recognise that there are invaluable opportunities for each of them to learn from one another.

Being dependent on multiple factors, the composite coaching process can only be as great or not so great, as that the Coach and the Coachee together make it to be. As a beneficiary of 3 coaching interventions so far, I can confidently state that “Coaching Does Work!”. However, there may be an opinion that it does not work. Be it either way, please feel free to share your views on this. And of course, maximise your Eclat!

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