Workplace coaching of top end managers

India Inc struggles to fight the great talent war, and overnight create an army of top end managers and CEOs to take on the exponential growth in the industry it’s not surprising that corporate coaches are now popping up all over the place.

Increasing exam fever has a stream of executives and companies heading for that time tested strategy of private tuitions. After all if every other kind of celebrity needs a personal trainer, stylist, pet counsellor, speech therapist and so on, why should India’s executives be left behind?

Mostly, companies are still using coaches to help high performers achieve that critical edge, think strategy, and develop potential. The idea is to cut short the long gestation period that turns a high-performer into a leader of stature. Sometimes, they are also called in to help an executive overcome a weakness or skill-gap. Outsiders, professional executive coaches with a history of high performance and experience in management and HR, are fast becoming the preferred choice for companies.

An outsider, without any vested interest in the organization is in a better position to be accepted by the student and more effective in that he can stay neutral, but at the same time ask the tough questions without ruffling egos or internal feathers. The few executive coaches we have in India have their hands full these days.

Companies want things to happen very fast. Rightly and wrongly says an executive coach. Multinational companies like P&G, Unilever, and GE and some Indian companies like Aditya Birla Group, Godrej Industries, L&T and Mahindra and Mahindra, among others now have coaches working with some of their high potential executives.

It’s not mentoring (where a senior coaches) or counselling (where you seek help for emotional issues) but an outside coach is hired by the company to help realise a high performer’s true potential. Coaching is needed by high performers.

One primary condition has to be met before the learning process starts, the executive must be willing to learn. Only when the student is ready to learn a CEO coach is willing to teach.

The coach works for a set period of time, it could be 6-12 meetings depending on the student’s readiness to change, and each meeting sets some milestones in terms of the changes they hope to achieve.

The coach first helps to bring about change in awareness (knowledge). Then S/he then encourages the student to apply that knowledge so that S/he becomes skillful. They then encourage the student, through appropriate appreciation & recognition and discouragement, so the skill is converted into an attitude. This is called knowledge-skill-attitude-behavior cycle.

Some of the common problems that executives need help with these days are: how to manage time? How to have influence and garner support across organisation? How to motivate self and other team members? People issues are emerging as a key problem area, according to coaches.

Many executives need help in managing their emotions, because emotions are like virus and they spread easily across teams and organisations affecting productivity and environment.

Executives also need help in tuning their intuitive antenna, especially their ability to understand what’s said and what is left unsaid. MNC executives often need help in dealing with continuously shifting power equations as organisations go through global reorganisations or acquisitions and power centre changes.

Coaches begin work like doctors and start with a diagnosis. First, a 360 degree feedback process, lengthy interviews with team members and bosses (often many times), and psychometric tests.

”Behaviour under observation” is another technique coaches use, attending meetings, observing their executives at work, all done in a very transparent manner. People around them are very positive because they see the executive making an effort to improve himself, so they give feedback very sincerely.

Once coaches have analysed the executive’s strengths and weaknesses, they zero in on the top 2/3 issues they will work on. Coaches try and delve into a client’s mind and try and find a link between day to day problems and the big themes.