How matured is the concept of ‘executive coaching’ in India?
I think ‘executive coaching’ is far from being a mature concept, and is still in its early days. We have embarked upon a journey, which is beginning to see rapid growth. If you look back 5 years, only the Indian arms of large global organizations were open to the concept of ‘coaching’ because of favorable experiences they had had in the US and Europe. Today, we are seeing many large Indian organizations recognizing the need to adopt executive coaching, as well as many VCP funded first generation entrepreneurial organizations that are using executive coaching extensively.
What is the role of a coach? How does it contribute to business productivity? When is coaching useful/required?
In India, executive coaching is in its early days where a large number of organizations are availing of this form of intervention for the purpose of ‘transition management’. Here, the objective is to prepare someone to take on a higher role, or move to a CXO position, or even be a member of the board. In such cases, the organization identifies a person at least a year or so before he/she is due to take on a higher responsibility and introduces coaching to prepare him/her for the new role. There are also instances where an individual has been elevated into a higher role and the organization then realizes that there are some inadequacies, and therefore brings in a coach to work with the individual on his/her areas of improvement. So, coaching has been more of a ‘transition management’ in that sense.
Coaches in India are not yet hired to drive efficiency.
Further, many VCP funded entrepreneurial organizations also engage coaches to manage growth in a variety of aspects. These entrepreneurs are typically young individuals who started a venture with a great business idea, grew very fast, and then felt the need to work with a coach to manage this accelerated growth.
What is the ‘coaching style’ that you have adopted and why does it work best for you?
I would say that styles depend on an individual and should deliver what is needed in each situation. We use a non-directive style which is universally accepted. It is very coachee-centric, and based on respect to the coachee. Our style is to deliver what the coachee needs, and not what we think the coachee should need. We define our coaching style as one that is founded on trust and mutual respect, and is non-recommendative . At CFI, we prohibit a directive style.
What are the other methodologies in coaching? And how do organizations know which methodology will work best for their purpose?
Last year, at CFI’s Coaching Conclave in Bangalore, in my introductory speech, I referred to the existence of close to 20 coaching methodologies, in order to understand what lay behind each one. And I concluded that all methodologies are similar, in as much as they attempt to identify where you want to go, what you want to achieve, and define the process by which the coachee moves from point A to point B.
Some methodologies are more mechanistic in nature, where the idea is to only look at the present and the future. Others say that the past, the present and the future form a continuum, and one needs to understand the past in order to make sense of the present and gauge what the future might hold.
There are also methodologies, which are more behaviorist in nature, where there is an attempt to understand the story behind the story, rather than merely looking at the face-value of the situation. This has a high dose of psychology embedded in the process, which differentiates it from the earlier methodology.
The CFI approach is drawn from Gerard Egan who states that when you are dealing with a person, you are dealing with the ‘complete’ person. Therefore, there is a lot of emphasis on understanding the person in his/her entirety. So, if a coachee has a list of ten areas of development, we strive to prioritize and define the two most significant areas which will provide the maximum leverage. This approach is wider in its interpretation as compared to others, because we seek to understand the behavior, style and culture of the coachee. Therefore, it is extremely important for our coaches to be psychologically literate, with specific reference to the school of positive psychology, and also possess an in-depth understanding of various psychometric tools.
What are the challenges in ensuring success of a coaching exercise?
Firstly, and especially in India, organizations are doing a commendable job up to the point where they identify that an executive needs to work with a coach. But once the coach and coachee commence their engagement, the two of them are left alone and there is a complete absence of any involvement of the organization or presence of a sponsor. This is a big challenge, because the involvement of the organization throughout the process is critical for the success of any coaching exercise. Unfortunately, India has not reached the level of maturity required to understand this need.
Secondly, some coachees begin to lose their motivation during the course of the coaching exercise. In such situations, the challenge is to keep the coachee focused and motivated.
And finally, specific to India again, is the challenge of ensuring that the coach and coachee meet face to face as often as possible. CFI forbids coaching on Skype, through e-mails or telephonic conversations, unlike in the west. And since senior executives have busy travel schedules, there is a huge challenge in creating adequate opportunities to schedule in-person meetings to make the coaching exercise productive.
What is the future of coaching in India?
The market for executive coaching in India has grown 100 percent year-on-year in the last 3-4 years. But this growth has been mostly horizontal in nature, where the size of each business is still quite small. 4 years ago, CFI received 20 assignments a year, whereas today we engage in at least 200 assignments per year, and our market share has increased to 50-60 percent. So I do foresee a very bright future for ‘Executive Coaching’ in India.
Pradipta K. Mohapatra is Chairman, Executive & Business, Coaching Foundation of India (CFI)