Coaching is neither counselling nor consulting
Not only is growth the biggest impediment to growth, at the same time, successful people fail to enjoy the success and end up getting more stressed
Be it the underlying concept or the importance, it is apparent that most organizations in India are yet to fully come to terms with understanding the concept of coaching. More often than not, in the business context, it has a negative connotation; it is primarily meant for remedial or corrective action. It seems that they are yet to comprehend the true meaning of coaching and hence, the impression is that coaching is something which is very scary. However, coaching in the world of business is a concept that was originally borrowed from the world of sport. All sportspersons/athletes have a coach and they routinely go back to the drawing board and discuss their career and progress with their coaches, whose sole purpose is to help them achieve their potential. The coach helps them reach out for higher targets by jointly setting short-to-medium term goals for them. Likewise, in the business context too, coaches bring in the ‘sense of reality’.
Organizations usually come up with the question: can coaches resolve business problems? It is to be understood that coaches do not proffer solutions to problems. In essence, they help businesses in their effort to unlock the answers and the potential that lie buried within. As a rule, the clients start with a behavioral assessment, identify the areas for development and personal growth, arrive at their own decisions for improvement, set goals and finally take the responsibility to meet these goals. In this process, the coach helps create awareness and retain focus on broader goals, thereby providing the much needed indirect support towards realizing the objectives. Throughout, the coach does not teach or instruct, but merely facilitates the learning process.
Coaching can be of help at multiple stages; at one stage, they could feel that they are stuck in their job or at another stage, believe that their progress could be more rapid and at the worst stage, not like the job any more.
A classic illustration of one of these stages is reflected when the present day schedule of doing the same work with minor tweaks here or there creates the impression of constant motion for the individual. By continuing to work on these incremental improvements, the individual gradually moves towards a fossil like situation – a situation that I refer to as ‘incrementalization leading to fossilization’. As an analogy, an automobile manufacturer comes up with a new model every year or so, but in essence, the new model has small or incremental design changes; a few years down the line, the model stops generating excitement in the market and is fossilized by the manufacturer. In the people context, the process of being coached can help in periodically reinventing the individual and avoid fossilization-like situations.
In the coaching context, the Inner Coach Methodology can effectively help identify the negative traits, overcome the same, and express the full potential of the individual. The individual looks inward and seeks answers to key questions as to whether or not the present work meets his/ her personal and long term goals, what is the individual doing to realize his/her full potential, and the domains where the individual should expand in order to realize the dreams.
Another characteristic that has been commonly observed is that often business leaders tend to stop listening to others, micro-manage the business and develop ego issues - all of which lead to troubled situations. They tend to surround themselves with ‘yes-men’ and paradoxically the pursuit of growth ends up becoming the biggest obstacle to growth. As a matter of fact, growth comes at a price; the question which needs to be answered is whether the individual is prepared to pay the price for the same or not. Equally critical is the question of how top-level managers facing the growth paradox can ensure that they do not end up missing the woods for the trees while taking decisions. This is when the leaders desperately need a sounding board or a support mechanism that puts them back on the straight path. It is at these stages that coaching serves as a powerful medium to assist the business leaders in maintaining focus on achieving the stated objectives.
Not only is growth the biggest impediment to growth, at the same time, successful people fail to enjoy the success and end up getting more stressed. Despite all the trappings of success, they are unhappy. Leadership coach, John O'Neil has termed this as ‘The Paradox of Success‘ and states that the paradox of success has its genesis in the shadow. Everything that demonstrates success - money, fame, power - tends to feed the shadow. Everyone has a shadow and when the shadow becomes bigger than the self, it pulls the individual down. At such critical junctures, coaches can bring in a sense of reality, self awareness, restore normalcy and help enhance building superior leadership capabilities.
M Krishna Kumar is the Founder Director of the Intrad School of Executive Coaching (ISEC), an organization specializing in leadership development through executive coaching. He is also a member of the Board of Governors of the International Association of Coaching (IAC).