A look at the evolution in the Indian leadership coaching industry
Professional coaching is relatively a new concept in India and has gained momentum only in the last few years. As a pioneer coach in India, I have had the privilege of experiencing these transitions in the industry. When I started working as a coach (in 2006), I noticed a gap in the leadership development in corporate India. Back then, there were no opportunities to formally learn coaching in India, and neither was there any understanding of professional coaching.
Fast forward to 2020, and there are five International Coaching Federation Chapters in cities across India. What’s more, there are approximately 4,500 trained coaches across India and several Indian and International coaching courses as well. India has hosted a few local, national and global coaching conferences to create awareness of coaching as well. The pressure to perform, be agile and innovative, develop and empower teams, and a desire to experience life, is clearly making it imperative for leaders to build self-awareness. The reflective presence of a coach helps the client to develop self-awareness and facilitates the client to act relevantly and collaboratively.
In this context, I believe that the professional coaching industry is set to grow in India in the near future. Over the years, there has been a significant shift in how organizations view coaching. For instance, earlier, coaching was viewed as a ‘fix-it’ tool; if an organization was looking to either cleanup or was looking for ways to remedy behavior, they believed that a coach would be the right resource. After a few failed attempts, people recognize that for creating self-awareness, a person has to be willing to be curious and vulnerable to reflect internally and be honest with themselves. Therefore, with minimal buy-in from the client during the nascent days, coaching was not very effective in India.
Over the last few years, however, coaching has been used to develop people who are transitioning roles, changing careers. Even leaders who realize that they need external support to understand their thought patterns and triggers and become more productive and successful are opting for it. Furthermore, professionals have become keen to explore life beyond the dimensions of the corporate world, and having a trusted mentor is always helpful. Many working professionals have realized that self-awareness is not limited to leadership roles but is an essential ingredient to living life with happiness. Hence, several individuals have started engaging coaches on a personal basis. To serve this growing need, coaches offer services in different niches like career coaching, wellness coaching, leadership coaching, happiness coaching, etc. Coaching is no-longer perceived as an expense but an investment into personal development and growth.
Thus, there has been a change in the audience that is seeking coaching. Earlier, coaching was more popular with multinational organizations since their senior leaders often got coached by international coaches. After experiencing the benefit, they offered the same to their next level leaders. And over the years, Indian companies have also started engaging coaches for their senior leaders and high potential executives. Notably, startups too, are engaging coaches to align teams and grow faster.
With technological evolution making information available instantly, the playing field has been equalized and managers are forced to think differently and listen attentively. This has created awareness that coaching is also a leadership skill that facilitates empowerment and helps others build potential. To develop leaders as coaches, many organizations are encouraging their executives to attend coaching courses to create a culture of coaching.
Another growing market segment is the Indian family businesses. Having difficult conversations is an art, and sometimes emotions and perceptions inhibit the effectiveness of such conversations. To develop the next generation of leaders and ease succession, while maintaining family relationships, mid-sized companies have started seeking the support of external coaches as well. Also, with increasing choices and competitiveness, students and young professionals who are seeking career change connect with coaches to change gears in their careers.
With the surge in supply of coaches and increasing demand for coaches, the corporate world has become more discerning in selecting coaches. Now, several businesses offer a panel of coaches to their executives to ensure that the relatability and trust enhance the effectiveness of coaching. Also, there is an increasing appreciation that a coach is different from an advisor or mentor and is essentially, a resource that partners to support the process of self-discovery. Hence, organizations are keen to get coaches who practice this distinction in their coaching sessions.
Certifications, credentials, and work experience and above all, the level of self-awareness of the coach, have become essential criteria for assessing the capability of a coach. To match the supply with the demand, coaches too are focusing on expanding their self-awareness by learning from peers and senior coaches. Additionally, coaches are sharing their learning and experiences through different mediums such as social media, books, webinars, taking coaching courses, and participating in events, which leads to more visibility and following as well.
This is not a mere increase in the expansion of the market of supply and demand, but also the increase in the number of learning opportunities for coaches, and the exchange of seasoned international coaches as well. Above all, since coaching helps to identify the observer within, coaching is being recognized as a tool for being better at work and life.