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  • Writer's pictureDr. Rajesh Mohan Rai

EXECUTIVE COACHING IN INDIA: Finding roots in hard business environment.

An executive coach is a qualified experienced professional who works with business leaders and high potential employees to support them to become more self-aware, achieve their development objectives, and bring clarity to their goals. An executive coach helps the leaders to unleash their hidden potential. By listening intently, attentively, and deeply to the client, an executive coach is able to ask insightful and thought-provoking questions to create awareness of the leader’s unique strengths as well as experiences and contradictions. The coach asks relevant and exploratory questions to help leaders find a solution to their problems on their own.

Executive Coach uncovers the story behind the story of the behaviors exhibited by leaders.

Executive coaching is still in its infancy in India, though its roots could be traced some 15-18 years back. However, its significance to businesses and the leaders are on an upward curve, given the economic uncertainties and complex issues inside and outside companies faced by business leaders in India today. As a consequence, Indian business leaders are losing genuineness as leaders, and have commenced the process to engage with an executive coach who acts as a sounding board, confidential and trusted friend, philosopher, and guide.

Any business leader can’t be prepared for every crisis; however, the organization and the leaders can take steps in advance to reduce the consequences of a crisis. A leader must always keep in mind the importance of actions and choices during times of crisis. A leader can’t predict a crisis; however, the leader can prepare oneself for them in certain ways.

The change in the last 15-18 years with respect to coaching has been that companies today have moved from engaging coaches “a reaction to a business crisis” to engaging them “proactively for the development” of leaders and executives at senior and mid-levels.

Executive coaches regularly work with clients on the skills that tend to show most obviously during crises. Decision-making, communication, owning mistakes, and delegating responsibly are skills that business leaders regularly focus upon in the coaching sessions. Even if the business leader has never faced a major crisis, those skills have been and will be key to outstanding leadership.

Until the recent past, the Indian subsidiaries of MNCs engaged executive coaches. Today, the gamut has expanded to include mid-level managers, high potentials employees, and vintaged managers in family-managed businesses.

In some PE funded startups, executive coaching for the leaders is a mandate from the funding partner. They are coached on business and leadership behaviors. This has opened doors to having thoughtful and introspective conversations and providing objective feedback. In the last 5 years, the number of organizations engaging executive coaches has increased multifold. Organizations have become more selective and have started having rapport building meetings before the coach is onboarded. Mutual comfort is objectively evaluated.

Earlier in India, coaching had a negative perception. Leaders were not very forthcoming to be coached, however, the perception is changing now. The context, purpose, and objective of executive coaching is understood more clearly by everyone. The coaches are being engaged to accelerate the growth of business leaders and High Potential employees. Today in some of the progressive thinking organizations, coaching has been made part of the Total Reward System for High Potential employees.

The executive coaches along with the clients co-create the coaching goals, question beliefs, reflect and change the way leaders observe, and bring in very evident and sustainable changes in leaders’ behaviors ensuring the needle movement and Return on Investment. The leaders and the companies are willing to invest time, energy, efforts and money for the leaders’ development journey. It is evidently understood by leaders that the investment is not on executive coaching but the desired business outcomes.

The current status of the executive coaching industry in India poses multiple challenges. i.e. non-availability of CXO-level coaches, inadequately stated briefs by sponsors/ HR function, considering coaching as one more tick mark activity, coaches not being considered as long-term partners, etc. Another worrying issue is, often organizations expect coaches to deliver sustainable behavior change in three to six months. This is an unrealistic expectation. The industry must make efforts to educate and sensitize HR Professionals on the role executive coaching can play in achieving business results.

Executive coaching is slowly and steadily gaining energy in India, organizations should take the necessary steps to create a culture of coaching. In years to come, coaching would support more and more mid-level managers instead of being largely confined to the senior and top management.

Today, many organizations understand the power and effectiveness of coaching and are engaging executive coaches for their leaders to not only improve the business performance but also to grow them as human beings – by igniting their inner core and talent and enriching their life by enabling them to realize game-changing outcomes of altruism, affiliation, achievement, and abundance.



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