The coaching conundrum

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Anyone can anyone coach? Yes…

Coaching is interesting, especially because in today’s world every 2nd person in my network is a coach. Personally, I feel it is great so long as it is really coaching that we do. This is the group of people that will help raise the consciousness of our human race in our lifetime.

This belief led me to my purpose and I have viewed coaching as one of the most helpful gifts I have received to fulfil it. As the first line on my LinkedIn profile reads ‘🧗🏻My purpose in life is to better a billion lives before I am 50’ – Here is how I plan to do it…

The story so far

I was 13, my father had just passed away and I needed to take care of a family of 4 without much financial support. I found a job alongside work waiting tables at a coffee shop and broke too many glasses – Hospitality was not for me!

Luckily I found another job at an international BPO and soon I was in my first workshop training MBAs on process and communication at 14. The CEO asked me and I said yes, that’s all there is to that story. Soon I was interested on coaching, did that at work to review the calls others were on and really enjoyed the attention and respect that came with being a coach. Little did I know, that was as far from coaching as the Earth is to the moon. I was simply giving feedback!

Over the next few years, I helped set up a bunch of BPOs, did more than a 1000 workshops on a multitude of topics and coached people as an SME to help them do their jobs better. That still was not coaching! It was at best a blend of teaching, feedback and mentoring.

I joined I Train and met whom I believe was my first coach – Samir Limbu. It felt uneasy and frankly, I was constantly wondering if the coaching is helpful at all. He never told me what to do and he never told me if I was right or wrong. All he did was ask me questions, summarize and listen. At 19 years old, ‘How does this help me at all?’ is all I could wonder. Little did I know that I was being taught how to think for myself. Once I realized this, I knew this was going to be an important piece of the puzzle that was me.

Over the next 6 years at I Train, I learnt how to coach, did over 500 Hours of coaching and even coached managers and leaders on how to coach. All this at 23 … I was already on top of the world. I was a coach! What more is there for me to learn? I was wrong.

My real journey of coaching (and being coached)

September 2015, I was sitting in a hotel in Singapore with 6 CEOs who lead businesses worth more than a billion each. My job was really just to observe, apprentice and that is when I first met Dr Daniel Vasella – The former CEO and Chairman of Novartis one of the best coaches I have ever met. Also a medical doctor, I wondered if that is where the sharpness and empathy came from? Could I ever be like that?

The answer, which I soon learnt, was that I have a long way to go. It will be a lifelong journey of removing myself from every coaching conversation I am in and more it can be filled with the life and reflections of my coachees – The more masterful I will become. Who knew that to be a great coach, I need to cease being?

Over the last 5 years both as a coach to my client leaders and a coachee to many of my colleagues and some of the most ardent practitioners of coaching in the world – I have had the good fortune of spending another few hundred hours in the process.

Here is the ‘handwriting on the wall’ I have gathered over these experiences and would love to hear from all of you if you agree, have any reflections or insights to share on these:

  1. My definition of coaching ‘As a coach, I help you ask questions you care about most at the moment and seek answers that you already have within you’
  2. There is a place for every conversation – Feedback, brutal honesty, metering, problem-solving. None of these is coaching but coaching can be all of them and more.
  3. The coaching conversation in the moment is the most important conversation the world, for me
  4. If I am talking for more than 10% of the time in coaching it is too much about me already. Every coaching conversation can only be about the coachee.
  5. Coaching does not take time, it takes intention and willingness to serve selflessly. All my coaching conversations will be 60 minutes, no more no less. 
  6. Like for every build, there is an instrument and a process – For every coachee and every question, there is a coach. I may not be that coach and the moment I realize it, I will share it with my coachee and ask them to decide without judgement.
  7. This is about giving responsibility to you, making it meaningful for you to priorities. Not for me to take responsibility for your life. Each of my coachees understands this. 

My offer: As I continue on my journey, I am happy to support you as a coach for an exploratory session if the answer to the questions below is a ‘yes’ :

  • You lead a mandate today that you thought was not possible to lead 6 months ago?
  • You have dreams that are audacious! Exponential, not incremental, is what excites you and you are willing to do what it takes to make it happen.
  • You are willing to take responsibility for your opportunities and challenges.

My ask: If this post piqued your interest and made you think, please do the following three things:

  1. Tag your coaches – The one’s whom you have cherished the most
  2. Tell me what you think about the ‘Handwriting on the wall’
  3. Share this in every coaching circle and LinkedIn / WhatsApp group you have so that we can hear from others who coach. My intention to compile what people say and update this list in a thoughtful but crowdsourced manner…

P.S. Wanted to also acknowledge the books that support me as a coach and I read over and over again to find my compass: The Great Work of our lives, The Tao of coaching, The inner game of golf, The Hero’s journey, Siddhartha and Man’s search for meaning

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