Corporate India gets the context of coaching right.

Vinay Kamath

It was a solemn occasion last week. The second convocation of the Executive and Business Coaching Foundation of India Ltd (CFI), an institution dedicated to the cause of executive and business coaching for corporations and individuals. Two batches of freshly-minted coaches were being graduated which takes the tally of coaches from this nascent institution to 28. Unilever India’s erstwhile HR head, R.R. Nair, and behavioural scientist Udai Pareek, also regarded as the father of the HRD movement in India, were being admitted as honorary fellows of the CFI, given their long experience and contribution as coaches.

While receiving the honour, Nair said, “The place of coaching is evident today as younger people are coming into leadership positions. And, with a focus on performance and accountability, there is pressure.” So, as he said, coaching for leadership at all levels is crucial for organisations.

The dapper Vice Chairman of Cognizant Technology Solutions, Lakshmi Narayanan, was the chief guest. In inimitable fashion, Lakshmi, as he is popularly known, regaled the audience with anecdotes of his experience of being coached, as the top management of Cognizant, by various coaches, including the globe-trotting guru of Indian origin, Ram Charan, whose association was on putting Cognizant on a high growth trajectory. Earlier, Lakshmi recounted, Cognizant had also engaged Larry Gordon, a US-based coach, on how the top management should communicate with the media and analysts. “Only, be prepared for a series of coaches opening the doors for others once you hire a coach,” he said, tongue firmly-in-cheek. The audience was, indeed, in splits. But, on a serious note, Lakshmi was emphatic, when he said, “As an individual and company I have benefited from coaching by different coaches for different situations.”

Pradipta Mohapatra, member of the governing board of CFI and a founder, set the tone for the evening’s ceremony by outlining the CFI’s objectives: creating a new profession, train and accredit coaches to global standards, create an ethical framework to operate and help individuals and corporates to achieve what they are setting out to do through coaching.

Drawing a parallel with coaching programmes around the world, Mohapatra said that the training offered by the CFI was greater in rigour.

Aspiring coaches need to work with a coachee along with a guide in the background and document the whole process as part of the training, he explained. “We also found that many of the aspirants did not have skills in psychology and counselling and an ability to apply psychometric tests,” he said. Now the CFI has developed a framework to take this shortcoming into account.

Having gained some momentum, the CFI wants to spread its wings and start offices in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. “Coaching is a new science and we are talking to universities to launch an accredited coaching programme at the post graduate level,” added Mohapatra. This year, the CFI expects to graduate 14 more coaches, nudging the number of accredited coaches over 40.

Ganesh Chella, also a founder and member of the governing board, explained the scope of coaching to an audience comprising senior executives from a variety of organisations. “Executive coaching helps executives learn and to make best use of learning in order to bring about effective action, performance improvement, personal growth and better business results for the organisation,” is how Chella put it.

An organisation, he said, often needs coaching to help leaders realise their potential or as a leadership development intervention or for performance improvement and personal change or for taking business to the next level of growth. Or, it could even be to promote skills to manage emotions and conflicts. The organisation should be clear on what its top honchos need coaching for.

Outlining some aspects of the goals of coaching, Chella said that coaching could improve the client’s stress management skills and stress hardiness; increase the client’s ability to manage self and others in conditions of environmental and organisational turbulence, crisis and conflict or on a broader plane, improve the client’s ability to manage the tensions between organisational, family, community, industry and personal needs and demands. So, coaching needs could be aplenty but, as the caveat Chella added, unless the individual is receptive and open to a need to get coached nothing positive would come out of a relationship between coach and coachee.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 22, 2008)
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