‘Naturally’ Coaching

'Naturally' Coaching

Nature and people are the two areas I immensely love being in the midst of. They inspire me in incredible ways and in innumerable aspects. One of those is that both nature and people are meant to grow, thrive, and blossom. The question that often arises is do we want to just bloom or be the best bloom? Being the best bloom that we could be is a prerogative as well as a responsibility of each one of us. However, we often grapple with what it really means and how one could go about it—for ourselves and for people we care about, we work with.

This is a journey—a journey that can be cherished and often not done all alone. One needs to find a journey partner, and in some cases be the journey partner. One way could be finding a coach as a fellow journeyman and designing a learning alliance with him/her to accelerate this process while also making it more enjoyable. The beauty of coaching is that it is a two-way process. A coach cannot help but become a better individual himself while assisting the other in the same quest. It, therefore, is imperative for each of us to engage in coaching conversations either as a coachee, or as a coach, or both.

Organizations typically engage executive coaches to foster more blossomed leaders and better business results. While executive coaches are able to cultivate this with the wealth of their expertise, techniques, and experience; I’d like to share a secret with you today. Coaching conversations need not be limited to just coaches. Yes, it is possible to turn almost every conversation between two adults into a coaching conversation. We always encourage our coachees, typically mid to senior managers, to hold coaching conversations with their team members and the common response is, “Oh, but I am a manager and I don’t know the C of coaching. It must be difficult. I have never done it. How will I be able to coach?” and so on.

However, I strongly believe that it is actually quite ‘natural’ for all of us to engage in coaching conversations. We can take some of the best cues from nature for this. Here are my top three picks:

Own unique place:

Each element in nature has its own unique identity, place, and contribution and the same goes with people in an organization too. People are unique, people are different! They differ by their aspirations, abilities, strengths, limitations, challenges, and responses.

And, a coach not only recognizes and respects this beauty of humankind manifested in different forms but also helps the coachee celebrate his own uniqueness and find his own unique place. An innovative mind stuck in a repetitive task, a team member struggling with the agonizing decision of choosing between management and technical tracks, ground-breaking talent development suggestion by an otherwise average performance techie; a coach spots these as opportunities to help the coachee figure out his own way of contributing to the organization.

Just as rain-showers do not distinguish between a sophisticated, dainty daisy flower and a big stout banyan tree; a coach engages with all the coachees with the same enthusiasm, same respect, and same love. You can practice the same while playing the role of a coach with your teams.

Marcus Buckingham says it beautifully, “The true genius of a great manager is his or her ability to individualize. A great manager is one who understands how to trip each person’s trigger.”

Progression and Transformation:

If we look around us, we find things changing in nature by the day, by the hour, and by the minute. A tiny bud here and a new leaf there; the nest taking a shape twig by twig…

People to change incrementally all the time. A rare smile on the otherwise stressed face, a precious ray of optimism in the anxious conversation about an uncertain future, or one small courageous step towards the daunting goal; there is progression all along. A coach notices these changes, however minuscule, acknowledges them and builds on them. She even brings them to notice of the coachee because he himself may be unaware of those on many occasions.

While this slow yet continuous progress happens all the time, there is also an unfolding of exquisite moments of transformation.  A plant bearing its first fruit, the first flight of a fledgling, and the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis is all such spectacles of transformation where the form changes and life change forever.

Coaches are privileged to be part of and to some extent enablers of such transformational moments. Coach notices the inflection points in growth when a coachee’s beliefs change and usually for the better. There is that one golden moment when the belief changes from“ I am not that great. How can I shoulder such a big responsibility!” to “Well. Let me take a shot at it. There is no harm in trying.” A coach helps the coachee build on such moments to make the magical transformation happen.

In the daily interactions with teams, as managers and leaders you are bound to observe many of those, if not all! By being a little mindful of and taking notice of even the small changes that are occurring, you can contribute by acknowledging these and bringing to the notice of team members so that they can build further on those and find their moments of small, continuous progress, inflection points as well as big transformations!

Here and Now:

Have you ever seen the sky lament days of abundant sunshine when it is pouring or a flower that’s worrying about wilting the next day? Every moment each and everything in nature is ‘here and now’, living fully in the moment, never burdened by either the past or the future. Each moment is intricately linked to the other on the thread of continuity and yet maintains its independent existence.

Similarly, in each coaching dialogue, a coach is in the current moment exactly this way- going with the coachee’s flow, completely immersed in the conversation without any judgment from the past or anxiety about the future. Of course, there are mental notes about the overarching goal, history of actions and habits of the mind of the coachee, yet the coach is present in the conversation with a fresh pair of eyes and a pair of brand new ears.  Each interaction is delicately inert-connected and yet each response from the coach is in ‘here and now’.

This is nature’s way of ‘being’ and it is possible to replicate this while coaching your team members. Even if you are a seasoned manager and have been on a given project for a while, you still need to be in tune with what is happening in the current moment. Real-time responses are possible only if you are in that time! While there will always be overarching destinations, planned goals, and business outcomes, one gets there better with living through many nows.

Like Emily Dickinson says, “Forever is composed of many nows”.

By virtue of your role as a manager, you are focused on tasks that lead to the desired business outcomes and you should be. In maintaining the razor-sharp focus on the goal, you might be inclined to keep coaching conversations on the back burner, thinking that this is a lean period activity. On the contrary, practicing these coach qualities right in the middle of heavy-duty action is going to get your team to the goal faster and smoother.

Building stereotypes and devising an auto-response system appears a lot easier than appreciating diverse ideas, spotting those little changes in people, and listening without prejudice. And hence, demonstrating a coach-mindset may seem like a lot of work in the beginning. Most successful manager coaches have expanded in their coach roles through coaching skills trainings. You may require initial support from your coach for uncovering the coach mindset within you and putting it to practice. However, once coaching becomes a  habit, rest assured, it will be effortless and so fulfilling, you will not want it any other way.

It may sound oxymoronic, but the evidence that coaching comes naturally to all of us has sprinkled all around.  You don’t need to become a coach to be a coach to your team. You already are one!


Coaching Overachievers

Coaching Overachievers

As coaches, we would all probably agree that we learn a lot from our clients. That’s why we love what we do. This is even more true in executive coaching, where occasionally, we do find ourselves coaching leaders who challenge us more than usual and where we have to consciously step up our game.

These individuals, while all different, have similar traits. They have high energy, drive and focus and are impatient to do much more. They are overachievers for whom the drive to achieve is too tough to resist.  They don’t just know achievement is important, they feel it.

What Drives Overachievers?

David McClelland, a Harvard psychologist, spent much of his career studying motivation and how it affects leadership behavior. He identified three internal drivers (he called these social motives): achievement, affiliation and power. David defined these drivers as follows: achievement is the desire to excel in relation to a set of standards, and it is the drive to succeed; affiliation is the maintaining of close personal relationships; and power involves being strong and influencing, or having, an impact on others.

He said the power motive comes in two forms: personalized—the leader draws strength from controlling others and making them feel weak; and socialized—the leader’s strength comes from empowering people.

McClelland’s research showed that all three motives are present to some extent in everyone. He initially believed that of the three motives, achievement was the most critical to success. In his later work, however, he argued that the most effective leaders were primarily motivated by “socialized” power, the drive to help others be successful.

Context and Competencies Matter 

I started coaching M and N around the same time. Both worked for different organizations in technology. N knew me, had sought me out, and was extremely eager to begin. N was investing in the coaching himself. M was being sponsored by his organization. The first time I met M was during the chemistry meeting.

Paying attention to the context helped me understand early on how the ICF Core Competencies 2. Establishing the Coaching Agreement and 7. Direct Communication would help me achieve the breakthroughs with M and N.

Story of M and Establishing the Coaching Agreement 

M had accomplished a lot in a short time. He thrived under pressure and set a hectic pace for his team. He was the first to build a new global product with his team in India, and now he wanted to be a part of the global team.

As I listened to him, it was clear that it was all about him and his need for new challenges. So, I asked him, “How important is it for you to help your team grow?” He didn’t answer and just kept quiet. It occurred to him, as he looked at me, that he had never paid attention to this aspect and knew instantly it was a blind spot. Overachievers get it.

He agreed that this was an area we could focus on in the session and that one implementable idea at the end of the call would be a good measure of success for the session. He finds value in the coaching, primarily because I did not move forward until we established the agreement. M, whom I did not know, made a call to trust me. M is now channeling his achievement drive to personal relationships and “socialized” power.

Story of N and Direct Communication 

N is managing a large team of around 800 people, and he was promoted because of his superior project and personal relationship skills.

At the outset, N requested me to challenge him so that he could “catch up” with his peers. He had also received feedback on the need to work on his executive presence. It became clear during the second session that he viewed this intervention as a self-help project, which he would execute under my guidance.

I shared my observations with permission directly during the session: “I could help you design actions to challenge you and to keep you busy, but being busier will not help you increase your executive presence. How much of a challenge is it for you to be less busy and to reflect on what you really need to do?”

The balance shifted, and N started taking charge. Over the next few coaching sessions, N designed actions to support his team to execute independently of him and not just for him.

Coaching overachievers requires coaches to meet them where they are, early on. They are unaccustomed to being challenged and when we, as coaches, slow them down and show them the mirror, they get it.

To do so, we need to be more masterful and for that, the ICF Core Competencies make a huge difference!

This article was originally published on Coaching World – ICF Global website


Bye Bye 2021, Welcome 2022!

Bye Bye 2021, Welcome 2022!

“But…what does that mean– ‘ephemeral’?”- asked the Little Prince.

 “It means, ‘which is in danger of speedy disappearance.’’- comes the answer.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Not too long ago, we had all become so cosy that we almost thought that certainty, continuity and eternity are just some more cards in our wallet. We could flash them whenever we wish and they would be honoured without any question! Come 2020 and just like the innocent, ignorant Little Prince, we got to see life for what it is, truly, ephemeral. 2021 made us repeat the lesson lest we forget it…

While we coaches experience the same shock, disappointment, despair and grief as our clients, I firmly believe that our training and practice in coaching prepares us to observe, absorb, adapt and change the way we think, work and live. Last couple of years have made us even more responsible for our relationships with self, family, clients and community.

You, my friends, have done incredibly well in supporting all these relationships by being a coach. You have held the space for dilemmas, hard decisions and most importantly for finding ‘purpose, through paid and pro-bono initiatives. Take a bow!

In my conversations with coaches in Pune and around the world, few things have stood out

Self-care: At the risk of using a cliché, wear your oxygen mask before helping others. Take a break, paint that canvas, treat yourself to a big ice-cream sundae- whatever it is that helps you unwind. (Or you could just write a blog

Renewed belief: Now, more than ever, the world needs more coaches and more coaching

Love: Surrounded by ephemeral reality, love lives on, for eternity.

May the new year bring possibilities, joy and peace to all of us.

Goodbye 2021!

We await your arrival, 2022!


Covid19 Resources For Coaches

Covid19 Resources For Coaches

ICF is committed to providing our Members and Credential-holders with the support and resources you need to care for yourself and meet the needs of your clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Stronger Two’gether

Stronger Two'gether

1 + 1 = 11 

We have always known this phrase & experienced the same in many areas of life.

One of the critical aspects of this 1+1 =11, to be successful, is that both of them need to be aligned to achieve a common objective.

Proud to share the story of 2 such teams coming together to make this world a beautiful place to live.

GAP (Global Action on Poverty) – is providing a learning platform for Changemakers (Leaders working on the ground on various projects for health, safety, education, and many more areas) to develop Leadership Capabilities and give them access to solutions and people, who can assist them.

GAP takes pride in introducing themselves as:

“An initiative that empowers changemakers to create bold and enterprising visions to amplify their effect against poverty”

ICF Pune Chapter – a young chapter with big aspirations. A group of leaders and coaches who chose the profession of coaching to make a difference in people’s lives.

ICF Pune Chapter’s Vision is:

“To provide yeoman service to the thriving society and the coaching fraternity through high-quality professional coaching and learning experiences”.

GAP and ICF Pune Chapter have joined hands, to create a sustainable impact on the changemakers, by launching an initiative – “PARIVARTAN”. An initiative that has taken several months of planning, took off on 1st April 2020.

16 Coaches from ICF Pune are aligned with 16 Changemakers to embark on the journey of achieving the goals of Contribution.

The induction of these coaches was done with an insightful session by Mughda Shah, an epitome of Social Leadership and a woman of substance where she has touched and impacted the lives of millions of women

And an onboarding session of ICF Pune Chapter Coaches was organized by GAP on 30th March 2020.

Well-known Coaches of the Social Sector – Manisha Dahad, Dharmesh Mistry, and Rashmi Shetty set the tone for project “Parivartan” by sharing experiences and insights for ICF Pune Coaches.

These 2 teams are on the path of making another story real of 1+1=11.

Keep watching this space for updates.


Power Of Coaching

Power of coaching

Conversations on Coaching with Business Leaders –  International Coaching Week, Pune

Our clients have expectations from coaching and they also harbour concerns. A deeper insight into these expectations and concerns will help coaches understand their clients better and in the process learn how to add more value as coaches.

This article is based on candid conversations that we have had with business leaders under the aegis of the ICF Pune Chapter.

The panel was carefully chosen to represent different sectors; in this case, it was Automobiles and Software development. I represented the voice of coaching. So we had three distinct perspectives, which Mangesh Kirtane*, the moderator for the panel, expertly weaved into the conversation to highlight differences as well commonalties.

The business leaders who were invited are strong advocates of coaching, have invested in coaching and are also directly involved in the process of coaching.

The format was free-flowing, a panel discussion followed by audience participation.

This article covers four important themes which are of significance to coaches and their clients. More importantly by addressing these themes from multiple perspectives, the article attempts to address a crucial question for every aspiring and experienced coach, ‘What does it mean to be a successful coach’?


(O1); Business leader from software development

(O2): Business leader from the automobile industry

(PD): Coaching Perspective-Prasad Deshpande


Why is Coaching even more relevant today


There are three important factors that we believe have made coaching even more relevant for our organisation.

It’s a time of accelerated change. The technologies we work with change every three years.

India is a very important location for the organisation. 75% of software development takes place out of India.

Our leaders are young and need guidance as they take on even more responsibilities. Unfortunately, the option of being mentored by senior managers as it used to happen in the past is not an option anymore.

These young leaders require help to articulate their development needs to give the challenges that they face. We believe coaches are best equipped to have these conversations with our leaders. The steps we follow are training followed by group coaching/ 1:1 coaching. This has worked well for us.


Ambitious growth milestones. The need to reduce dependency on China and increase engineering capability in a young organisation. Given this complexity, it was felt training alone would not suffice. Coaching was introduced to senior managers as a part of them leadership development programme.


The coach’s ability to contribute increases significantly when he or she understands the situational and business context in any organisation and takes his or her time to assess the situation.

The coach needs to be a sceptic.

Coaching is even more relevant and important today as coaching can help bring about specific behavioural changes in key individuals that could have a longterm impact on the individual as well as the organisation


What expectations does business leadership have from Coaches?


As the business leaders made it amply clear, a key expectation is for the coach to independently articulate the needs and present an objective recommendation.

The tendency of many coaches in their view is that they quickly accept the client’s assessment and get on with the assignment.


Transparency. Do not over promise and under deliver. Not everyone is coachable or ready for coaching. Some other intervention may be required. (O2)

Distance. The value of an external coach is that he brings an objective view. Do not get too close to the stakeholders or else there is a danger of being seen as ‘an insider’ undermining the value of a neutral recommendation. (O1)

Quantifiable measures. The coach needs to work with the organisation to try and identify metrics that help the organisation assess the impact of coaching. The coach needs to be open to this approach even if it might not be possible to arrive at quantifiable measures, in every case. (O1)


The Coaching Process and Contracting 


The ability to manage the sponsor and key relationships is very important for a coach. Coaching also works when the coachee is willing to be coached. At times, there is a lack of clarity between the sponsor, HR and the coachee on the coaching objectives and outcomes. In this crucial alignment meeting, if the coach senses that there is a lack of agreement, he has to surface this. This can turn out be a very important conversation and lay the foundation for a coaching culture in an organisation. This will only build a coach’s credibility.

From a coach’s point of view, it is important to clarify what is expected from top performers who have been identified for coaching. There is a development agenda and there could be another organisational agenda, of which the coach needs to be aware. If the coaching assignment is a thinly disguised attempt at remedial coaching, the coach needs to be aware of this aspect as well. The subsequent contracting will reflect this understanding.


Our current process of leadership training followed by group coaching for young leaders is working well for us and we are constantly enhancing the learning through technology.

One on one coaching is currently advocated for only senior managers. While we have every intention to go one level below but there are challenges in terms of cost. (O1).

Organisations are turning to coaches to play a key role in developing leaders every though this would be a short term 6 to 12-month engagement. (O1)


Coaching ROI and Outcomes 


There is a dilemma here that we have not really resolved satisfactorily.

On one hand, managers who sponsor coaching do need to get out an ROI mindset. None of the models that we have deployed to measure ROI for coaching or training have really worked. The question facing us is how much emphasis should we really place on measuring ROI?

Again, coachees find value in coaching. It makes them feel good, the coach listens to them and pays attention. But there is no assurance from an organisational point of view that there will be a change in behaviour after coaching, we do see evidence of a change in behaviour, however, after training, technical and otherwise. Justifyingresources for development through coaching, therefore, becomes difficult.

Confidentiality, a cornerstone of coaching also adds to the fuzziness of objectives. We believe the onus is still on the coaches to help organisations quantify outcomes. This is important to encourage a wider implementation of coaching within an organisation as it is seemingly a lot more expensive. (O1)


My view is that coaching is a part of people development and is a part of my value system. The contribution of coaching can only be measured over time. Coaching in my organisation is a must and I believe in the process and don’t worry so much about the ROI

Organisations also need to keep learning from every coaching intervention and mature their processes so that the impact of coaching becomes long-lasting.


I believe that the Coaching ROI conversation is one conversation that coaches should initiate rather than avoid. There are a number of advantages to this.

It demonstrates the coach’s sensitivity to the customers need to evaluate the impact of coaching in terms of ROI

It will help the coach understand the client’s concerns and expectations on coaching as well as his commitment to the process. This conversation might be an opportunity to surface any assumptions, reservations or concerns which then could be addressed earlier rather than later.

To arrive at mutually acceptable measures or outcomes. The coaching partnership begins on a sounder footing


Summary : What does it mean to be a successful coach?

Perspective (O1/O2)

A successful coach is one who understands the business and organisational context, the dynamics within the organisation, but has no desire to be seen as a part of the team. On the contrary, he prizes his neutrality and takes measures to preserve it. At times that might mean declining an assignment with the organisation.

A successful coach is open to the idea of ROI and takes the effort to define measurable outcomes where possible to help the organisation evaluate the effectiveness of coaching.


A successful executive coach recognises the huge impact he can make by facilitating a change in behaviour with coachees. Therefore, he is aware of the need to ‘prepare the ground’ for an effective coaching intervention by ensuring that the Sponsor, HR and the coachee agree to the coaching objectives and outcomes. A successful coach develops the skills and gravitas to manage the critical non-coachee relationships by keeping the coachees’ interest in mind and not necessarily his own. 

Prasad Deshpande MCC is the founding President of the ICF Pune Chapter. He is the CEO of Empowered Learning LLP, a consultancy focusing on Strategic Planning, Leadership Development and Organizational Processes based in Pune. He has over 30 years of experience.

Mangesh Kirtane is a Director on the board of ICF Pune. After an illustrious career as the HR Director of a large multinational organisation, he founded Alchemy an organisational development and coaching firm based in Pune. He has over 30 years of experience.