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.


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