What is Coaching and How to be an Effective Coach?

Reading Time: 9 minutes


Almost a decade ago, my tryst with coaching started.

I was a hotshot corporate executive. I was part of a business transformation exercise and was assigned a coach.

My first reaction was “Why would I need a coach? I know everything.” Besides my coach was not from my industry so “what would the person tell me which I didn’t know?”

I was a complete skeptic to the process when I went into the first interaction. Over the course of the year, I was humbled by the person and the process. My coach brought out so many insights about me and my performance that it opened new doors for me.

I became a complete convert to coaching and was trained in Breakthrough Coaching.

Over the years, the coaching industry has matured, but understandably there are still doubts on how an ideal coach should be.

In the absence of a clear idea, individuals going through the coaching process could lose out on the transformational magic of coaching. Organizations would lose out on time and money.

What I am sharing with you today is my experience, in both the roles, as a Coach and a Coachee (a person who is being coached).

I am sharing with you the essential skills which a Coach must have to help the Coachee reach her results. But before that:

What is Effective Coaching?

There are many definitions of coaching, but the one I resonate most with is by International Coach Federation

“A professional partnership between a qualified coach and an individual or team that support the achievement of extraordinary results, based on goals set by the individual or team.”

What I liked about the definition is:

  • Partnership: Coaching is different from a hierarchical relationship. It is a partnership built on mutual respect
  • Extraordinary results: First, Coaching has to be results focused. Else it will be a relaxed chat over coffee with no commitment from either side. I also love the challenge of “extraordinary results.” After all, why would you call a coach for just ordinary results?
  • Goals set by individual or team: Where the partnership is headed must be decided by the Coachee. Are you shooting for the moon or a round trip around the world is fine? Goals set by the coachee also makes sure that there is ownership mindset built in the coachee. Goals also help in deciding whether you should be coached or not.

Why should you be coached?

You don’t need coaching if you are just aiming for reaching your goals.

You need coaching when you want extraordinary Growth.

Some of the business examples would be

  1. You are being groomed to become the CEO or business head over the next year.
  2. You need to transition from a line function (delivery focused, team which has same targets as you have) to a staff function (influencing, no team)
  3. You are moving from a lone warrior to managing a team
  4. Preparing for an extraordinary event in the organization, e.g., a merger or acquisition or rightsizing the team
  5. Your organization wants to 5x or 10x the revenue growth when the industry is barely growing
  6. Your business is building new skills like Innovation or Digital Marketing
  7.  You have hired a Board to steer the Ledership Team and you want to make the most of this high-powered team
  8. As a CEO or business head, you want to create and deliver a new strategy

You get the picture.

But, just hiring the coach is not enough.

You want to hire an effective Coach who helps you evolve as a person along with helping you deliver the results.

Michael Bungay Steiner in his book The Coaching Habit says “Coaching can fuel the courage to step out beyond the comfortable and familiar, can help people learn from their experience and can literally and metaphorically increase and help fulfill a person’s potential.

Here are the qualities or skills you want to see in your Coach:

13 Coaching Skills to Coach Effectively

Here are the essential skills of an Effective Coach which I have gleaned from being both a Coach and a coachee:

1. Understands the context of performance

A Coach always sees the coachee in the context of his personal and professional life.

Coach sees the coachee in a holistic manner and makes an effort to understand what all is happening in the coachee’s life which impacts him.

The coach probes for
a. What is going on in coachee’s team?
b. How does the coachee interact with his peers?
c. How successful is the coachee in his mind?
d. How supportive is his family life to his performance goals?
e. What pressures is he operating from both personal and professional?

These are some questions just to get started.

The idea is not to make the coachee sit on a couch and do therapy.

The aim is to understand the context in which the coachee is operating.

Context helps in setting goals which not only are achievable but also fulfilling.

2. Goal seeking

The Coach has his sights firmly on the goal which the coachee seeks to reach.

Coaching is performance oriented, and great coaches understand the impact of having deep, meaningful goals which help the coachee reach his potential.

These goals are not just the organizational goals in revenue terms but, goals which bring out the resources of the coachee.

It is not enough to say “Increase sales by 20%” There would be additional layers like

  • Add new distribution channels or
  • Train sales managers to take additional responsibilities or
  • Transfer of sales closing skills to salesmen.

Together or individually, they will deliver the desired sales result but, it also helps in tapping hidden or unused resources of the coachee.

LaRae Quy, a Leadership Expert, recalls how her coach helped her up her game:

I was a slow long distance runner, but in the FBI Academy I needed to up my game and run 2 miles in 10 minutes to qualify—and ultimately, graduate. My coach told me to keep my eye on the back of a runner who was faster than me and focus on keeping up.

She clarifies this aspect of Coaching with this comment

“Keeping a vision of where you want to end up is critical when you come up against a roadblock or obstacle.”

(via 7 Ways Coaches Train Athletes To Manage Emotions)

This goal seeking also means that Coach is always holding the coachee accountable for results.
Exclusive Giveaway: Grab this FREE Coaching Checklist and get results in your coaching today

3. Accountability of results

A Coach always holds the coachee accountable.

Accountable for what?

Accountable for the promises that the coachee has made to himself.

This is very important. The idea is not to become a crutch on which the coachee leans.

The aim is to create the habit in the coachee of keeping promises.

Result focused helps to assess whether the coaching is delivering value to the coachee. This also makes sure that the coach has skin in the game

4. Skin in the game

Result focused ensures that the coach is not just a spectator to the game but is part of the game.

Like a sports coach, he observes from the sidelines when the game is in play. At rest, the coach goes through the plan again with the coachee making sure that the coachee knows the coach is there with him, to make sure the coachee is a success.

By observing the game and the coachee, the coach is also able to see the obstacles that the coachee is headed for

5. Identifies the obstacles

Our work, when observed from a neutral perspective, reveals that we have patterns.

The way you start the day, the way you conduct meetings, the way you plan or don’t plan for results, the way you motivate your teams.

Over time, there are habitual patterns which you develop which help you achieve your goals. However, the same habitual patterns also bind us in set ways of doing things and can become obstacles ahead.

A good coach understands your patterns and will call it out when it comes in your ways. Often the path to growth is unlocked just by identifying these obstacles.

6. Unlocks growth

Coaching, at heart, is about Growth.

Coach needs to understand where the coachee is in the growth journey. Often, the coachee needs minor course correction, and she is on his way. Sometimes, it needs deep correction.

Either way, the coach identifies which levers can be used to unlock growth for the coachee.

Examples of growth levers are:
a. Identifying the right goals
b. Bringing balance between personal and professional priorities
c. Grooming future leaders enabling the coachee to take higher responsibilities
d. Identifying the priorities which enable success
e. Better peer relationships
f. Organizing the mornings and the day forward
g. Healthier lifestyle

Wait, Lifestyle? Where did that come from? Aren’t Executive Coaches only about business and business goals?

A Harvard Business Review Study showed that in over 76% of cases the Coaching shifts from business to personal issues. This makes sense when you consider that often the obstacles are behaviors and habits instead of

This makes sense when you consider that often the obstacles are behaviors and habits instead of business-related factors.

There are many triggers to unlock growth. Each of these when acted upon creates the conditions which help the coachee succeed.

7. Creates conditions to succeed

You have a Ferrari but no road to race on. It will just be a pretty picture in your garage.

Coaching is identifying the road and sometimes, even creating the road on which you will race your Ferrari.

Coaching is about creating those enabling factors which help the coachee to operate from his highest potential. These enabling factors help in amplifying the work.

The conditions are there to create the desired momentum in the coachees journey.  Conditions help the coachee to focus on the releasing his fullest potential

8. Unleashes the potential

Given our limiting beliefs which most of us are operating from, the coach has to access the fullest potential of the coachee.

Once the coachee realizes that he has so much more to access which can shift his performance, the coach works with him to unleash this full potential.

Lolly Daskal, a heart centered Leadership Expert, says

“Coaches are great leaders because they know how to unlock potential and motivate people to maximize their performance. In short, they help others learn to be their best.”

(via The Best Leaders Are Great Coaches)

This may be new skill sets or dormant behaviors which help the coachee to walk confidently into the future knowing that he has more resources than what he was operating from.

The task of the coach is to make the coachee see this and not direct him.

9. Nudges and points in the direction but not directional

The coach has to make the coachee see the potential for change and the resources which the coachee can harness.

The coach nudges him in that direction, but the idea is not to be directional.

It requires great patience from the coach to make that space and time for the coachee to get these insights himself.

This discovery process helps to make the journey more authentic, and the coachee is more aligned and committed compared to a directional approach. This also makes sure that the coach is not taking credit for the results.

10. Takes no credit for the change

While a coach may present results for credentials, there should not be any possessiveness of the results.

The results are always owned by the coachee.

The coach is only a facilitator in the journey.

This ability to remain a facilitator means that the coach has to practice deep listening with the coachee.

11. Deep Listening

The No.1 skill which the Coach needs to have is Listening.

Deep Listening. Why skill? Because most of us are trained to be speakers.

There is an overwhelming industry out there to support speaking under the guise of being inspirational.

Listening, on the other hand, is a skill which needs to be trained and developed. Especially Deep Listening.

What is that? The coach has to listen to what is unsaid.

Coach has to uncover the hidden assumptions behind the coachee’s statements.

Questions like “what needs to happen for this to be true?” leads the coachee to his deep-seated assumptions.

Assumptions which may stop him from bringing his A game.

The coach also needs to listen to get the complete picture and make sure he has understood the coachee’s context completely. Too often the temptation is to jump in and provide advice when this is the last thing a coach must do.

Coach has to create the space and the freedom for the coachee to express himself fully. This expression is possible only when the coach practices Deep Listening.

Listening also assumes that the coach has to always approach the coachee from a position of compassion

12. Compassionate about the client but firm on accountability

Compassion is what gets empathy going.

The coach has to give the benefit of doubt to the coachee. He cannot get judgmental and say “this coachee is hopeless or stupid.”

The coach has to understand that the most successful people also have self-sabotage patterns e.g. Tiger Woods. These sabotage patterns need to be understood, unraveled and healthy habits need to be brought into place.

Compassion creates the space for the coachee to share his deepest thoughts and feelings since he knows that there is no judgment in that space. Only when this shared space is created, then the coachee gets insights into his behavior, the actions, and its impact.

Once the coachee gets clear of the journey and has put his commitment to travel this journey, then the coach gets firm and holds the coachee accountable for the promises the coachee has made.

Coach hence needs to be aware of when he has to operate from compassion and when he has to be firm.

13. An Effective coach is also a coachee

Great Coaches thrive on feedback.

Most importantly, they are sensitive to the impact they are having on others.

They are sensitive to their emotions and know how to marshal the appropriate emotions in the coaching conversations.

After all, a coaching session is not a dry account of facts.

You need the right amount of joy, compassion, excitement, curiosity, empathy, perseverance, hustle and gentleness to make the coaching a living, thriving relationship.

Go ahead make the most of your coaching relationship and thrive in your business and life!

Next Steps:

Use the Coaching Checklist (link here). There is a separate checklist for coach and coachee. For Coaches, the checklist serves to bring their A Game to coaching and becoming a truly effective Coach. For Coachees, it will help in getting the best from their coaches and also evaluating if they have a Coach who is bringing the best in them.

Do share this post so that more people experience the joy and fulfillment from an effective Coaching relationship.


9 Insanely Helpful Ways To Keep Startup Marketing Lean And Effective

Reading Time: 6 minutes

As a startup founder or CEO, you need to run a lean operation which can get the promised growth fast. You have secured your round of funding; you want to get out there and make the most of the plans that you have outlined and secured an approval. But, we have also seen how yesteryear unicorns are going through markdowns or downrounds.

You want to make sure that your marketing is geared for delivering the growth, develops and executes programs which run fast and have the most impact.

Find below the ways by which you can keep your marketing team and programs, lean and efficient.

Focus on core objective – conversions

There could be multiple goals floating around: Generate traffic, generate leads, convert to prospects and then sales or convert a ready list into sales – whatever is the objective, you need to focus on the One Thing, which generates the most impact in your business. Your One Thing is led by your commitments to the investor team in your last review meeting or funding round. If it is traffic generation then focus on getting the maximum number of people coming to the site or place. If it is Gross Merchandise Value then with traffic you need fast conversions, and hence, marketing efforts will focus on conversions and promotions.

A big hairy goal can then be made byte sized for actions. How?

Break the mountain into pieces

Start with a goal drill down into monthly goals.

Based on the Focus, which you have decided, break the overall target into monthly goals. Then, convert them into weekly deliverables. These should be on your screen or in front of you every time. This Focus, also, makes sure that teams are not working on various nice-to-have items. One team is working on one goal.

Now, break down the weekly deliverables into daily tasks.

Checklist your way to success. Checklists are the number one difference between a highly efficient and inefficient operation. A pilot in any airline swears by his checklist and hence has a higher success ratio.

Checklists are the number one difference between a highly efficient and inefficient operation Click To Tweet

A Checklist also helps in guiding your focus to the things which have the maximum impact.

Focus on the One thing TODAY

What will make the maximum impact on the business today, then tomorrow and day after?

Based on your cascade from Core objective to monthly goals to weekly deliverables, every day you need to prioritize those things which will generate the maximum impact. Again, the power of the few gets amplified when you work on the most impactful item now. When you meet any of your team members, ask them, what is the most impactful thing, you are working on today? Be ready with your answer for what is the most impactful for you too? Ideally, what is most impactful for you should be the same as the marketing person, the only difference would be the actions you are taking.

Once we are clear about what we want to do, then we can use the right media to amplify the message.

Use social media to amplify the message

You must be already on social media, however, have you prioritized it? I sincerely hope that you are not present in all the channels because you need to create buzz. The first decision of which social media you need to be must be decided by where your audience is.

Your customer profile decides which social media you need to focus your marketing on Click To Tweet

Once you zero onto the one medium or max two media, you need to tailor the content and programs depending on the medium. The campaigns you would do LinkedIn would be vastly different from the ones done on Instagram.

Ask your team to follow some of the big social media mavens out there who have tons of content on how to boost your social media efforts.

Keeping your social media efforts focused on one or max two will go a long way in keeping your team lean and your programs impactful.

This focus will help you in testing which messages work best in which media.

What are you testing today?

Treat every campaign ideas as a test and compare two different campaigns.

We have all heard about A/B testing.

However what lies at the heart of this is the testing mindset. By daily setting up tests, over three months’ time, your team will have enough data not only on the customers’ habits and preferences but also on which marketing programs work and why. Testing also removes the emotional attachment to “pet projects” and trust me everyone in marketing has a pet project.

Help the team develop a testing mindset 

With the data you have, you can allocate more funds to the programs which are delivering your objectives at the best cost-benefit equation.

Testing also brings excitement in marketing and the learning improves helping them get better every day at what they are doing. It is just like your product team which is testing every day and churning out “beta” ideas.

Do your marketing in permanent Beta mode Click To Tweet

This testing will lead to a calendar of activities.

Calendar for Marketing Programs

While it is exciting to try many programs and ideas, it can quickly become a distraction and sap energies. A calendar should guide the list of programs. Just like big blogs and social media have editorial calendars, the marketing effort needs to have a marketing calendar where every program in the month should lead to the monthly goal. The monthly goal decided the content and nature of the online and offline campaign you have. I would strongly recommend THINK DIGITAL FIRST. How does your campaign weave into our target customer’s online life? The monthly goal decides the content of the tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn stories and the Instagram posts that you do.

Once you decided on the what and the tone of the content, the next step is sequencing the messages. Having a calendar of online activities creates buzz but more importantly, drives traffic to the call to action that your campaign is directing the target customer towards.

You have a Call to action in every campaign, right?

Don’t create campaigns only for entertainment – create for conversions Click To Tweet

With CTA embedded in every campaign, over time, you will develop insights and learnings into the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Continuous Learning

Make the team read a marketing best practice or a social media blog every day and note down the action points.

As a startup, you are not wedded to any brand manual or global marketing program which large companies have. But, you also miss out on the learnings and best practices these companies have. You level the field by having a learning hour for you and your marketing team every day. Ideally two hours. Listen to podcasts when driving, take notes on your voice recorder. Read the biggest influencers in your space and social media.

Most importantly, develop testing ideas from your notes and learnings. If you can learn and test 10 new ideas for marketing, every day, imagine what it would do to your marketing capability by the end of the year? You would have tested more than 3000 marketing ideas. Talk about the compounding effect.

This testing and a ready bank of ideas will make sure you will operate at a speed which will blow your competition away.

Make Speed Your Strongest  Weapon

Action over Anticipation. Be Agile.

As a Startup, your lean structure helps you in taking decisions faster. If you are clear about the One thing which is going to drive your business for this year, this week and today, and you have a calendar for your online activities ready, then, there should be no reason why you should churn out your programs at a rapid pace.

To deliver the pace, Make sure that you are hiring the right people. Once you have cultivated the testing mindset, you can roll out the programs in beta mode, get results and if it is working, increase it to scale.

Scale should also include feedback from your customers on what is working and what is not. You don’t need elaborate research for this. Have built-in feedback systems inside your campaign. Call a sample of customers every week and test your assumptions. Ask them what is working, what is not working?

This feedback will not only increase the pace of your campaigns and positive results, but it will also, make you nimble in your fight against the giants.

Be the David in the vs. Goliath game

Move with speed and in fail fast mode. Know your strengths

Malcolm Gladwell points out some interesting aspects in his book David vs. Goliath. David wins more times than Goliath. The trick? Find your unique niche and play by your rules. While Goliath had a sword (good for close range combat where size and strength would help), David had a slingshot (the shepherd’s tools). He also ran towards Goliath probably unsettling him with this offensive. The slingshot helped him to aim from distance, fire and keep moving.

Find what makes you best and do it faster and harder.

Don’t aim for the best marketing. Aim for faster marketing. Click To Tweet

Get your solutions faster to the customer. Get the feedback faster. Learn and adapt faster.

Use your nimbleness and agility to your advantage. While the big guys will take weeks if not months to turn around campaigns, you turn around campaigns in days.

Use the testing mindset to test various ideas and then make them work harder and faster.
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9 Important Steps To Building Ownership Mindset In Your Small Business

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The key to growth in small business is in creating an ownership mindset in your employees.

The key to growth in small business is in creating an ownership mindset in your employees. Click To Tweet

As an entrepreneur, it is evident that you have it. But, how do you build it in your people? Here’re some steps

#1 Fix the hiring

The first step is hiring the right people. You want individuals who are curious. Who are looking to better themselves and things around them. Who are asking “how does this add value to the customer?” You want people with the entrepreneurial zeal in them. You could look for evidence of this by checking if they had run small jobs on the side when they were young or ran a small business when they were in college. It does not matter if they succeeded or not. That they took action to their impulse is important.

#2 Creating Focus

Once the team is in, you want to bring Focus on what is most important for you and the business. Make sure they are clear of the One Thing they need to focus on. The One Thing, which is absolutely critical for business success. Focus is the number one reason why business succeeds. You want to make sure that each person in the team is working towards one goal which is clear to all.

There should be maximum three things below this one goal. I have seen this coming out right in countless industries and businesses. How do you ensure this? Every day, ask you and your team “what is the one thing which will make the most significant and positive impact on our business? Are we doing it? When? Who is doing it?” This Focus will create the habit of giving priority to the project/item/decision which will have the maximum benefit to the business.

There should be maximum three things below this one goal. I have seen this coming out true in countless industries and businesses. How do you ensure this? Every day, ask yourself and your team “What is the One Thing which will make the most significant and positive impact on our business? Are we doing it? When? Who is doing it?” This Focus will create the habit of giving priority to the project/item/decision which will have the maximum benefit to the business.

Focus is the number one reason why a business succeeds. Click To Tweet

#3 No distraction mindset

Once the team is fully aligned and working towards one goal, give them the freedom to achieve it. Make them focused on outcomes and delivery. Be the example of how to avoid distractions and be focused on delivery. This is critical. There are many urgent items to finish in a day and before you know it, the day is gone. By being laser focused on doing the one thing which matters, you have to train your people to avoid distractions and stay focused. This mindset starts from a small item like limiting the time you spend on social media to bigger issues like giving maximum priority to completing the projects which make the most significant difference to your business.

#4 Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communication is an absolute must for every business but truer than ever when installing the ownership mindset. In every situation, let people know how you came to the decision as an owner of the business. Help them decide when they are in similar circumstances. Communicate frequently on what is most important for the business. This will make sure that everyone knows exactly what levers to pull in a given situation.

#5 Make them accountable for their decisions

Accountability management is an essential part of a leadership role. Do you hold people accountable to their promises? Do you hold yourself accountable to the promises you made? An owner of the business operates from the highest accountability given his skin in the game. “This is your business and your actions decide it’s today and tomorrow”. This form of accountability makes sure that your team focusses on action and execution.

This is your business and your actions decide it's today and tomorrow Click To Tweet

#6 Celebrate when they have taken decisions which help the business

The flip side of Accountability is Celebrating good behaviors. Because celebrating good behaviors leads to their consistent application. Consistent behaviors lead to habits and Persistent habits lead to successful business. So, celebrate decisions and behaviors where your team members have demonstrated ownership mindset. This could be just a simple impromptu town hall which celebrates a few instances or a raising a toast to the individuals in your next fun team outing (You have one, I hope!)

#7 Celebrate cost consciousness

This is a no.1 indicator of ownership mindset. Some people are naturally thrifty and there are some who are naturally spendthrifts. And the majority in between the axis. You need to celebrate those who consistently demonstrate cost consciousness. They always look for value in their decisions. They always make sure that the business is getting more value than what they are paying for it. They make sure their travel costs represent the best value decision. They make sure they are getting the maximum value from their agencies and suppliers.

#8 Celebrate customer focus and helping customers win their game

The sole purpose of business is to serve the customer. No one understands this better than the owner of the business. When someone makes that effort in understanding the exact needs of the customer and over delivers the value offered, you must celebrate this behavior. Why so? Think back to when you were buying something and your expectations were over delivered. You were thrilled and you probably mentioned that to your other friends. Over time, you went back repeatedly to this service provider.

It is the same with your customer who is delighted will come back to you. Your team member who over delivered to the customer is the reason behind it. And he has behaved with the ownership mindset.

#9 Lead by example

People will be motivated by your zeal and direction and will start owning the business. Whatever behaviors we have talked about above, you need to live and breathe it daily. You should be the role model to others whenever they wonder how to bring the ownership mindset alive. You should help people understand your actions better so that they are behaving like owners.


Build these habits and you know that many eyes are scanning, identifying and grabbing the opportunities which are always there for the business to grow.

How would you build this mindset in your business? If you want a checklist for this, then, check out just released book

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Do One Thing

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“If a thing is worth doing, then it is worth doing well.”

If a thing is worth doing, then it is worth doing well. Click To Tweet

We often hear this. Then, why is it that, when it comes to our business we tend to get scattered?

Have you walked out of a meeting where a ton of initiatives have been thrown, all exciting, project maps worked out and you are all fired up? 6 months later, you find you are nowhere and all the initiatives are only taking time and not making any money?

I have been in a major initiative where there were 42 initiatives running at the same time. Yes 42! I still remember the painful meeting reviews where nothing was progressing and everyone’s nerves were frayed. Only pet projects were moving and the impact of those on business was still debatable.

I was high strung, as so much time was invested and very little was achieved.

Against this, I remember we were in the midst of transition of a Free to Air Television to a subscription channel. It was a mammoth project involving satellites, people on the ground, advertisers, the works. But, since the objective was only one, all the moving parts were clearly aligned to one objective. And if they were not, they were ruthlessly weeded out.

The Lesson is very clear: Do one thing but do it very well.

Having one initiative at a time, makes sure that all the parts in the organization are focused on delivering it. Remember for a lot of people this itself is extra work. For the production or service delivery guy or sales guy on the ground, this is one more item he needs to finish every day. All this within the same time available and with no respite on the daily deliverables.

Having one project makes sure that to each and every person, you are delivering only one message. This helps every one know what is most important to you and to the business.

It brings in speed and ruthless efficiency. It acts as a building block to the organization on which future success is built.

Do one thing but do it really well Click To Tweet

What action do you need to take to bring this focus? What would stop you to bring this focus?

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