What is Coaching and How to be an Effective Coach?

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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.


14 Daily Habits of Highly Successful People

Reading Time: 9 minutes


Most days, your day starts with tumbling out of the bed to shut off the alarm, a quick shower, then, coffee while running out of the door. A long ride in the traffic to the office, a long to-do list is made with your head in the hand, a day which goes by in a blur and before you know it, you are back in the bed staring at the ceiling, wondering “One more day gone!”

How is it that some people seem to do so much within one day while you are just about ticking the 6th item on the task list?

If you study the habits of the successful people, you can unlock the keys for a joyful and highly productive day. Want to know more? Read on.

The habits that I have studied are:

  1. Successful people get up early and start early
  2. Create a Positive Mindset for the day
  3. Have a Ritual to start the day
  4. Clear about the Big Picture and how the day serves that
  5. Seek to Serve people around them
  6. Eat properly and the right foods
  7. Seek Feedback throughout the day
  8. Aware of the Impact on others
  9. Fully Present in meetings
  10. Create time instead of managing it
  11. Bring Clarity to their life and their teams
  12. They take Time Out
  13. Grateful for the day has offered
  14. Wind down the day at the right time

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Successful people get up early and start early

The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years - Thomas Jefferson Click To Tweet

A landmark research by Christoph Randler shows people whose performance peaks in the morning are better positioned for career success. Here is a list of Successful CEOs and Entrepreneurs start their day early. While most would start by 6 am or even 7 am, they begin the day by 4:30 – 5 am. The early start has multiple advantages: the quiet time allows for setting the right direction for the day. Starting early means you have a head start on everyone. You are also using the extra time available for doing the most important things of the day. Imagine having that valuable time in the morning to connect with your deepest resources and creating a state which brings out the best? What would you do?

Create a Positive Mindset for the day

Every morning you have two choices - continue to sleep with dreams or wake up and chase your… Click To Tweet

Albert Einstein said this was “The most important decision” Ask yourself. Would you want to start the day grumpy and hopeless or would you want to feel optimistic and raring to meet the day with all its glorious opportunities? I am sure you chose the latter. How would you do it? By having a routine for it which sets you in the right frame of mind. It starts as Einstein suggested by putting the thought in your mind that the world is positive, and there are good things to look forward to it.

My personal mantra is “Thank you God for giving me this gift of life for another day. I look forward to the world which is full of opportunities” We are blessed every day with the act of waking up. Ask all those families whose loved ones don’t. It is true that the world has many opportunities which we need to recognize and harness. If nothing else, the day is full of opportunities to improve yourself. What would you want to say to yourself first thing in the morning?

Have a Ritual to start the day

Yoga is a light: The better your practice, the brighter the flame - B.K.S. Iyengar Click To Tweet

The thought is only the beginning. Successful people build a ritual which they adhere to day after day. The ritual could be meditation, yoga, a gym routine or even a 5 mile run in the morning. Research shows that even ten mins of meditation helps in combating anxiety, stress, cardiovascular diseases and chronic pains. It releases important hormones which put you immediately in a highly productive state. A proper mind and body routine in the morning preps the mind for a high-performance state which lasts longer than just having coffee and making a dash for the office.

The key is also consistency. Whatever the routine, stick to it. If you do 15 mins Yoga, make sure you do it every day. If you do ten mins of CrossFit, make sure you do it every day. This consistency builds the neural networks which create a positive self-image. You create a self-image which says “I keep the promises which I make to myself.” Ove time and especially in times of crunch, when you want to draw on your reserves for facing challenges, this one statement will ride you out of the challenges ahead.

Clear about the Big Picture and how the day serves that

What is The One Thing I can Do, such that by doing everything else will be easier or… Click To Tweet

Successful people are Purpose Driven. Cal Newport in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You makes a persuasive case for why Purpose-driven work trumps Passion. This focus on purpose and its fulfillment help in creating the positive wave which they ride through the day. Purpose driven individuals also feel less or no fatigue compared to task based ones. They are clear about the What and the Why before the How. Gary Keller in The One Thing encourages you to ask the question “What’s the One thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Successful people are clear about how this one day helps the week which in turn serves the month and hence, the year ahead. This helps them serve not only their agenda but also serve others.

Seek to Serve people around them

Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living - Albert Einstein Click To Tweet

Successful people are clear about what they want. More importantly, they are clear how about how they want to serve and enhance other people’s lives. They always ask the question “How can I help?” By relentlessly focusing on the serving others, their family, their teams and their community are always getting the best from them. This emphasis also creates a deep sense of fulfillment which powers their day ahead. Have you experienced that fulfillment when you spent a day in the charity of your choice? Do you remember how your mood was at the end of the day? Now Imagine if every day you went out with the concept of serving your team, your family, and your community. How would that be?

Eat properly and the right foods

Eat less from the box and more from the earth. Click To Tweet

This might seem an odd habit, but it is an important routine for highly productive people. We know that the best in the field of sports and high-performance areas make sure that they eat correctly. Why should it be different for anyone else in the business? The critical idea is to have a no fuss routine. Successful people know what foods keep them in productive conditions and more importantly, what foods will make them sluggish. They know that having a heavy steak night, before an important client meeting next day, is not an option. We derive our energy through breath and the foods we eat. We have a limited way to control what we breathe; we can surely exercise judgment and build awareness around what foods bring out the best in us.

Seek Feedback throughout the day

Successful people use failures to sharpen their intuition - Gordana Biernat Click To Tweet

We expend a lot of energy speaking and also learn very less compared to listening. Successful people listen more. They know what they know and also, what they do not know. They are always listening because that way they are continuously getting new perspectives to what they know and rapidly reducing the items, they do not know. Listening also helps them understand what the other person’s needs and desires are. By helping other people reach their needs and desires, successful people create impact for themselves and others.

Aware of the Impact on others

He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened - Lao Tsu Click To Tweet

This is a point which I cover in my book Stop Reset Start under the leadership section. Successful people are sensitive to others and the impact they are having on others. By tuning into how other people are receiving and processing information and more importantly, what emotional states the team is passing through, they harness the productivity of the teams.

At present, there is a disconnect between what the C-suite thinks is important and what Teams want. Research done by The Economist amongst 4000 professionals shows that Teams expect their Leaders to demonstrate more Emotional Intelligence. Successful leaders know that because they operate from that mindset i.e. human beings are rational and emotional beings. What gives meaning to their actions is Emotions. Successful leaders are in tune with the emotions of those around them. How would you think they would behave in meetings?

Fully Present in meetings

Future depends on what you do Today - Mahatma Gandhi Click To Tweet

Productive people are fully present in the moment. When they attend meetings, they either put their cellphones and watch alerts on off or keep it with their assistant. Their focus is on the person speaking and the team in the room. Since they are always working at improving their sensitivity, they keep away the distractions and tune into what the person is saying. More importantly, the ability to tune into person helps them understand what the person is not saying – his fears, his desires, his ambition. This ability to be fully present is aided by the morning routine of meditation or yoga. This ability brings the much-needed clarity and confidence when successful people make decisions as they know where everyone would be on any decision he or she take. It also helps them in knowing which work is best done by others hence creating time for them.

Create time instead of managing it

We lose time by not knowing where we're going - Rory Vaden Click To Tweet

Rory Vaden in his book Procrastinate on Purpose talks about how successful people create time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2X7c9TUQJ8

In a very persuasive manner, he brings out this important distinction between those who manage time (the usual time management techniques which fail) and the effective practice of Creating time.

You may wonder how is that possible? Successful people have a clear system of delegating and automating tasks. They always ask the question “Where do I add the maximum impact? Which are the tasks which I can automate? Which tasks can I delegate?” This makes sure that the work they focus on, generates the highest impact. At the same time, by automating the repetitive tasks and delegating tasks which can do it better than them, they free time for themselves which they can use for creating the maximum impact. This focus on creating time also brings clarity on what is important.

Bring clarity to their life and their teams

Make your vision so clear that your fears become irrelevant Click To Tweet

Successful people bring clarity in their life and for their teams. While they accept ambiguity and uncertainty as aspects of life, they also recognize that the people around them would want them to be clear. They bring clarity on their purpose and for those around them. They bring clarity on the direction which they and their teams are headed to. They bring out the best in their teams and themselves by being focused on the items which bring the maximum impact – for their teams, their business, their family and themselves.

They take Time Out

When in doubt, choose the kids. There will be plenty of time later to choose work - Anna… Click To Tweet

In the evening, they could be present with their friends, family or community. This may or may not happen every day, but it is important for successful people to be in tune with those close to them. It is part of their heart-centered leadership. It is part of their fulfillment. It is an integral part of who they are. Their life is not compartmentalized but integrated. They know being with their loved ones, their friends and the community builds the positive virtuous cycle of fulfillment for them. This engagement with the personal goals helps them aware of the silent gifts received by them through the day for which they are grateful.

Grateful for the day has offered

Gratitude is the Parent of all other Virtues - Marcus Cicero Click To Tweet

Successful people, regardless of their faith, are grateful for the gifts received during the day. They acknowledge that there many factors which create the success which they desire and achieve. They are grateful for the help and support received by them throughout the day. Some may end the day with a prayer. The net result is the same. Being grateful is an acknowledgment of all the silent gifts we received through the day. The universe has played its part during the day, and the least we can do is thank it. Gratitude is the only currency in the Universe.

Is there anything left just before you go to sleep?

Wind down the day at the right time

Sleep is the best form of meditation - Dalai Lama Click To Tweet

A crucial part of their routine is to wind down at the right time. Research shows the Gratitude leads to great sleep. A great liftoff for the next day starts with closing the night at the right time. Good sleep is a priority for successful people. In her book The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington talks about how sleep has a direct impact on decision making, our health, our work and personal lives. Before the end the day, Successful people mark out what needs to be accomplished the next day. It is an important part of the sleep ritual and makes sure that there is a closure to the day. Research shows how we need to have a digital sunset the blue light emitted by our smartphones and other digital devices disrupt our sleep cycle. It is important we pay attention to our sleep just as the successful people do.

In summary:

Successful people get up early and start early

Create a Positive Mindset for the day

Have a Ritual to start the day

Clear about the Big Picture and how the day serves that

Seek to Serve people around them

Eat properly and the right foods

Seek Feedback throughout the day

Aware of the Impact on others

Fully Present in meetings

Create time instead of managing it

Bring Clarity to their life and their teams

They take Time Out

Grateful for the day has offered

Wind down the day at the right time

Do you have a habit which makes you productive? Please share in the comments below.

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