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'Leaders Need To Influence Without Authority'

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How did the idea of putting this book together come to you and how long did you take to complete this?
Executive coaching is a nascent profession, more so in India. Given the lack of regulation and entry barriers for those choosing to practice this profession, users experience a certain level of opaqueness about how coaching actually works and what contributes to its effectiveness and so on. Given the precedence that confidentiality takes over professional transparency, most don’t know or understand what actually happens behind the closed doors in a coaching engagement. 
 
As pioneers of executive coaching in India we felt it was important for us to bring about a certain level of transparency and accountability around the professional practice. It is for this reason that we conceived of this book. Like the practices in other professions like medicine and law, we believe that case studies are the best vehicles to capture and institutionalise knowledge and contribute to building professional credibility. This was the most important driver for the book.
 
There was also a second reason. Our coach interns who participate in our postgraduate programme in Executive Coaching as well as our clients who seek us out for their executive coaching needs constantly ask for coaching cases and stories to understand coaching and how it actually works. This book addresses that need. Finally, as coaches and coach educators who have been privy to hundreds of coaching cases and experiences, we were able to see certain clear patterns around the leadership development needs and challenges and through this book thought we could present these insights to our readers. 
 
Is corner office or the power that comes with it a myth in today’s well connected offices especially in the MNC offices? What is the real meaning of the corner office?
The term corner office has really been used as a metaphor, for anything significant that leaders want to achieve in their professional careers and personal life. Yes, one of the important competencies that leaders need to acquire and master is the ability to influence without authority. Most of the leadership jobs are designed in a manner that the accountability placed on them far exceeds the authority given to them. The MNC CEO is a strong case in point here. All these leaders will need to learn how to get things done without formal authority and in that developmental journey coaching is very helpful.
 
Most Indian organisations ae not doing enough in succession planning and this probably causes hurdles in a smooth transition process. How can coaches help?
You are absolutely right that leadership transition of any nature is very poorly planned and executed. Leaders with the greatest potential identified after great effort can still fail in new positions because they have not been set up to succeed through deliberate efforts. Transition could include mobility across organisations, mobility across functions, mobility from functional to business leadership, mobility from Indian to global responsibilities and so on. Organisations are slowly beginning to recognise that leaders who are in the process of making transition have a far higher chance of success when they partner with external coaches as well as internal mentors. Help for leaders making transition is important because, organisations are impatient and don’t wait too long before judging whether their experiments have succeeded or failed.
 
Is coaching as a profession gaining credibility in India?
Coaching as an important enabler of leader development is fast gaining acceptance and creditability among business leaders and HR leaders. Organisations are allocating an increasing part of their development budgets towards coaching. However, professional credibility is still work in progress. All coaches are not trained with the same rigour and are all not governed by rigorous ethical standards and are seldom held accountable for their means and ends. Unless this happens coaches and coaching will not be seen as a credible response to a crying business need.
 
Could you discuss top issues you have encountered in companies across India when it comes to leadership grooming and coaching?
A clear pattern exists in terms of some of the most compelling coaching needs as experienced by leaders of India. They include: Gaining the ability to grapple with jobs that have become increasingly large, complex, ambiguous and global. This calls for new competencies and approaches. Developing new skills, styles and behaviours to be more effective in an existing role. Coping with major transitions. Preparing for future leadership/ succession. Making very significant executive decisions or resolving complex executive dilemmas. Enhancing one’s psychological and emotional capabilities to be able to engage effectively with significant others including teams, managers, spouse, children and so on.
 
What are the attributes of a good coach? 
A coach must have a genuine interest in other people. The desire to help others and contribute to others development and well-being is a foundational attitude to be effective as a coach. A coach is ultimately a skilled helper in an organisational setting. A coach must have professional credibility and a good contextual appreciation. He must have been there and done that and also a good understanding of the coachee’s work environment, business context and so on. The coach must be trained rigorously in the appropriate use of skills, tools and processes. He must be governed by sound ethical practices including supervisory support.


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