A Case for Coaching – Suva Chattopadhyay and Urvashi Malhotra

The last 5 years has seen Corporate India embrace Coaching as a tool of development for their senior leaders. But even as the adoption of coaching increases, a paradox remains. There is cognitive agreement that coaching is beneficial however, the belief lags a little behind and often the question on the impact of coaching remains.

As organizations explore coaching, the first conversations around coaching often arouse skepticism- Does it really work? Does it get the performance or really help development?  Often, what is really being sought is a mentor in the disguise of a coach (!) What is Coaching?

A modern definition of Coaching by the famous coaching researcher A.M. Grant  is that it is a “result-oriented systemic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of life experience and goal attainment in the personal and/or professional life of normal non-clinical clients” (1). The data from multiple studies and meta-analysis which take into account 2000 plus clients demonstrate the irrefutable impact of coaching – (1,2,3,)

  • Coaching could benefit by enhancing employees’ performance, skill, well-being, coping, work attitudes and goal-directed self-regulation.
  • Broadly it works in the area of the intrapersonal, interpersonal and self-efficacy area.
  • A quality coaching relationship amplifies the leader’s work engagement and career satisfaction. It helps leaders craft and express vision

3 senior leaders from Google – Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle wrote the book “Trillion Dollar Coach” about their coach Bill Campbell. They attribute much of the business success of Silicon Valley to the behind the scenes role that Bill Campbell played as a coach to several leaders

“Bill had been our coach, meeting with us every week or two to talk through the various challenges we had faced as we helped grow the company. He had guided us as individual and teammates, working mostly behind the scenes as Google went from a quirky startup to one of the most valuable companies and brands in the world. Without Bill’s help, there was a chance that none of that would have happened. We called him Coach, but we also called him friend.” (4)

The coaching – mentoring paradox

First of all- both work. Seeking a coach from the same industry, gives comfort in the fact that the coach has been there and done that and so will be a more effective coach. It is also possible though that prior knowledge comes in the way of a client’s independent exploration. The client may end up working with (mentor like) coach’s solution and stay away from the possibility of breakthrough transformation.

The art of Coaching

Coaching is a skill, an art, that needs to be learned, practiced and perfected.  Coaching focuses on the present, the Here and Now. Whether it is sports, corporate or personal coaching, the coach’s role is facilitating the potential of the client  by being there, by nudging, by expanding the possibilities as the client examines options, roadblocks and attempts the new and the different. In fact, it is because the client completely owns the change and makes their own choices that the impact of coaching continues long after the coaching ends.

Adam Grant says in his introduction to “Trillion Dollar Coach” – “I’ve come to believe that coaching might be even more essential than mentoring to our careers and our teams. Whereas mentors dole out words of wisdom, coaches roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. They don’t just believe in our potential; they get in the arena to help us realize our potential. They hold up a mirror so we can see our blind spots and they hold us accountable for working through our sore spots.” (4)

Another long-term impact is seen when coaching is used as a leadership conversation style.  It enables empowerment, facilitates risk taking and experimentation at all levels and make the workplace more human, open and psychologically safe.

In our own experience, of running a long-term skill building initiative for people managers that helped in building their coaching muscle for their teams, we found the engagement score for people managers to improved significantly before and after the intervention.

Impact of Coaching

  • In 2015, Forbes Magazine (5) reported a study, where they found that employees were not only more productive after coaching, but good coaching also increased their commitment. Those leaders whose coaching effectiveness was at the 90th percentile, had employee commitment scores in the 88th percentile! .
  • More than 60% of employees who report to managers who are not good coaches are thinking about quitting, versus 22% who report to the managers who coach best.
  • What is noteworthy is that often a manager’s self-perception of how good a coach he / she is, is significantly higher from what the team thinks about his / her coaching skills (7)

How can you initiate coaching?

  • Experience coaching– Hire a coach for a short time and have one or two executives experience coaching themselves. The best way to find a coach is through a recommendation or interviewing the coach to see who suits you. (6). This helps in building belief, and understanding what good coaching is like.
  • Get coaching out from the “Occasion” box– Make coaching a way of conversing with your team and not something that is an event to be practiced on a special occasion around the annual performance management conversation.

Some simple things to do –

  • Listen to your team members, even when you do not agree. Listen to content, intent and what is not said
  • Be present and do not judge the intent
  • Ask, rather than tell. You do not always have the burden of providing a solution. Just as you can find a solution, your team member can too. As a leader, who practices coaching be open to your team considering your suggestions as “one of the equal” options. Give them the freedom and accountability of their own choices
  • Pilot a Manager as Coach training program for people managers
  • Try out a team coaching initiative for your high potential or leadership team.


  1. Does coaching work? A meta-analysis on the effects of coaching on individual level outcomes in an organizational context. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2013. Tim Theeboom, Bianca Beersma, and Annelies E.M. van Vianen
  2. Impact of Emotional Intelligence and Executive Coaching on Leader Effectiveness – ELLEN VAN OOSTEN, Ph.D. DEPARTMENT OF ORGANIZATIONAL BEHAVIOR CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY
  3. Coaching effectiveness survey instruments: taking stock of measuring the immeasurable- Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research, and Practice, 2013. Julie-Anne Tooth, Sharon Nielsen, and Hilary Armstrong
  4. Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle
  5. Five Business Payoffs for being an effective Coach by Joseph Folkman, Forbes Magazine
  6. Coaching- A global study of Successful Practices – Current Trends and Future Possibilities 2008-2018 by CMC, AMA and MCE
  7. Sales teams Need More (and Better) Coaching by Scott Edinger, HBR, May 2015

Source: The Hunt Report Vol.14

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