This is a longish article, a kind of advisory for serious read, particularly for those who are intentful about making leadership interventions work.
I count myself lucky for having had your mentorship and coaching. You have been a great asset to my life. Let me start by thanking you, for your compassionate guidance. You have allowed me to realize that if I took a step back, took time to take a breath, I could realize my abilities and start enjoying all the good things that I already have. You, as a guide, helped me to understand how to take advantages of these abilities within me, and to put them into practice through different techniques and strategies.
You have shown me that I can challenge and change my outlook, something I didn’t think possible before. Now, I truly believe, that “I must take charge of creating what I need for myself.”
This is an excerpt of a mail that I received from one of my Transformational Coaching clients – a Vice President with a leading and one of the most admired automotive company in India.
I felt deeply touched as the mail was sent unprompted after we had a face-to-face session last week. I could feel every word oozing out of his soul, spontaneously.
This is not the first time. Almost every time, after we close the engagement, the client has written back sharing his / her experience and the impact caused to business. And each time it has made me sit up and look back at the engagement to see what worked and why.
So this time I took some time off to go down memory lane and reflectively recall my experience of enabling leadership journeys, through group and individual coaching, to gather insights which will be of help not only to me but also to those who are looking at awakening and unleashing leadership energy in their organizations.
Here are some insights on processes that have run through my practice as an accompanist of leadership journeys
1. It’s about being human.
Even before I am a coach, a facilitator, an alchemist or an enabler I am born human and meant to manifest my humanness, authentically, with all my frailties and vulnerabilities. And the moment that happens, the other also begins to shed the humanoid get-up one is believed to carry at workplace.
2. It’s not so much about competence or character as much as it is about consciousness.
Through relentless practice over years I have learned to be and stay conscious, naturally. So, I do not have to become conscious – an amusingly paradoxical phrase I have often heard in corporate corridors. You cannot train or tell one to be conscious. When you are, whosoever is in your presence is… also conscious.
Working with leadership, I have realized that, while competence can help one get through at entry levels, it becomes redundant when it comes to responsiveness to unique challenges as one goes up the elevator. Beyond the point where the elevator stops, one can scale only with the help of what I call as the ‘jump of consciousness’. Character, which freezes the flow of life force shaping it in rigid forms akin to ice in ice trays, becomes a drag.
3. One can simultaneously be working, watching and gathering wisdom.
The sessions I have been enabling are more explorational, than experiential or expositional. It’s an extension of my own journey within myself, in the moments, through gaps and empty spaces, where from I not only plumb wisdom but also fetch messages that help me make choices. Likewise, when the other joins me in such shared exploration, in the moments of guided presencing, mirroring and reflection, one gets to experience the co-existence of the working (doing), witnessing (watching) and the wise (knowing) self. The client soon gets into a habit of such simultaneity and carries the practice at workplace too.
Challenges related to people, process and performance are superficial symptoms of deeper causes in the self. Through the causes they are interrelated. Fixing these challenges at the surface can help to fight a fire but not prevent one. Also, for those in leadership roles, the exposure to VUCA is high and so is the expectation to be responsive. To address this, right from my early days, I had been guiding my clients through intra-personal and even trans-personal explorations in depths, asking WHY to anything and everything that emerged in the consciousness. This stems from one of the key essentials of transformation: there is no other but the self; anything that is happening with me is my doing.
This process forms the fulcrum of my practice which helps the client to stand back, uncover deep-seated limiting conditioning and dissolve them in the light of new-found awareness. A tough process though, it takes me to be intensely compassionate and firm at the same time to enable sustained and detached watchfulness in the client.
5. De-constructing the little man to re-construct the awesome being
In course of discoveries made in depth, the client, at a point in time experiences nothingness, feels ashamed of claiming to be all that which were mere mind-made constructs of self and gets intensely curious about who really he or she is. This is an inflexion point, which I watch for, carefully around the one-third way of the contracted period, somewhere immediately after one is at ease with dissolving ones conditioning, before they come in the way.
At this point, we go through a gear shift – a shift of direction and purpose – a shift through the figure of eight, from the vicious to the virtuous circle. The client, at this stage goes through a tremendous high, like being re-born, around the newly discovered personal DNA with a clear understanding of the destiny he is poised to create based on this DNA.
6. Learning new habits to adapt to the emerging habitat
The client is made to track conscious engagement of ones’ DNA in day to day life – engaging ones core values, talents and life purpose. For once he gets to live life purposefully, by choice. A daily audit of sorts is encouraged and often reported to me through journals.
7. Integrity is about being an individual – one with indivisible duality
Over the next few months the client integrates all the discoveries and remains mindful to enjoy the sway between dualities as one integrated individual. This is true integrity – an essential value for one to qualify for leadership.
Mystics to metrics
To the one who prefers taking deterministic and frame-worked approaches, my approach and practice may seem to be mystical. However for the following three reasons I would like to believe that this is the only approach that can lead to enduring and far reaching impact:
1. You are dealing and delving in the unknown. How can you do so with known tools and techniques? You need to have the eclectic spirit of an explorer, with a clear destination in mind, to find and figure out what works and not be married to a set of methods and tools.
2. The approach is organic and based on the essentials of human transformation. Thus, this is the least imposing, least intrusive and the most human way of enabling transformation in another human being, who is as much struggling as you are.
3. In order to ensure that the tree bears nutritious and juicy fruits, the gardener does not tinker with the transient branches, stems, leave or fruits but tends to the intransient roots.
Some of the metrics reported to have been achieved by my clients, post engagement, include radical improvement in overall performance including P&L, enhanced customer delight, acquisition and retention, deeper penetration into customer accounts, reduced product turn-around time and dramatically improved employee engagement, satisfaction and retention, amongst others.
A note of caution: my path is the path of one who is committed by purpose to awaken humanness and make manifest divinity in man. It started with and continues to be primarily involving endless self-exploration and encounter for me. What happens with my clients is an extension of what happens with me. There is no doing. It’s just my naturally conscious presence.
Finally, I suspect the ultimate secret of the experience and impact that my clients have been reporting is in my location which is best summed up as