Now Indian CEO`s hunting for coaches :Times Of India 28th June 2007

MUMBAI: Coaches for CEOs are quite a rage in the West. The list of CEOs who hire coaches include the who’s who of American business, including former GE CEO Jack Welch, IBM’s Sam Palmisano and eBay’s Meg Whitman. CEO coaches like Ram Charan and Marshall Goldsmith have achieved superstar status.

In recent years, executive coaching has started to make its presence felt in India as well, with country’s top honchos seeking professional help. However, there aren’t enough professionals in India who are equipped to don the garb of a CEO coach. Sighting the opportunity, the Hyderabad-based Indian School of Business (ISB) plans to launch a study programme to train CEO coaches.

Says Deepak Chandra, assistant dean of the Centre for Executive Education, ISB, “Judging from our interaction with corporates and the feedback we got from some of our leadership programmes which involved individualised coaching for small groups of managers, we realised that there is a huge need for executive coaching in India.”

Slated to be held in August, ISB’s executive coaching programme will be conducted by Goldsmith, one of the world’s best-known executive coaches. Goldsmith has been ranked by the Wall Street Journal as one of the world’s Top 10 executive educators.

The programme will be open to senior professionals who want to become CEO coaches. “We are looking at both independent coaches as well as people within the company, like senior HR leaders and CEOs, who need help on coaching,” says Chandra.

Usually CEO coaching focusses on three aspects: Behavioural coaching, organisational change and strategy. ISB’s programme will focus only on affecting behavioural change.

The idea being that the behaviours that have made a leader successful may not be the same behaviours needed for future success. So Goldsmith will explain why leaders who are becoming successful can also face difficultly when they need to change, and he will give tips to participants on methods of coaching. The programme will initially start with a batch 30 execs.

While executive coaching is seen as a fad by some, no one can deny the value that comes from hiring one. Says Satish Pradhan, executive V-P, group HR, Tata Sons, “The fact is that a CEO is very lonely. And having someone who can share that space, be realistic and provide guidance is extremely important.”

However, there are possible pitfalls too. Says Pradhan, “The risk that you run with an executive coach is that they can also become like Linus’s comfort blanket: nice to have, functionally of no value, but just leaves you with a good feeling. But that is worthwhile too.”

There is a second risk too which stems from who gets to become a coach. Says Pradhan, “In a managerial context, a coach is someone who can actually process-enable rather than content-enable a manager. But at a CEO level, content becomes important: so have you walked in similar shoes for a period of time to know what hurts and what doesn’t? That ‘been there and lived through some of it’ becomes a very important part of the ability of the coach to help the CEO.”

So in a sense, this is really more of a kind of “mentor coach” rather than a “coach coach”. “It is difficult to think of someone who has had less width of experience to be able to coach a CEO than someone who has a much wider experience,” says Pradhan.


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2 thoughts on “Now Indian CEO`s hunting for coaches :Times Of India 28th June 2007”

  1. Coaching is all the rage lately but initiatives like this to training CEO Coaches are misguided. This is the equivalent of having a person coach a dentist who has never done dentistry, a person coach a surgeon who has never done surgery or attended medical school. This can only be more like a behavioral therapist, not a true coach. What athlete would take coaching from someone who has never played the game? Yet we have an industry emerging of people who just ask questions and pretend to be helping without any expertise in those areas. How can they possibly guide someone in the right direction in a knowledge and experience intensive profession? Yes there are “Life Coaches” who can deal with person issues, finding a job and just provise some outside perspective and accountability. Likely these people “lived”, found a job before and might have some value to offer or experience there, but next time anyone suggests a race car driver should be coached by someone who has never raced cars I want to sell that person a very large bridge cheap.

    Pure coaching is different than consulting in that you are not suppose to offer all the “answers” as much and ask the right questions to guide and tease out options. The “Socratic method” of only asking questions can be a valuable tool but it can also be used to hide a total lack of expertise and avoid all accountability. I am not for licensing of coaches, but I want to see full disclosure and honesty. People should not be coaching others to do something they have never done before. Coaches must offer some expertise and wisdom. Wisdom only comes from experience. Experience usually comes from some success and also hard lessons in failure along the way too.

    Bob Norton has been a CEO since 1989 and runs a CEO Boot Camp. He Coaches CEOs and consults for them. He has grown two companies from startup to over $100 million in sales. He can be reached at or (617) 571-7591.

    Bob Norton, CEO
    C-Level Enterprises, Inc.
    Training and COaching For CEOs at High Growth Companies
    O: (617) 571-7591 Fax: (801) 672-9640

  2. I completely concur with Bob’s position…attempting to provide advice and counsel to a chief executive without having the experience of walking in their shoes is a recipe for disaster.

    I have had more than a few engagements that have come about as a result of the need to repair the carnage and devistation that occurred from the implementation of advice put forth by a well intentioned yet unqualified “coach”.

    This is in no way, shape, or form a profession that should be entered into lightly as you are dealing with the lives, careers, personal brands, and professional reputations of many. Simply attending a few courses and receiving some sort of contrived designation does not qualify someone to become a CEO Coach.

    Mike Myatt, Top CEO Coach and author of “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual”

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