Inspiration Nuggets

I have learnt that… don’t always need a perfect pair of wings to fly!untitled


The ‘Vulnerable’ Leader – Do you have the courage to show your authentic self?

The fifth game would decide the clincher of the title between Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, two of the best teams in the game during the late 90’s. The five game series had tied 2-2 and the best player in the world, Michael Jordan was going through sleepless nights between the fourth game and the fifth. He wished he be injured during practice, wished that his food be poisoned and he be admitted to the hospital. He wished that some calamity befall and the games stay as they are!

The reason? He did not want to be a part of the fifth match and stake the reputation of Air Jordan, the greatest player centre court had ever seen by losing the penultimate game. At the pinnacle of his career, the greatest basketball player of the world faced the most interesting challenge of his life – “The Challenge of Vulnerability.” It is a different story that he played the game, with all his heart and went on to win the most valuable player trophy at the NBA, but his story certainly resonates with the stories of some of the greatest people who’ve lived their time on earth.

How many of us have faced this situation when the odds are stacked against us, when we really want to quit and give up, when we are haunted by the demons that lie dormant deep within us? How many times in our lives have we almost given up, feeling a sense of desperation and deprivation ready to call it quits when your leadership is challenged? How many times have you felt like a vulnerable leader?

There’s good news. When a Michael Jordan can feel vulnerable, so can you and I. We all have our moments when the odds are stacked against us and we question our own ability and capability.

During those moments you need to realize that vulnerability is not an act of cowardice, but the ability to propel yourself and show your authentic self, first to yourself and then to the rest of the world. It is that force that you experience during the most testing of times, yet you break out of its shackles and emerge triumphant. Vulnerability is what brings out the best from within us and makes us stronger.


There are a few myths which are associated with vulnerability which is very important for us to get done with. The top three myths regarding vulnerability are as follows –

  1. Vulnerability is weakness: No it isn’t. It is the strength that gives us an opportunity to surpass our weaknesses
  2. You can stay away from vulnerability: It is a part of our existence and hence a part of us. No one can stay away from vulnerability, however we can cope with it and emerge victorious.
  3. It is not about going all alone: Vulnerability is also about disclosure, about the confidence to confide in someone who you trust and possibly guide you out of the situation.

There are moments during your course of engagement that you feel low, feel the need to back out, feel that the time and the situation are not suitable for your mind to propel towards action, fret not! Vulnerability could be an asset if used well could guide you into your next orbit of confidence and conviction.

Vulnerability is an asset, use it well!

Work-Life Integration – Yes, it is possible to have both – Career AND Family

As an Executive Coach, I see a lot of leaders going through the stress of not being able to effectively manage their career and family.  The work scenario today, is highly demanding and people are facing the problem of extended working hours. The concept of a  9 am – 5 pm job no longer exists. Added to this, our smart phones ensure, that we are glued to our offices, long after we have physically moved out of the building. In such a scenario, maintaining a healthy work life balance is almost a dream.

It becomes even more challenging in the case of women. Many highly educated and immensely talented women have kept their careers aside to devote time completely for their family. This situation leads to stress and health issues in most people.

Some reasons which trigger this imbalance are :

  • High levels of competence prevailing in the society. Executives, in the urge to get high ranks in their careers, keep taking up more and more work.
  • A Perfectionist Attitude – Very high benchmarks for self , situations and others
  • Another major reason is our global economy and dealings with international businesses. Odd working hours, to match client timings makes it difficult to have proper work life balance.
  • Long working hours and no limits on the office timings are a big cause for this imbalance.

work life integration

Let’s talk Solutions:

During numerous coaching interventions, where work – life balance was a strongly aspired goal, my endeavour has been work on the participant’s limiting belief systems. At the crux of this guilt ridden, unfulfilling life, is usually a powerful belief system at play – The “Either – Or” Belief, which deters us from striking a healthy chord between work and personal commitments.

Let us try and give up this extremist view (Either-Or) and replace it with a new belief which is holistic and  encompassing of both spheres.

“Work – Life Integration” is largely how a person prioritizes career and ambitions on one hand and personal life including social activities, health, family, leisure on the other.

This seemingly daunting task of maintaining a healthy work life balance, may not be so difficult, in reality. A few smart moves and disciplined use of simple techniques is all that may be needed to achieve your goal – Career AND Family.

Here are some solutions you can incorporate in your life to attain a healthy Work-Life Integration.

  • Never Overbook yourself with work. Set limits to the work you are taking on and then respect these boundaries.
  • Efficient planning helps you use your work days, weekends and holidays effectively. When my children get their annual schedule from school, the first thing I do is to synchronise all our calendars. This way we can leverage on the long weekends and  vacations and use these as bonding time for the family. All reservations are made well in advance, and that saves us the trouble of last minute woes.
  • A monthly, weekly and daily To-Do list is a good habit. Make sure you don’t run separate priority lists for work and home. Life has a tendency to throw up challenges but this practice will help you navigate through them with much more ease and finesse.
  • Build up your “Not To Do List”. We often end up doing work, which may seem urgent but later regret because it was not in alignment with our goals (Not important) . Consider this list sacred, and do not give into any pressure which might push you into this slippery territory.
  • One of the success mantras of a balanced life is to learn to say “No”. Know when to use this powerful word, and just go ahead, use it!
  • Invest time in training your team at work and staff at home so that you can delegate some of your work load. Train your kids to take up their personal responsibilities.
  • Take advantage of latest technologies to reduce your work-load, hours and stress. Women can especially make benefit of the latest technology and use techniques like live video streaming for looking after their kids when out for work.
  • Keep in mind that things cannot be perfect, at all times.
  • Offices and companies also need to understand this issue and take an initiative. They can conduct seminars and trainings on ways to achieve Work-Life Integration. Companies are offering options like half day work, work from home and prolonged maternity leaves for their women employees.

Many countries these days have limited their working hours to increase productivity and make people happier. Sweden, has recently moved to a six-hour work day. Such initiatives by the government are also much appreciated and longed in our country. In a developing country like ours which is flooded with overseas work, there is an urgent need to look into this matter by both individuals and corporates to have a healthier workforce and future.

Leading By Example

“Leadership is by example and that is what motivates people. You need to develop genuine closeness with your people in your organisation.” says Narayanan Vaghul, former chairman, ICICI Bank.

Here is an excerpt from his interview which appeared in The Smart CEO : The Wise Leader on 15 Dec 2011, posted by S. Prem Kumar.

While sharing his experiences on Managing people he says:

Managing people really means staying close to them. So, how do you stay close to them? Not through socialising or by throwing parties or by playing golf with them. We need to understand that gimmickries do not work and develop genuine concern for people.

When I joined ICICI, we had about 800 people in Mumbai. In a short span, I got to know each and everyone by name. I used to leave my door open between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. every day and anyone from the office could walk in and talk to me about anything. It could be about the bank or it could be about their personal lives; I never said, what you are saying here is irrelevant. It showed me an aspect of his or her personality. One thing we need to remember is not to be artificial. Never shut your ears to any kind of feedback you are getting.

The second important aspect is managing people by example. People keep looking at you – how you behave, how you smile and how you conduct yourself. Keep looking at yourself and make an attempt to elevate yourself. We need to motivate people by example and by who we really are. You cannot tell a person, do not be corrupt, when you are corrupt yourself. None of these things can be hidden. Your faults will show up at some point of time.

The link to the article is:

Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Psychologist and researcher, Robert Plutchik created The wheel of Emotions – a model of human emotions and their relations and combinations. It consists of 8 basic emotions, opposed in pairs, and multiple shades.
The model resulted in a circumplex where emotions and variations are represented by different colors and hues. This circumplex can be flattened in a 2D view (see below) to allow viewing of all emotions at once.
Plutchik identified eight primary emotions, which he coordinated in pairs of opposites: joy versus sadness; trust versus disgust; fear versus anger and anticipation versus surprise.


Intensity of emotion and indicator color increases toward the center of the wheel and decreases outward. Akin to a color wheel, variations in color intensity correspond to variations in emotional intensity. Thus, the eight primary emotions occupy the middle ring of the flower with more intense forms occurring in the center (depicted by bolder colors) and milder forms the extremities (depicted by paler colors).

For example, “Rage” is the stronger form of “Anger” while “Annoyance” is the weaker. Similarly, terror becomes fear and then apprehension; Ecstasy becomes joy and then serenity.
Further, secondary emotions are displayed as combinations of the primary ones: Acceptance and apprehension combine to create submission.

Personally, I find this model pretty illuminating. Although, Plutcih’s model is a good start, it seems to be incomplete. It has often been argued that many complex emotions have not found place in this model. To that extent, this model is limited.

Check the ‘Coachability Index’: Interview in People Matters, Nov 1, 2011

This article appreared in People Matters – November 1, 2011 issue. It carries my views on the field of coaching in India at present and the future trends which may be seen in the industry. Would be happy to recieve your comments.

Cover Story »

Check the ‘Coachability Index’

Nov 1st 2011
By Shalini Verma

How matured is the concept of ‘executive coaching’ in India?

I would say it is still in a very nascent stage. Though there has been substantial growth in the last 2 years and while there are no ready figures, my guess is that we have seen a growth of 30-40 percent. Culturally, given the family and social structure in India, a person naturally tends to fall back on family and friends for any advice or feedback in life. This non-judgmental and professional help and support has never been a trend in India. Further, at present, the number of coaches in India is far less – a few hundred to cater to a population of one billion. There are also no specializations in India as yet, unlike in Australia or the UK, where there are different categories of coaches for different requirements – parenting coaches, wealth management coaches, relationship coaches, weight loss coaches, etc. In India, everything is under the broad banner of ‘life/executive coaching’. Coaching in India is on the growing curve. The growing number of MNCs in India is redefining the work culture here and the change in the social fabric due to the emergence of nuclear families will propel the need for coaching.

What is the role of a coach? How does it contribute to business productivity? When is coaching useful/required?

Coaching is a dynamic, creative and systematic process, where the coach enables the coached to get useful insights by the power of asking high-gain questions. It enables the coached to become self-aware especially about his/her strengths and weaknesses, unhelpful patterns, aspirations and challenges. It is a highly valuable tool that can enhance employee engagement in the organization and build a culture of support and encouragement. The role of a coach is to bring coherence between the efforts of the individual and the company. This in turn will lead to increased productivity, reduced cost, lowered rate of attrition and higher motivation. Coaching can be applied at multiple occasions. At the organizational level, a coaching intervention may be especially useful during times of quantum change, for example, mergers, acquisitions, and significant changes in market conditions. At the executive level, it maybe useful in times of role transitions (change in role), in case of performance issues and even to fast track the high performers.

What is the ‘coaching style’ that you have adopted and why does it work best for you?

I use the ‘facilitative’ style of coaching where I take the ‘whole person approach’. While it is possible to focus on just one area, life cannot be put into water tight compartments. A change in any one area of one’s life is bound to have an impact on the other aspects of his/her life.

In the short run, at times, this approach may not seem to be impacting the business goals directly, but in the long run, I am very positive that it is bound to benefit the business.

We use the LEAP (Leadership Enhancing & Acceleration Program) framework, which works towards bringing coherence between individual and organizational goals.

What are the other methodologies in coaching? And how do organizations know which methodology will work best for their purpose?

Other methodologies could be more direct and at times, a combination of prescriptive and facilitative methods may be used. It usually depends on the organizational culture. In a free culture, which fosters growth and development and the focus is on the long run perspective, the facilitative method of coaching works best. However, it is important that the organization supports a safe learning environment to ensure its success. Whereas, in the case where there is restriction on time and the organization expects results or outcomes in a short run, the direct or prescriptive method may be adopted. Every organization has its process of studying the need and the philosophy before deciding or screening for the appropriate coach.

What are the challenges in ensuring success of a coaching exercise?

It is essential to ensure that the outcome expected by all three parties – coach, coached and the organization, is the same. One must also consider the willingness and keenness of the candidate. Often, sustaining the coaching journey becomes a challenge as the coaching exercise is quite demanding at times. There is also a need to check the Coachability Index to gauge the eligibility of the candidate as we are not coachable at all times. It is also crucial to gain the right support and endorsement from the stakeholders to ensure that coaching is effective. The organization must provide a safe learning platform to allow employees the time and space to grow and evolve. Coaching should never be remedial in nature or considered as a ‘fix-it’ exercise.

What is the future of coaching in India?

With the changing social fabric and the ever stressful work culture, I foresee the demand for coaching to go up exponentially in the coming years. From life coaching, spiritual coaching, career coaching to executive coaching, newer specializations will emerge. Also I expect that coaching in India will combine the eastern philosophy into the whole coaching concept and then it will emerge as a powerful tool for the growth and development of the human resource.

Shalini Verma is Founder & Director, The Sky Scrapers Academy


A Coach Indeed

This article appreared in Outlook Business – April 2, 2011 issue. Written by Shruti Yadav, it carries my views on the field of coaching in India along with those of some of my peers in the industry.

Indians have a knack of building support systems

Extended families, a large circle of friends, friends of friends, etc., are there all the time to lend a sympathetic ear or to give advice. For business problems, there are consultants and for serious behavioural and emotional issues, there is a battery of psychologists and psychiatrists. But what do you do when you want help to introspect? It may seem a contradiction of sorts, but a life coach performs a similar function. He will listen to you, ask you questions and make you find the answers within yourself.

Life coaching and executive coaching are Western concepts, but they are fast gaining currency in India. As Shalini Verma, Founder of The Skyscrapers Academy, a leadership and executive coaching organisation, puts it, “Coaching is about unlocking potential—driving change inside out.” Executive coach Sunil Unny Guptan adds that a coach can point you in directions you haven’t explored before, so you can add value to yourself—in terms of acquiring new skills, new ideas, new perspectives, a new way of life, new thinking and even experimenting with things

Many people are now hiring coaches to achieve various life objectives, and the trend is especially strong among corporates, who want to help their employees make the maximum use of their capabilities.


So what exactly do coaches do? They listen, says Verma. According to her, there should be an 80:20 ratio between how much a client speaks and how much the coach speaks. And listening implies not just hearing the words, but the tone of voice, patterns and repetitions in the conversation. Quite Freudian, some would say. But the coach does not perform the passive role of putting you on a couch and letting you ramble. Nor is he a buddy or a confidant.

A good coach, in fact, says Simerjeet Singh, life coach and Co-founder, Cutting Edge Learning Systems, pushes the client out of his or her comfort zone. The job of a coach is to ask questions. Several questions, even uncomfortable ones. As a coach is supposed to refrain, as far as possible, from giving direct advice, questioning is the most potent tool with which he can help the client create a plan of action to enhance his life quality.

Like psychologists and counsellors, coaches also maintain absolute confidentiality, since trust is the most important factor in this relationship. And they have to remain neutral and non-judgemental at all times. At the same time, once a desired objective has been stated, the coach helps the client break a bigger goal into smaller, more easily achievable targets.

Yet human nature being what it is, don’t the clients play truant and make excuses? Of course they do, and that is why they need a coach to push them all the time. Singh says one of the most important aspects of a coach’s job is to hold the client accountable. It is important to define each target in terms of how often, by when, and how much, i.e., how often must a task be performed to achieve a certain part of the bigger goal, and to set a deadline for it.

Verma feels that when a client is unable to make progress it is up to the coach to assess whether the obstacle is real or imagined, and to help the client work his way around it.


It may sound like a dream scenario, but trusting someone with your life is not a joke. Specially since this is a nascent field with no regulation. While there are organisations, like the International Coach Federation, which offer certification for coaches, in India there is no legal requirement for a coach to be certified or even formally trained.

And like any sensitive relationship, this one, too, is open to abuse. Emotional dependence is one of the pitfalls. Unny Guptan says this happens because “some coaches tend to become too directive, which does not allow the coachee to develop his own personality to solve his own problems over a period of time”. Other pitfalls may be transference of ambition to the client and possessiveness or another agenda on part of the coach, like seeking a relationship other than that of the coach-coachee.

Another problem, says Verma, is that some clients want to be spoon-fed. Or, organisations hire coaches to “fix” employee problems. “As coaching is not a quick fix solution, one does not hire a coach when a problem arises,” Verma says. Sometimes, people with deep-seated behavioural problems, like aggression, hostile relationships with employees or relationship issues may approach coaches for solutions too. But this not the domain of a coach. Dr Pavan Sonar, a psychiatric consultant and psychotherapist, says, “Coaching is not for people with behavioural or psychological problems. If the coach is unable to understand the pathology underlying certain behaviours, he could do a lot of harm.”

As coaching becomes more popular in India, an understanding of its applications and potential is growing, too. The International Coach Federation has an India Chapter now, and many have experienced the life-changing results of coaching.

Link to the article: