You are a coach and a professor. You also do research in the area of coaching. What motivated you to become a coach?
Let me give you a little bit of background about how I got into coaching. Back in 2009 or 2010, I had already been in management education for many years and there were some students of mine who committed suicide, and this shook me up. Also, there were things happening at home. My daughters were growing up and becoming teenagers and there was a certain amount of rebellion happening. I realized that there was something missing. We were educating students about finance, marketing, HR, etc. but what I wanted to give them was life skills. To make them realize that it’s not just about doing things consciously but understanding that our conditioning and environment impacts us in a big way. I was already counselling a lot of my students. I realized that coaching was already happening where I was making the person delve into himself or herself and find the solutions for themselves. And that’s how my coaching journey actually began. And then I found out that it was an ocean in itself. You could coach leaders, students, family members, colleagues and the journey went on from there. I’ve seen phenomenal results, not only for myself, but for my clients and my family.
I am fortunate that my workplaces have been accommodative, and they encouraged me to take on consultancy and training assignments. Training to become a coach required long hours of practice to get my certification. I felt this was my calling. I was devoting a lot of time to it, and it felt good because of the results everybody was seeing. I was happy about the impact and difference I was making.
How is it different when you coach students and when you coach professionals?
It isn’t that different. The first two or three sessions with professionals is goal oriented. They know what they want, they have a plan, and they know how they’re going to get it. But after about six to eight sessions, all kinds of coaching becomes life coaching because you’re looking at their belief systems, their values, the blocks that they have, etc. Essentially, for everybody, whether you’re coaching a 20-year-old or a 70-year-old, you have to go back to the belief systems, the values, and how you are interpreting the environment around you. So, the difference is how focused they are with respect to their goal and how they want to get there. And a coach’s job is to help them get that right.
From your interaction with both students and organizations. How can a multi-generational workforce work together?
When you are younger, you are adventurous and want to explore, and you can see that with millennials. They want to explore and have adventures in everything from food to work. They do not want to be stuck to a pattern. Whereas if the older generation has not had exposure to coaching or have not dealt with millennials, then there will be judgement. If you don’t treat millennials as adults, that itself could be a barrier for proper communication and to work together as a team. Coaching can help with this situation. Leaders of the older generation have to accept that they have their own perspective, and the millennials have theirs, and we need to be open about it and help one another. We must find common ground.
Egos will come into play, but as coaches we must help people recognise what is coming from a place of ego and what is coming from a place of critical thinking. This could shape the way they plan for the future. Millennials in their average work life will change careers four or five times. The older generation cannot even think of such a thing. But if they are not open to this, they will miss out on so much that the younger generation has to offer because they have explored and dabbled in so many things. Even in school and college they have had more options, so we should learn to walk with them.
You teach courses on conflict and change management to your students, but when they get into organisations there is a mismatch between theory and practice. How can this be resolved?
In my facilitation courses, we use words like trust, integrity, conflict, leadership, etc. But the students have never consciously sat down and thought about what these words truly mean. They have not been able to define what integrity means, how does one gain influence, what power means or how authority is different from power. When I start exploring these concepts with them, they have several ‘Aha’ moments. That’s when the magic happens and they declare that they never thought of it that way and if they had known, they would have handled the situation differently.
When I’m doing these facilitation courses, I take them through experience exercises. Without experiential learning, it becomes just another lecture. And coaching has helped my teaching skills as well because now I know how to make them go through a particular conversation and help them arrive at their own answers.
In the work environment, there are still many leaders who are unable to handle conflict. What can you suggest here?
There might be different ways to handle conflict but a majority of them boil down to five types, which is – compromise, avoid, accommodate, compete, or collaborate. These are the main 5 options and everything else would be a permutation or combination of these. So, there are times when it’s right to compete and other times when you should collaborate. But do you have the skill sets to allow people to come into your domain or area of expertise? Are you willing to let go of your ego and admit that you probably don’t know enough, and you need to collaborate with someone? Or if somebody comes to you to collaborate, do you ask ‘why should I team up with them? What’s in it for me?’. This is when a person has to look inside of themselves and think about what they are offering. We sometimes prevent people from working with us because of our beliefs. We believe that if we collaborate with someone, that person might take the credit. So, the whole journey when talking to a coach is about becoming secure with ourselves.
When I facilitate these courses, especially on the issue of conflict and change, we talk about how the leader has to be a secure person themselves and be willing to listen and collaborate. If the leaders themselves are insecure, they are not going let anybody else shine. In such instances, it also becomes necessary to win the trust of the leader. We have to behave in a certain way that the leader believes in you. This is the cornerstone of some of the conversations I have with few of my students who have graduated. They would be facing a problem and will want to know how to handle it. So, we discuss their evolution and how to allow others around them to work with them.
When we were studying, we had to learn in a classroom, but these days students have multiple avenues and options to learn from. What are your thoughts on this?
Yes, there are many options like Udemy, Unacademy, Simplilearn, Khan Academy, etc. If you miss a lecture, you can go and listen to the same topic from any of these places and even YouTube. But interestingly, students who attend classes, know that when a faculty is walking into the room to deliver a lecture, they will get a consolidated version of all these things, which is easy for them to digest. The onus of adding value and making the one-hour lecture interesting and impactful falls on the facilitator. If this is done by the faculty, the students will definitely attend the lecture. If not, they know they can get the information elsewhere.
Also, these digital platforms do not have a personalised touch. A faculty member will interact with a group of students discussing and debating various topics. The faculty member acts as a mediator, facilitator, guide, problem solver, etc. And this is when we see results. There is a lot of support happening which you will not get in any digital learning platform.
For almost a year students have been learning in an online environment. How are they conditioning themselves across these different platforms of learning?
The mobile has become their extended self. They are there in all media platforms. Getting their attention isn’t as easy as it used to be. From my personal experience, I feel you could use the mobile as a tool of engagement, to make them watch and listen to what you want them to watch and listen. For e.g., you can ask them to use Google and do some research during the class. It depends upon the ingenuity of the faculty on how to engage with the students. I know there is one stream of faculty who say they don’t want students to carry their mobiles into the classroom and they don’t want to engage with the students on any social media platform. And there is another group that is willing to engage with them on social media. There is no rule, and it depends on the faculty member. Also, some subjects extend themselves to a lot of experimentation and some do not. That is another factor to be mindful about.
You are a professor as well as a certified coach. What do you see as the future of coaching? Also, there are lot of people coaching. What then happens to the standards of coaching?
I see a very bright future for coaching. I think everybody will have to become a coach including managers, leaders and teachers, because people want to evolve and improve themselves and nothing does it better than coaching. That being said, coaching requires a lot of practice and commitment. They must be willing to deep dive into how the person’s mind works and how change happens. They must understand the belief systems and how to change patterns. How do you release the subconscious blocks? All these require deep study and if you do that, you will be able to affect change in people. And that is a gift that a good coach can offer to everybody.
There are definitely a lot of people coaching but most have a niche and specialize in a particular area. A person who has been an MD or a CEO might decide to become an executive coach. And somebody who’s been dabbling in leadership might become a leadership coach. Similarly, we have trauma coaches, divorce coaches etc. My personal belief though is that as a coach, you have to work on the person as a whole. It has to be the physical aspect, the emotional aspect, mental aspect and spiritual aspect. If you’re not covering all four of them, you become like a lopsided table and then the personality will not be balanced. So, I feel a coach has to have that training. But I think the future will have more specialised coaches to help with a particular problem, just like you have doctors specialising in different fields. And whoever can claim that he or she can deliver results in this particular field will create a niche for themselves and be able to brand and promote themselves accordingly.
What has been your learning about leveraging technology platforms to deliver highly personalized coaching experiences?
I think that’s going to be the future. Because there are that many coaches and so many people to be coached. And if you want to reach out to more people, you have to democratize coaching. Right now, coaching seems to be only available to the C suite or very senior leaders. So, technology is one of those factors that we could use to leverage and reach out to many people. The chain is as strong as its weakest link, so we have to work on every link. We’re talking about customer interactions, and every customer experience has to be taken care of. We have to reach down to everybody in the organization and tell them that they are important, and their growth is important. More people, especially millennials and zillennials want to work in organisations that are invested in their growth. Coaching is a great way for organisations to show that they are invested.
How have you developed your own personal brand?
I haven’t put myself out there completely because I work full time at a university. I realised that people’s attention span is getting shorter, especially with the younger generation. So, I started something called ‘Nano Lessons’, which is just one or two sentences every day, which my students would read. Some of them would call me and say that they really needed that lesson today and that makes me happy. I also have a Facebook page and a WhatsApp group where I put messages about life, which they can think about. I started this in 2017, and many tell me that it has helped to keep them emotionally stable. The Facebook page is called ‘Caravan of Love and Light’ and I engage with questions on the page. I’m now in the process of building my own brand and I’m also building my own website.
I invest in myself and do a lot of self-reflection. I have my coaches coaching me once a month and I self-coach as well. I also practice yoga and meditation and that keeps me grounded. At the end of the day everything boils down to yourself and taking responsibility for yourself and not blaming anybody else. The more you do that and the more gratitude you develop for all the gifts in your life, the more it keeps you sane.
There might be different ways to handle conflict but a majority of them boil down to five types, which is – compromise, avoid, accommodate, compete, or collaborate. These are the main 5 options and everything else would be a permutation or combination of these
Dr Shivdasini Singh Amin
Professor, Coach and Committee Chairperson
Mahindra École Centrale | UEX Learning Technology Pvt Limited
DR SHIVDASINI SINGH AMIN is a Management professor at Mahindra École Centrale which is part of Mahindra University. She is the Committee Chairperson to Coaching Science and Research Board at UEX Learning Technology Pvt Limited. Shivdasini, or Shiva as she likes to be called, is an ICF certified coach. She is also the first Indian to receive the Professional Certified Power Coach certification, which is the highest certification given by Coaching and Leadership International Inc. She specialises in areas like Team Building, Conflict Management, Leadership & Trust, Change Management and many more. Shiva is a true believer that humans can co-create ideas and solutions only if there is balance between the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual areas of one’s life, and this is what she focuses on as a coach.