Business coaching takes centre-stage amid pandemic

Running a start-up especially during COVID-19 pandemic is not easy, Kiran (name changed) says. But getting his thoughts together helped him manage his business during crisis. He attributes this to the business coaching lessons he took from an executive during the start of the lockdown.

“Business coaching is not that evolved in India as compared to the US. But, due to this pandemic, we have seen a surge for executive coaching among entrepreneurs and professionals,” revealed Dr Anil R Menon, who is a business coach and professor at S.P. Jain School of Global Management. According to IBIS World, the market size of business coaching in the US in 2020 is estimated at around USD 11.6 billion. “In India, it is still in the nascent stage.”

“Coaching plays a massive role in transforming people’s mindset about their current environment. So, they can be clear about what is really happening around them and take necessary action for a much better future,” Arfeen Khan, renowned business coach and known life coach in Bollywood explains. “Instead of managing through these horrific times, thrive on the new way of working.”

Sudden rise for coaching

Post the coronavirus-induced lockdown, some executive coaches witnessed around 20-50 per cent rise in the number of entrepreneurs and professionals (mostly on a personal level) taking up coaching.

Sanjeev Roy, an executive coach and co-founder of Bullzi Inc reveals, “The need for mentoring and coaching has most certainly increased but not the volume of business. Most organisations are still seeing this as discretionary spending and holding on.”

Digital boom

Due to the pandemic, business coaching has largely been redefined. While Zoom call coaching had existed for some time, it has taken off completely now. The one-on-one sessions are now taking place over a video call. “This has enabled us to engage with more entrepreneurs and professionals compared to pre-COVID-19 times,” Menon reveals.

In the past, coaches had to travel to places to conduct sessions, but now that is almost nil. Thus, saving travel time and costs. For instance, drop in expenses allowed S.P. Jain School of Global Management to launch an affordable ‘Business X-Ray’ coaching programme for owners and senior managers of business enterprises, explains Menon.

Need for executive coaching

As per the psychometrics conducted by Bullzi Inc amongst leadership at various levels, it found almost 44 per cent of all participants registered some scores on depression and anxiety and 26 per cent were moderate to severe, due to work from home (WFH).

Roy adds, “WFH creates a sense of disconnection with the rest of the team. Coupled with it is the anxiety and fear of disease, economic well being, health of loved ones. For almost every person, these are very trying times.” This shows that coaching has become more important than before. Some organisations have now mixed up coaching with counselling (or mental health). This mix-up might disable coaching from reaching its true potential.

“Senior leadership needs a coach much more now than they did earlier. The disconnection, coupled with business uncertainty, having to make decisions that often weigh heavily on them and really not being able to turn to someone else makes the job very challenging,” states Roy. It is these senior leaderships that end up taking harsh decisions like pay cuts and job cuts for the sustenance of the organisations. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs see their businesses either at the verge of closing or have already shut shops.

“It’s lonely on top,” agrees Sashwati Banerjee, a senior entrepreneur who has been associated with Sanjeev Roy for more than a decade. While bigger organisations have larger teams to brainstorm, a start-up has limited people to do so, stated Banerjee. “This is why mentoring and coaching becomes more than important.”

In the case of millennials, Banerjee stressed, they have vision and passion, but lag in skill sets which are important to survive during ordinary times and mostly during such crises. Banerjee is a founder and former managing director of Sesame Workshop India. The benefits of business coaching can show long-lasting results if the association between a coach and a professional is a long-term one. “Do not look at coaching as a fast food but a seven-course meal.”

The job loss effect

Banerjee admitted the market is not good for entrepreneurs and professionals alike. “I have seen a lot of people losing jobs — this is close to home.” It is difficult to keep loved ones from slipping into depression due to job loss, she admitted.

Arfeen Khan said, “People have lost their jobs and businesses have collapsed even when there was no pandemic. The difference now is that the way of working is different. So firstly, I would like to say to everyone, don’t wear a pair of shorts in the winter snow, expecting to feel warm, and expect help, take ownership of your life.”

In the case of job loss, an individual will have to rationalise expenses. “Bring your expenses down. If you work at it hard, you can be surprised how much you can cut. Then think about what else you can do. The important thing is to have the whole family together on this. Discuss openly the need for financial prudence and ask each one what they can do to help,” advised Roy.

Roy advises them to keep themselves productively engaged. “Rethink your skills.” In case of a professional, who is from the hospitality industry — good in customer service and possesses skills like listening and acting empathetically — should look for other sectors as well, especially those that are growing, for example, healthcare. “If you keep waiting for a job in hospitality, you may have to wait a very long time,” explains Roy.

Some tips if between jobs

• Take control of finance.

• Start getting in touch with people who could push you to do great things.

• Be clear on what it is that you are trying to achieve.

• Be productively engaged.

• Rethink your skills.

• Redefine success.

Without mincing words Khan stated, “You must have heard the saying, ‘You sleep with a dog, you smell like a dog’. It is simple, people you hang out with, spend time with, will have a profound effect on the way you live your life.” So, he advises, during the crisis, choose the people wisely you want to be surrounded with.

Success can be attributed to material things in life. So, experts feel redefining parameters of success can be critical. “So, the redefinition of success and being able to do it unapologetically with your peers is often a big challenge,” claims Roy.

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