Leadership coaching: The East-West perspective – Fortune India

Posted: April 23, 2020 at 11:50 am

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The East-West approaches

According to a Zen Master story, a martial arts student approached and declared to the teacher his desire to learn the code. How long would it take? The teacher replied: Ten years.

The student, a bit impatient remarked: But I want to master it faster than that, I will work very hard, practise ten or more hours a day if necessary. How long would it then take? The teacher replied: Twenty years.

Real learning is transformative and it changes subjects as people, deep inside their hearts and minds. The reason why the Pali word Cittawhich translates as heart or mindis so important in considering a Buddhist approach to learning.

Such an approach combines the modern cognitivethe knowledge and intellectual perspective with the affectivethe emotional and attitudinal engagement. No such contradiction exists in Buddhist thinking which is holistic and complete.

Logic, mind, and reason have predominance over emotions in western thinking since the European Enlightenment. The Western method of coaching mostly follows models based on proven theories in psychology, psychotherapy, behavioural sciences, and more. The western model is typically a question-answer model where the questions are asked by the coach and the protege tries to find the answers. Its what you learn after you know it all that counts, as famously expounded by Harry S Truman.

The Buddha was perhaps the original post-modernist whose teachings placed optimum emphasis on both the heart and the mind, thereby laying the foundation for an integrated and holistic perspective.

The Indian executive mindset is comfortable with the idea of duality and looks at the world as shades of grey unlike a western binary view derived from a formal contractual relationship based on logical questioning. The coaching that works therefore in India is one that understands and incorporates a nurturing and empathy-driven style. Active listening and yet dispassionate non-judgmental observation as a witness (Sakshi Bhav). A mentee-centered approach characterises the Indian coaching style as classically different from the western model.

Learning is a stance. Its a way of professional being. Leaders must be learners to make a difference.

Successful coaches realise that they need to continuously keep changing lenses to perspectivise: the subjects lens, an objective by-stander lens and that of a trusted resource. Mindfulness, listening, and objective analysis all help.

Leadership coaching is most definitely an art that requires skill, contextual understanding, empathy, practice and delivery for effective transformation and transition.

Views are personal.

Piyush Sharma, executive-in-residence at ISB and at UCLA, is a global CEO coach and a c-suite + start-up advisor. Marshall Goldsmith, business educator and coach, is a world-renowned leadership thinker.

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Leadership coaching: The East-West perspective - Fortune India

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April 23rd, 2020 at 11:50 am

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