Coaching is all about listening, asking questions, observing, and being in the present.
Happy to introduce you to our humble and kind coach, Prasad Palav. He is a Leadership, Executive, and Organization Development Coach with a distinguished career in banking and non-banking financial institutions like ICICI Bank and Standard Chartered Bank in India and Singapore. He set up a customer service vertical across 250+ branches in 6 months and then turned it into a profit center within 2 years. He has a proven track record of leading large teams across multiple locations and enhancing the performance of customer experience teams.
He initiated the pilot idea of having internal executive coaches for all employees at Standard Chartered Bank, Singapore. Nothing gives him more happiness and satisfaction than seeing people grow in their personal and professional lives.
Let’s take a deep dive and learn more about the story of our rockstar coach of the month.
How did you begin your coaching journey?
There was a turning point in my career when I took upon a role I had never done in the past. I was responsible for developing the customer service experience for over 500 branches across semi-urban and rural areas of India. Right from setting up the operations to hiring people, managing the policies, laying the groundwork for various systems and procedures, I was building the foundations for the entire process from scratch.
That was when I began my coaching journey with my coach. One of my business leaders was a coach himself and he introduced me to the concept of improving ourselves with the help of a coach.
What inspired you to become a coach?
My personal coaching experience took me on a path to discover my true calling.. to become a coach myself.
Throughout my career, I had spent a considerable amount of time managing and leading teams.
I always enjoyed interacting with people. I found happiness in helping them, mentoring them, giving feedback, and being their go-to person to listen to whatever they had to say.
When I experienced coaching for myself, I realized that I can use my natural strengths and help people recognize their true strengths.
Do you recall an incident that made you realize the importance of coaching for yourself?
Back then, I was afraid of driving and never got myself to learn it. When I met with my coach, the first thing he asked me was
Coach: “Tell me one thing you have always wanted to do, but never have.”
The most obvious thing that came to my mind was DRIVING.
I told him that.
Me: “I have a car, I feel that I should drive.. but I have a fear that I cannot drive.”
Coach: “If driving is so important to you, and you want to do it, what will help you learn?”
He put me in a spot there and I was tongue-tied to admit that I hadn’t done anything up to that point to actually learn driving. In haste, I replied
Me: Yeah, I’m going to join classes and learn of course.
Coach: When are you going to join?
There it was. Check-mate.
Within a week I began my driving lessons.
It was during that time that I discovered my real inhibition from learning to drive. It was a blindspot that had held me back from reaching my true potential at work as well.
I was reluctant to ask for help. And that was my real problem. I believed that we “should” be independent and that asking for help indicated a sign of weakness.
That fear of not knowing something and the fear of what people will think of me if I asked for help limited me from achieving my best.
That was a breakthrough moment for me during my coaching journey and in an instant, I realized the importance of having a coach in my life.
Coaching is important for everyone (not just working professionals.) Even a coach needs a coach.
What does coaching mean to you?
When I started coaching people, I realized that not everybody understands what coaching really is. People often confused coaching with mentoring, training.. and some even believed coaching is therapy.
Once people have experienced coaching, that’s when they realize how different it is.
It’s all about partnering.
It’s about raising people’s awareness to help them recognize their true potential. According to me, a coach’s job is to be your partner in the journey and guide you to find your own solutions.
How can a coach help people realize their true potential?
We can’t tickle ourselves to laugh. Someone else has to do that for us.
I believe that’s what a coach does. Coaches tickle your mind in ways you least expect it.
They don’t tell you what to do or what not to do. Neither do they dump their knowledge and expect you to learn from it. They listen to understand what you really want to improve about yourself and challenge your thought process and your beliefs about it.
That is how the partnering happens and the A-HA moment (which I like to call it) happens when the learner starts to see scenarios in a new light.
They begin to appreciate coaching as they go back and start doing things they once did not believe were achievable by them.
Real magic of coaching doesn’t happen during the session. It happens between 2 sessions.
What do you enjoy the most about being a coach?
One thing I enjoy the most about being a coach is enabling people to experience those A-HA moments, which they otherwise would not have. And I get to know it when they come for their next session. Hearing about the actions they have taken, the shift in their mindset, and their beliefs — that’s how I can tell that the coaching is working. I look forward to these moments that make it worthwhile for me.
Another thing I love about being a coach is observing patterns of how people think and behave.
I interact with people across the globe — from USA to Australia, across various designations, and from different cultural backgrounds. I get to learn so much from them. They come up with interesting analogies and insights that I make note of for myself.
Every person has a unique story to tell. However, it’s interesting to note that somewhere it comes down to the same beliefs and assumptions about themselves. Yet, no two individuals have the same journey towards that realization point.
Tell us something you do to keep yourself positive and grounded.
If I am not in the right frame of mind, I don’t think I can be an effective coach.
There are 2-3 things that I do to stay positive. I read a lot of books on self-help, self-awareness, and leadership. This also helps me gain new perspectives and inspires me to be a better coach. I exercise regularly and that keeps me fresh every day. I find comfort in journaling what’s worked or not worked out for me. And reflect on my learnings to move forward. I learn a lot when I get involved in peer coaching wherein another coach coaches me and I coach another coach. I have a coach with whom I discuss my life and career. That keeps me grounded. Sometimes, if there’s a need, I practice some mindfulness activities that boost my mood and energy.
Many people still have their doubts about coaching. What’s your message to them?
For people who still have their doubts and are contemplating whether coaching will work or not for them, I usually recommend them to try it out like a new experiment. It’s not necessary that they have to succeed in the experiment. It’s just an adventure where they have nothing to lose. There can be only 2 outcomes of this experiment. 1 — it didn’t work and they stay at the same place where they were before coaching. 2 — it worked and a part of their life has improved because of it. Either way, they’re never going to level down. So why not give it a try!
I would also recommend people to try out some chemistry sessions (explorative calls) with coaches and set their goals for coaching. Experience a few real coaching sessions and see what difference it makes.
There are many articles explaining what coaching is. But understanding theory is one thing and experiencing the true meaning of it gives a completely different perspective about what coaching really is. After that, you can make your own opinion and make a more informed decision about whether coaching can help you or not.
It’s even possible that nothing break-through comes out of your coaching sessions. It’s not necessary to have those moments only during your sessions. In fact, it is not the correct metric to measure the success of your coaching.
I have seen this in my experience and firmly believe that the real magic of coaching happens between 2 sessions. It’s when you commit to take certain actions and take them, that’s when the real coaching is in play.