Raja Raman, VP At Publicis.Sapient, On His Coaching Journey, Self Reliance And Leadership

24 Apr 2018

Raja Raman, VP At Publicis.Sapient, On His Leadership Coaching Journey, Self Reliance And Leadership

Raja Raman, VP, Technology at Sapient, talks about his leadership coaching journey experience with Dr. Deep Bali, Columbia University ACI and CEO Recalibrate, and his biggest takeaways.

Q. When did you start your coaching engagement with Deep? What led to that to decision?

Raja: My journey started around two and half years back and the engagement for one year. As an organisation, we take leadership development very seriously. While we are good at growing leaders, we were keen on growing the “next-level” leaders. But we had been attuned to one type of leadership having worked at the same company and the same culture. So we wanted a fresh perspective on how else can we lead.

Coaching was one of the channels we looked at – we also examined a group for an assessment workshop to identity growth areas and challenges.

In coaching engagement, it really matters who your coach is. Whether it be sportspeople or corporate setups, you really need good chemistry with the coach or it just doesn’t work.

In coaching engagement, it really matters who your coach is. Whether it be sportspeople or corporate setups, you really need good chemistry with the coach or it just doesn’t work.

Deep was handpicked from 4 to 5 coaches I had met. He was the right fit because of his approach and style. Deep has a logical way of solving problems. And that really applied to me. A lot of us IT guys  are left brained and the way he systematically explained things really made sense. Often times coaches come with big ego of their own and I am just one of those guys, that it really puts me off; a coach needs to have good listening skills and I could gather that right from the very first interaction with Deep and his style was very different from the other coaches.

Q. Describe your leadership coaching journey and what it entailed?

Raja: The coaching journey went for a year and a half. Initially, we talked about short-term problems that I wanted to solve for myself then we we went into other topics like organisational design and solving large system thinking kind of problems. The third phase was trying to understand Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and the impact of words — how we speak and its bearing on people. Initially, the journey had been also about understanding why do I need coaching and then applying coaching to specific problems and specific use cases.

During the coaching journey, Deep was always reachable and we would often connect after work. A lot of things we would talk about helped me on the personal front as well in the context of family. I found that a lot of conversation and principles I learnt were applicable everywhere.

A lot of things we would talk about helped me on the personal front as well in the context of family. I found that a lot of conversation and principles I learnt were applicable everywhere.

Q. Had you taken coaching before and what value do you think leadership or executive coaching brings?

Raja: I had always had mentors. The decision to have a coach came from the organisation. In hindsight, mentorship doesn’t make you self reliant. Coaching makes you self reliant –- in all matters. For example if you have a broken relationship with your client, typically, you would go and offer service credit or provide extra work for free. In Coaching, you start challenging the assumption and ask why is the relationship bad or figure out why it has gone bad? Coaching starts with a lot of questions. When we went to the specific use cases, there were a series of questions Deep would ask me. I would then figure out where the problem was coming from and once I knew that It was easy to solve it.

The good news was that often all these answers were with me and Deep didn’t have any context on my client or problem. Just by asking a series of questions, he helped me arrive at the answer myself. It could be any number of situations – the context doesn’t not matter, what matters is the method.

Q. How has your coaching helped you since your journey?

Raja: I apply it everyday. I think coaching is a muscle that I had zero percent of when I started. I was used to using mentoring 100% of the time. With Deeps help, I started using coaching 100% of the time while gaining 30-40% results. Now I practice it 60-70% of the time and I get 100% results.

Coaching is not for everyone. There are people or situations where mentoring may work better. If you have an RFP to do in a couple of says, there you can’t do coaching. I also became better at identifying who is a coaching candidate and where mentoring works better. In about 70% of the cases, coaching can work and I mentor the remaining 30% of the cases.

Q. What changes in your leadership style have your teams and clients noticed?

Raja: The teams would see [the style] as empowering. They would notice that team members are expected to solve problems on their own and feel more self reliant. On the client front, they see an enabled team. They probably see a black box – they don’t understand what the secret is.

The teams would see [the style] as empowering. They would notice that team members are expected to solve problems on their own and feel more self reliant. On the client front, they see an enabled team.

Q. What was your biggest takeaway during your journey?

Raja: My biggest takeaway came in the first month while coaching with Deep. It’s a myth that coaching takes more time. Coaching is way, way more efficient than mentoring.

It was very on-the-spot, 15 minutes here and there and very contextual. I also got promoted during the course of coaching.

Q. What would you advice to leaders considering this method of coaching?

Raja: Stay open minded. You should not come from a position that you know everything and just let it happen. You don’t need to be at a certain level but the results are better when you have reached a certain management position and have some level of social interaction with other people. Without hesitation give it a thought, it is well worth it.

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