Managers, Advice and Coaching

“In my view, coaching requires practice, feedback, reflection and more practice. It is challenging: just telling someone to coach does not made him or her automatically a good coach.”

-Julia Milner

Julia Milner is professor at EDHEC Business School. In her article in HBR she is critical of organisations which asks managers to coach others without training them or making them aware of what coaching is.

“The biggest takeaway was the fact that, when initially asked to coach, many managers instead demonstrated a form of consulting. Essentially, they simply provided the other person with advice or a solution. We regularly heard comments like, “First you do this” or “Why don’t you do this?””

-Julia Milner, HBR

In her research she found that many managers assume that they know how to coach, but actual observation of sessions conducted by them ( evaluation done by coaching experts) showed that they either not aware of what coaching is or lacked necessary skills. Instead of coaching they were actually preaching when they asked questions like “First you do this” or “Why don’t you do this?”

“In an organizational setting, you can imagine how a group of executives, having convinced one another of their superior skills, could institutionalize preaching-as-coaching.”

-Julia Milner, HBR

She also observed that with awareness and training the managers showed improvement in their skills. Their competence increased further when post training they were allowed to practice coaching skills in a safe environment.

Julia concludes that awareness and training followed by practicing skills in safe environment is must before these managers start coaching others.


Avoidant Personality Disorder, Taijin kyofusho, Shoma Morita

“Hello Loneliness, how are you today? Come, sit by me and I will take care of you.”

-Thích Nhất Hạnh, Buddhist Monk

In India, shyness i.e. “Lajja” is desirable characteristic of a woman. Lot of songs have been written on this. But shyness when carried to extreme may result in what is called as Avoidant Personality Disorder.

Avoidant personality disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by a lifelong pattern of extreme social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and sensitivity to rejection.

A person suffering from this disorder is reluctant to meet people due to fear of feeling incompetent or fear of getting rejected. Such person may avoid friends because he may get hurt by criticism or disapproval by friends. He may also stop trying new things or taking risk due to fear of embarrassment if he fails.

The Japanese version of this disorder is called as Taijin kyofusho.  Taijin kyofusho translates into the disorder (sho) of fear (kyofu) of interpersonal relations (taijin). Those who have Taijin kyofusho are likely to be extremely embarrassed about themselves or fearful of displeasing others when it comes to the functions of their bodies or their appearances.

One of the therapy recommended for this is Morita therapy.  It was developed by Japanese psychiatrist Dr. Shoma Morita. It consists of three things

  • Accept your feelings
  • Know your purpose
  • Do what needs doing


Bhasmasur, Zia and Bhutto

In Indian mythology, Lord Shiva once gave a boon to demon called Bhasmasur that if he touches head of any person then that person will burn and turn into ashes. Shiva soon regretted his action when Bhasmsur tried to place his hand on Shiva;s head. Shiva ran and asked Lord Vishnu for help.

Lord Vishnu took form of a beautiful woman called Mohini and asked Bhasmasur to dance with her, one of the step was to place hand over one’s head. As soon as Bhasmasur placed his hand over his head, he died.

At times we created our own Bhasmasur- internal or external.

In movie “Gold” the hockey team manager, though talented, releases his own Bhasmasur once he starts drinking. He is capable of ruining his own career.

Prime minister of Pakistan Bhutto created Bhasmasur in form of General Zia. He promoted Zia over other senior and more competent generals, because Bhutto thought that Zia will do whatever he asks him to do. But Bhutto had created his own Bhasmasur. After military coup, Zia killed Bhutto by hanging him.

Nilofer Merchant,Franklin Leonard,Talia Milgrom-Elcott

 “Choices define us. The hand we’re dealt is just a starting point; it’s our choices afterward that reveal what genuinely matters to us. When we face these seemingly unmovable situations, we must decide between making someone else’s choice or our own.”

― Nilofer Merchant, The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World

Nilofer Merchant, the “Jane Bond of Innovation”, has launched more than 100 products. She believes that in today’s world where social media helps you to connect with rest of world, your unique strengths ( which she calls as ONLYNESS) can help you to come up with unique ideas and become successful.

“I believe that at the very root of our humanity is a passion to create value with heart, to work alongside others who care, and to make a difference. I believe that each of us has something of value to offer — all 7.5 billion of us. While not everyone will, anyone can.

The fact that today so many people do not is not a sign that they lack capacity, but instead it’s a sign that the scaffolding and structures need to be built to let them do so. This is society’s problem, and its opportunity.”

― Nilofer Merchant, The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough to Dent the World

Nilofer used to work with Apple, though she was neither Engineer nor MBA, she was able to come up with idea to increase sales of one of the products, which others ( Engineers or MBAs) could not. She believes that each one of us has something to contribute, our unique ideas matter and leaders should hear ideas of each team member.

She has written book called “The Power of Onlyness”. In this book she talks about two individuals who made difference using their onlyness.

In 2005 a development executive working with production company called Appian Way Productions asked 75 other development executives to send him list of 10 unproduced screenplays which they liked. He collected the list and shared it with all. Thus was born The Black List of Franklin Leonard. This effort by Franklin helped in giving publicity to screenplays which otherwise would have been forgotten. The films like Juno, The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire and Argo are result of The Black List.

“So we’ve done the annual list for the last 11 years. About a thousand scripts have been on that list. More than 300 of them have been produced. Those movies have made more than 25 billion dollars in worldwide box office. They’ve won three of the last seven best picture awards, and eight of the last fifteen screenwriting Oscars.”

-Franklin Leonard

Like India, USA too faces shortage of good STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) teachers. It is a complex problem requiring an innovative solution. Talia Milgrom-Elcott came up with solution to this problem. In 2011,she came up with goal of having qualified one lakh STEM teachers by 2021 i.e. in 10 years ( 100K in 10 project).

The first phase of 100Kin10 involved 28 various organizations coming together to make their unique contributions. It was like patching together a beautiful quilt of individual gifts and commitments. We played the coordinating and mobilizing role by continuing to invite and inspire likely and unlikely allies to join us. By the end of the first year, we had grown to about 100 organizations.

– Talia Milgrom-Elcott

Aim of 100Kin10 is not just to train but also retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers. She cultivated a network of best-in-class organizations to make this happen. These organizations consist of Corporates, Universities and Government organisations. They have come together and provide their expertise to give excellent STEM teachers.


Adam Grant, Give and Take

“As Samuel Johnson purportedly wrote, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

― Adam M. Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

Adam Grant is an American psychologist and professor at Wharton. His interest in concept of reciprocity resulted in him writing a book on reciprocity called “ Give And Take”.

According to him people fall in 3 categories based on their stand on reciprocity…

Category 1-Takers- Takers believe in zero sum game i.e. if one wins then other has to lose. So they try to get more than they give. They are good in promoting self and make sure that they take credit for what they do and if possible also take credit for what others have done. While this stance may give them success, their success is usually resented by others.

Category 2- Matchers- Matchers believe in quid pro quo. They will help others but also expect other to help them in return. Most of the professionals fall in this category.

Category 3- Givers- Givers give others more than they take from others. They have genuine desire to help others and don’t expect anything in return.

So which stance makes successful leaders?

“So if givers are most likely to land at the bottom of the success ladder, who’s at the top—takers or matchers? Neither. When I took another look at the data, I discovered a surprising pattern: It’s the givers again.”

― Adam M. Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

While survey showed that most people believed that Takers and Matchers make leaders successful, they also believed that a giver is unlikely to succeed in corporate world, but research done by Adam Grant showed something interesting, while givers were at the bottom of success ladder they were also at the top of success ladder.

“This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”

― Adam Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

Some givers do end up becoming doormats and get pushed to bottom of success ladder. But other givers use their stance as a strength to build large supportive networks, negotiate successfully and enlarge the size of pie so that they have more to share with others. Such people become successful leaders.

“Being a giver is not good for a 100-yard dash, but it’s valuable in a marathon.”

― Adam Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

But these are not water tight compartments, there is fluidity i.e. you don’t belong to one of the categories, you can show all three stances i.e. you can be giver, taker and matcher depending on situation. But one of them will dominate over others.

“When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when givers like David Hornik win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.”

― Adam M. Grant, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success

There are leaders like Kenneth Lay , CEO of Enron, who are a fake giver. He donated money but in reality was taker, who benefited by artificially  inflating share price while in reality Enron was making huge losses.