In the month of May we celebrate all things related to coaching. We dive into an enlightening conversation with two exceptional leaders: Abhay Singhal, Co-founder of InMobi and Glance, and CEO of InMobi Advertising, and Veena Sethuraman, Vice President and Head of Learning & Development at InMobi, along with Sailaja Manacha, a skilled Psychotherapist & Executive Leadership Coach.
Discover how coaching has empowered these leaders to find positive energy, uncover true motivators, and challenge limiting beliefs. Watch the full video here.
Their conversation offers key takeaways:
- Embracing self-acceptance: Granting oneself permission to live authentically.
- Navigating resistance: Overcoming hurdles by finding a safe and non-judgmental space. Learning to take an ‘ unlocking the self’ journey.
- Power of a coaching culture: Enhancing team performance through building a coaching culture in the organization
Sai: So Welcome, Abhay and Veena, I’m really excited to have this conversation, to have two leaders in the room. And two leaders who are willing to speak about their coaching journey. That’s not always that I get to do that. So I’m really excited about that. And of course, I’m also really keen to understand a little more about InMobi’s coaching culture and Veena how you even set that up and I’d love for that too to be part of this conversation. So welcome again.
So Abhay, when it comes to organisations, you’ve built a unicorn here. So already a successful leader. And I’m just thinking what was it like for you, despite whatever position in life that you arrived at to look at an inner journey, and what did it unlock for you?
Abhay: So, how I frame the problem is just like every, just like a business kind of goes through life stages – When you start, you start small, then you grow big then you have, you know, one person, hundred people, whatever big people, that’s exactly the same way I think a human is also going through their own life journey. Very often we as leaders think that what we do and how we live our lives are two different disconnected things. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. What you do as a person is very, very, very, deeply connected to how you feel about how you are living. And for me personally, the journey started with, at different stages in the organisation. As InMobi was growing, it had growth pains, it had its challenges, it had its different life stages. And remember, as a leader you’re also growing as a family person, as a husband, as a father, as as a son. So, according to me, the whole aspect of focusing on yourself and your own inner development is so critically linked to the organisation’s success that to me these are not two disconnected things at all. They’re actually one and the same, because if one as a leader is not able to unlock himself or herself, then I don’t know how that leader is going to unlock the organisation and its potential. So somewhere I feel that the unlocking of the organisation has to actually start with unlocking of individuals and why somebody is not able to unlock himself, or herself is an extremely personal journey. So unless one is able to, willing to, go through that journey, you’re not able to realise what are your limiting beliefs, what are your challenges in your life. And hence, doesn’t matter at what life stage of the organisation you are in or you’re not, if you think that your organisation has to go through some sort of a transformation, then start asking that question to yourself first as to what transformation I need to go through for the organisation to go through the transformation and more often than not answers are going to be very, very linked to each other.
Sai: Yeah, that’s really very powerful I think what you just said. So if I’m to ask you in your unlock journey, what would be the prior version of you, and what got unlocked for you in the newer way of being?
Abhay: So my coaching journey started back in 2019, if I may say so, or 2018, somewhere around that time period, and for me, the biggest impediment to go through unlocking myself is because it was just becoming physically impossible for me to go through the stress in my life that I was going through. It was just physically impossible like prior to it I was a relentless executor. I still am. It hasn’t changed. But my way of responding to any problem was that if I put 130% of myself, I can solve any problem in the world. So anytime any issues are going to come, I’m going to deploy myself 100% into it. I used to roam around prior to that with a sheet in my hand with a list of to-dos to do in that day and the only motivation that I had was to finish the task by the end of the night. I was crazy, like, my execution was of a different order of magnitude and I was bringing the same intensity into every aspect. You bring the same intensity into strategy, you’re bringing the same intensity to your family life. I was travelling like crazy, I was travelling 20 days a month. Two very young kids, the family that I had just moved to the US, so they were struggling. I mean they weren’t adapting well, parents were becoming old, like there was this whole shit that was going on around it and company was also happening at the same time. So it was just becoming physically impossible for me to be able to deal with the kind of expectation that I had put upon myself, and I felt that this is just not going to be sustainable.
So I think I had reached a breaking point where, if I do not go in and find the positive sources of energy from within, find my true drivers, find my true motivators, find my limiting belief. It was just impossible for me to be able to answer to myself, and that is when my coaching journey started. So I think it was a very, very selfish motive, if I may say so, and the first thing that I learned in my coaching journey is that it’s okay to be selfish. Because if you are not going to take care of yourself, then you’re not going to take care of the world. And I feel like that the last 3-4 years of journey that I have possibly gone through, I have discovered so much about myself. I’ve discovered what I like, I don’t like, I’ve discovered what do I really want to stand for? What do I not want to stand for? But more importantly, I’ve given myself a psychological permission to be me. I’m not living the life that my father designed for me, I’m not living the life that my wife is expecting of me. I am living a life that I have chosen for myself. And this jump was fraught with negative thoughts to begin with like how can you live a life for yourself? Like, should you not be living a life for others? So just that change, I believe is unlocked and it’s very ironic, that one would want to think that if you start to live for yourself, your others are going to actually, start to see that and won’t love you. I think my biggest realisation is that once you start loving yourself, everybody around you starts loving your self, right? So if that’s what it is happening. So I think we’ve unlocked – my productivity is 10x better, I’m 10x happier, I’m able to pass on that positivity to everyone around me. In general, I think I have broken these barriers and beliefs and limiting thoughts with which I was probably living my life prior to going through the coaching.
Sai: I’d love to hear a little more on this crossover that you’ve talked about. I’ll just come back to you, but I Just want to, you know, speak to you Veena, for a bit. I have the same question actually that I had for Abhay, which is, your own unlock journey and inner journey, what has that meant for you? What has been brought to you?
Veena: My journey started a little differently. I went through a severe postpartum depression in 2009, at very much at a phase what Abhay mentioned about where I was tired of my own bullshit and I wanted to bring a shift to my life. And hence I started leaning on the psychotherapy space and started realising a lot about myself, in terms of work, all that I thought were my positives, I realised are my weakness. It was an epiphany that I went through. I thought I’m positive, over positive, but I was naive. I thought, I am supremely adjusting and compromising for others, but I was sacrificing my own needs and in the whole process I had lost my voice. So the more I started leaning on the therapy space, I started discovering myself as to who I am actually meant to be if all the skin, which is old, which is not required, is if it were to be removed, who am I at the end of the day. I think I was able to get in touch with that person. I found my voice, I learned how to be seen and heard, I started claiming my space and through that I healed I would say, I healed to an extent that my darkness or shadow became an ally to say, ‘Oh, I had this one more layer. Let me work on that.’ And that’s the journey I went through.
And when I went through this, automatically it was a very natural process for me to start thinking. Okay, if I’m going through this benefit, why not bring this benefit to others? Why are these conversations missing today in the corporate space? Why is it done in a very hidden way? Why are people who are not talking out there? You know going out there and talking about what shit they are going through and what transformation they are going through? In a very organic way I could connect the dots and I started experimenting even before getting into the coaching space myself. I started experimenting with it, and it fell in place in a very organic way again, through the connectedness I could realise how there is a difference and at the same time, there’s a thin line between therapy and coaching, but at the same time these conversations are possible in organisations. So when I joined InMobi in 2010, I came with this huge intention of can we help more leaders heal? Can we bring this conversation that matters into the corporate space?
Sai: I know that word ‘intention’, Veena. I had a teacher, who would always say intention orchestrates the outcome. And I see that so powerfully in what you’re saying.
Veena: Thank you. So I would say it was a co-creation, what happened in the last four years. While I walked in with that intention, I ended up meeting people who were working with, you know, who were living life, who were in their own life journeys, with an intention of wanting to transform themselves and we could beautifully co-create an experience for more people and it allowed a space, a psychologically safe space, for people to look at. So this is what happened.
Sai: Thank you for that!
So, you know, Abhay, you were talking about your initial resistance to doing this inner work. So if I have to ask you, do you remember what was that moment that allowed you to cross over and say, yes, a full yes to doing this kind of work which is really, you know, not transactional at all, it’s very transformational. Yeah, where you’re really looking at the deeper aspects that you wouldn’t otherwise go to. So, what do you think created and helped you make that crossover?
Abhay: So I think I’ll just give you a bit of a background on what my journey has been so far. For about 23 years, I’ve been an entrepreneur now. So I’ve not been part of what you call classical organisations. We’re sort of leaders, get support and groom, sort of, straight out of the college I built my first Start-Up and failed in that and then came out and started InMobi and we’ve been sort of doing that for 16-17 years now since then.
So, I guess what I didn’t know as to how lonely I was, and that is one of the big realisations that as entrepreneurs we have, we are almost always, maybe with men in ways different than women, we’re almost always trying to portray a version which is stronger than what we are to the outside world. To our parents we’re trying to say we are completely self-sufficient, but we are not. Like, which entrepreneur is successful in their first five years? To our family, we are telling them that we can provide them with everything. To our employees we are telling that everything is fine, and then to ourselves, I mean, let’s be truthful, we’re not putting any less expectation on ourselves as individuals as against what we did before. So, I think, for me, I was just very, very, very tired of continuously trying to live many lives. A life that probably is my own, which I didn’t know what it was. And then maybe a life that probably, you know, three or four or five other people that expect you to live. And I wasn’t willing to accept myself as a weak person because, guess what? our conditioning for the last – how old was I back then? I was probably 37-38. So for the first 37 years of my life I’ve been conditioned that, ‘I am strong’, ‘boys don’t cry’, ‘you can live through any pain’, and when you go through that conditioning, how can you suddenly accept yourself to be weak?
So, I guess I stumbled into coaching, not to become a stronger version of myself. I stumbled into coaching because I just wanted to talk. I wanted to speak, I wanted somebody to hear. I wanted somebody to not be judgmental. I wanted a space where you are not being judged by what you are saying. And then if you are open and honest to yourself, then like half the healing happens or happened, as Veena was saying, half of the work is done if you’re able to speak it out because then it’s all out in the open, and once it’s out in the open, suddenly the cosmic energy conspires to make it better for you. So I think, for me, the resistance was broken. I mean why I had resistance was because of years and years of conditioning. The purpose of doing what I did was because I just wanted to be heard by people who are not gonna judge me for coming across as vulnerable. And the outcome was that once it’s out in the open, I felt very light, I felt heard, and I felt very motivated and driven to continue doing it more and more and more. And I think that’s how my journey went.
Sai: When you started answering this question, you said, the first statement was ‘I was lonely’ and from everything that you have said now, what I’m picking up is that you were met. You were met by somebody, you were seen by somebody, you could be witnessed by another person, and that no longer feels isolated, you can be with another and you can bring your full self and be met there, rather than be met in a good version of who you’re supposed to be as a leader.
Abhay: Absolutely. Look, I am who I am. I am not what you think I am, or I am not what you want me to be. I am who I am, and it’s sometimes just giving yourself that voice to acknowledge is very, very liberating. I wouldn’t have said that probably five years ago, I wouldn’t have said that, for sure, I wouldn’t have said that 10 years ago, but today I think I have no shame in accepting that I am who I am, and if you like to meet me where I am, great, if you don’t like to meet me where I am, then also great. It is a level of maturity that I think we’ve reached in our own life stages. And that maturity in some sense is very liberating and very empowering if I may say so.
Sai: I think two transformational coaches, such as us, this is like music to our ears. To have a leader say these words that you’ve just said.
So, Veena, I want to ask you, you know, as you thought of initiating coaching culture here and it will be. You must have had some resistances in the organisational systems. Yeah. Because existing systems and cultures are very powerful, far more powerful than an individual and your intention. Yes. Right? So, what were those resistances like and I’d love to hear how you met those resistances and, you know, what happened then?
Veena: So I think the biggest resistance was, there was a fear of the unknown, because people are not used to such conversations. People are not used to being in conversations where they are not judged or not advised. A lot of people came back with the question of what would happen in such a conversation? So would you be telling me what I need to do in my life? If I were to say something, would it be discussed with somebody else? What in this, you know, should I look at, what should I keep in mind when I’m going through this kind of conversation? As much as they were curious, the resistance was okay somewhere, this is not going to work because I’m going to be judged. If somebody is going to get to see my ugly side, and that is an unchartered territory, right? People don’t know what they do. So the biggest resistance came from a fear of the unknown.
Second, also, the fear of vulnerability, primarily what Abhay spoke about. That is, most of the leaders in an organisation like InMobi are from prominent colleges, elite colleges like IIT and IIM in general, or some other colleges which are well known. So probably they have not met failure, often and they have been immensely successful in their lives. So there is this fear of if I pick up something and if it doesn’t work, that’s not going to go my way or if I take up something, if you go to show me something, that is going to tell me very differently from what the narrative that I’m used to, then that’s not going to work for me. So people probably had a need to look for validation, rather than being challenged. That was another space of resistance that I experienced.
How I went about it? I think I had some allies like Abhay, and a few leaders. Abhay was the first person who volunteered to be part of the coaching and I started leaning on these allies, because their experiences, when they go through a certain transformational experience, and they going and talking to other people, that’s one of the primary methods that I leaned on, because this has to be about word of mouth. We cannot make it mandatory. We cannot come up with a system saying 50 people will have to go through coaching and inner journey this year. That’s not how it works. Abhay was willing to go through an inner journey because in his life he was ready and that’s the core part there. So, we will have to wait for that readiness to emerge in an organisation, and when somebody like Abhay talks about his work, as to what he’s going through and how it worked for him, there are five more people who are willing to come to that space. Through those five people, ten more people are willing to come to that space. So the first way I handled the resistance was to have patience.
Sai: And it also sounds to me like the actual human experience and vulnerability is what also became the tool to promote this.
Veena: Yes, so one of the key things I kept in mind was, I cannot create a pace which I can control. That’s not how this works. So it worked in two ways. One, I did not carry the pressure to prove something to the organisation. Second, the organisation allowed me the space to not carry the pressure and that’s why I said it was co-created, because as he said, we need to have both hands, you know, to clap together to make them sound. So I think that worked wonders for me in that first year. That’s the first thing.
Second is, it was about educating people, because what is commonsensical for me because I have worked in this space for nine years, need not be commonsensical for someone who’s not at all used this space. So, to be able to meet them where they are and to constantly educate them. If they’re coming up with the same question 10 times, to be okay to answer that without getting triggered and to be able to help them, again, coming up with an intention of – they need to know what they need to know, and this is not about me selling it, this is about genuinely they’re getting it. I think that’s another way that I handled the resistance, and that really worked, because over time in a very organic way, we were able to move the needle in this space.
Sai: Abhay when you think of those initial years when this culture was growing in InMobi, are there anything that stands out for you as examples or memories that you actually saw where maybe something shifted in your reportees, or maybe you saw some things different in teams, or even in other organisational spaces? What did you see beginning to change?
Abhay: So, InMobi has had a very, very strong culture of talent discussion. In fact, even as founders today, despite having three thousand people now between Glance and InMobi, I would personally be sitting into the talent discussion for close to about 150 people in my organisation. I want to know them as well as they ought to be known. Because according to me, I think the leadership is created through a careful craft of – it’s an art and a science, both, and most of the time, we expect that you gotta throw the leader into the rough and they’ll figure out how to swim. Which is true, but then, some people swim better than others. The question has to be asked, is that while they are struggling to swim, what help do they need during that struggle? And that was the core principle with which the whole culture of coaching has been built into the organisation. Today, when we do our talent discussions, anytime we see a leader going through any transformation, either when the person has been promoted, either the person has gone through a big change in their role, they moved countries, they moved positions – The first question that we asked ourselves is that what is the support that the person needs? And it’s not the support in terms of professional coaching. Professional coaching in my view is far easier to attach with, it is about what support system they need to be able to make that psychological shift that they need to make in this role. So I can give you many, many, many different examples. There are examples of our leaders who would possibly be managing, you know, hundreds and hundreds of people in their organisation. But they haven’t been able to transition from becoming a micro manager to a manager of managers, because guess what? I mean these are the people who have grown from being an individual contributor to a SVP of the organisation. So what made them an SVP isn’t going to make them succeed in an SVP role. And that’s a psychological shift that they need to make. They need to give up some of their tendencies to be seeking control. They have to give up some of their tendencies to be seeking perfection. They have to develop the new capabilities for them to be challenged in the way they’ve never been challenged before. And in fact everybody understands this intellectually. I would say 99% of the people don’t understand this psychologically. It is not easy to be challenged by somebody who’s smarter than you. It invokes an emotion inside you that is very defensive. So what are the limiting beliefs that a leader is sitting with when they have to make the transition – is the one that I believe the inner journey helps solve. I cannot give you one example because there are so many in InMobi that we’ve gone through. Veena has not only done that for individuals. I mean, I think we’ve developed an L&D program now where she takes an entire team through it, and it’s amazing, because very often teams will have issues with each other, but they will never speak it out. So sometimes being able to just make 10 people sit in the room and have them share their common beliefs and limiting factors and issues out there in the open enhances the performance of the team in ways that we’ve never seen before. So I think, in my view, we’ve seen a very direct correlation between an individual’s performance increasing, or a team’s performance increasing, when as an individual or as a team they decide to work on themselves and their own limiting beliefs.
Veena: If I may add? There is some non-performance angle to it as well, if I could add. There had been, you know, after some intense development programs and coaching programs people have come back saying, ‘Now I have work-life balance’. ‘I’m spending more time with my wife’, ‘I’m spending more time with my children’. ‘I’m expressing love to my parents.’ We have had so many stories on those lines as well. ‘We have trust among the team’, ‘Today, I give feedback without beating around the bush’.
So you know it’s not just about performance. It’s also about humanising leadership and humanising the way you live when you’re in a corporate space. The human in you, how can you allow yourself to be seen and heard, that’s another bigger layer to that as well.
Sai: Yeah I think it’s very powerful for me what you have just around re-humanizing the workplace because you and I have spoken before about the self of the leaders all that you have. And everything comes from that place and while I think I pick up from what both of you have said that performance is a big focus, but I’m noticing you using terms which typically you don’t see in too many organizations, which is tuning into the process of the interpersonal, tuning into the psychological aspect of how you feel in your room. And I’m also hearing that in the team related work, the emphasis on relational intelligence right on conversationally really upping the game, in terms of you being able to open up and share and you know, say what you need to say. So, I think I’m hearing all of these underlying themes even though performance seems to be the overall umbrella, there are a lot of these more delicate aspects which are really about the human being. And the way you live, your life is the way you lead. I think that’s really what is getting reinforced from here.
Abhay: See the way you say – I use this term now quite often when a human comes into office, when a person comes into office, he’s not leaving his life behind. It’s the professional, and the individual, both are walking together and it’s the professional and individual that walk out of the office together. So I have heard this statement far too often when people say ‘Oh you bring your whole self to the office’. The problem is that are we as organizations willing to meet the people as whole self or are we willing to only meet their performing self and not their personal self. So while the emphasis is, you know, it’s very funny that a lot of times people think that, oh yeah, if I’m going to talk about this, you know, lovey-dovey stuff and soft stuff, it’s going to make people less strong. It actually couldn’t be further from the truth is when you have a whole wholesome person in office, or in workplace, or at home, their ability to meet any challenge that is out there in front of them increases dramatically. And that is what I mean by performance. Performance is not just your kpis that you got to meet, performance is you gotta be the best father you can be, you are going to be the best husband you can be, you gotta be the best social animal that you can be and in everyone if you’re not bringing your whole self, then you are leaving something behind, which is not correct.
Sai: And when you leave that something behind, that something is left out in every interaction of your professional life. And what you’re talking about is really, what in the coaching word we call transformative coaching. It is addressing the ‘who’ of the person. And not what you’re doing.
Abhay I understand that you have worked with other coaches in the last many years, you’ve explored different coaches, do share a little more about your thinking around working with you know, other coaches and exploring a variety of inner work.
Abhay: So, so my journey started with the Veena, of course who basically, you know, ushered me into the world of inner coaching, if I may use that term. I think that journey for me in some sense increased my own awareness about myself. It made me realize who I am, what, why I do what I do, what makes me who I am and what are my happiness, sadness, triggers, not triggers. I think it just made me much more sensitive about me as a person. I went through a couple of examples of professional CEO coaches, and these are like very accomplished coaches, who help people how to be exceptionally good in terms of the professional self of themselves. How do you make decisions? When everything is ambiguous, how do you still move forward and you don’t develop a cold feet because as a leader you gotta be making decisions when the things are still ambiguous. So I went through a couple of programs of that kind and in fact it was very interesting, you know, when I was going through my professional CEO coach, I also had Veena and that professional CEO coach talk to each other. I said, you know, what? Before you start coaching me, you got to meet this person because if you don’t know who I am then how are you going to actually guide me to become the better version of myself? So, I realized that these two things actually went hand in glove together.
Then it was very interesting, you know, and I discovered this new stream of what is called as family coaching and I didn’t know anything about that because prior to that my understanding of family coaching was when husband and wife have issues and they’re trying to make the marriage work. We had no such issue in our life, we were just trying to live happily as a family and the challenge was that whatever notions that we had learned, as we were growing up as a family have changed. I grew up in a joint family system, you know, I always had my mom and dad and grandparents around me 24 hours a day. And the decisions for me were made by my parents. So I think I just had to walk through the life on a road that was being laid by my parents. If you look at today, today’s day and age is completely different. The kids have so much exposure, so much distraction we don’t have time for each other. So how do we create our family in a manner where you’re living a wholesome life as a family unit. And this couch came into my life and she just transformed us and she used to coach all four of us together. Me, my wife, my son, my daughter, we all four used to live, we all four used to roll on the ground together, used to do things, silly things that we’ve never done before like these kind of things that I would never never associate me doing because they were too.. How do I say too stupid too kiddish. But believe me each one of those things that I did brought me closer to my son, brought me closer to my daughter, brought me closer to my wife and I went through that intense program and it’s one of the most transformative journey that we’ve done. I think we’ve added so much to our family piggy bank that I can I think now live through any sort of hardship that may come in our life going forward. And then I, of course, went through regular meditation programs and sort of counsellor who I have access to at InMobi in the form of Juhi. So, I think I have become addicted to coaching if I may say.
Sai: And I’m really sensing as you started talking about all this, suddenly a shift in your energy and I just feel I’m witnessing everything that you are talking about from the start of this conversation. A sense of wholeness.
Abhay: I have no qualms now saying I just was probably living a life of too much, like I probably thought too much about myself prior to us going through this whole journey. I think I’ve become very, I think there’s a realism, there is a sensitive side of me that has opened up, I’m writing way more, I’m talking much more .. like this conversation wouldn’t have happened five years ago, I can tell you this with 100% confidence. You wouldn’t have been able to get answer for any question from me on something like this because, to me, that’s like, bringing my vulnerable self,
Sai: You’d have had to bring your armour with you.
Abhay: Yeah. And today, I am going out and talking to kids in school. I was in bits pilani this weekend and I gave a talk about the emotional price of being an entrepreneur. People don’t talk about it. People think that entrepreneurship is so cool and sexy and we make demigods out of entrepreneurs, but the emotional pain and turmoil that entrepreneurs go through is crazy like it’s not for nothing that the divorce rates of successful entrepreneurs are three times as much as divorce rate of a normal human being. So if you’re not willing to work on yourself as an entrepreneur, as a telling professional, or as a leader, I think you would probably be missing something dramatic in your life.
Sai: Thank you. That was very power-packed.
Veena, just one last question to you. For organizations that are wanting to step up their coaching culture or even initiate something. Is there something from your experience that you can share as things that are important to keep in mind?
Veena: Couple of things. One is, see many organization leaders say yes to coaching. Nobody will say no to coaching because it’s the right thing to do. So, instead of just saying it in a very superficial way or committing to it internalising the need for it and why it is important and coming from a space of intention there, I think that’s the most important part to start with. So, I would encourage leaders from across the organizations to work with some coaches – external coaches, before even thinking of bringing something in within the organization. This will give them a sense of their experience, what kind of transformation possibilities are out there for their leaders in the organization that they will get a sense of it. So the buy-in from the leadership is extremely important because while I came and established this here, it was not because of me alone, right? It was because there was Abhay, there was Sahil and there was Naveena and Piyush. Together, the all five of us in a very strong way believed together that this is required, this is important. And we were all willing to go through in whatever ways, with the readiness in our own journey, we were all willing to go through and experiment, right? So that’s important. The buy-in from the leadership, not at a superficial level, but at a deeper level.
Second is willing to flirt with the ambiguity and step into the unknown that’s important when an organization is looking at establishing an in-house coaching set up because it is not a very black-and-white work. I cannot say by ten sessions, this human being will change. 1, 2, 3, 4, this is what will happen. So leaders will have to hold that understanding by knowing that while we are investing the ROI is not going to be a black-and-white ROI, they need to have patience, they need to have that sense of dealing with ambiguity without targets. If I were to be given a target for 50 people we have to transform by the end of this year, I would die, right? So that’s not possible. So, that psychological permission – they need to be willing to give to themselves and to the teams larger organization that’s important because nobody in the last four years has asked me in this organization from a leadership point, I’m talking primarily about the founders and Sahil, who’s the head of HR, about the numbers, about the coverage and that is a huge permission for me because I cannot look at impact if I were to run behind coverage.
Sai: It’s a huge permission and a huge freedom.
Veena: Yes, it’s an immense freedom and I think that’s what allows me to play with it, to experiment and to fail also when we are trying something new, that is a must. If leaders are not ready to give it to their teams, i.e. L&D teams or any teams then it will not work.
Sai: What I’m hearing that as, is – We need to shift our gaze from overly looking towards performance to just looking at development and looking at impacting the human being and that should be deemed as good enough.
Veena: Absolutely. Again, this is another permission that I had got from the organization. We do not link the performance with the coaching part at all. We actually genuinely look at what is the shift the human being has gone through. Sometimes it is about them taking a call of – they have a higher calling and they want to chase that and that is also okay. And hence, you know, in a very selfless way, looking at how to hold the space for the human beings who are willing to spend so much time with us, how do we help them discover themselves? And if you are able to stand with that intention, I think as you rightly said, the outcome appears. That’s the second point.
Third is for an in-house coaching team working with boundaries, integrity and ethics is extremely important. So people who have gone through a transformation journey for themselves, who are willing to look at themselves in the mirror, is going to be very important because a team which is not willing to go through a journey for themselves cannot bring a transformation to a larger organization. So, the leadership would need to look for people while they may be calling themselves coach – are they working with another coach? Are they working with a therapist? That’s important to consider, because I can take a client to a certain part of their mind, only if I’m willing to see that part for myself and that’s going to be the key part here and hence when an in-house team is built, how do they work with boundaries because it’s not like I come and work with Abhay once in a month and just for an hour and I’m not going to see him, I’m going to be a part of 10 other meetings with him and there the boundaries are going to get crossed. So, how am I holding that clarity within me? In terms of this is a coaching conversation. This is a leader, subordinate conversation. That was my own biggest learning in this space. And if that is taken care with ethics and integrity and keeping in mind that this conversation will not be spoken about, this conversation is not going out, this conversation, I’m going to challenge you as a team member, not as a coach and that clarity among the members and in the contracting around it, that is important, because here he’s my leader, I’m a subordinate; I’m his coach and he’s my coachee. There are two different relationships that we hold that is very important to keep in mind by both the parties.
Sai: And this can be very complex, it is I think it’s a conversation for another day.
Abhay: Another complexity, in this coaching very often, you’re going to be coaching multiple members in the team whose source of issues might be each other and then in that world, how do you deal with the situation where it is not going to become prescriptive or preachy is I don’t know what you do but that’s probably when I think you probably know deep down secrets of everyone right now.
Sai: Yeah, and coaches have structures for all this Abhay, and that’s why I said, I think this is a full bigger conversation that is possible, because this is so important.
Abhay: Yeah, especially when you’re working inside the organization.
Veena: And I think this kind of an initiative will fail if the team is not sitting with integrity, ethics and boundaries in a strong way.
Sai: You are so right!
Alright, I’m just thinking as we’re closing this conversation, just one last question to you. I think as we were preparing for this conversation, I was telling you that there are too few leaders who are happy and enthusiastic enough, like you, to even share their inner journey, talk about their coaches, talk about their coaching journey. So, you have shared such a lot. So in such an environment, you know, there are going to be leaders from many domains who are going to view this video. So just from one leader to other leaders – What is it that you would say? What are your closing comments around your own inner journey and what is it that you wish to provoke or stimulate for somebody who’s listening to this and watching?
Abhay: So, I have two or three key messages and this is what I genuinely and personally believe now because I’ve gone through this transformational journey myself.
So point number one is, you know, as they used to say that boys, don’t cry. It’s completely untrue. Boys can, should, and will cry because if they don’t cry, their health is going to be deteriorating like they know nothing about and it’s okay, to live all emotions – emotion of fear, emotion of pain, emotion of disgust, emotion of anxiety. It’s okay to live every emotion. Life is not just happiness and sadness. There is a whole vibrancy of emotions that we should give ourselves psychological permission to live.
Second is it’s absolutely okay to talk or let’s just say it’s mandatory to talk because if you’re not going to talk, then no one person is strong enough to have answers to every question. Find your safe space to talk. Nobody is saying that you should go out and talk in a public forum or you know start talking to your spouse or start talking to your employees. Find your own safe space, but find a space where you can get things out of your system because if you’re not going to get things out of the system, they’re going to cause distress, which will lead to disorder and it’ll become a disease and that’s that’s one of the biggest issue that I think plaques the society today, that’s my second point.
And my third point is it’s very counterintuitive but being vulnerable brings a very different strength that somehow allows you to invite the universe to help you. I’ve seen this personally, in many, in many, many different ways. People think that by hiding the issues that they are going through, they want to perceive themselves to be stronger. But my view is that if you’re going to go out and talk more about it, you’re going to not only feel lighter, but you’re also gonna invite so many other people who might have suggestions for you, might have advice for you, might have shared experiences and as humanity, we have only connected on stories, we only connected on experiences, we have only connected on what we thought our own Life journeys and somehow we are probably missing that whole thread in this race of competition that we’re running with. So my view is that, you know, be authentic, be vulnerable and just wholly embrace this wholesomeness because that’s just very, very beautiful place to live your life from.
Sai: Thank you for your courage and your openness in this conversation. Veena, any parting thoughts?
Veena: It has been a pleasure to be here and listening to you and such powerful questions from you. I’m very grateful that we are even in a situation to be able to sit and talk like this, because I know how hard it is to be able to have a conversation on these lines of a topic, which is so stigmatised in the leadership space.
Sai: Thank you so much both of you.
Abhay & Veena: Thank you. Thank you!