Paras is a seasoned leadership coach and has a deep passion for value centric coaching. He has coached leaders across US, Germany, UK, Brazil, Poland, Singapore and India. He strongly believe that once you are aligned to your core values, you naturally can live profoundly by way of making best choices, every moment.
As a leadership coach, he has been working with mid-management to C-level executives, across multiple industries. Currently, he is a leadership coach for BCG. As a business leader, he has a resilient leadership track record of building high-performing teams. He has an expansive experience of working in leadership roles at large corporates such as BCG and McKinsey. He brings in 14+ years of enriched experience in developing business products, and leading teams across regions / industries and functions.
Academically he has earned his masters degree in business administration (MBA) from Amity University, Noida. He is also a graduate Engineer (B.Tech. Electronics and Communication), from Kurukshetra University, Haryana. He is also on Mudra Institute of Communication, Ahmedabad (MICA) interview panel, representing industry for the new batch selection process.
In one word, Paras stands for Contribution! And his core values are respect, service and growth.
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Tell us a bit about your career background what you used to do and what role you play currently.
Paras: Sure. Currently, I am Learning and Development Manager and Coach with BCG. And in my current role, my key mandate is to support leaders and teams using coaching intervention, to move them to the next level. You know, as I was reflecting on my coaching journey, actually it started somewhere around eight years back when I experienced coaching for myself as a leader. So just to share some background here, I was leading a team of 28 analysts in my earlier role at BCG. I got this opportunity to work with a coach. It was a journey of approx. six months. And the kind of shift and new behaviors I have tried thereafter has been remarkable. I realized how I can express myself assertively in select situations. And I found that how a small shift (in my belief) can have a powerful impact outside. So the seed was actually sown at that time itself that, I really want to do something on those lines in my career.
Thereafter, I got an opportunity to work and upskill myself in coaching skills. In 2015, I got my coaching certification and learned the basic toolkit and language of coaching from Erickson.
After completing my two modules, in 2015, I started to do internal coaching within BCG, I got an opportunity to coach a few people across a few teams. I know initial coaching sessions are about following the process, following the coaching arrow that we learned during the training program. So it was more about structure, preparing yourself mentally, I should ask this powerful question, you know, so I used to have a checklist. I used to think that a lot of preparation is required for a coaching session. I was kind of moving with the script, with a plan in my mind.
And no, that’s not really what true coaching is all about. But something remarkable shifted in my 67th session. I just went silent, something happened, I was not able to think at that moment. And when I embraced that silence for the very first time in my coaching and after that long silence, whatever came to me, I asked my coachee. I don’t remember the question at that time. But that was really the most powerful moment, which really was a breakthrough for my coaching journey.
And thereafter, something shifted permanently for me as a coach to really embrace and be fully present at the moment with a client. And thereafter I got very confident, and comfortable in any coaching session. All inhibitions went away. I keep sharing with other coaches as well: this moment happens with every coach, I don’t know when it will happen for you, but it’s about just keeping practicing, practicing, practicing, and you will find the moment. I give an analogy along those lines, you know how to learn a bicycle, right? You just keep practicing, you will fall you will struggle. And once you get the balance, you get it for a lifetime. I got that balance of coaching that day. And thereafter the journey has really shifted for me I am more calm, and confident thereafter. And for the last seven years, I’ve been fortunate to work with leaders across the world, from Sydney to Boston now, from lead analysts to directors at different capacities, supporting them on different topics. And it has been an extremely fulfilling journey for me.
How long you have been coaching?
Paras: It has been eight years now. I have coaching experience of over 1,500 hours as of now. I also got a couple of team coaching assignments, which is a very exciting field, I’m getting deep dive into that these days. I have coached leaders across the industry, and also worked with select NGOs, and supported them as pro bono coaching.
I have been an active member of ICF for the last six years as well. And I’ve been fortunate to get the opportunity to be selected by ICF global in 2021 as an evaluator for the global Prism Awards. Just to let you know, the Prism award is one of the most prestigious awards where global companies are recognized for adopting sustainable and impactful coaching practices across the organization. It was amazing to assess the global applications to see the kind of work that is happening in the world.
This is actually a big achievement. So the Paras before 2015 and the Paras in present, how are both different?
Paras: Absolutely there is a huge shift. I think the biggest lesson in my coaching journey is you coach as you are.
As a person, I have shifted a lot. The way I perceive things now, my lenses or looking at the world have dramatically shifted. The away I listen to the said and unsaid of the client. And finally, I call it something like connecting with your center, you know, core self. I’m more able to connect with my core self more often. And live from that space more often. So that has been the biggest shift.
I believe that after every coaching session you also shift a bit for sure. You start to reflect easily. So there’s no doubt as you move forward on your coaching journey, you transform as a person.
So now coming to that you said that in beginning you were following structure. Now you have changed because you have embraced the power of being silent and going with the flow. So how do you think that Erickson or getting a certification helped you to understand this?
Paras: See, it’s like, you learn some tools and techniques to support in any certification program. Okay. You get the right vocabulary from any such Institute, which is great. But as a coach, you need to learn which vocabulary will work in this context, with the client. Earlier I was always thinking I have to use one tool to support a situation. But later on, I realized it’s not about tools, it’s about being in the flow, and listening deeply to what the client is saying. I have seen that just by listening deeply, the breakthrough happens for the client. So I keep investing in myself. Every year I learned something formally as well. I believe it enhances your ability to look at things differently, your perspective enhances. So it really helps for sure. But I truly believe every coaching journey is very unique. And no coaches will have the same journey.
So how much importance would you give to the certification, that coaches should go a certification? Or they should not be certified? What is your opinion?
Paras: See as the coaching industry is maturing, more and more organizations like WHO, for example, look for ICF-certified coaches in their RFPs. Because it’s very difficult for them to understand who is a good coach, and how to really benchmark them with any other coach. So certification, for sure helps to provide a level of confidence, and basic expectation that we can have from these coaches. So from that perspective, certification is truly helpful. Because if they are looking for PCC coaches, and you have not been achieved in that so far, you will not be able to support those initiatives and projects. And yes, there is some school of thought as well, which I know where they do not necessarily go with coaching certification. But in those cases, it’s difficult to really quantify and share how you’re going to have those coaching conversations.
You have coached people before COVID, and after COVID has come world has changed in every aspect of life. Do you think that clients have a different set of issues in COVID, than they used to have previously leaders especially?
Paras: That’s a great question and yes, the answer is yes. The kind of topic which has evolved or come up in the last two years has more to do with managing anxiety, balancing priorities, managing a virtual team, and managing their morale. The topics, of course, on those lands have increased. However, I also believe people are getting more and more open to coaching. You know, I was thinking when COVID started 2 years back, you know, it’s going to hit the coaching business in some way. But to be honest, I’m busier than before. So, people are more looking forward to it, people are appreciating the value which coaching can provide to them.
I agree. So for you, especially, how would you say that online coaching and offline in-person coaching differ? Do they have their own pros and cons?
Paras: Yeah, if you have asked this question or two years back, I would have been very afraid. Because I was doing only in-person coaching before that. So really shifting from 100% face-to-face to virtual was a big shift. So it did take some time.
But very soon I realized that value delivered is not different. Okay. Of course, there are some more exercises that are easier to do when you are doing them in person. But overall, if you ask me the difference is zero. In terms of the value that a coach can bring, whether he or she is in person or virtual it’s all about creating space for the client, which can absolutely be done virtually as well.
How is entering a coaching conversation different in a virtual setting?
Paras: Yeah I think as a coach, you need to be fully prepare yourself before a session. And I call this grounding exercise. So grounding exercise, virtually and physically meeting remains the same for me. So for me, it’s about centering myself. And something we have learned at Erickson as star framework, you know, how do you see your client before the coaching session, so I always refreshed that star framework for myself, before I go to any coaching session. And for me, grounding also has to do with your alignment with your breathing pattern. So I do practice this grounding exercise to be prepared for these sessions.
As a coach you center yourself, close your eyes, take a deep breath. You see your client as a whole complete and perfect. He has all the resources. He has his best interest. So I refresh them in my thoughts. And that really helps.
So how do you disconnect and still not be attached to that, to your client?
Paras: Yeah, I think that’s a good question. And that do come up while as a coach, you are listening to them deeply. In those moments, actually, I try to really listen to what is beneath that what where it is coming from. So I call it listening to the unsaid and they’re different. I mean, there’s no formula rounded ambition or sometimes it’s just about allowing the space to vent out you know, they just want to vent out, sometimes there is something which come up which only they express, they try to see what is where it is coming from. There are some questions which really support them. Discover, what are the genesis of this. I believe every motion which is displayed in a coaching conversation, is a goldmine for the coach was that emotion is coming from a space which is saying something? If you are able to let this be articulated by your client, your job as a coach is done. So I really use the emotions as an opportunity to really get where it is coming from because generally these emotions are attached with one of our core values of the client.
How does coaching hold space for emotions being a solution-oriented practice? Emotions go into the therapy side. So in case, there is an emotional outburst, how does as a coach you handle that?
Paras: Sure. So if there is emotional outburst I allow it to fully expressed, I actually support them to express fully and if possible exaggerate them. After any such emotion, or outbursts, there’s suddenly a big silence, which I’ve experienced. But I allow the big silence. And from that space, you can move to discovery / insights / solution space. I don’t go into why you’re expressing this emotion, you know, that is not something which I focus on much.
As I mentioned, every motion gives me a clue about one of the client’s core values.
Let me give you an example actually, to clarify. So what I was in a session, this client actually was very angry with his mother. And you can feel that he was not able to focus in the session. So I said, Okay, let’s leave everything else anymore about it. He shared Why is he angry? What is happening in his life? Last couple of days, what is happening? So, okay, what do you want to do with this emotion? So I really want to express that to us. But I don’t want to say this to her. She’s my mother, I love her as well.
First I used it as one of the tool to express his anger completely. And after that, I asked him, so what is present for you now, if all the anger is gone? Well, of course, there was a deep connection, he also has with his mother. He said, Of course, I love her. And also, as she expressed that completely, and the value of love really allowed, I asked for different ways by which you can still experience love and move the solution forward or take this situation forward. So he can then come up with new ideas on those lines, save something this happens going forward. Keep in mind you love her on the top. So love is the biggest emotion you said in a place, which is there in this relationship? So what are different ways by which you can manage this keeping in mind your core value of love? So that’s what I have been practicing. And again, every discussion is different and separate.
Oh, that’s a really beautiful method. I just got goosebumps by thinking that. It means when a person totally is open and you do not feed them the solution.
Paras: Yeah, absolutely.
So after working for a client for long time if you do not see results, how do you hold the client accountable? You are here to support, to be on the path. So how do you help in that journey?
Paras: So, this is something which I practice a lot which I learned from Erickson as well is about team models. So it is a combination of intention and attention. So while client may have the intention, Yes, Paras, I want to work on this. But one thing which he or she is missing out on if he is not committing to what he has said he or she will do is the attention. So, there are some attention tools, which I support the client to think about to make sure it is aligned with his intention. And I always believe in breaking down to the smallest tiny step, which can take just a few seconds. Yeah, to make things forward. And finally, I show them a Domino’s videos, if you know, the Domino’s effect, yeah.
In Domino’s, if you just take one small action, it will have ripple effect. Yeah, and you know, it can touch 100-150 next steps automatically? So ask them, I’m not worried about what you want to achieve. I’m just talking about the first domino break that you can put up to make it happen. And very recently, something also worked is working is about having an accountability partner and declaring a goal to him or her. So, I found that exercise also supports a lot of leaders, when they declare to someone who is close to them, and who they value that really supports them in achieving and going forward. And finally, if things are still not working.
I kind of challenge them a bit as well. Like, “Hey you said these are important for you in the last session. This is important. So I’m just wondering, is it still important for you how important it is for you? And how committed are you? What do you mean by commitment? When was the last time you were? You said I will do it and you have done it?”
So again, there are a lot of things that can support leaders, along those lines? Yes. And I believe it over a period of time you, you get the hang of it. But never ever do I make clients wrong. They have not if they have not done what they promised to do. So I always believe they have the right intention. And he or she needs to find an experience and become aware of what is getting him or on his way on this show.
How do you see yourself as a coach in the coming five years or 10 years?
Paras: To be honest, I am enjoying my journey. I’m moving forward to learning more every year. I look forward to complete my MCC in coming years. But I mean, I’m enjoying my journey. I look forward to have more and more and deeper impact with my clients. And currently, I am focusing a lot on team coaching aspect which is very interesting and a lot of learning.
That’s a long goal. So how far you are in your MCC journey?
Paras: So I have done 1500 hours approximately right now. So I think I need 1000 more. I think it requires 2500 hours if I remember correctly.
Compared to the beginning, how is finding clients changed now?
Paras: Don’t ask that question. Just to let you know, I completed my first 100 hours in three years. Three years to complete my ACC. And to be honest, I’m okay with it, because I really enjoy that part as well. But just to answer your question, specifically, it was very tough to really tell someone what coaching is. So what I have done actually, I have explored my first circle, my second circle, I approached them, of course, shared what best and how best I can tell them about coaching. And based on my rapport with them, they said, Okay, let’s try Paras. I know that kind of thing they had in mind.
Initial 100 hours took me three years. And I used my first circle to just experiment with it. And not everyone was okay with it. So it was a slow pace. It took time. People don’t understand ‘intangible’ services very well sometimes. But I was okay with it. It’s not their fault, because they haven’t experienced it., they are not able to understand that.
I was more delighted to have my ACC because I was hopeful and positive that things were very slow but on right track. But I did not give up. Let’s see what will happen. So was good.
How varied are the demographics of your clients? Are younger people aware of coaching now?
Paras: Absolutely, I mean, so I coach leaders who are 50 Plus, and as young as 25 years old as well. So, I mean, of course, the demographics are different. And every client is different in a way. So I, I don’t know I mean, I always treat them and see what will evolve and how I can support them. But yes, some of the people are equally enthusiastic, younger and even some 50-year-old people are also enthusiastic. So, I would not like to generalize that Yeah. Okay. Is actually a demographic is more than two are open to coaching. Yes, I have seen I have seen a very good mix.
In this journey you must have had special coaching experiences that are still close to your heart, would you like to share something?
Paras: Yeah, absolutely. There are a lot of experiences, as you mentioned to me on this journey. But something which was really valuable experience for me personally was when I was working with this leader who is in the organization for around 15 plus years. She has her own way of doing things. She said, “Yeah, I want to do this. It makes sense.”
But to be honest, it took me five sessions when she said, “Paras, you know, today I’m open to the coaching in the last four sessions. I was not open.”
I was hopeful, you know if as long as she’s coming and she’s keen to at least try and come at a skeptical leader, because I know she was coming let me see what I can do. But as we build relationship as we build rapport. I think she just shifted dramatically for me. And thereafter, the kind of impact she had. She opened up, she shared in and out, and she experimented with a lot of things. It was amazing to see the way she, moved the needle thereafter.
Oh, that was quite an experience generally you know, one or two sessions is enough for me to people feel comfortable opening up. But in this case, it took like five sessions for me and but I was still hopeful as long as she was coming. She was still curious in a way. So it was it was really fulfilling experience to see this one.
That’s a major milestone.
Do you have a special quote that you tell most of your coaches and live by?
Paras: So I believe in a nano step, in the right direction, is much more powerful than your journey of one kilometer without any direction. So I always emphasize on smallest step nano step with the right direction. In physics, we have learned about vectors. Vector has the magnitude and direction. So I always give this analogy of vector, you know, whenever you’re moving and doing something, always think about the arrow on the top. right direction. This is in line with your core values.
Paras: I just want to conclude by saying a big thanks to so many people. The last seven years, my coaches, my mentors, my ambassadors, my champions, a lot of people who have contributed to this, I truly believed in me. And for me, personally, I have changed a lot as a person. Yeah. And I only want to give thanks to all the people who are in this industry and making this happen to more people and leaders in the world.
Do you have a message for aspiring coaches and the coaching fraternity?
Paras: Ah, so for aspiring coaches, I would just want to say just be curious, have patience, and keep going.
Simple and effective.
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