Coaching Chronicles

Coaching Chronicles: Raghavan Veera

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About The Interviewee: Raghavan Veera

Raghavan is a passionate people person and now actively involved in training and coaching individuals & groups. After 15 years in Investment Banking Operations, he has taken the plunge to pursue interests in people development, coaching, leadership & management. As an enthusiastic social scientist , Raghavan has been devising solutions to help individuals blend their career aspirations and personal goals, and also enable them with tools to achieve a more meaningful way of leading a positive life.

Specialising in training a diverse set of groups both from academic as well as corporate worlds. We provide targeted skill enhancement training for students from multiple disciplines, that boosts their confidence during placements. For organizations, we collaborate in providing Leadership Training Workshops, Thought Leadership, and Executive Coaching. We work with leaders and organizations that yearn for a more meaningful and impactful way of working, communicating and leading!

Coming from a high-profile investment career that includes being a Vice President at Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs, Raghavan made a call to become a coach. Let’s see how this journey has been for him. 

Hello Raghavan, what has been your professional journey?

Professional journey spans until date to about 17 years, which was in the investment banking industry, more by chance than by choice. I started in 2005. I worked in the investment banking industry until the middle of 2019. I worked with two organizations predominantly, actually three. But you know, it only comes to Goldman Sachs, where I spent a lot of time nine years, and nine or 15, and the remaining five was at Deutsche Bank..

When were you introduced to coaching and why did you begin it?

So over a period of time, I definitely felt that I did not belong to where I grew. I grew up the ranks. I had larger responsibilities, there was a time where I couldn’t really relate to what I was doing. And I knew I needed something else. Obviously, I’m very sort of careful and taking risks. So I gave myself some time to try to find out what are the areas of interest, what could probably turn into a profession and started talking to people and decided that people write anything to do with people development is what really it was.

At that time, back in 2018, I thought training would be a wonderful place to be. Training people in soft skills, enabling them with soft skills. So I got out in 2019, middle of 2019 as a trainer. I was a soft skills trainer, I associated with one of my old friends from school, who I had met after 2015. And, you know, we were just talking and it sort of felt that it would be good for me to do that full time. I jumped into it and had a good, wonderful six months. 

I was a consultant director with his organisation. And there was a thought that generally when you start doing something on your own, you don’t have anything to do for at least some time, you’re preparing with everything.

But that is not the case, it was quite busy for me for the first six months. And in February 2020, I think, you know, was the last assignment I had post, which the COVID stuck. So while it was challenging, people are still figuring out what needs to be done, etc. So there was a period of quietness. And I started somehow during that point in time that gave me that space. The mind space to really reflect upon how I want to take my journey further, for some reason. And then, you know, coaching came into place, as one of the developmental tools. I did some research on some coaching on some organizations that provide coach certification . Archana connected with me back in February 2020, as well, and we kept the conversation going. She was very, very kind and very patient to answer a lot of questions that I had.

Because there was a lot of confusion. Should I do a certification? Or do I really run on the back of experience that I’ve had for the last 15 years? Should I sort of make that into something that will help me launch myself for the next 10-15 years. I made a decision that I will do the code certification program. 

Erickson sort of stood out for me, because when I compared with others. It sort of stood out in terms of  the depth and it was more so true with Archana. So she was the only person in a lot of ways who will continue to keep contact with me. So she started to speak to me, in fact, or she started connecting with me, in fact, and I took the course in November. 

And after I did my coaching I finished in December my certification. So I entered with a lot of zeal that I have to make the best use of this time.

How has your coaching journey been so far?

It taught me I have to make the best use of it. I’m going to come out of my personality, not be an introvert, ask as many questions as possible, put in as many hours as I can and make it as useful as it can be for a certification so that I can harness it. As I start my coaching practice. I didn’t even know whether it will be coaching, whether it’ll be with training, all of those things, but I knew I had to make the best out of it.

Fast forward after a month, what came out was more reflections for my own self as a person to be a coach. So that is the point where I was and I knew I had to set up my coaching practice, but I wanted to sort of go out and announce to the world when it felt I was ready.

So there was a lot of personal transformation. I think it is a huge milestone, the coach certification program that I went through unexplainably in a lot of ways.

And each day of the certification program was really something not just to look forward to but to look back on as well.

And really reflect upon experiences. Where am I? What is happening? And what is it that I intend to do? A lot of questions left me with more questions than answers, but in a way that I could relate to questions that I knew that I had to answer. 

So only in February, I went out and I announced to the world in a small way that yes, I’m starting with coaching practice. Again, Archana and Gaurav, they helped me in terms of trying to just get my foot on the ground. I didn’t know what to say, how to start, and what to charge. Now so many of these things. So I just took the plunge in a lot of ways I should say. And since then I have been quite aggressive in terms of training. So slowly I built on that I need to build my coaching practice. I also parallely enroll for my ACC mentoring. That was also a huge add on value addition to my coaching journey, because so many blind spots, and I think invariably, that I might have found that out or I may not have found out.I don’t think we can even know the answer from that because I’ve taken mentoring.

But you know, there were a lot of blind spots that Lata really brought out and. Her way of thinking and not necessarily thinking but her way of, you know, really kindling our thoughts as a coach of what questions we could ask, where we could double click, really enhanced the depth of the support certification program that had gone through November-December.

For the last two months, I have no and the coaching matters and other things have been international code speak. All these have been very useful in terms of engagement that we are coaching. So I have built up a little so now what I’m doing is my training is going on. But I’m also focusing more on building my coaching practice. I have had a bunch of clients where I’m doing coaching where you know, as a coach for them both at an executive level and at an individual level, I mean Life and Leadership.

And I’m sort of finding my own niche in a lot of ways. Right now. That’s my journey.

I started connecting with people that came as guests who had something to present as a part of the International Coaching Week. Right now I am in a phase where I’m really sort of setting all my resetting. I wouldn’t say setting or resetting my building blocks of having a strong coaching practice combined with training and consulting. Which I feel will be my niche that I want to go to for I don’t know how long

How has the transition from Investment Banker and now a Coach been for you?

I had a much more structured life as an investment banker, you know, as a leader, as a vice president and all that there was a lot of pressure. And at the same time, there was a lot of responsibility that I loved. And that is what triggered me. To be honest, though, in investment banking, it had to be more of a number. Yeah, I don’t know what to say. But my inclination was more around helping people through careers, talking people through developing themselves. And, you know, that is where I really got making. I recognize myself more as a people manager than a leader. 

So that’s what got me to move on. Now it’s more unstructured. There were a lot of things. It’s like a balance, right? And sometimes I feel Why didn’t I know about this certification course back when I was working? I could have probably taken it in 2010. But I think certain things happened for a certain reason, right. And because I freed myself up out of that hectic profession, I was able to see through and find out that there is a course of this sort available. And there were a lot of things that I used to feel very annoyed that I’m not able to practice when I was in that profession. And now I’m able to do so you get something you do something, and that’s absolutely fine. 

So how has your experience at Erickson been helpful in your certification? How important do you think certification was and how has certification helped you elevate your game?

I think let me say it in two ways, right? One is yes. I mean, even as much as training, I’m chatting, I started only to like 2019 being a full time.

It’s not like I had like 10-15 years of full training experience. My profession was investment banking, operationally more on the operations professional side. So how did certification help is, in two ways, one for my own self, I had an understanding of coaching, and what coaching meant. And you know, the certification really helped me understand that what I had was absolutely something completely bizarre. 

Number one, is, I think, I have a lot of confidence in approaching clients right now to say that, “Yes, I am. Here I am”.

Fortunately, now, because I’m certified as a coach. I have the credentials, there is a lot more confidence in approaching people, in telling people that I’m here, I’m available to do this.

In 2020, I was actually contemplating How important is a credential? Because I, you know, picked up LinkedIn, a lot of people there do not have credentials or certifications, but they may be wonderful coaches. And that was what I was contemplating, why can’t I take my experience of 15 years and try to see how it can sort of be a coach. But at least for me, that I don’t think would have worked. And the confidence is definitely there. Because I know I’m a credential coach, I know what I’m talking about, at least to whatever extent I know.

So that gives you confidence. Most importantly. 

Do you find any overlap in training and coaching? 

I think training you can do for you in a class of 100 people.

Which I don’t think makes a massive difference. What are the overlaps? I don’t necessarily see any overlaps but only overlap. I see that it is still a developmental tool and coaching is also a developmental tool. So as coaching, but what really is a very defining factor for me is that it’s all about the seeker. It’s not about the person who’s facilitating, it’s I think about the person on the other side and what they are ready for.

Because from my experience, I’ve seen it, and I trained as a trainer, predominantly, my experience for the last one and a half, two years has been in the campuses, in colleges, engineering companies. Coaching is where you don’t really provide solutions, you co-create solutions, yes. 

Sometimes I feel and I don’t want to, take the pressure and paint the entire category. But when you look at that category of people, and I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with me, that’s my experience. I don’t think they are ready for co-creation. So when people come with that mindset, give it to me, what do I need? What do I need to equip so that I can run from here, I just will go by what you do with training, it works.

This is what I want to do, but how can it help? And that’s where coaching helps, because we start co-creating solutions. So it’s all about getting the person on the other side? What are they ready for?

Otherwise, I don’t see any overlap in the tools, maybe one or two tools that we use in coaching as used in training, also, let’s say for time management, or renew certain trainings, but the methodology itself, as rightly said, I think coaching is a lot more structured in the way it goes.

In coaching you have to be very, very aware of who my audience is? What is it that they want? And how do I sort of not necessarily help but how do I hold the space for them to really find what they want.

From going to a training session and now going into a coaching session, there must be a change in mindset about how you enter the coaching. How do you start a coaching conversation? How do you build up an environment where you are now different from a trainer to a coach now?

I think it’s been a developmental journey for myself, and I wouldn’t say I have come to the end of the journey. I think that’s where a huge difference is, right? I think where you recognize that, or I recognize that I am in a continuous process because there is awareness. 

Rather, I just have to build awareness for the person sitting on the other side, to be able to really cling on to that one solution that will serve them the best at that point in time, based on whatever resources they have, you know, when they are seeking that solution. So it’s about being able to hold the space, and not really suggest from a space of being experienced or gone through a similar situation. So that sort of segregation from suggestions and solutions is something that I practice quite consciously. Whereas when you have a hat of a trainer, it’s like you’re constantly providing tools. You’re telling, you know, do this, then then try this. Okay? And then right, so this is the third one, this is the fourth one, you know, and I can then bring these two together or try to bring these three together. Whereas as a coach, it is more of just the holding the space for them, and it’s a very conscious effort, effort that a coach has for me

And make it all about the client. I think it’s a very important mindset. Earlier, quite honestly in my initial days,right after my way in February, when I started, I had to be instrumental in getting the aha moment for my client.

But now I’m slowly getting off that because and trust me, after I’ve gotten off that there are more people who come and say that you know what, that conversation really helped me recognize a lot more. And I don’t know, maybe this is what happens everywhere, but at least I will talk about my experience, people come back and tell me not during the conversation, but in working through that, and getting to a conclusion, seeing if there is a value that they received. But you know, after that they say, you know what, reflecting on the conversation, something struck me. So at least three or four people outdoors, that conversation was helpful, not probably nothing transpired during the conversation. But after the conversation after the coaching session, we had made some real tangible strikes of realizations. And being happy about it, because at that time, I’m not there in the conversation, or when they have that aha moment, I’m not around.

And that’s absolutely fine. I think that is what is very important, where you as a coach, the mindset that you embody, is when you go in, it’s not about you at all. And, yeah, it’s not easy.

While I say it so easily. I know, it’s not as easy to practice. But I think more and more, we do that consciously. And I think that is a reminder, in most of the time, you know, like somewhere once in two weeks, that remainder comes through some sort of a post on LinkedIn, through somebody from the  xMonks community, or through one of the Coaching Matters webinar, or to the peer coaching sessions, somewhere that keeps coming.A wonderful thing that stays as a reminder for me, that it’s not about me, it’s about the person and I all I have to do is go into space.

Being a coach and only being a person who is there for solutions. Does it prevent you from exploring your human side?

Hi, I think I definitely expose my human side to my coachee.

Because it’s a human to human conversation. I believe that when I go in I always tell my clients that before we start an engagement that I ask them if they are ready to actually work with me shoulder to shoulder, not look at me from a space of authority, not to look at themselves as subordinate to me. 

Vice versa, I will not do the same thing with you. I would like to look shoulder to shoulder. That is one thing. I think there is a lot of reflection for me after a session is over. There’s a lot of awareness building that creates that that I go into when I reflect upon a session that I’ve had with my clients. And yes, I have been through conversations where I know I have been there. I’ve had a similar experience and not jumping to that answer saying, “Hey, you know what, this is deja vu or to say that, hey, this is what I did.” But just holding that space for them, not really trying to show your experience out over there. 

When they sort of go through that, you really recognize the diversity of experience, the diversity of awareness, and diversity of thoughts that you can appreciate as a coach. That’s the reflection I have after the session is over. After one or two of such reflections are aware, where I was able to expand my own awareness, I actually sort of started practicing them because I see that by not jumping in over there, I can come back and reflect upon different ways of looking at the same you know, prism or crystal, whatever we have in front of us.

And different people can have different opinions about the same thing, different experiences about the same thing. I think it’s all about leaving people in their journey of awareness. They will come across for sure. I think as long as we can hold this space, I think they will come across so my own journey and I think I am as much wounded as somebody else’s so I’m not trying to say I am superior, I have authority because I have credentials. Absolutely not. I look at it also as a learning experience myself, when I reflect upon that, build my awareness and I don’t carry it again to my next coaching conversation with anybody else or with the same person. 

So it’s a wonderful experience. 

Can you elaborate on one such experience that is very close to your heart and is like a true awakening for you?

I would talk about self awareness.I know this sounds very philosophical, but I am slowly coming to realize that I have and I have seen people in my experience generally crushing certain really important things as philosophical, something that is impractical.

But I think that is where the true essence of breakthrough actually lies.

So if I have to tell you what it’s about as a part of the coaching certification program, there are a few things actually alluded to, which are like really gems. I don’t know, I wouldn’t call wisdom but gems of life or gems of real questions.

But then there was one thing he said that stuck with me and I don’t know how to explain this as to why only this thing.

He said if there’s one thing that we can take away from this course, if you’ve not taken anything, it’s all about building your self awareness. Because if you build a self awareness, you can produce 10 times the results that you intend to produce

Then that clung on to me and it is still so profound. After more than six months it is still profound. And I started expanding my self awareness. You know, through just reflecting through the guided meditation. And I continue to do that after the course also. So that stayed with me because, and I am still expanding my self awareness.

I am expanding my self awareness journey. So then one thing that he said, during the course itself led me to you know,you really scratched the tip of the iceberg in terms of why I have certain behaviors, and they share it also within the group, within my sort of cohort of people who are taking the certification. Where, you know, some of our actions have a completely different background to things. And that’s what self event is all about. 

I was able to find it during the course itself. It so happened one day, I was going to the gym in the morning, I cut the signal out, and I yelled at somebody. It was just 6:30am in the morning, and they thought there was no reason, but why did I yell? No, it was more about the yelling that was wrong. 

Gaurav said that the question was, “Why did I behave the way I behaved?” One thing led to the other, And I think I recognize myself that I have had this sort of, you know, necessity to just win.

Because I’ve been on the losing side for many years of my life. So there is always a necessity to win.

And then I started reflecting upon how it is serving me, right?

I’m always going with, so which means any client, I start approaching him. He said, “you cannot eliminate it completely, you cannot. You can only tame it.”

And there are times when I have gone I’ve started talking with clients, and there were times where in a split second, I just become so vulnerable. I sort of moved from being that. 

So certain things, it takes a lot of time. But this setting has been performed. And I’m slowly coming to answer a question which Gaurav had asked me during the training session. He asked me, “You have to answer this question, what is your relationship with your own self?”

He told me to stay with that question. And believe me, it’s been eight months now. Now I’m coming closer on all of these things, and have actually sort of helped me get there. But I think it’s that self awareness, which I know is easy to say, but I wouldn’t say difficult to practice. It does require a lot of grounding, to look within you and be aware of why some of your actions are the way they are. And when I look at myself, there are so many things that I would get annoyed with just at the tip of the, you know, dropping a pen or something, right. But nowadays I do not. 

Because I’m being more self aware of what is triggering me to do whatever it is, and I have come to realize there are only certain things that I can control and certain things are more things that I cannot.

I think I’m going through that subtle level. The one thing that I’m afraid of continuing to be afraid of is the change that people start seeing. I’ve had friends  saying to me that I don’t know what happened to you, after you’ve taken the course or you know, whatever you’re doing. You’re not the same person as you were. And I think that’s where it is. The other question that you asked and this thinking, that’s about really missing, you’re competing with yourself.

I’m not finding that the correct word, but as you run the risk of being a coach all the time in your head. When friends come to you for solutions, you just leave them with questions and that’s something that they don’t want to see. I was this close to losing a friendship because of that thought process. Right? She told me that, you know what, we are never going to talk about anything related to my professional development in school.

If our friendship has to remain, and I don’t think I should come to you for advice at all, this sort of threw me out completely, because it has to serve. That’s when I started figuring out. My awareness should not go in only one direction, it should be much more profound to really be able to recognize everything that’s happening now. So yeah, I think self awareness has been one profound aspect that I continue to live with, you want to take from that one thing that those two sentences that Gaurav was saying that, 

“if there is one thing you want to take out of the certification, it’s about self awareness. And if you can really enhance your self awareness, then you can create 10 times the results. So the main question could be, how are you creating those time series cells?”

Not yet, because I know I’m headed on a journey. I think I have a lot more confidence because it’s about leaving the right entity, right. But I was a VP. I was a very particular very successful professional for 15 years. But that didn’t happen overnight. That also took a few years for me to really start getting credibility. It was not just day one. In 2005, when I joined the industry, people all started looking at me back. And now I know, it was a choice that I have made that I want to meet the people or people in the industry.  I have to give myself that time. And, and even now my awareness is ensuring that I shut off some of my past entities that don’t serve me anymore. 

So what is your relationship with yourself?

Ah, the relationship with myself, as of knowing that answer can change. AsI said, I’m getting closer to the answer. But what came to me was that the relationship, but my self is always through the lens of the other person who’s looking at me.

And my relationship to myself is always defined through how the other person relates with me.

Which means that I’m losing my own identity of what I really am. That’s where there’s a huge gap over a long period of time. I have always tried to live up to people’s expectations, whether it may be family, friends, colleagues, everything, anything and everything that I may have gone through in life.

And I think adding pressure, in a lot of ways. And now that is the relationship with, I see that I don’t see me through the eyes that I have my own self. I only see through the eyes of, you know, people who interact with me or people only through others.

And, yeah, that’s what has happened. So it’s always it’s never been an intimate relationship. It’s always been a third party relationship that I’ve had with myself.

So, now you practice more self awareness. Is that a constant thing in the back of your head or your natural state?

No, not as much. I think it’s more preparation. But yeah, my self awareness is not just about having what he was told to do constantly in my mind as to what I am talking, being mindful, I would say being more present.

That’s what my self awareness is really, I am sort of, or I know that sort is coming to me in my self awareness is to be more present in the moment.

Because if I am going to be thinking about what am I going to say, How am I going to say it, then I’m always aware that in the future of an event that I cannot control, or I don’t know what will happen, what will not happen. And if I’m always thinking about past bad experiences, or good experiences, which were at maybe my awareness is always behind. So now when I’m talking to you also, for example, it’s about being involved in this conversation. And how does it help in little ways is that I mentioned I’ve secluded myself in a room. I’m not looking to do anything else. I mean, the same Robin

Two years back, if you want to have this conversation with me, we’ll have the conversation. But there will be like 30 different things happening. In my mind, I’ll be doing at least five different things, answering emails, trying to check off to pay my bills, all of that as a part of this conversation. But right now, I’m just in this conversation, and I think it’s about being more present. 

I think one can be solid in all those relationships when you have a good relationship with yourself. Because you can be wholly present for them.

And that’s where I spend the time in whatever way for some people. And this is where coaching is beautiful, right? So let’s say I have a client who talks about me time, I think I’m holding the space for the person to find out what the mean time is, even though my practice has helped me and has served me and everything. I would sort of go out and say do this, right. Everyone knows what is needed. For some people, it’s gardening, for some people it’s music.Believe me, my time is about me. That’s also absolutely fine. They find it there. So let them do the thing. Everyone does it differently.

How do you practice patience, while also tracking success?

So now what I do is, I create a 15 minute space before I get into any session.

And if my mind is not in the right place, if I am not in the right place, my whole self, I actually have postponed certain sessions, or I’ve said we’ll meet like 30 minutes later or whatever, because I strive to ground myself down.  It’s not like I go into solitude.  

I just trying to recollect what happened in the last session, and just clearing everything in my mind to say that, “Okay, I’m going to be there just to hold the space for them. Let’s see what transpires.”

So what else do I do? That is one thing that I do, I’m being more conscious. I look at their success. And I try to just take some of them and give them credit for that.

But I say thank you, because I know that I have a long journey to go. Again, it’s about removing that identity that I’ve had, I may have. I may have been a 15 year professional in the corporate world. But this is a new version that I’m going through with only experiences from there. So I don’t want to try so I try for it to not get on my head.

And I tell them that it’s more because I see it because we’re holding the space. They are the ones who are coming up with solutions. And that’s the beauty of coaching. They are the ones who know what are the next actions that they have to take. And there are ups and believe me, there are some people who take those actions.

And really follow up. I give them space.Because they’re on their own awareness journey. And you know, they know they will come across is what I believe in if they feel they need one.

And I don’t want to be in a space where I’m adding pressure and saying, “Oh, you have to talk to me for one hour every two weeks or on or every week”. Then that becomes more like a checkbox item for them. So I don’t tend to do that. I give people that space. And yeah, they have success, as long as they see a shift of some sort that has helped them more importantly, then the ecosystem was taken care of, because then they are operating from their space of inspiration. I think that we have one person at a time, it just gives me the adrenaline rush that one person at a time, we can make a huge difference to the entire ecosystem that we’re living in.

What are some key elements of yours that you have added to your coaching conversation? 

Yeah, I think it’s so there is nothing that I am, I don’t know, again, if I am really adding value exclusively, there is an exclusivity that I am bringing. From what I’ve heard from some of my peers who were a part of my accountability partners group or mentoring sessions and stuff is that my listening, I think is the biggest value. Even though I feel I can do a little better, and sometimes they come under pressure. So listening is something that is very important and not not listening to just process not listening to just ask the next question. But listen, to learn. Listen to just be there.

That’s one thing. And the second thing is presence. I have struggled a lot with listening and presence, they go hand in hand, but not really thinking about “Okay, what do I do next? Or where is this headed towards?” You know, based on what we talked about all day trying to second guess it in my mind and say, this is where this was going to happen. That happens to me very easily, at least or was happening to me very easily.

Being present in the conversation completely is what makes sense. I feel that’s a value add and what is one thing that I have to really work on as a coach, I think two things I would say one is you know, making the tools a part of my cognitive thought process. So right now I still have a dependency on that as I switch to another side of my brain. To check for tools, which tool can be applied here, what can be done here, I wanted to blend in to my cognitive practice itself. So what I have done is I have made a little notebook where I have written all the tools only. So once in a week, or once in a few days, I just go through those tools, I just read through them. No, and those are notes that I have made myself after the session was over. So from the notes from the training session, we have made a little small notebook of just the tools itself. So I’m trying to lend it as a part of my cognitive process itself, and not being under pressure of using one particular hero in a session. Because that’s what every conversation is about.

I don’t believe in weaknesses, I believe in areas of development.

What is one message that you would love to share with the coaching fraternity or who are aspiring to be a coach.

For people who are aspiring to be coaches, it’s a completely different side of the same term.

And it’s the same term, but it’s a different side. But it’s beautiful to be there. As beautiful as life is, it is also challenging to just be able to stand there.

The only advantage is that it’s not about making a difference only to others. It’s about making a difference to your own self. And through that, really changing the ecosystem or making some sort of small dent over there. So yeah, I think everyone should, if it has come to you already, that you have to aspire to be a certified coach. Then, as I said, right, certain things just happen. And we will not know exactly why it happened. Not everything is a mathematical equation in life. 

Yes. So if it has, if it has already come to you that you have to be a coach, and you’re aspiring to be one. Just stay put, just hang on over there. And, yeah, it’s going to be a wonderful journey, as long as you’re invested in it.

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