Coaching Chronicles

Coaching Chronicles with Aneeta Madhok

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About Aneeta Madhok

Aneeta has coached for over fifteen years, and professionally for the last seven years. With an emphasis in coaching for women in management boards, Aneeta also coaches CEO’s, senior executives, and professionals who face significant challenges navigating fast changing environments. Aneeta’s practice includes individual clients in several countries and varied professions. She is also a frequent speaker about and teacher of coaching skills around the country as well as a lead instructor for several workshops for the corporate. She partners with organizations in the design of coaching interventions to build internal leadership potential.

Aneeta’s competencies developed over 35 years of professional practice enable her to be a coach who touches and transforms lives and careers, and a trainer who actually transfers learning into the participants through proven methods and practices. A deep insight into people matters has resulted in high repeat demand for her personality profiling, coaching and skill building training services in the areas of emotional intelligence, performance management, and behavioral skills.

Prior to setting up Open Spaces Consulting, Aneeta was Dean – School of Business at NMIMS University and S.P. Jain Centre of Management in Dubai and Singapore. She has also had a long stint in HR with a large diversified group in North India and an FMCG major

She has conducted over 200 workshops and done over 300 hours of coaching with organizational leaders. She is accredited in the usage of The Leadership Circle, MBTI, FIRO-B, Thomas Profiling, Belbin Team Roles, SHRM Master Trainer and is ACC Accredited from International Coach Federation, and a Fellow of Sumedhas Academy for Human Context.

Aneeta is also an expert and insightful Tarot Cards reader with a wide clientele for The Tarot Connection in Dubai and India.

In Conversation with Dr. Aneeta Madhok

First of all, tell me about yourself, your professional journey and how you’re doing now?

Well, I’m an organizational psychologist, I got my graduation degree in psychology and my MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur and my PhD in Managerial Leadership. After working for seven years in the HR profession, I decided to go in for a short break in my career. And then during that break, I got my PhD in Psychology. So that’s why I consider myself more of a psychologist and an HR professional.

I spent a good 15 years in academics and now it’s about 10 years in independent consulting practice. Being from a psychology background, and always concerned with people, I always tell people who are troubled to always reach out to me, reach out to me, I want to talk and clarify their own thinking. So I used to do a lot of sessions, off the record and some professionally, in a big capacity for organizations. We were loosely calling them coaching sessions. The word coaching as we know today did not exist then. So those were called counseling or just talking to, you know, somebody who’s a consultant, or psychologist in a way. So the word coaching as we know it emerged only in the mid 2000s,around that time, I was anyway doing.

By then I had mentioned the coaching interventions of companies and clients. And I decided to make it now full time because it became a big part of my life. And I decided to go for a certification.I went to coach training with Erickson. It was the first batch of Erickson coaches that I attended. I think about six or seven years ago, perhaps. And then I kind of left a lot of the counseling and the emotional therapy out of my practice. I started believing and operating completely, honestly, from a coaching point of view, or coaching presence point of view, because I believe that was the only way to empower people, not by advising and giving solutions, but by enabling them to see the solutions within themselves.

So it’s been six or seven years since I’ve had my independent practice. It’s been a great transformational journey for everybody whose lives I’ve touched. And there have been huge successes. Of course, there have been cases where we’ve not had success at all. And I do believe that the real solutions and transformations and insights come only through coaching. When I was doing counseling in my previous chapter it was like, okay, when somebody’s emotionally turbulent, or in a bad place, empathize with them, and to talk to them in a way that brings them back from the edge of the cliff that just takes care of the crisis in the moment. People can be suicidal, people can be having a meltdown, that time they don’t want the coach to ask you what you want to do? What is it you’d like to do right now? I just have to hold the hand in the back. But that’s really for management of the crisis. But once the crisis is over, they have to quickly step into each frame of mind and empower them to discover for themselves, what their choices and options are, and where they are headed, and what they’d like, what kind of a life they’d like to make for themselves.

Have you had any conflicts with going in the session and being present without any bias? How do you maintain that? 

Aneeta: I think I was born with it. There’s not a single judgmental streak in me, I find it very difficult to pass a judgment on somebody. So there can be some constructive criticism of constructive views, I find it very impossible to do that kind of stuff. I think I was born without the judgmental bone in my body. And I, sometimes it’s not a good thing to be non judgmental because at times, you have to make a decision. You have to go one way or the other. I tend to see things from all sides of the story at some point. It has two sides of the story, it has many sides, as many players are in the story that have many sides to the story, I tend to be able to step into the shoes of the other person and see from that side. If there is another person in the situation I see from this side, too. And I say, okay, you’re right, where you are. And you’re right, where you are. And yes, I think so, it kind of comes easily to me, because I tend to see all equally relevant.

Yes, that is actually a plus point, because people take a lot of time to break that pattern. This habit of judging is something that is installed from very childhood, to break out of that and become a person with a neutral attitude is another subject. 

Aneeta: That’s very, very painful. So I would not like to inflict that judgment on me.

It must be really hectic. You know, for you back to back people coming to you. 

I paced myself. I don’t do coachings a day. I have my morning routine. Then I have a workout and I do meditation. I take a bath and I’m in the office. I check my mail, I do a Puja and I check my music. My first session is at 2: 30 and my second session is at four. Two coachings a day if there is a demand and I do one at 12 which means I have to rush a little bit but I do at 12 as well.

So it’s like a daily routine now to coachings and some work in between. Sometimes if the work is more than I might work late at night. I never had 50 coachees. I’ve had something like my maximum motor development was 23-24 coachees at any given point in time. Sometimes there is a coaching package for six months of a coaching contract by clients. Sometimes there’s an overlap and sometimes a given point in time I’ve maximized is 23. So that’s about 10 to 15 meetings a month, which I think is good.

How do you track the progress from the last meeting to the present meeting with clients?

Believe me, I’m not the kind of person who likes to schedule and plan. But I know I was flopping all over the place myself so I put it in the diary. My diary by default gives me 10 minute advance information. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I check is my diary. I don’t check my WhatsApp, I don’t check my Facebook, I check my diary.

So that’s how I know otherwise, I can’t keep it in my head. I know I’m the scheduler of the meeting. So I make sure it goes into my calendar.

How long have you been coaching?

Aneeta: 11 to 12 years. And counseling was almost qualification I would say 7 years but otherwise I did coaching all my life, when I was a teacher, my students. When I was in business, my clients, a lot of professionals, independent professionals , not necessarily organizational clients. So I would say professionally coaching for over 15 years before that in the former but equally professional level of coaching.

How has your PCC certification impacted your coaching practice?

Aneeta: Okay, I’m quite dramatically changed after I got my PCC. There is an evolution.

Do you think certification is important for someone to become a coach?

Oh, that’s a very tricky question. I think the education of what coaching is important. What I was doing was a mix of counseling, coaching, mentoring, everything I do believe coaching has achieved its own results. Right? What it does, and that to me is a better way. I believe coaching is a better way than counseling.

Of course, only counseling works only in some circumstances. I agree coaching is a better way to deal with people who are capable of making decisions and choices for themselves and thinking about their own problems. So coaching, yes, so I think education is important. Knowing is important. And experiencing the difference between what is a professionally trained coach and what is not a professionally trained coach is important, not just for the coach, but also for organizations.

The certification is, I think, just an assurance to the client, who’s hiring you that he’s getting the right person. Okay, and that certification is just there. Particularly if it’s a stranger. Very early in my career, and then hopefully, the ACC PC will hopefully get a business, you know, there are certain sites and whatnot, and that gets your business. So the certification hits at that level, then you reach a point, and I’m getting there, I must be past that also, where you’re not getting any business because of your certification. You’re getting business because of the word of mouth and because of the results you achieved, and yet you carry yourself and that’s partly because of the education you had and the experience you have.

You get to a point where, beyond the education and the experience, that’s what carries your certification is just a stamp of assurance for the client who’s hiring you. So today, we’ll see 20 consultants before they hire one, and they will have some selection criteria. And then we have the mechanics of selection. And then that if you’re not a PCC or an ACC, it will go against you.

How you have transformed as a coach, and that’s all we want to know.

Aneeta: As a coach, I think there is some kind of a synchronicity in life, you know, that the universe brings you to situations from which you only learn and and move on. So I think the universe conspires. That’s the word. Most of my coachees would come with lots of issues. Mostly I was doing a lot of personal coaching at one side and now I’m monitoring a lot of coaching as well. They would come to you with their issues and then there is definitely enabling them to work themselves. I mean, you’re not only gonna sit back and you’re just with them in their present,in their space. But there is a part of you that is, looking at them, whatever they are sharing on, the questions come in your mind more intuitively and more from inside. Somewhere the questions that come to mind are the questions that are right for your client. You realize that was a question that you too are confronting at some point in your life. Because the question doesn’t come from nowhere, it comes from inside you.The question comes from inside you, it doesn’t come from something out there, which I’m picking up. When you finish your session, you realize that this was my question to myself. That’s the synchronicity and talking about whether it’s a small matter of delegation, I’ve got so much work here. It’s not just my coachee’s issue, it’s my issue too.

So in the educating process of questions, it’s an education process of questions coming to you. You’re ready to realize certain insights for yourself as well. It leads to as much as the coachee learns and retains insights, that much you also learn and gain insights. So every coaching actually teaches you something. The coaching session is so much a technique. There are some do’s and don’ts of coaching. But also the issues, the context of the coachee and the client, referencing their feelings, their experiences, the purposes they’re going through, you learn something from that. Right.

So in the same moment when you are in the coaching conversation, and in the same moment sometimes a thought about your own self strikes you. Does that impact your next question? How can one not get lost in translation of that question?

Aneeta: Technically,as per the ICF competencies, that should not be the case. Because that means you’re losing your coach position. But we are human. We get ideas sometimes. It just comes out sometimes. You recognize it then you try to put it to rest. Your mind is also operating at many levels. And at one level you’re trying to not because they may prevent you from being there fully for your client. And then it becomes your issue as well.

Just to make yourself fully available is to just be with them and their journey.

My understanding of coaching is very technical, there are techniques, there are certain boundaries and ethics to follow. So does it prevent exploring the human side of the coach? 

Yeah, sometimes it’s like that you normally could have had a major fight with your spouse at home. And then you got to do that coaching session. Yeah, so you try to meditate for a bit and then you try to put that aside the argument that you have is still with you. Sometimes it feels like you have to keep the show going. I used to be a trainer and I still do some training as well. My training is now becoming more like group coaching. So when I was a trainer  to a group of 30 people into a conference room for training. You have to make sure you are taking care of yourself and offering them value. It’s like any actor on a stage mixed with the question manager. You can’t be like , I’m going for a coaching session to keep on my coaching face. No.

One thing I tried to do is, you know, in there before we start the coaching, just to kind of connect with the coachee or the client and share a little bit of what’s happening and what’s happening in my life.

I did one coaching a month ago and there was some really good news that came out to the coach and I couldn’t do anything to celebrate that moment for myself. You just learn.

I had some conversations previously with other people who are into coaching and they used to totally talk that they are mindful. If they have to, they take a buffer and then they switch into the coaching mode. It makes me wonder how much is there scope for a coach to show his or her human side?

Aneeta: There is something called a coach position. You try to stay there. If anybody is telling you that they are 100% insulated, and compartmentalized. There is no perfect buffer zone you can create for yourself to be mindful. You do have methods and techniques. I catch up on the modes for the coachee I guess to tune in line. I do have some kind of propensity and this I noticed not just in coaching but otherwise not to carry you know one situation into another. I do have that kind of a propensity to dance. I’m sitting here in the office and goodness comes back with a window coaching session and then stuff just lingers in minutes. It’s reality. Let’s face reality. We try and it’s a journey for every coach. But no one is infallible.

So when you coach, do you also share your experiences with the coachee?

I don’t normally share my experiences.

Sometimes the coaches, you know, because they are not, they don’t understand what coaching ethics are approaching boundaries are sometimes very persistent. They want some information from you, and they want some advice from you. What would you do if you were in my position?

And then I say, okay, let’s turn off the coaching session and make the central management lecture. Yes. So that’s what I do.

Once this guy was facing some tough negotiating situations at work. I was helping him try and find a location that you know, what ways he will approach the negotiation table? Or two, how will you line up your strategy? What kind of strategies? All that stuff I was doing with him getting him to do his own thinking. He got pretty frustrated. He said, Madam, you are a management expert. You tell me.”

Sometimes they look to us, particularly, you know, if you’ve got a senior experience of some kind, they may look to you as an expert advisor, a trusted Expert Advisor as well. Because they don’t know the boundaries. If you keep saying, “Hey, look, as a coach, I’m not supposed to do that.”

They don’t understand what a coaching session can do and why. At the end of the day, this is not going to come towards you. I can point you in the right direction where you can get good reading skills with a read for yourself, or I can give you that information, but it’s not.

So do you give your clients homework? And if you do, what are the types of homework you give them?

Aneeta: I call it homework. Yeah, because I’m a teacher.

For example, if a coach is struggling with a relationship with a superior in an organization and is kind of overwhelmed, because she’s been given too much work. There’s too many interruptions and stuff like that, and others in the team are not working. This is a very common experience. When you go and talk to your superiors about this, what would you say and, and stuff like this. How would you like to resolve this? And then, given the next occasion that you’re going to learn how would you? So we gently advise them to experiment with their own new behavior patterns on the job? So that’s when they get their homework.

There are some times that are actually experimentation with some of their newfound directions which came in the coaching. Just a moment might take five seconds on the back. They’ve got some newfound insight in their coaching session.

I go forward asking, “How would you like I’ll take this by an experiment.” And then the next time when they come back, they debrief on what happened.

You start with that. So there’s a new term that I’m now learning, and that’s accountability coaching. The biggest problem we have is we can’t hold people accountable for change. I can’t hold that person accountable. You said you would do this, and this was our action plan, and you didn’t do it. Why didn’t you do that? Because it’s the journey of their life.

He/She hasn’t given a priority, there’s something else that’s coming to me and that stuff has happened. There’s something called accountability coaching. But there are gentle ways in which I’m learning a lot about this, because I’m doing other coaching skills. I’m doing head coach training, health and nutrition constitute training in that I’m learning about this, these modes as well. And although that’s not ICF approved, I’m still coaching as well.

So accountability coaching is also now going to take up a big time, this is very new.  And from our business query, you can see this was really like that fresh market memory. So yeah, so that’s to experiment on the insights and tentativeness with which they’ve committed themselves to a new direction. In the future, we’d like to take it forward, and then we’d like to have a six coaching sessions package every month.

So when the next session comes in, it definitely has to come up, I may not lead into damages. Suppose, there’s many cases of coaching of say anger, I get angry, I lose my temper like that. So when you lose your temper, I just use my technology to know when to do it. Then they commit to keeping some kind of a journal or some kind of a track as to what are the triggers to the anger. It helps them understand complaints. So this is an inner work, because this is not some kind of experiment. They’re trying, it’s just something that looks within themselves. Just the simple awareness of when they get angry and what made them angry makes them able to work through that and develop for themselves some strategies to cope with that.

Sometimes it is a deeper reflection, kind of inner work. Deconstructing some of the myths that they may be thinking, or some assumptions that they suddenly came in confrontation with. Why did I make this assumption? So then think about it and deconstruct where it came from? What was the genesis of this? Because if you can deconstruct that assumption, and get to know the why of it, rather than just tell us, “No, this assumption is wrong, and I’m not gonna say any more, because that doesn’t work.” You can just clamp down on it, to try and get to the cause of that assumption that you made and what it’s telling you about who you are and then try and see if it is serving your purpose or not? All that can happen in the coaching session.

Different people get angry for different reasons. And, and that some for some people is this imperfection for some people, it is someone telling me I’m wrong, and my egos hurt. Another person is something else, another person multitasking 15 things on my table, and my boss comes up with one more demand and one more deadline, and then I lose all kinds of situations. So it gets them to figure out for themselves what is in there. That triggers off that anger. So that comes through, you know, work or homework.

Please share a client transformation story that is very memorable to you.

Aneeta: Many, but to tell you one, which still sticks, and this was quite some years ago.

This was in a small town in this country, not a big town. She was married and her husband was a businessman and she had grown up children and working at a multinational company. She was so good at a job, she got an offer from the headquarters, which was in America or some other part of the world to move and relocate to the US to move up the ladder and things like that.

She was nominated by the company. And she didn’t know how to say yes to that, because that meant leaving her family and children. One of the decisions she took for herself was to turn down that offer. But she worked on a strategy to negotiate with the American counterparts to bring American business to India. That is a big move. She mustered up that courage, she discovered that region. Actually, I did that exercise which we do in coaching called self concept exercise.

And in that exercise she envisioned herself doing the same role, but sitting in a different location. She didn’t want to let go of her ambitions. Then from there on, it was a matter of hammering it on how she’s gonna make it happen. So she had to do it, she had to work out a full communication strategy which influencing strategy. And then internally, building the capabilities, strategies here and then over a period of years. That was one major transformation that happened. But then there’s so many every day.

I’m the last person to coach a person to run away from the realities. People, you know, reject certain realities that they’re facing, and seek an escape into something which was a dream at one point in time. That thing, unless it is something very concrete that person really, really wants to do. My question is how do you maximize your life after all it has brought you here for a reason.

Therapy and coaching are very different. So you belong to the field of psychology. How do you manage to stay in a practice such that they do not overlap?

Aneeta: Initially, it was a struggle to do that. But I saw the value of coaching, being much more in line with my own internal values. Frankly, it has not been prescriptive, because I’m in a tribe. And the minute I say, yes, it is my solution. I know it doesn’t work. I saw it not working. Solutions don’t work for others. That’s when it was becoming very clear to me. What works for me doesn’t work for others.

What I see from books is working for other people is not working for the person in front of me. That was becoming increasingly apparent to me. The only time is when that person is emotionally very turbulent. Then you got to leave your coaching presence and bring them back from the edge of the cliff. I won’t call it therapy or counseling, but that’s the time when you can say I’m going to insist on asking the person what do you want to do now? Because then you have to transcend your coaching presence. If the client is actually depressed and coaching cannot happen, I refer them to counseling.

Frankly, I’m an organizational psychologist, I’m not a clinical psychologist. I’m an organizational psychologist with 40 years of practice. I learned something about human behavior, which is in psychology. But I know a lot about classification of human mental disorders and anxiety disorders and stuff like that. I don’t know if I can recognize it. I can see it in front of me, I can tell what’s happening, I can diagnose the situation. They’ve been on team cases where I’ve just recommended people to seek professional help in cases. Yes, I’m not qualified to deal with this. I would suggest and I refer them to people depending on where they are. I think it’s not being a psychologist I mean, I could do it if I wanted to, but I don’t.

This is where it made more sense for me to work when I work with people. I realized early on that my job, my work is with people. I realized that very early on and I’ve been working with people for so many years.  That’s on life and about finding your purpose and living.

You must have diverse clients. Do you think the coaching conversation needs to be different based on the age?

Aneeta: I think it’s only in our country, it seems to be a criteria. So I know one, someone called me into coaching of the very senior executives, and they said, one of the reasons we’re calling was that you are the one coach, we found this qualified and slightly older than most of us. Only in my country. It’s an age discrimination. But yes, there are generational differences, regardless of the generation, which I can see very clearly, the millennials, the gen Z, and now the new ones that are coming with the Alfa gens, I can see very clearly distinctive generational differences which necessitates coaching will be different. Yes. Because the nature of the challenges are new.  For me, every situation is a new situation. Every client is a new client. Every time a client comes, it is a  new situation. So that’s how I would read it. I prefer to coach.

Being a coach, do you have this is do you have a coaching philosophy that this is your own coaching philosophy and it is not. And this is something you have found to be more valuable than any other thing you have learned out there?

Aneeta: No, I did some kind of a module called the coaching tree. When I’m talking to clients, it helps them see you know where we go and what we work with.

This is my coaching tree. There is performance based coaching back into coaching around the tree. When I’m saying a person’s performance, for example, he’s got to make a certain target or goal competencies within an assessment center or you’ve done some personality profiling like The Leadership Circle. So the air outside the environment is how sustaining that is for those growth, areas not good environments are not conducive, then even those leads will not be properly developed. And then you have the thinner branches, which are your leadership style and so many other skills. They don’t have the trunk which is the thicker branches where your culture. Whether I’m able to perform or not depends a lot on my emotional intelligence, my physical health and my social capital and that is networking, my relationship. And then the same performance is also influenced by who I am myself, at least my concepts and my ability to trust others, my relationship to power, authority and all that. So, this is a module which I develop and some coaching takes the leads from the context, makes them a connection in my environment and the heir to the issues being coached to the supporting structures for that and process. To Who am I so this is why I’m not wanting to take too much of your time. I could spend hours and days talking about it.

This classification has been great routes to trunk mean.

But before going, would you like to share a message to all the coaching fraternity out there?

Aneeta: I think for all coaches, they need to understand why I am a coach because many are in it for the wrong reasons. So find your purpose in life, and if coaching is your purpose in life, and so be it. First discover where coaching fits into your system and who you are and then it’s your purpose in life. And by all means do that. If it’s not your purpose in life flip free to find other ways to it’s not a bandwagon that you have to jump on to.

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