Career
How executive coaches are helping CEOs

They help CEOs cope with change enabling them to keep their ear on the ground

As leaders move up the ladder, they have fewer touch points within the organisation with staff at junior/senior level. They can lose touch with the reality. In professionally-managed organisations, this risk for a CEO (chief executive officer) is somewhat mitigated because there are people senior levels who report to the CEO or CMD (chairman and managing director) with whom there are lots of interactions by way of group meetings, leadership workshops, etc. But what about those firms that are founded by entrepreneurs where besides the main person who is at the helm of the affairs there are only one or two senior persons reporting directly to him and having direct access to him? This is actually a trap and before they realise this, many CEOs end up creating an environment in which not many employees can freely approach them. Before too long, the CEOs realise that it is lonely at the top.

These types of corporate situations have created a new breed of HR consultants called “executive coaches” who mentor and train such top-level leaders. Generally, executive coaches are senior-level leaders who help the CEOs cope with change enabling them to keep their ear on the ground. They try to help the CEOs eschew the normal tendency of insisting on what they want to listen rather than what they need to listen. In a corporate environment, many senior-level leaders tend to become chary about sharing unpleasant information with the top boss. This means that the CEO does not have a true picture. So, in such a situation, it is only such “executive coaches” who can help the CEO address his shortcomings in a constructive manner and work towards correcting the gaps.

Ironically, years ago, a role that was quite popular in corporate circles was that of an Executive Assistant (EA). Though an EA could not be called a mentor or a coach, he was an important resource for the CEO. Sadly, over the years, many corporates misused that position, completely obliterating and totally blurring the distinction between an Executive Assistant and an executive secretary. This eventually made many prospective candidates wary of such type of strategic roles.

Ideally, a real EA has the shadow authority of the CEO and can be a key resource in the organisation. However, there were reports of candidates who joined as EA being asked to do travel and hotel bookings, type letters, attend to screening calls and carry out similar such secretarial work.

With easy access to people at lower hierarchical levels, the EA would have been in a much better position to keep the CEO/CMD informed about the situation on the ground. He was also someone who acted as the sounding board for the CEO. The EA, to some extent, had roles similar to that of an executive coach, but at a junior level. He was someone who was encouraged to use a creative approach to resolve problems.

Political environment in organisations led such people appointed as Executive Assistants to become “tale carriers” instead of “information providers”. It takes two to clap and so one would also equally blame the leader for encouraging such tendencies. There are also ethical issues involved as there can be misuse of authority.

It is so very difficult to locate a candidate to fit in the role of an EA who has the highest standards of integrity and moral character. It is only references from past employers/ bosses/ customers that act as a viable tool to make an informed decision while recruiting such candidates. If the EA’s role had been given the respect it deserved, then CEOs would have had someone who was dependable and resourceful in taking strategic decisions.

The EA’s role was also considered as a springboard for moving onto other business roles and this was the key attraction. Sadly, the strategies changed and today there are very few ‘real’ Executive Assistant roles in the job market. Even for such job roles, there are not many takers for the simple reason that the job market has not been able to re build credibility for such positions.

Enter Executive Coaches
The demise of the EA’s role has now led to new concepts in HR consulting. Executive coaches are one such breed. There are management gurus like Robin Sharma, Deepak Chopra, Shiv Khera and spiritual gurus like the Bangalore-based Swami Sukhabodananda who train and mentor senior-level leaders at specially organised workshops. There are some others who call themselves as “thought leaders” and help the CEO gain a clear business perspective through unconventional means.

This is a healthy trend. For one, as these consultants are not part of the organisation, you can expect them to be unbiased and constructive in their approach. That apart, people who have retired from HR/strategy function can be gainfully employed by such CEOs for sharing the wisdom that they have gained over the years. But for all these mentoring/coaching efforts to succeed, it is important that CEOs improve their listening skills, give the consultants the respect that they deserve and make informed decisions based on the advice given. Eventually, it is the CEO’s call. There is no compulsion on the CEO to follow each and every advice given by the coaches. But rejection of an idea suggested by the coach must have a valid reason.

I have observed that this model of individual coaching/mentoring is far better than the other popular model of “strategy consultation” especially when it relates to coaching the CEO. This is because the strategy teams develop an attitude, taking advantage of their proximity to the CEO and before long they alienate the employees. In most organisations, the so-called strategy consultants are perceived as ‘butchers’—all out to reduce the head count. There may be exceptions to this rule, but it is an open secret that anything remotely related to strategy is now widely perceived as a means to slash jobs. It has become a corporate practice to hire more than necessary during good times and then launch a head count reduction exercise when the going is tough.

Last but not the least, the decision to engage such coaches must be taken at early stages and not when the damage is already done. Coaches/mentors can enable the CEO/CMD to look at a situation with the objectivity that is needed. At the end of the day, it is not about business alone. It is also about addressing the social needs of the CEO.

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Union Bank cuts home loan rates

Loans above Rs30 lakh but under Rs75 lakh will be charged an interest rate of 0.25% above the base rate, while those between Rs75 lakh and Rs5 crore will have to pay a margin of 0.5% over the base rate

Mumbai: State-run lender Union Bank of India on Friday slashed interest on home loans to its base rate in select case, reports PTI.

The new rates, which will be applicable to both existing borrowers on floating rates as well as new ones, will be able to avail of credit at the bank's base rate of 10.5%, the city-based lender said in a statement here.

 

Loans above Rs30 lakh but under Rs75 lakh will be charged an interest rate of 0.25% above the base rate, while those between Rs75 lakh and Rs5 crore will have to pay a margin of 0.5% over the base rate, it said.

The bank had last month cut its base rate or the minimum rate of lending by 0.15% to 10.5%, following RBI's surprise move to cut its key lending rate by 0.5% at its annual credit policy on 17th April.

 

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Public Interest Exclusive
The house that Pratibha Patil could not build - the birth of "the digital bush telegraph" from liveMint.com

One of the landmarks in the birth of the digital bush telegraph is the story of how moneylife.in, the financial and news website, handled the news that the first citizen of the land, President Pratibha Patil, illegally got large tract of army land in Pune for a palatial retirement home

It could be called the next step in the evolution of journalism; or, to make it dramatic, the birth of "the digital bush telegraph". It was a serendipitous development that makes journalism stronger, more effective and helps journalists quickly reach a large readership, even larger than the biggest publication of the mainstream media.

The new journalism combines the virtues of the old with the technological advantages of the new digital "social media". It is mix of the persistent search for hard facts, impeccable sourcing from, for example, the Right to Information (RTI) Act, strong but straight-forward writing and courageous editorship that plays up the story on Web news sites. Now comes the new part, master stroke-put up the story on Facebook and post the headline and the link on Twitter.

One of the landmarks in the birth of the digital bush telegraph (remember the Phantom comics where messages are sent vast distances using large musical drums?) is the story of how moneylife.in, the financial and news website, handled the news that the first citizen of the land, President Pratibha Patil, illegally got large tract of army land in Pune for a palatial retirement home. The website and a companion print magazine are edited by Debashis Basu and his wife Sucheta Dalal, the lady who broke the Harshad Mehta stock scam 20 years ago. Within 16 days, the President admitted her error and returned the land to the army.
Read more
http://www.livemint.com/2012/05/17221614/The-house-that-Pratibha-Patil.html?atype=tp

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