Retracing your route

Unlearning to learn

What I had to unlearn to become a coach

The first step towards my new profession was actually a step back. And a very powerful step back it was too. Because it involved some fundamental unlearning – questioning and abandoning some very ingrained habits (if not beliefs) that corporate life cozily blankets you with.

Now, none of these will come across as radical, new or unfamiliar. These are all ‘cliches’ we would have heard of, read or been ‘trained on’ and then promptly dismissed (or at least politely ignored) as the corporate took back control of our lives and minds.

So, the most surprising, illuminating and satisfying (at the same time) thing was to actually see these work and understand how well they work.

I’ve chosen my 3 favourite unlearnings, driven by my belief that these are the fundamental pillars of coaching:

  1. Effective communication is driven by the listener, not the speaker We live in a world that teaches us to communicate in so many ways – speaking, language, modulation, emotion, gestures…. But seldom listening. But it is actually the listener that sets the tone for any conversation. Find that hard to believe? Try this – the next time you’re in a gathering (yes, those things that haven’t happened for nearly a year) just move through the room and just listen to conversations. The most interesting ones are the ones where people are listening and appreciating the speaker’s point of view. The most dysfunctional are those where everyone is trying to get in a word at the same time. No matter how powerful the speaker or the subject, a good audience sets the tone for the conversation.
  2. Asking a question is more powerful than providing the answer. Imagine someone coming to you with a problem, and you have a solution right away in your mind. You can either wax eloquent and provide your solution. Or you could help that person come up with a idea herself. Which one do you think is most likely to get executed?
  3. The solution to any problem lies in what you’re doing right, not what you did wrong. Fix the problem, they always say. If it’s a leaky tap, then there’s no more philosophy required. But the challenges thrown up by a human mind are sometimes a trifle more complex than a leaky tap. And dwelling on issues or shortcomings always forces you to indulge them longer than is required, pushing you further down that slippery slope. But if you focus on the positive, on what you otherwise do well, your ability to snap into solution mode is much easier and more intuitive.

So here are my three unlearnings.  What are some of your own?

About Srikanth Sarathy

In a career spanning over 20 years, Srikanth has worked on some of India's (and the world's) biggest brands, across India and Western Europe. He was instrumental in setting up two start-ups, a consumer engagement, and Word of Mouth company and then an Advertising Agency. He is now a Co-founder and leadership coach at The Core Questin

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