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Sales Leader Vimala Sreenivasan shares insights on the valuable impact of coaching

vimala-sreenivasan

Vimala Sreenivasan

Associate Vice President, SAJK Sales

During coaching sessions, we often have insightful “aha” moments. From your perspective, how many of these moments have remained significant a year or more later?

I have been fortunate to have had coaches for the past 10 years, depending on the stage of my career. Different coaches have played various roles. Some have provided truly “aha” moments, where their impact has stayed with me forever, influencing both my professional and personal life. On the other hand, there are coaches whose insights were forgotten within a week, as the demands of everyday work took precedence. However, there are certain key points that have remained with me, and I am genuinely grateful to my coaches for guiding me towards those realizations.

What are some of the learnings that have stayed with you?

Yeah, I think the first coaching experience I had was many years ago when I was promoted to an integrating manager role. It was a significant transition, moving from managing individual contributors to managing managers. The coach I worked with helped me understand the challenges involved in influencing managers to achieve the desired outcomes. One valuable lesson she imparted was the importance of building trust with the next level managers. To achieve this effectively, it was critical not to take over their work just because it would be faster. Instead, I learned to allow my managers to make mistakes while observing from a distance. It wasn’t always easy, as I knew the right decision from my experience, but allowing them to make mistakes within reasonable limits enabled us to learn and grow together. As I advanced in my career overseeing managers who have their own managers, I have continued to apply this valuable tip, which has proven to be one of the most useful lessons I’ve learned.

What’s been your experience of moving from awareness and appreciation of coaching to actual application of coaching?

I have had several experiences with coaching, and my first experience made me realize the critical role coaching plays in personal and professional success, especially in organizational development. As a result, one of my mantras with my team is to identify high-potential leaders and ensure they receive coaching. Over the past six years, I have been intentional about this approach. Apart from my own coaching experiences, witnessing the positive impact of coaching reinforced my belief in its value. Finding the right coach with whom one can share good chemistry is essential. I encourage my team to work on their development with their coaches.

Another aspect of coaching that has been valuable to me is the clarity it brings. For example, you have extensively coached me on strategy building. I have absorbed the key points and nuances involved in strategy development, and I incorporate that knowledge when creating strategic plans for my teams. This allows me to use your teachings as a baseline and platform for coaching my own team in alignment with the principles you have imparted.

What’s your experience of translating coaching into business results?

The feeling you experience during coaching should not be mistaken for therapy. While establishing a strong chemistry and trust with your coach is important, coaching within an organization and as a leader of a large team should ultimately yield business outcomes. For example, when it comes to areas like strategy, team building, and change transformation, coaching can be highly beneficial. It is appropriate to set clear objectives with a focus on achieving tangible business outcomes, alongside personal development goals. It is reasonable for an organization to expect such results from coaching engagements.

How can leaders develop a culture of coaching?

The culture of coaching should be ingrained in the organization or company you work for. However, at the same time, the culture of coaching  must also be driven by individuals. Personally, I have benefited from coaching and strongly believe in its value. I make sure to provide coaching opportunities to my teams as well. However, I don’t see this mindset reflected universally among those around me.

Coaching is a necessity for development because it allows you to reflect on your progress with the guidance of a trusted coach who is solely invested in your growth. The culture of coaching should be actively propagated, and it should begin with the top leadership. However, individual belief and natural empathy play a role in the extent to which coaching is embraced. Nevertheless, overall, an organization should adopt coaching as an integral part of its ethos and operations.

How can coaches become better coaches?

First and foremost, it’s crucial to be fully invested in coaching. Don’t approach a coaching session just because your manager said you need a coach; that won’t lead to the desired benefits. As a coach, you must make time for it and truly commit yourself. It’s essential to follow through on commitments, whether it’s completing assigned homework or maintaining a coaching journal. Coaching is not merely a therapy session where you talk and then walk away. There are actionable steps involved.

To be an effective coach, you need to wholeheartedly invest your time and commitment. Trust that the expectations placed upon you will yield positive outcomes. Make sure you carry out your responsibilities with sincerity and dedication. Finally, based on my own experience, after completing a coaching session, it’s important to reflect on the numerous “aha” moments that occurred. While it may be challenging to remember all of them, it’s vital to identify and acknowledge at least three key takeaways that will stay with you. Be intentional in applying these insights to your future or current career, ensuring that they have a lasting impact.

What advice would you give to other leaders?

The advice I would give is to believe in coaching. Personally, I have benefited from it, and I’m sure many other leaders would say the same. So, don’t approach coaching just because someone tells you it’s good for you; truly believe in its value and potential. Moreover, be intentional about sharing your learnings and coaching others, starting from the next level and cascading down to frontline employees. As a leader, you play a crucial role in shaping the organizational culture. The knowledge and insights gained from coaching will transform your organization, or it will be embraced and valued by your organization. Therefore, it’s vital to take coaching seriously and bring those learnings forward to your team. This can only happen if you genuinely believe in the power of coaching.

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Practitioner:

Vimala Sreenivasan

Associate Vice President, SAJK Sales
Vimala Sreenivasan is an accomplished business leader with extensive experience in the sales and distribution of test equipment and laboratory supplies. Currently serving as the Associate Vice President of Sales for a US-based multinational, SAJK Sales, where she leads a team of 84 employees. With a remarkable career spanning 27 years, Vimala has gained expertise in serving diverse industries such as Life Sciences, Chemicals, Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Food & Environmental Safety, Flavours & Fragrances, and Academia. Prior to her corporate role, she ventured into entrepreneurship, demonstrating her entrepreneurial spirit and strategic acumen.
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Curator
Chandrani Datta works as a Manager-Content Research and Development with almost a decade’s experience in writing and editing of content. A former journalist turned content manager, Chandrani has written and edited for different brands cutting across industries. The hunger for learning, meaningful work and novel experiences keeps her on her toes. An avid traveller, Chandrani’s interests lie in photography, reading and watching movies.

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