“Hey, I always wanted to ask you this…. Now that you have retired, what do you do for living?” Lulu, my parrot asked as he settled on a branch of the mango tree. Lulu had this habit of talking to me while I looked out of the window of my room.
The mango tree was which was in full bloom till recently, was laden with raw mangoes. I picked one and had a good bite.
“Well, I coach. Coaching is a very exciting thing to do.” I replied as I ate the raw mango.
“Hmm…I am not sure I know what it is. There is no coaching in the world of birds.”
“Well, that is one of the differences between men and parrots; homo sapiens and Psittacula krameri. By the way, I was always curious about how parrots learn to fly. Tell me. It must have been very tough thing to do.” I said biting sinking my teeth in the mango.
“Yes, indeed, very tough.” Lulu shot back with a smirk. “I was just pushed out of the nest by my Mom. And I discovered that I can fly. Actually it is not difficult. One must try. That’s the time when you discover that you can do it. And yes, that’s one more difference between men and parrots!” Lulu, my parrot, taunted me giving a ‘tit for tat’ look.
“I wish things were so simple in the case of men. We do not try enough. When things are going well we think this is how it will run forever. But as they say, the trouble with future is that it arrives before we are ready for it.” I said.
“So we coaches help people to adopt new behaviour, imbibe change to be effective. All this, so that people are ready to take on the challenges at work and in their life.” I said.
“Oh, okay. But I am not sure if I have understood this right. How will you learn unless you take a plunge? That’s what happens to us when we are pushed out of our nest. Aren’t you mollycoddling your people? Is that the way people learn?”
“No, no! No mollycoddling at all. In a sense the coach gives him the wings – nah, that’s also not right, hmmm… a coach helps him discover his wings. We help people get ready for the moment he has to take the plunge, like you, and fly.”
“How do you do this?” Lulu asked. “Interesting, I say.”
“Now that’s a tough one. Several books have been written on how to do it, yet it is something that cannot be described; it is to be experienced.” I offered a raw mango to Lulu and said, “And as they say, you can talk about your learning, but you can’t talk about your experience. An experience cannot be described. Can you describe how you feel when you nibble at this mango?”
“But surely there must be a method. Do you engage them in a dialogue?”
“You question me like a lawyer examining a witness, Lulu.” I said. “Yes, the method is a reflective one. Managers don’t really learn by reading books, they learn because they meditate, they reflect. That is how they reprogram their minds. My job is to help them reflect and draw conclusions for themselves. Somebody told me that the word ‘dnyan’ or ‘gyan’ comes from Sanskrit word ‘dnya,’ some pronounce it ‘gya’ and it means knowing oneself.”
“Man, you are getting philosophical. Yes I agree. Self-awareness is the key to growth – Who does not want to realise his potential? It is challenge enough to live up to our dream of what kind of person we could be! But tell me, does everybody take this coaching seriously?” Lulu asked.
“Well, it is really up to the person to make use of it. Those who have given a thought to what success means to them will really make use of the opportunity. So ultimately it all depends on how a person defines ‘success.’ It is an elusive question. In the hustle-bustle of corporate life, managers often do not spend time thinking about it. Moreover, the answer keeps changing at various stages of life.”
“And what was your answer?” Lulu asked but did not really seek answer. He mulled over the his own question and said, “I liked the Ralph Waldo Emerson’s definition of success: ‘To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a little better, whether by healthy child or a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you lived; this is to have succeeded.’”
“That is wonderful.” I said. “It captures everything.”
“Yes it does.” Lulu was lost in his thoughts again. He asked, “Are you saying organisations are investing in making their managers successful?”
“Yes. Many organisations do. And they bring a lot of commitment and passion to this job.”
“I can see why they promote learning and development. But why are you doing it? What is in it for you?” Lulu asked and said, “Wait a minute. I know the answer. I remember what you told one of the coachees.”
“What was that?” I was surprised.
“You quoted Carl Jung who said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.””
“That’s true. Very true. How come you know what I told my coachee?”
“I was listening to your conversation. What else do you think I was doing perched on top of the mango tree near the Training Centre?” Lulu asked as he flew away.