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As aptly put by Alivn Tofler, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. Regardless of its colossal magnitude and impact, every challenge brings with it endless opportunities to test the mettle of the one who believes in continuous learning and growth. On the contrary, a fixated mindset always finds excuses, dwells in limitations, physical and mental barriers, conformity and comfort zones. People in general are prone to give in under extreme pressures. They find it hard to push their own boundaries and ultimately transform their apparently insurmountable disasters into countless possibilities. More than ever, there is a pressing need to avoid spinning the wheels in the same rut. However, the most critical question, “what to learn and exactly what to change” mostly remains unanswered.

On the one hand, one wishes to stay mission-driven in pursuing organizational goals and objectives guided by shared vision, core philosophies and values. On the other hand, recalibration of planning tools and implementation strategies, restructuring of human resource, strengthening of systems, rejuvenation of culture, staying relevant with market needs and competition, and above all achieving cost-effectiveness, high return on investment and maximizing social impact remain the top priorities at both personal and professional levels. Finding right answers, advice and a viable trajectory to a safe and sustainable future is always an immensely arduous task.

Here comes the regimen of coaching which involves mixed feelings and varied perspectives. It totally depends on the professional background or an individual’s preference, but mostly, people remain stuck in the semantics or tend to give their own interpretations about coaching, mentoring and counseling which are interchangeably used. There are multiple similarities and interplay between coaching and mentoring. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as "a partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership”. Whereas, Mentoring is all about sharing knowledge, experience and expertise that is relevant to the development of the mentee, and has the interpersonal skills required to effectively share these resources.

Coaching is primarily a skill that distinguishes it from mentoring. An experienced business coach does not necessarily need relevant expertise in the topic of the conversation. Allowing the coachee to enter into a candid relationship consistently reinforced by informal and formal 1-2-1 dialogues, learning takes place through setting out for a self-driven journey from the wrong question to the right question. It’s not always about finding the right answers. A highly respected and seasoned coach unfolds it in this way: “In a mentoring relationship it is the mentor who has the gold: they have the experience, expertise and network, and they share their gold with their mentee. Whereas, as a coach the opposite is true. You have to believe that the coachee has the gold, you have to believe that they can find the solutions for themselves”.

In Pakistan, business or executive coaching is still in its embryonic stage. Usually, senior executive leaders become defensive when they are recommended to engage a coach. It apparently hurts their ego, professional prestige and seniority. So, creating the real appetite for coaching is essential. Nonetheless, learning from the West, the growth of coaching industry has been the need of the hour in Pakistan and focused efforts should be made to accelerate at a much higher pace.

Lately, it was reassuring to learn through a recent online interview that Rob Pendleton is planning to expand its coaching services in South Asia including Pakistan through likeminded partners. Rob is an award-winning serial-entrepreneur, consultant and director, trained by world-leading accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. He has enjoyed a successful 20-year career, leading business transformation and growth for the world's biggest companies, UK public sector bodies, and a wide range of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. He is now dedicated to coaching and partnering with SME Owners to help them realize sustainable and guaranteed growth using his Pendleton Business Waterwheel™ tool that aims at unshackling business owners from working within their business, by giving them the framework, knowledge and guidance they need to improve their business and their lives.

Such experts having proven track record, guaranteed business models and strongly grounded management consulting firms must be greeted with open arms provided there is no compromise on the required qualification, expertise and quality of the coaches. The simplicity of the coaching process and the larger scope of the coaching profession must be brought together with optimum clarity about the objectives, methodology and the end result which must foster self-reliance in the dynamic process of learning, personal and business growth.

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Saeed ul Hassan

Saeed ul Hassan is an educationist, policy analyst, campaigner, poet and entrepreneur. About two decades ago, his career began as a volunteer in a public sector office. He later rose to senior leadership roles in international and national nonprofit organizations. Saeed is a published poet. As a writer and public speaker, he talks on personal, organizational and social change. Twitter @saeedulhassan7

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