Soni BhattacharyaConverting leaders into effective coaches is the founder of The Painted Sky and a Master Certified Coach with a passion for developing coaching capabilities in leaders. Key takeaways –

– The understanding of coaching is evolving among business leaders
– It is becoming a skill that is more valued and one that
– to develop a coaching culture it must start with the leaders

There are several stories of business success that she shares and even a couple of tips for leaders to get started with developing their own coaching capabilities.

Interested? Give it a listen and remain curious. This episode is also available on the Coffee Collaboration and Enablement podcast, available on Spotify, iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

Check out all the great sales coaching content available on Trust Enablement.
And let us know, how do you want to help improve the Enablement profession?
Audio Transcript

Pooja Kumar
streaming now, welcome to coffee collaboration and enablement for ASEAN and India. My mission is to create a place where sales enablement and business leaders could learn from each other new ways of accelerating their sales team’s performance. Now today, I am really excited to have someone that I admire greatly. Sony Bhattacharya, Sony is an old friend of mine. And she is also the founder of a company called the painted sky. Sorry, Sony, I’ve just lost my notes on pulling them up close. She’s also the founder of a company called the painted sky. But what’s really interesting and Sony are gonna tell us about the painted sky soon. What’s also really interesting is say Sony has just become a master certified coach, and MCC. And she has a great passion for all things leadership development, and leadership coaching and is an executive coach yourself. But it’s also a hugely invested in the area of diversity and inclusion. Certainly every single time I talk to you, I take away so many pearls of wisdom, I am excited that you’re now talking to a much wider audience. And I’m looking forward to what you have to share with us. So let’s start with telling us a little bit about yourself and painted sky high. Tell us tell us more about that.

Soni Bhattacharya
So Pooja, thanks for calling me and it’s always fun speaking to you. Okay, so to talk about the painted sky, we started as a leadership development company, using Arts in business. So, and why arts because we thought arts really gives an insight, it helps people discover more about themselves. It helps us Express with metaphors. certain parts of the a certain forms of theater help us understand social dynamic, and understand really what’s happening between us among among us as people. So that’s what we started as we started using art based methodologies in a regular business topics in corporates when very trained. And then over the years. Here, it was lot of fun it to be still used that we use arts for our visioning and strategy workshops, we use arts to see conflict in a group to really pull out what’s really happening among people, we use arts to help people connect with their own inner dynamic as they go through situations. So yeah, so that that’s what we started as. But now, we, you know, over the years, that’s been many years back, and over the years, we’ve really moved into many areas. The initial philosophy still stands strong. We do a lot of work in the innovation space. In the coaching space, we do a lot of work in the design, thinking space, and all topics related. And somehow my work as a coach and my studies and my, you know, all the studies that I did in the space of emotional intelligence, all of it really comes together also, in the design thinking space. Yeah,

Pooja Kumar
so that’s actually quite a you’ve got a whole bunch of offerings over there that you do with the painted sky all the way from leadership development. I love the concept of art based workshops, by the way that is very unique, and kudos to you for kicking that off. Do you think that you were a pioneer in this space?

Soni Bhattacharya
I would certainly think we are the pioneers in this space. At least in India. Yes. There were a couple of folks who had conceptualized it a little bit. We really don’t know, whatever. But yes, they also spoke the same kind of stuff that we did. There were a lot of people in training with art, but they never brought it blended with business. So they never really had an audience in the business side of things. And if it was mostly as individuals that people really went up, went and signed up for these programs and learn and they were done as open programs. So they have a programs on theater programs on arts, but they were never really brought into the business side of things and what we did, to bring it together and what to see it works in the office in an office setting with colleagues with conversations that are primarily about business. And so yeah, I’d like to believe that we pretty much brought it on, brought it in as a blended space,

Pooja Kumar
right? So all of your offerings and it sounds like it is so vast and growing. I mean, I haven’t spoken to your, for a couple of years now we’ve spoken. But we haven’t spoken about the business for a couple of years, it seems like your offerings have grown and converged around the human being and the employee, which is so much more important to organizations now. That’s brilliant. But let’s talk a little bit about leadership coaching and executive coaching. What is it? And actually, specifically over the last, you’ve been coaching for about 10 years now? Over the last 10 years, do you feel like the perception of coaching has changed? And what do you do?

Soni Bhattacharya
Yeah, yeah. So the perception of coaching is changing gradually. With from from the space that I don’t mean, you know, leaders actually saying, I don’t need coaching, I’ve got it all sorted. To thinking that, yes, a coach can help me think deeper, expand my thinking, expand my solutions, expand my insights and awareness that has changed over the years. And peer coaching is now finding itself, very comfortably accepted in the corporate environment, among leaders, and then they now people can see the value of coaching, initially, let’s say I started in about 2011. And while it was still really popular, it was still happening, and sort of new and evolving. I would say coaching is always an evolving space and an understanding of what coaching is, is an all B is an evolving space. Okay, so yeah, yeah. Okay, actually, let’s

Pooja Kumar
talk about that. What is what is coaching and leadership skills around coaching.

Soni Bhattacharya
Um, when I say it’s an evolving space, there are a lot of misconceptions, or I would say, the term coaching itself is prone to semantics. A lot of leaders that I coach believe that coaching means guiding coaching means finding a solid solution. Coaching means advising, what coaching really is, is an evolving understanding among corporate among leaders. And unless they really learn or learn the competencies of coaching or understand it through fellow coaches, or through a teacher, they keeps the stick to the understanding that coaching is what teachers do in classes, or what tutorials do or what sports coaches do. And that executive coaching, or leadership coaching is a completely different thing altogether is something that, that that understanding is evolving, and it’s developing, it’s becoming stronger among business leaders now.

Pooja Kumar
Yeah. And I think the reason I asked you that question, and I’m sorry, I went kind of you and I haven’t prepared for this. But the reason I asked you that question is because I feel in ASEAN and India that it is an evolving, is definitely the definition is starting to become more clear now. So coaching, like you said, is less directive and more about helping uncover people’s potential, or the human potential? And, and what is more important than being able to help teams like coming back to sales leaders, right? What is more important, or more important talent than being able to help your teams uncover their potential, and then impact sales performance through that? So I do think I do think it’s important to understand the difference between coaching and mentoring. And what coaching really is about uncovering that potential in the individual.

Unknown Speaker
Cool.

Pooja Kumar
Thank you, Sony. Okay, so you do a little bit of executive coaching, a lot bit of executive coaching, a fair bit of executive coaching, yes. Do you do this around the world or predominantly in India.

Soni Bhattacharya
It’s around the world, even pre pandemic time. So as I said, I’ve been coaching for around 10 years now. And my clients have been pretty much distributed all over the globe. Coaching traditionally, is very viable and impactful even on the phone. So we didn’t need a pandemic to teach us that. So I’ve been coaching Yes, leaders all over the world,

Pooja Kumar
even before pandemic,

Soni Bhattacharya
yes, even before the pandemic, yes. So it would be a sort of, perhaps a contract or connect with an organization, and they have leaders posted all over the world. And with different timelines and different geographies, there would be sessions that were scheduled. There were large areas that were developed as developmental areas. And for the, you know, as part of these projects, and the leaders came as coaches as part of these projects.

Pooja Kumar
That’s fantastic. Okay. So in your very vast experience, then, across the world, are you starting to see a bit of a trend around sales leaders wanting to not just be coached, but also to develop their own leaders, not just sales leaders, but business leaders, leaders generally wanting to develop their own coaching skills?

Soni Bhattacharya
Yes, we recently ran a program, the iccp program, which had a combination of design thinking, innovation, and coaching mastery. And who were the people who came for the sign up for this program, we had CEOs of two companies, we had people from finance function, we had people from finance function of a large American MNC, we had folks coming in from German manufacturing, automotive manufacturing companies who work in this area of engineering. So we have people from different departments of different companies, large companies, and why did they sign up for such a program, they sign up because sales leaders leaders all over, you know, in different areas of, of work, do realize that just just answering the questions of your teams, and just solving it for the team is not enough to make the organization grow. Now, you brought up this thing about, you refer to sales leaders, I always believe that the sales team that’s out there meeting clients, or connecting with clients, associating with clients know a lot, they know the vibe of the market, they know the vibe of the customer. They know a lot about competition, they know so much. So for sales leaders to really utilize this kind of knowledge to optimize it to make people contribute more to get more knowledge for the organization. It’s important not to be directive, but to include the learning of the team and and create further insights, awareness and learning skills from there. So it’s very imperative for sales leaders also to employ the coaching style of leadership. Because if they were directive, they would lose out on a lot of market intelligence, a lot of information that really lies among people. And in tapping to that information to the coaching skills, one creates more enablement in the team. There is a lot of peer learning that you can encourage a lot of solutioning comes from the team itself. And, and of course, look at the whole culture of contribution that grows when the sales leader employee coaching style of leadership.

Pooja Kumar
Yeah, and I’ve actually, so I trust enablement, we’ve had our first month of sales coaching month. And what’s been really cool with that is that we’ve had a whole bunch of experts like you from all around the world coming and talking about, about sales coaching, and specifically coaching or sales coaching, and what impact that can have on teams, not from them. But some of the stats that that are just insane, to me is especially coaching and developing those skills for sales teams is 28%. It can it if a coaching program is deployed for a sales team, one of the stats is that 28% it leads to 28% greater windows roads. That’s huge. That’s huge. Yeah. And the other step is so everyone trains, right, you go and train your sellers, but you don’t know what they’re doing on the ground. The other step that I love, and I use this all the time is training can lead you to 22% of productivity for your sales teams, but training and coaching your team so training them and then giving them coaching can lead to 88% sales productivity, or product. That’s awesome. I love those two stats, and there are so many more, but in your experience so these are stats that I’ve got out of the internet, I’ve got stats with my own from the coaching programs we deploy, but in your experience, do you can you see and maybe you can give me stats because Cuz it’s it’s often these are confidential. But what’s the impact that you see, once you’ve trained or you’ve coached a sales leader and develop their coaching skills? What are some of the business impacts that you see, and and it doesn’t have to be just for sales in any of the, if you have any stories, that would be fantastic.

Soni Bhattacharya
So of course, I won’t have the insights that’s for any organization once we’re done training leaders to be coaches, but there is a whole lot of impact that can that is visible that’s talked about that shared with us poster program. And there was one such program that we had done, it was a large program spanning six months with Swedish automotive company. And for them, it their culture wanted to bring in more accountability and ownership. And they worked backwards. And when they, you know, did more surveys and figured out more from their employees, they realized that so far the culture that existed was they directive, the managers took the burden at every level, to, for all the deliveries to find all solutions for getting the team to work. And the culture was such then that the employee looked at the manager for guidance. And for, for direction, tell me, what am I supposed to do, all actions were stated out by the managers themselves. So if that’s the culture, obviously, the culture of ownership and ownership will not last accountability and ownership is going to not be there, because it’s always the manager who’s responsible for all solutions. And then, when we looked at how we could change it, it was about bringing in coaching as a as a primary skill for leaders at all levels. And when they brought in coaching, there was a lot of resistance initially, because it was going against what they had been practicing all these years, it was going against what was expected of them. And when they when we started training, or it started with the site head himself and his first line of leaders, so the, you know, the top level of leaders for the organization, and then they attended the coaching programs. So they were much easier to take in the skills and answer yes, we’re going to apply that and then came then subsequent levels. So we were the trainers there. And we were training them how to be and how to use coaching in their leadership. And as we did that, nobody saw the resistance grew. But over a period of six months, as more and more batches came, they were more and more aware of the scale, because they had already started seeing their leaders put it in action. And they started saying, Ah, so you’re responsible only because my manager has not been giving me solutions. He asked me more questions. He asks me what is my end? I mean, what what is my solution? What is what is it that I’d like to apply? So he’s asking me more questions, and he is more ready to take in my suggestions. And I’ve also been feeling happier as the time period grew. And the batches that came in much later, four or five months later, we’re finding coaching much easier to accept because they’d already started seeing their top leadership’s apply it on the ground. And overall, what it did was they won an award that this organization won an award and won an award for having the most inclusive culture. Yes, yes, they did that I would give them a lot of credit. We are we I worked very closely with my stakeholders, and it was their idea. And they were ready to, you know, put this whole scale in action. They were ready. They understood what I was suggesting, and they were ready to go with it. And I think that’s what this whole partnership is what led to such a good result for them. So, so yeah, they were able to meet their whole target of having a culture of ownership and accountability.

Pooja Kumar
And that’s a that’s a cultural change. Right? So it’s a cultural training, coaching training program. You’ve created a culture of change that and Gosh, what a wonderful result. Sorry. Yes,

Soni Bhattacharya
absolutely. That’s all I’m saying. So I don’t know about the monetary ROI and stuff because this is an r&d organization. in sales, it’s much easier to look at the profits.

Pooja Kumar
We can’t talk about it anyway. And you can think about it. Yeah. I’m gonna I’m going to pause for a minute and I’m just going to there’s a couple of pieces on chat. Vijay, say, Vijay Singh, who’s actually my favorite sales coach. Hi, Vijay. Hello my favorite people and Shivam finds that advice that you’re, this is a brilliant piece of advice to use the brown knowledge of the reps and amplify it through peer learning module. Thank you.

Soni Bhattacharya
I started off with sales, by the way Pooja, in case you didn’t know, I started my career in sales. I was very long back in 1995.

Pooja Kumar
But tell a small

Soni Bhattacharya
Yeah, that was really long back. I joined hotel sales. And this was in in the city of Calcutta in West Bengal. And, yeah, so there was a, we actually had to go and meet high net high net worth individuals to seek their patronage, their organization’s patronage for our hotel chain. That, you know, it was a Sheraton group, then ITC hotels. And so I know what it you know, when you go and meet someone, and or when you’re interacting directly with clients, there’s so much of information that we get, so we were the folks who would carry bad competition information back to the office, and, and that will finally reach the leaders and management. And so a lot of products were then created to counter that competition. So it was always an ongoing process. So we have we have a very key players in the whole process for the organization. You are the snoops. No, no, no, no, we were the drones. Drones are used for snooping, okay. Yeah. That’s awesome. No, the client would gladly offer client love to, you know, really flash the fact that I’m in touch with your competitors. And that’s one of the tactics, right, I have a better deal from someone else. So, so they will gladly share. And we went back and shared gladly as well.

Pooja Kumar
Isn’t that interesting? After all the years, so you’re saying 19? What? 9585 85?

Soni Bhattacharya
Or 99? Yes. 9597? is when I joined it to dos? Yeah. At that long back?

Pooja Kumar
Yeah, gosh, the 1995. And the sales process has changed very little. In that period of time, sales and sales. It’s it is the old, the oldest profession in the world, isn’t it? Yes. So now, if there is any leader listening to this, Sony, and they go, Hey, that is really interesting. And I want to up the game on my own coaching skills. Do you have any tips for them to get started?

Soni Bhattacharya
Yes, certainly, I think the first thing a leader needs to really deal with is the mindset. Because somehow I find leaders, majority leaders very fixated that their role is to manage, and, and is to manage very tightly to sit very closely and see what’s happening. So coaching is a process where you need to trust and need to allow the other person the coachee, to come up with solutions to allow them some time to think through a situation or think through the scenario themselves. So for that, a leader will need patience. So mindset, and with mindset, cancer patients. And I think, largely patients with self, because there is an agitation to get going to get it sorted to close a matter to to move to action points to, you know, move on to the next thing that we manage, when we are so busy as leaders. So to be able to pause a little bit observe and give time is very crucial for leaders. And then I would say is that yes, one, someone can use a lot of coaching style questions overall, throughout in their, in their interactions as a leader, and that would be useful that would help and that would be how they can bring coaching in their jobs. But to understand coaching a little better, it’s good to get a little bit of training around what coaching is around what questions can be useful and what questions that sound good or not necessarily useful. So a little bit training is something that I would certainly suggest when somebody wants to become a coach.

Pooja Kumar
I agree. I’ll just update coaching skills, not even become a coach just upgrade their own coaching skills so that they convert more value for their teams. So So let me just recap that. So three things he said, firstly, its mindset. So good if you’re already thinking about it. Secondly, it’s patience because it tastes a little while. And thirdly, you’re saying, You’re saying get a little bit of training so that you have the the knowledge to really up your own coaching skill get to be your coach. Fantastic. Thank you. Now, Sony, I know you so well, and I know you’ve got I am proud of so many things that you do. So I’m going to ask you to take a minute to brag and tell me one or two things that you are most proud of.

Soni Bhattacharya
Okay, I am in a good place. So I can brag Pooja. So yeah, I’m very proud that I did my NCC. It’s a very daunting certification. There are very few in the world. And it requires many RS and a lot of protocol, a lot of diligence. So I’m glad that I pushed for it. And then I didn’t give up and I push for it. It’s, it’s, you know, anybody who’s doing a lot of coaching can push for it. It’s just about pushing enough.

Pooja Kumar
Because we don’t have a not. So not everyone would understand what an MCC is, could you give us a little bit of background on that?

Soni Bhattacharya
Sure. So I started by training for ICF certification very long back, there are three levels, the associate certified coach, the professional certified coach, and what I got last year, this year, whatever for last year is the master certified coach. So master certified coach is a big deal because it requires many hours of coaching, 2500 hours of coaching and many hours of training. And so it’s not something that we can really do as a speed process. It takes many years of doing it. And then of course, so that’s what I got my certification this year. And I feel really proud, I feel proud, not so much only about the certification, I feel proud that I just went for it, you know that I did an exam. And so that’s what I feel good about. The second thing is when the pandemic hit last year, there was a whole lot of uncertainty about where we would go, what would happen, we used to do a lot of experiential trainings, which required us to meet people in person, and I need trainings, coaching, I’ve always been doing virtually, as I just mentioned at the beginning of our talk. So there was this whole uncertainty, and then we worked really hard. And we were just reflecting how wonderful that this whole journey has been off learning how agile we are, how our team and the painted sky team and all of us adapted so fast. So happily, I would say I mean, because happiness does play a role in in getting something and and happily and we’ve got we’ve been training with so busy, we’ve been working with working with the clients from all geographies across the globe. We’ve got participants joining in so there is an advantage of virtual learning as well, we’ve got a wonderful mix, we got a diverse mix of cultures of people from different countries coming in for our programs now. And and that brings in so much more learning for the groups as well. There’s a lot of peer learning. A lot of reflection, like you talked about coaching in the ASEAN context, it’s very different than it is in the western context. Here. We do look at our coaches as gurus. So this sharing of somehow somewhat the cultural value system based differences that we have has made our learning programs very rich. So to come back, yes, we didn’t only land on our feet, we’ve got major dreams of taking this forward in the current format. That’s something also that I’m very proud of.

Pooja Kumar
And your clients are lucky to have been able to access you sir quickly around the world. So well done on creating that module. Congratulations. Thank you, Sonny on our last before we end, the the live How can people engage either you or the painted sky? in their services? How can they contact you? Yesterday

Soni Bhattacharya
I’m on LinkedIn as Sony Bhattacharya. We have a website on the painted sky.com the painted sky.com and, and you could write to me at s o n I add the reader beta sky.com

Pooja Kumar
o s o ni at the break at painted sky, the painted sky.com. Okay, because your last name is sometimes a little hard to do remember so for people

Soni Bhattacharya
yeah the old fashioned way. doesn’t really work. So yeah, you can contact me at Sony the at the painted sky.com.

Pooja Kumar
Wonderful. Fantastic. Well, you know, I hope that was this is a really fantastic conversation and I’ve got lots from it. I’ve got a couple of pages of notes that I will summarize lots of great feedback in the online chat. So that’s fantastic. And I hope I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did sunny.

Soni Bhattacharya
Today, I love talking to you always. And I enjoyed it. My favorite subject. And yeah, so yeah, I love talking to you and I loved your questions. And I love reflecting also on all that I think about about the space.

Pooja Kumar
Yeah. And your journey. That’s our journey. Yeah. Yes. All right, well, um, stay there. I’m gonna end the chat and or end the live. And we’ll get you back in a few months to talk about a little bit more about the painted sky, then. Sure. Thank you.