Executive coaching is still a fairly new phenomenon in Asia, where Satyam Computer Services Ltd. is headquartered. Senior Vice President Ed Cohen said mentoring has been a more prevalent technique in the region. Although mentoring offers many of the same benefits as coaching, the company has made the latter an important piece of its latest leadership development activities. The Satyam School of Leadership, which is responsible for the top 5 percent of the company’s leaders, concentrates heavily on growing leaders who can think beyond the region of the world they come from or happen to be in. Building the right global skills is critical if that top 5 percent is to function at a strategic global level, and the school must grow leaders quickly in order to keep up with the company’s dramatic growth.
“Satyam’s a company that in 1991 had a 100 people and a million dollars worth of revenue, and in 2006 has 28,000 people and has done a billion dollars of revenue,” Cohen said. “As a result of that growth, many of our leaders come from outside. We’ve had to look at what are the transitions that leaders go through? What are the different key needs that they have whether they come from outside or are being groomed from within, and how do we continuously have the right leadership pipeline at all levels of leadership within the company in order to meet the needs of our stakeholders?”
Satyam did a full analysis to determine the traits of a successful global leader specifically within the boundaries of its organization. Successful global leaders are entrepreneurial, able to grow more leaders, understand business at the global level, are innovative and creative, balance tactical and strategic leadership, lead and support change, adapt to diverse situations, understand and integrate ethics and compliance, combine strategic and operational excellence, are holistically sensitive to cultural and language challenges, have a global lens without losing sight of the local market, lead by influence and contribute to the company brand.
“Then we have a concept called delighting stakeholders,” Cohen said. “We break our stakeholders into four groups: associates who are employees, investors, customers and society at large. Identifying those traits led us to identify the skills that we want all of our leaders to have. Those range from strategic planning to technological savvy to financial acumen, coaching and mentoring, collaboration and negotiation.”
Building global business leaders who can meet all of the various criteria and fulfill the desired traits set forth by the School of Leadership requires more than just e-learning or classroom training. Satyam is in the process of rolling out the Gallup Strengths Space Leadership program based on Gallup’s Strengths Finders instrument. As part of that, every participant will work with a coach to understand how to maximize their strengths and how they can effectively build teams to complement those strengths.
“The other area where we’re using coaching is to work with leaders in transition,” Cohen said. “We have different transition steps. For example, you start out as a full lifecycle leader so you’re running your own business. Then you move up to the next level and you’re an integrator, which means you’re responsible for leaders who are running their businesses. Then when you move up to business-leader perspective, you’ve got a group of integrators reporting to you. At the highest level is the steering committee, which is the corporate, enterprise-wide head. At each of these transitions we are providing coaching not just for newly promoted, but also people who may be hired at that level. The coaching is to help them transition to the culture, to the new behaviors, skills and competencies the company has an expectation of and to help them get through any difficulties they might have as they’re starting out.”
Satyam also uses coaching to remediate derailers. “You’ll have leaders who are very strong, but they might have one area that they really need to focus in on,” Cohen explained. “That area could be business development or project management skills, any kind of a skill area that by the time you get to a senior-leader level, it’s much more focused than it is generic. Therefore, a classroom isn’t going to provide the solution anymore. The one-on-one coaching experience does that.
“Three times in my career I have worked with an executive coach, and each time I have gained significant value,” Cohen said. “I am a very firm believer of it because I’ve seen the results, and that’s why it’s one of the anchor programs for us at the School of Leadership. I firmly believe it’s the best learning intervention that exists for executives.”
–Kellye Whitney, email@example.com