From Banking to Being—A Coaching Journey
Episode #1003: Explore the coaching journey of Divya Jegasundaram, PCC, ACC, MSLC, CLC and discover why she is an incredible role model who is setting a great example for others to follow in Episode #1003 of the Arete Coach Podcast. Continue to watch the interview, download the transcript, and read the recap.
About Divya Jegasundaram
Divya Jegasundaram is an ICF certified PCC coach, trainer, mentor, speaker, and best-selling author of a book series Coach Wisdom, that explores the secrets of 21 successful coaches. She is also a contributor to the Huff and Thrive Global. Divya is a mother of two wonderful children. Prior to coaching, she was the youngest bank manager for the seventh-largest bank in the world in both UK and North America. She currently lives in Toronto, where she is the senior lecturer and teacher of certified courses on life coaching, organizational development, and executive coaching at an ICF accredited coaching school. Divya has been recognized for her achievements with two distinct awards: Women in Management Canada Entrepreneur Award and Woman on Fire Businesswoman of the Year Award.
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From a Banking Manager to a Coach
From a very young age, Divya was extremely goal-driven. She first got into banking at age 17, working as a teller on Saturdays. Her father disapproved of her working while she was still in the study phase of her life. However, despite her father's disapproval, and with her mother's support, she continued working there and, at 18 years old, decided to pursue her career in banking instead of going to law school.
At that point, she made a goal to become the youngest bank manager in the UK and be more successful than any other 21-year-old coming out of university. By the age of 25, she became the youngest bank manager in the UK and North America.
She has met her goals, and although it felt good on some levels, she wasn’t feeling how she expected she would. Her position didn’t align with her core values and beliefs. She felt disconnected from who she is and who she has known herself to be.
While she was on maternity leave with her second daughter, she was thinking about what else is out there that she could do. She thought about her strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures. She started researching and looking into things she always had an interest in, such as personal development. Before that, she never knew she could make a career out of it. That is when her journey with coaching began.
Preparing Herself for Her Career in Coaching
Very soon, Divya realized that she would need to somehow set herself apart within this giant pool of coaches and people who are calling themselves coaches. She decided to get certified. In her opinion, going through a proper format and structured learning makes a difference and teaches coaches a different sense of what coaches actually do.
When she was starting, she didn't look at the executive coaching role at all. After moving to Canada, she realized very early that there is an issue around age, so she thought executive coaching wouldn't be a good fit for her. She decided to get into life coaching, personal coaching. She knew she wanted an ICF approved school and took the time to know who the CEOs and the lecturers were before she decided. But, being intuitive based, Divya’s intuition also played a significant role in deciding on a coaching school.
Today, her practice is a combination of personal life coaching clients, executive clients, and bigger corporate contracts, where she works with new and aspiring managers and inspiring leaders in the organization. Being a mum also gives her a different perspective and insight into some issues that female executives might be facing. That is why she has a separate section of just female executives or female managers who are trying to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
After lecturing for a few years, Divya realized many students would go through the program, get certified, and then look for a book or something that could help them going forward. However, there wasn’t a lot of it out there, so Divya and her friend Snehal R. Singh decided to wrote Coach Wisdom, in which they would share the stories of 21 successful coaches.
They wanted Coach Wisdom to be a compilation of different perspectives coming from coaches across the globe. Working in an international school, she noticed many of her students have this misconception that coaching is easier in some parts of the world. Having international coaches sharing their experiences and talking about their journey was a way to tackle that misconception.
While working on two volumes of Coach Wisdom and talking with 42 different coaches, she realized that the commonality between them is that they all felt this purpose to get back and impact and create a difference. None of them gave up, although it was hard for every single one of them, and they had a tremendous amount of failure along the way. However, they didn't give up on what they've felt was their calling and didn't stop investing in themselves, realizing the importance of personal development.
“How can we actually give to others and try and develop them if we're not actually developed ourselves?”
A Teleclass Coaching Method
Divya is teaching through a method of teleclasses for the last eight, eight and a half years. She noticed that the audio-only method is increasingly popular, mostly because it is convenient for people and is not limited by geographical area. In her opinion, the fact that it is audio-only teaches the aspiring coaches the importance of listening from the very beginning. It teaches them that they don't have to rely on physical contact to build a rapport with a client.
95% of her personal clients are also audio-only. One of its advantages is that she can take notes without breaking a rapport every time she needs to write something down, as it might happen when the client can actually see you.
She started working that way before the age of Zoom. That helped her work from the comfort of her home, which was very helpful because she had small kids and enabled her to work with an international clientele.
Another reason she prefers audio-only is the fact that she can listen with her eyes closed, which helps her to really listen and concentrate only on what her client is saying. Although you are not seeing your client, there are many different cues a coach can pick on, such as the breathing, the pause, the tonality, the speed at which they are speaking, the breathlessness. We are not even aware of some of them because we are relying mostly on visual cues.
A Lesson She Wishes She Had Learned Earlier
When she started coaching, Divya thought she could just step into the executive environment and run with it. However, early on, she got discouraged when a few people made remarks about her age. That led to a loss of confidence, especially with bigger contracts and coaching opportunities, which she stopped herself from pursuing out of fear. A lot of the time, she would portray a fake toughness and would get defensive. Working through it, she realized that she has to own what she is doing. She reminded herself what her strengths are and what her niche area is. She has learned to accept that she is on the younger side when it comes to executive coaching. She would like that she had understood earlier that if she can own what she is doing and do it confidently, without fear or doubt, she will progress.
When asked about her "why," which gives her purpose and energy, Divya immediately answers her children are her “why” and the reason for everything she does. They are the reason she wants to create a difference and make an impact. She wants them to grow up not only saying, “The sky is the limit,” but really believing that:
“They can achieve absolutely anything that they put their minds to. And it doesn't matter what obstacles, challenges, barriers they are hit with. There's always a way to overcome it if they should want to.”
She also wants to teach her children that it is about serving others and helping people outside of you and just your family. She wants to impact the individuals she meets, inspire something within them, and light a fire in them to do more with their own lives. That is one reason why, as a title for herself, she chose "Certified Fulfillment Coach." In her own words:
“We keep working, working, working towards this goal—I want to earn this much. I want to get to that position in my job—but when we get there, we still don't have that sense of fulfillment or happiness or joy that we thought we were going to feel.”
That’s why her purpose is to light that fire in others. And she hopes that when her children see that, they will also want to serve and help people behind them.
The Powerful Questions to Ask
Some of the biggest and most consistent questions Divya likes to ask her clients are focused on what they want and where do they see themselves in the future. She asks them about their biggest barriers and obstacles that are standing in the way for them in achieving this.
She likes to help her clients visualize what they want as if they've already got it. But then, after they've felt how it would feel like, she brings them back to their present inaction by asking questions such as:
"Okay, it's a year down the line. It's six months down the line. It's even two months down the line. And you haven't gotten going with this journey. You haven't started any of this. How do you now feel?"
She finds those questions really powerful because they take a client through a journey, getting them to visualize everything they want and then bringing them back to the present day and inaction.
She also loves what and if questions, such as: "So, what will happen if X, Y, and Z changes?" As well as when and if questions:
"When this changes, if this changes, what do you then see your life looking like?"
Divya emphasizes that she tailors her questions to who she is with but likes to keep them simple and relatable.
Life Coaching vs. Executive Coaching
Whether Divya is coaching an individual on life or coaching someone on an executive level, the formats and the fundamentals—the do's and the don'ts, the art of listening and asking questions, building rapport, ability to give feedback— are the same.
The greatest difference lies in the fact that the executives she works with aren't choosing to work with her themselves. The company hires her, and the executives are assigned to her. On the other hand, her personal clients have chosen to work with her. That might impact the willingness of the person to fully participate and engage with the coach.
Another difficulty she sometimes faces comes from her male executive clients, who might act defensive, in a way, and have a hard time accepting she is going to coach them. For that reason, before she starts the paid sessions with her executive clients, Divya has one session with them where the goal is to get to know each other. That helps the clients feel more comfortable, put a face and a name to the voice, and it helps to build rapport. After that session, they go back to audio sessions only.
Divya mentions that she doesn't see a huge difference in her coaching of her personal clients and her executive clients, other than the fact that there is a different set of goals to work on.
When asked how she manages to stay in a state of non-judgment, even when she hears stories that would be easy to judge, Divya replies:
“Even in my session, I remind myself this is not about me, it's not about my life, and I'm not here to judge.”
The Advice for Those Considering a Coaching Career
If you are interested in coaching and think it is something you could do, Divya’s advice is to sign up with a school that is ICF approved to get certified from the very beginning. When you are a certified coach, you are already setting yourself apart from many who call themselves coaches.
The next possible step is to become an ICF accredited coach; something companies ask you about before hiring you as an executive coach. So, if you already know you are planning to work as an executive coach, it would be best to get a minimum of the ACC as soon as possible.
On Curiosity and Wanting to Know More
Divya mentions a powerful quote that one of her authors from Coach Wisdom shared with her, that says: "Coaching is a curiosity with clarity." She believes that the curiosity that coaches have helps their clients get clarity on what it is they want and what they need to be doing less of or more of, and what do they need to let go of. But it also helps keep the coaches on their toes to keep engaging and keep the coaching conversation interesting and moving.
Divya mentions that she didn't place as much importance on growth and learning as a coach in the very early years of her coaching. With time, she started to feel that there is so much more value to be added and that she wanted more. That led to her journey of always developing herself as a coach through various courses and education.
People Too Hard to Coach
Every coach has individuals that they find too hard to coach because of the certain characteristics they have. For Divya, those are the ones who think they are ready to make changes and to do some things in their lives, but when it comes to it, they are not. And then they blame the coaching process for their inaction.
If such a situation happens in personal coaching, she doesn't sign those clients. However, in executive coaching, the clients are assigned to her. Learning from her experience, she started building into her contract that she would give individuals up to three sessions to start progressing. If, after three sessions, the progress is not happening, and there is no willingness to progress, she has a conversation with the sponsor where she advises to apply the budget that was meant for that individual to a different employee. That way, she isn't wasting anybody's time or the company's money.
Measuring Her Life
When asked about how she will measure her life, Divya replies:
“I'll measure [life] by the number of people or the number of lives I've been able to impact.”
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