Center for Executive Coaching Alumni Interviews — Coaching pioneer in India



Manbir Kaur started her coaching practice in India after a career in technology, and is a true pioneer in the field of coaching in her country.

Brief Bio:

Manbir Kaur Manbir Kaur is an Executive Coach and a Conversational Intelligence Enhanced Skills Practitioner. Manbir helps leaders and entrepreneurs to unleash their own and their team’s potential to achieve the shared purpose in the most effective way. She specializes in working with Technology Leaders and Women Leaders. She has created various frameworks to help leaders in VUCA environments to gain success:

  • Her framework named “HUMAN” is recognized by leaders in technology organizations to help them successfully align, lead and engage teams.
  • Her framework “Get-Set-Go” has helped women leaders to break the glass ceiling.

Her book Are You the Leader You Want to Be? was nominated as one of the top five business books in India for BBLF CK Prahalad Best Business Book Award 2019.


Andrew: Welcome, I’m here with Manbir, a Center for Executive Coaching graduate based in India. Manbir, thank you very much for taking the time to be here.

Manbir: Hi, Andrew, I’m so glad to be here. And thanks so much for considering me.

Andrew: Tell people listening about your practice.

Manbir: Okay. I started practicing as an executive and leadership coach in 2011. It’s been nine plus years for my practice. I was working in the tech world before starting my coaching practice. So, I transitioned from the business world to the coaching world. From the client standpoint, it was a transition from a non-HR role to something related to HR. That transition was a little difficult from the client standpoint. How would they relate to it? But I worked through that part.

My practice right now includes coaching executives, the majority from the tech world. I have been working with mid to senior level execs from tech world. I have individual clients as well as corporate clients. I coach people on various facets of leadership like women’s leadership, authentic leadership, team engagement, creating a leadership pipeline, and transitions from mid-level to the senior level.

In addition to that, I have also worked with a few tech startups, startup entrepreneurs and start up boards.

That’s what my practice looks like right now.

Andrew: That’s great. So, you are doing a lot of really interesting work. How did you get traction when you shifted into coaching?

Manbir: I transitioned from a business background to something which is related to behaviors, coaching. I needed people to understand what exactly I was doing, how I was utilizing my experience. For me, moving my work to coaching took a lot of time, frankly. Also, when I started coaching, it was a less well-known concept, especially in India.

People have always been talking about, “What kind of value does a coach bring? How is that different from psychology, counseling, and all that?” Overall, it was not a good start. It was a difficult start. So, I did my courses. I started working on and exploring various areas. And then I happened to join the Center for Executive Coaching. Andrew, it’s straight coming from my heart right now….With your help, I actually explored a lot into what I want to do. That meant, first of all, deciding on my niche area. And believe me, I took my time. You coached me, and you kind of guided me to craft my niche, and it clearly worked for me.

So, for listeners, I work with tech leaders. A secondary niche is women leaders. As I told you, I was a professional in tech organizations before I transitioned to coaching, so I understood the tech world. I understood the nitty-gritty of the tech world, and their nuances. It was actually easier for me, as a coach, to relate to them.

Back to the startup, I think that focusing on my niche gave me the traction.

Second thing, Andrew, what your course did was for me, which helped me in my business, was that you provided me with frameworks, a world of frameworks. These frameworks clearly resonated with me. I created my human framework for engaging employees in technology organizations. I wrote a book based on this framework also. Those things help me to kind of have a good start.

Then I would say that getting traction happens through the brand you carry, how people perceive the value that you can create, and how you prove that value. It’s all about how people perceive you. So, I wrote a book. I had a couple of leadership positions in our ICF Chapter, and I wrote other books. I would say there is no kind of linear way to get traction. I tried a lot of things. Some worked, some didn’t work. Of course, I tried networking with the technology organization leaders. That is one area, frankly speaking, that I’m still working on. My networking is still not that big as of now. So, I’m still working on that area.

I hope I answered your question, Andrew.

Andrew: I think you did. I heard three things. First, once you focused on a niche, especially technology, then that started to make things easier. Two, you did the work required to establish yourself as an expert, not just a coach who asks never-ending questions. You developed a framework, an approach to solving problems. You wrote a book. And you became a leader, for instance, in ICF Chapter. So, that’s number two. And then number three is you keep trying. You understand that it doesn’t just happen linearly. Somebody that is successful in any business has to keep trying and doing things. So, I think that is exactly what it takes to succeed. That is great.

Manbir: And one more thing, Andrew, in addition to creating framework, is the creation of your brand. People want to see you as an expert on social media and any other forum. I think content has started helping me now. I have been writing content since last past, I guess four or five years. I would say now, that I’ve started getting recognition. That helps.

Andrew: Great. So, what’s one case study of a client that you’re really proud of?

Manbir: This is a good question. And this reminds me of a client, he is the Managing Director (MD) of technology company He reached out to me through an earlier client actually, through other friends. In the first discussion he said, “Manbir, my time management is not good.”

For him, when he would go to a client meeting, he was always late for the meeting. And he said, “Even my team is kind of giving me feedback about this. And I’m not happy about it. It has been suggested to me that I should discuss this with a coach. I need a coaching intervention. So, I’m here. And I don’t know if you can help me or not.” He came to me with that.

We worked together for a few weeks together, and explored the issue exactly. What is exactly happening on his time management? What’s his understanding? Sfter a few weeks, he came back and he said, “You know, Manbir, one of my reflections from last session was that I have achieved what I always wanted to achieve.” He started from a salesman and he rose up through being the MD of the company. He dreamt of a life and he was already living it. He was 45 years of age at that point in time and he was already living that life. He didn’t realize that until our coaching.

So, he said, “Our sessions, your interactions with me, have made me realize that I have already achieved the life that I always wanted, that I’ve always dreamt of. And now, I don’t have anything to look forward to. It’s the lack of motivation.” That was a discovery. That was an ah-ha moment for him. Of course, it was a very happy moment for me. Suddenly the energy that he had at that point of time was entirely different. He was very happy. Of course, once he had his realization, we started working on how he could enhance his motivational level. How can he find assignments that can challenge him? What can he exactly do? We worked together for a year.

It’s been a couple of years, you know, since this assignment finished. But I’m proud to say, you know, every special day whenever there is a festival or something, he will make a point to message me and say, “Okay, I’m really proud of the work that I am doing, and those interactions really helped me.” That kind of small message really makes you feel good about the work that you’re doing.

Andrew: Fantastic. That’s such a great case. It’s so nice when you work with somebody and they reach out to you long after to thank you for the results.

Let’s conclude with your advice. If there are people who are thinking about getting into executive coaching or know they’re going to get into executive coaching, what do you want them to consider and think about to make sure they’re successful?

Manbir: So, I think one thing: There is no shortage of success formulas. You need to remember that and keep remembering that. Being patient and persevere and always keep learning. There were a few times when I felt like giving up, you know. Nothing was working. It wasn’t happening. I hadn’t reached it. But I persevered at that point of time, maybe talked to somebody who understood, maybe even hired a coach.

First get clear on your goal, and whether you want to do this. Then, second, there are no shortcut formulas. Persevere. And always keep learning how to do it. These are the things which you really, really need to do if you want to be in professional services industry.

Andrew: What struck me was you said you were thinking of giving up at some point. Had you given up, you wouldn’t have a book. You wouldn’t have these clients. And I know how much you love what you’re doing. So, I’m so glad that you kept with it.

Manbir: Yes. Thank you. Thank you so much. And I owe a lot to you, Andrew.

Andrew: That’s great. Manbir, thank you very much for your time.

Manbir: Thank you.


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