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Victim or Victimizer?

Sandeep Jain

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To set the context, I am a coach and work more specifically in the leadership coaching space in India and outside, working with senior leaders on behaviours, competencies, and social skills, besides business challenges.

While life, executive and business coaching is now a multi-Billion dollar industry, it hardly existed until a couple of decades ago and is cited as a manifestation of Blue Ocean Strategy. Everyone understands the role of coaches in sports and education, but people still find it difficult to imagine a coach helping with life challenges and business issues. People who are relatively new to coaching often ask me ‘What does a Coach do?’ and are stumped when I answer that ‘ . . . they ask the right questions.’

I may be underplaying the entire gamut of skills required to develop oneself as a coach however I would still rate the art of ‘asking powerful questions’ as the most important one.

Even before I became a coach, I had realised the power of questions and the kind of thinking a good question unleashes. I vividly remember walking into the office of a CFO of a US$ 1 Bio Indian home-grown MNC some 30 odd years ago in the initial years of my corporate career. This was the 1990s, and there weren’t too many Indian companies of this size then; hence, a lot was at stake for me. After clearing multiple rounds, I reached the final stage with only the interview with the CFO remaining. This man had a terrifying personality — short, slightly stout, chain smoker, big ears and a face which could unnerve anyone, but a man with the gentlest of souls and a heart of gold as I would realise only later. He had asked me all that he wanted to ask about academics, experience and intricacies of accounting and finance to check my domain knowledge. I was delighted, just like you feel when you know you have made it.

And then, with the kindest face the CFO could make and wearing the most benevolent smile, he asked me “Sandeep, given a choice, what would you be, a victim or a victimizer?”

The question was so powerful, that I was just stumped, I assume I answered something to his liking, as I managed to get my appointment letter that very day before I left the office. To date, I think of the same question. My answers have oscillated from being a victim to a victimized one, but the question has always stayed with me. What surprised me was how powerful the question was. With this one question, the CFO had unearthed an aspect of my personality that otherwise may have taken an expensive psychometric test to unravel.

Since that day and now even more as a Coach, I have been trying to ask similar types of questions to my clients in my coaching engagements.

Questions which get them to a space where they have never been and questions which are at the core of their being. Questions which make them think not because they need to provide me with the answers but because they need to find answers to these for themselves. Questions which create self-awareness, which sets an individual on the path of positive change. Self-awareness precedes action, and the right question is what triggers self-awareness, helping you discover your motivation to pursue a behaviour or an action.

Think about what questions you want to ask yourself and what kind of questions you want to ask others to connect with them at a deeper level.

As I end, I want all of you to close your eyes and answer for yourself: Given a choice, what would I be — a victim or a victimiser?

Here is a thoughtful quote from Tullian Tchividjian — We are all both victims and victimizers. Just as everyone suffers, no one is innocent of causing suffering themselves.

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Sandeep Jain

CEO and Founder at Value-Unlocked | Strategy Consultant | Leadership Coach | Mentor & Investor in startups & scaleups | Life-long learner