This month’s Coach Spotlight features Hone coach Sheeba Varghese. Sheeba has always had a passion for teaching and started her career as a certified K-12 math teacher. After taking a career break to raise her two sons, Sheeba discovered her passion for coaching and helping people to live each day with purpose and intention. Today, Sheeba has more than 20 years of coaching experience, is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, and was recently selected as Top Leadership Trainer of the Year by the International Association of Top Professionals.
Sheeba loves helping emerging leaders maximize the impact they have on their teams and organizations. But when she’s not coaching individuals in person or teaching online classes, Sheeba loves decorating, traveling, and trying new restaurants in San Francisco where she lives. We chatted with Sheeba about her role, her thoughts on the modern workplace, and more. Here’s what she had to say:
What trends do you see in the world of work?
Of course, the biggest thing is so many organizations have transitioned to fully remote teams. Aside from that, teams aren’t as siloed as they once were—they’re blended. Today, you have different departments that are part of one team, like marketing and sales are part of a larger “Go to Market” team. This makes it easier to communicate, collaborate, and progress towards larger organizational goals.
We’re also seeing changes in what the average workforce looks like. Many companies have and continue to have a global workforce. There are currently five generations in the workforce which comes with its own set of challenges. Things are changing at such a rapid pace.
How did you get your start in teaching?
In high school, I moved to a different school district and that was when I first realized your quality of education differs based on where you live. I had moved from a district where I was really great at math but in the new school, I was behind and it was so frustrating. This experience inspired me to go to university and get a math degree. Later, I actually went back to that same high school to became a student-teacher before becoming a full-time teacher. Shortly afterward, I had two sons, Samuel and Steven, and I decided to stay home with them because my husband was traveling quite a bit for his job. It was then that I came across this short article on the last page of the Costco Connection magazine that said, “One step makes a huge life difference.” I looked it up online and it was written by a man named Mike Jaffe, a coach at the Life Purpose Institute. I had no idea what coaching was at that time, but I loved that it lets you support and help people progress in life, so I started my first coaching training classes at the Life Purpose Institute. Coaching has elements to it that were similar to the work I was already doing with my students in the classroom and when I was involved in ministry. Now I could incorporate these skills into a whole different area of life.
Adult education is very different than teaching math at the secondary education level. Adults come to the table with existing expertise, but what you’re doing is encouraging them to push all that aside for the time that they’re with you, so they can learn something new. That’s a different ball game altogether. I ultimately became certified by the International Coaching Federation. Today, I continue to mentor other coaches, offer accredited coach training through Coaching Out of the Box, but I also support and train leaders through Executive Coaching and group training. Regardless of your level of leadership, how we speak, what we say, and how we deal with relationships all impact our leadership.
Why are you passionate about leadership development?
We can all make a difference in the lives of others. The way I see it, we’re all leaders. The question is just how well we’re leading in our sphere. Whether you’re a teacher in the classroom or a student on the football field, we all have the ability to make an impact. The only difference is the level of impact we can make depends on the level of leadership you’re in.
There are things we can change in the way that we lead people. We’ve gone to school, we’ve honed our skillsets, and we’ve proved we’re great at what we’ve been hired to do. But oftentimes, we have not been taught how to develop others, cultivate strong relationships, and communicate effectively. These are areas where we can all learn and improve. I love when leaders are teachable and coachable because they know that by making small, intentional shifts and changes they can positively impact others. That’s exciting for me to see.
What is one actionable takeaway you want your students to leave your class with?
When I’m coaching someone, I always ask them, “What is one step you can take to ground the awareness you’ve had in this coaching session?” I want my students to be intentional about practicing what they have learned. It’s not just about head knowledge – you need to truly commit to an action step to start improving your leadership skills and changing your environment.
What’s your favorite part of working at Hone?
In the leadership arena, there’s been a lot of support for upper-level executive and C-suite leaders, but there’s never been as much support for mid-management as we’re seeing now. I believe Hone is one of the leading proponents of that. As a Hone facilitator, I am able to connect with leaders from all different levels of leadership and from different industries. Additionally, since our training is offered virtually, I am also able to touch and impact the lives of leaders all over the world.
What is the best lesson you’ve ever been taught?
The best lessons I’ve been taught are to be humble and teachable. I don’t know everything and that’s okay. I learned to surround myself with people who encourage me to go beyond my comfort zone and take risks.
Who is someone who inspires you?
I would say my husband, Santosh. We’ve been married for 25 years and he inspires me because he has not allowed his title or work to become his identity. He has always modeled a life of faith and family.
Additionally, I’ve seen how hard he’s worked over the years. He’s taken chances that were different and unique to his profession, and what I love most about him is the way that he leads. He surrounds himself with people who are probably even better than he is at what he does, but he’s not intimidated by that. He makes room for others to shine. That’s the mark of a true leader in my mind—to be able to walk away from a room and know that the team will continue to operate because you’ve enabled others to do their best.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I used to sing quite a bit and have recently started taking singing lessons again. I love interior decorating and arts and crafts. I’m always looking for fun craft classes, like a fall wreath making workshop, and ways to make my house look like a home. I love traveling (which is something I am truly missing right now).
What’s something your learners and colleagues probably don’t know about you?
I love to buy cookbooks but I don’t love to cook—I would rather have a chef. Some people find cooking relaxing, but I find it stressful. I just think cookbooks are so beautiful.
Aside from that, people may not know that I have done voiceovers. I have completed projects that entailed an audiobook, a French hair care line for l’Oréal, and a few other confidential projects that I can’t discuss. This had actually come about when I was coaching. Someone asked me what I’d love to do and I mentioned that I love to use my voice because I used to sing. My coach had mentioned I should try voiceovers and it was something I had never heard of before. I took some lessons to learn how to do it—most people think it’s so easy, but they are hard! I’ve dabbled in it, but it is a lot of work.
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