Nihar Chhaya

Ideas for success in business and personal change

SMU Cox Business Leadership Teaching Excellence Award to Nihar Chhaya

by Nihar Chhaya on September 13, 2016


NIHAR CHHAYA Shares Corporate Experience with SMU Cox Students

Dallas, TX/USA – September 12, 2016

Nihar Chhaya, Founder and President of PartnerExec, presented a seminar titled Maximize Your Leadership Potential on September 10, 2016, as part of the Edwin L. Cox Business Leadership Center’s programming for Cox MBA students. Through the BLC, Cox graduate students gain insight into various facets of business leadership. BLC instructors are business leaders drawn from prominent national and international companies, who come to the SMU campus to share their extensive knowledge with Cox students. BLC Instructors include representatives from PartnerExec, Accenture, Bank of Texas, The Container Store, Friday’s Restaurants, Walmart and many more. Although no class credit is given for attendance, students consistently rate what they have learned from BLC instructors as extremely valuable, and many students say that the BLC was a major factor in their decision to attend Cox.

Mr. Chhaya earned a Business Leadership Teaching Excellence Award for his presentation, which means that the students attending rated the seminar as a 4.8 or higher out of a possible “perfect” rating of 5.

For additional information on the BLC visit our website at


The Business Leadership Center at the Cox School of Business, SMU

Kate Hoedebeck, Program Manager

Cox School of Business, PO Box 750333, Dallas, TX 75275-0333

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Nihar ChhayaSMU Cox Business Leadership Teaching Excellence Award to Nihar Chhaya

Coaching tips for clients: “perfectionism and procrastination”

by Nihar Chhaya on May 15, 2016

For highly accomplished business professionals, the challenge of overcoming procrastination can be a lifelong struggle.

It may seem counterintuitive that a chronic procrastinator can actually achieve much more than the average person, since many assume procrastinators are lazy or unmotivated, putting off what they could do now until later.

But in fact, procrastinators often are highly driven individuals who just can’t externalize their internal drive on a consistent basis.

They have dreams to achieve grand goals, but a fear of failure (or success) often paralyzes their execution.

Many are perfectionists who undergo a fight or flight response every time a challenge comes their way, choosing to avoid the anxiety of engaging in a task they know is critical to the success they seek.

And many others respond better to the adrenaline that comes with having to meet an emergency deadline while lacking the motivation or vision to see the benefits of early action when such a deadline is still days away.

Moving from Procrastination to Productivity:  An Inside Game

Countless books exist on tackling procrastination, from better planning methods to getting up early everyday; from goal setting apps to reminders to “eat that frog” or set aside fixed amounts of time to sprint through tasks (like the Pomodoro technique).

Different solutions work for different people and in my experience as well as in coaching my clients, I’ve recognized that the value of a solution emerges after experimentation.

One method I’ve found that has worked for many of my clients is more about inaction than action.  It hinges more on self-insight than on knocking off items on a checklist.

When my clients think about how their minds work and how they help or hinder the processing of work, they actually make great leaps.  By sitting with the insight they actually move further than if they just took action.

They remember that our brains have a rational side and an emotional side that are at combat for our attention and that people have personality tendencies which favor each at different times.

So they sit with the feelings of perfectionism and resistance to act by practicing mindfulness.  They extend their awareness of the rational-emotional duality in their mind.  And through such awareness, they are better able to observe the feelings of anxiety or other corollary reactions, and distance themselves from identifying with the feelings.

By non-judgmentally observing the feelings, they recognize these feelings are nothing more than a natural defense mechanism against perceived threats.  And from that recognition, their urge to be perfect dissipates as their willingness to do something rises.

When You Need a Helpful Coaching Reminder

Coaching people through shifting their mindset is very useful.  When these inevitable sensations of fear, fatigue or other internally critical thoughts emerge causing perfectionism or tendency to procrastinate, someone reminding you of the value of sitting with it is vital.  It moves you from knowing the theory to actually remembering to practice.

And just because you are aware of how your mind works in general, doesn’t mean you are equipped to control it in real time.  For this reason, “making plans” to deal with perfectionism is just as important as actually making your typical action plans.

When I work with clients, I suggest some resources to use at the same time.  Here are some I’ve found useful.

Recommendation: Make sure to take one idea you learn from any of these books and start to implement it so you can reflect on its pertinence to your life and your threshold of comfort.

1.  The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The title is a play on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, a popular resource for leadership in business.  Referring to the source of inertia as Resistance, author Steven Pressfield provides very useful advice on putting action before analysis as a way of controlling procrastination.

He also reminds us that honoring artistic motivations is critical for differentiated success. But doing so is naturally filled with bouts of self-doubt.

2.  The Now Habit by Neil Fiore. I am a big fan of this book, which looks at procrastination from a time management and planning perspective, as well as a result of how we talk to ourselves and interpret the world around us.

Fiore provides suggestions on changing the way we indicate value behind tasks using different language, since how we talk to ourselves influences how we think and how we think influences how we feel.

The next time you find yourself thinking “I have to get this report finished today” or keep putting off calling a friend because you know you “have to get back to them now or you never will,” try changing the word “have” to “choose.”

Just saying to yourself, “I choose to get this paper finished,” or “I choose to call him back today,” can completely reverse your state and begin the motion toward action.

3.  One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer.

Business schools commonly teach the case of Toyota using Kaizen methods of continuous improvement to reduce costs, improve quality and better engage the workforce.

This book lays out interesting applications of this philosophy to personal improvement and productivity. Following the spirit of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and his quote of “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” Maurer discusses how breaking down anything into the smallest steps is possible to fight procrastination.  Because in those smallest of steps, no anxiety or pain arrives yet the small effort can compound in energy and momentum, leading to exponential motivation and sustained change.

4.  Accidental Genius by Mark Levy.

Procrastination comes in as many forms as there are tasks, but one of the most frequent occupations in which it rears its ugly head is in writing.

Writer’s block, analysis paralysis and the putting off of assignments past deadlines are commonplace hazards for those whose careers rely on producing the written word.

We see this happen for so many professions beyond traditional authors, including lawyers, industry executives, bankers, consultants, musicians, journalists, screenwriters, teachers and anyone who has to present messages that aim to move an audience.

Levy provides a remedy in the form of “freewriting” which is meant to provide a risk-free action that gets the brain past its block and gets you creating something rather than thinking about it forever.

His ideas are a great complement to Julia Cameron’s practice of Morning Pages as outlined in her book The Artist’s Way, and I believe commitment to such rituals can make a huge difference in the lives of procrastinators.

5.  Lastly, Seth Godin has a nice presentation on what he and many psychologists refer to as the “Lizard Brain,” another synonym for “inner critic,” “saboteur” or “Resistance.” I’ve uploaded it below for you to watch.

Godin reminds us, just like Daniel Pink did in A Whole New Mind, that success in today’s business world relies on creativity and differentiated value, largely dependent on right brain activity. But the creative types who naturally tap into this part of their brain are also the ones who are most likely to avoid shipping out their ideas for testing and evaluation until they are perfect.

This delay produces a counterproductive effect as the speed to market is diminished. In other words, what good is a great idea if no one knows about it in time?

I hope these ideas are helpful if you tend toward perfectionism.  There is immense value in experimentation and while testing new ideas can be challenging for perfectionists, you may find it gives way to higher productivity and fulfillment.

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Nihar ChhayaCoaching tips for clients: “perfectionism and procrastination”

A closer look at the differences between mentoring and coaching

by Nihar Chhaya on February 12, 2016

Throughout the first month of our coaching engagement, I gave my client honest feedback on various aspects of his leadership style.

Now it was my turn to get his feedback. And to be honest, it felt a bit like a needle to a balloon: a quick sting followed by a slow deflation.

You told me to be upfront if I had any issues with the coaching,” he wrote in an email.

So I’ll just be honest,” he continued. “I’m a linear thinker and I need a direct approach. I don’t think we’re getting anywhere with all your open-ended questions.”

The message went on to say,

When I was working with my mentor last year, he suggested an action plan and I was checking off the steps. I feel like you and I are constantly brainstorming and reflecting rather than getting things done.”

Hired by this executive to help him shift perceptions of his approach, I wasn’t completely surprised. I was used to clients initially resisting the self-discovery that effective coaching requires before planning action. But he seemed so sure of what he wanted.

I wondered what I could have done differently. And then I began to understand the real source of his resistance.

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Nihar ChhayaA closer look at the differences between mentoring and coaching

Managing worry about what others think: some of my thoughts in Fast Company

by Nihar Chhaya on January 21, 2016

Worrying what others think about us is natural yet can feel limiting. Some tend to excessively focus on how others see them, while others don’t.  It’s true that we are motivated when we are autonomous and operate from a sense of intrinsic purpose. And not paying attention to what others think about us can clear the static in our minds to focus on our values, strengths and personal mission.

However, being oblivious to what others think, despite it bringing a sense of empowerment, can minimize our ability to inspire, motivate and effectively achieve collective goals with others. And even if how others view us isn’t fair or relevant to our goals, being aware of it can give us deeper insight into what we really want and what is possibly visible to others despite our intentions.

Intentions create behavior and behavior creates perceptions.  Things get lost between each of these three steps but each is important to evaluate in itself.  Worrying about those perceptions may not be helpful. But ignoring them is equally unproductive, because they reveal areas where it may make sense to adjust our behaviors or make our intentions more explicit in order to be more effective with others and achieve our own goals.

I was interviewed for a Fast Company article on worrying about what others think and provided my thoughts based on coaching leaders that do worry a lot, as well as many who don’t, but could probably benefit from being more in tune with those signals.

You can read the article here.

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Nihar ChhayaManaging worry about what others think: some of my thoughts in Fast Company

Three ways to better influence and drive action in matrix organizations

by Nihar Chhaya on January 20, 2016

Below is a reprint of Nihar’s post on LinkedIn Pulse entitled: “How to Get People to Act When You Have No Authority.”

An executive’s product line captured extraordinary market share growth making it the most successful in his company.

And yet his chances for a promotion looked grim.

A recent 360 review highlighting friction between this leader and his peers in HR, marketing and finance greatly troubled his boss.

The boss asked me to coach the executive on learning to motivate and inspire his team around a shared vision, rather than continue to engage in internal conflict.

I was up for the challenge.  But I soon realized truly collaborative results would require something much more than that.

Buy-in doesn’t equal action

Thought leaders and management experts remind us that motivation starts with clarifying a shared purpose and the “why” behind the work.

But the link between shared motivation and expected action is complicated by human nature and the way authority is set up in today’s organizations.

People are unpredictable. And their behavior is even more unreliable when committing to colleagues outside of their vertical reporting structure.

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Nihar ChhayaThree ways to better influence and drive action in matrix organizations

What authentic leadership is – and what it’s not

by Nihar Chhaya on January 2, 2016

(Below is a reprint of Nihar’s post on LinkedIn Pulse entitled:  “The problem with personal leadership narratives.”)

From the testy Presidential debates and Trump’s polarizing statements to the recent questioning of Ben Carson’s life story, no shortage of controversy exists in the race for America’s top executive job.

With an executive coaching lens, I watch how candidates present themselves to the people they hope to one day lead. For people on both sides of the aisle, Carson’s approach in particular has been of interest.

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Nihar ChhayaWhat authentic leadership is – and what it’s not

The part leader on-boarding plans don’t cover

by Nihar Chhaya on November 13, 2015

Business thought leaders have written extensively on the challenges of leading effectively after a promotion. Yet with so much advice and highly detailed 100-day plans available, why is it that 40% of leaders continue to derail in the first 18 months after a new appointment?

Based on my experience in coaching executives before and after transitions, I believe the answer lies in the degree to which leaders are willing to look within as much as they look to lead. Simply put, successful transitions require equal attention to what I call “outer alignment” and “inner alignment.”

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Nihar ChhayaThe part leader on-boarding plans don’t cover

How to give feedback people actually respond to: my latest in Fast Company

by Nihar Chhaya on July 21, 2015

Read the article in Fast Company here. And if it sparks any thoughts on how you approach delivering feedback, I invite you to download a free copy of:

“22 Questions to Make People Listen to Your Feedback.” 

What if you could have stress-free feedback conversations that actually made people respond productively?

To help you frame your approach, I’ve provided a list of 22 helpful questions.  Click on the link above to access it.

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Nihar ChhayaHow to give feedback people actually respond to: my latest in Fast Company

HR Leaders: To be more strategic, simply follow your own advice

by Nihar Chhaya on July 20, 2015

“We’re finally promoting James to VP next week. He’s ready right?”

Looking squarely in his HR director’s eyes, the senior executive questioned her with a mix of urgency and contemplation.

The HR director calmly assured him.

“Of course he is. You know this hasn’t been an overnight decision. But I’d like to invest in an executive coach for him. At least in his first year.”

The executive looked incredulous.

“What?  Why?  If he’s the right guy and this is the right time, why does he need that?  What message would that send about our confidence in this promotion?”

The HR director thought about it for a few seconds. “Well, actually it sends a better…”

He cut her off.  “And even if we looked at coaching, why would we spend money on someone outside?  Aren’t you a coach?  Isn’t that your job?”  

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Nihar ChhayaHR Leaders: To be more strategic, simply follow your own advice