⭐ Executive Coach Spotlight: Mansi Goel
Executive Coach at Mansi Goel Coaching & Facilitation
From changing countries, languages, and even parents as a nine-year-old, through becoming Google’s Head of Product Policy, I have used my sense of wonder to navigate challenges. What could be painful became joyful when approached from a stance of learning. I initially struggled as a global-level executive despite decades of management experience. Executing with excellence wasn’t enough to influence C-suite decisions. I also needed to engage in conflict elegantly with powerful stakeholders and to assert myself without feeling like an impostor.
When I directed my sense of wonder inward and toward people, I discovered a calling in place of a career. I dove deeply into the field of leadership development at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and began to coach emerging and established leaders. Now, I apply a humble and happy curiosity to my clients and I help my clients apply wonder to themselves.
What sparked your professional path into Executive Coaching?
It’s strange, I trace my path way back to when I dropped out of college to live in a monastery. I have always been drawn to self knowledge and the big questions of life but it took me a long time to accept just how core this is to me. I kept thinking – and being told by my concerned immigrant family – that it wasn’t practical to be dedicated to these spiritual and philosophical questions. I needed to put these aside to live a ‘normal’ life because these couldn’t help me earn a livelihood.
So, I left the monastery and finished college. This was during the dot com boom and I joined a startup. Over the years, my tech career generally flourished, most of all at Google, where I spent ten years. But I always circled around my longings for palpating meaning in life. By my late 30s, as I approached yet another promotion, I found myself totally depressed and deadened by the prospect. It was what I ‘should’ do but avoiding the big questions I loved had eventually made me feel sick in heart and soul. It was also a really difficult period with a parent in end-of-life care. I was burning out and I didn't know it. I suddenly quit and four days later was at a monastery.
Instinctively, I dove into my long denied spiritual longings and, as they were fed, they brought me back to life. This time, I set aside the “should” and that led me to discovering executive coaching as the perfect, short feedback loop with what most deeply drives me: I become a partner in others’ pursuit of self-knowledge. We work together to engage with the world more consciously. My decades of global-level leadership have given me experience with how one’s own sense of self can shape struggles and successes at work. Now I get to help others look at the invisible inside themselves and I discover more about myself as I work! This job is a dream come true, it feels like what I’m made to do!
How do you describe Executive Coaching to others?
Typically when people seek out coaching, they feel stuck in something and suspect that the issue isn’t just about that thing, it may also be about them. So, I describe coaching as less about changing the way the wind is blowing and more about changing how you set your sail in response to the wind. It’s a partnership to become conscious of what’s unseen so you expand your range of possibilities.
It’s you in the middle of your context, becoming more aware and intentional. We look at the mental models and values you are operating from that may limit the possibilities you perceive. We examine assumptions and emotions, and how these inform your behavior. We undertake experiments to practice helpful shifts.
What really excites me is skillfully exploring life’s many paradoxes with clients: How can we transform ourselves to become more authentic? How do we change ourselves to change the systems that shape us? I want my work to support a more vibrant and loving world so I think of coaching as helping people be more vibrant and loving in the middle of whatever they're working at.
What is one project you are particularly proud to have accomplished?
I feel most fulfilled when, as a result of working with me, someone feels more free and powerful being themselves. I've especially noticed this result with clients in Executive roles who are often the only one like themselves in positions of power. For example, one of the projects I’m proud of is coaching folks in venture capital who aren’t the typical face of VC: women and people of color, some at boutique firms, some at the big Sand Hill names, who often struggled with self-doubt or self-criticism that is scary even to admit to in their context. When I hear from clients like them that they feel more liberated or empowered, that maybe they’ve reached for something their imposter syndrome or inner critic would have previously kept them from trying, I feel… well, it’s hard to even describe the sense of joy and gratitude I feel to get to be a part of that happening.
What are the skills that are most important for someone to succeed in Executive Coaching?
I think the most important skill is wonder: a joyful and humble curiosity. I work one-on-one and with groups, and with both I try to stay open to being surprised by them. This is difficult to do because I, like many of us, get confidence and safety from knowing. It’s much tougher to wonder than it is to know!
What wonder challenges us to do is to build comfort with ambiguity. It requires a love of mystery. These are crucial because people are not formulas. No one is a flat character. Each person includes the vast, complex depth of the whole of humanity. Rather than assuming that I know someone, I try science’s approach: everything I know is just my current hypothesis, the most validated by data to-date – until new data!
A constant practice of being alert to and agile with what's really happening right now – in the territory, not on the map – is the most important skill for coaching, and, I think for life (which is why I coach to begin with!). We have to be even more open to not knowing than we are to knowing, which is exciting and scary. As a sidenote: I actually created the domain Wonderiffic just out of my love of wonder as the best part of being alive. I don’t know if I’ll ever use it, but I think we’d all benefit from wondering at the world more!
How have you worked with the Internal Communications discipline?
Internal communications can be understood through what's happening within your body. You need clear, strong, and well-coordinated signals between your organs, neurons, cells, etc. It’s an incredibly beautiful and fine-tuned orchestra. Even if individual body parts work fine, if they don’t communicate with each other, you can wind up in the ER!
My engagement with internal communications typically arises when there are breakdowns in the Executive Team I’m working with. Often an inquiry into internal communications surfaces relational blocks that impact effective collaboration. This is where my work intersects.
More positive than breakdown is getting organizations to operate more tightly. Where are there leaks of energy and attention, or friction in coordination? This may show up in cultural differences or lack of shared agreements about how individual and organizational needs are navigated: what modes or platforms are used for what kinds of communication; at what frequency or level of detail/summary; who wants to make decisions by messages versus meetings; etc.
It's about serving people’s distinct needs but the challenge is often in folks stepping closer to meet each other. Logistical protocol can get codified and internal communications folks have the expertise on this, but when it comes to the cultural and relational needs of the organization, I work with them to surface critical blocks and bring the team to convergence.
How do you continue learning about your field?
My primary mode of improving as a coach is through intrapersonal exploration, then interpersonal and systemic. These are nested layers so learning in one influences the others but it’s a helpful distinction for focus.
Within myself, I work hard at waking up to my own unconscious reflexes. For example, I take a month of silent solitude in nature in a way that brooks no distractions from confronting myself: no talking, no devices, no reading, not even any eye contact with anyone! It’s awful and awesome. I simply can’t avoid myself, I have to face whatever comes up. It helps me build my muscle of awareness and equanimity, of seeing myself more clearly and accepting what I find.
Interpersonally, I learn most by working with an incredibly diverse set of clients. I work with folks in the C-suite and with brand-new college graduates. I work with professionals in America, Asia, Europe, and Africa. I work with experienced, senior Executives leading hundreds of people at blue chip firms, and with under-represented people just entering the professional world through workforce development programs. I learn to be a better coach by working with clients from different backgrounds and in different contexts, because I learn new ways to connect about the deep stuff we’re working on across these differences. I also learn about the underlying, universal layer we all share. And I have colleagues and peers who, thankfully, take time to share teachings with me.
For systemic learning, I participate in various communities of knowledge. This might be through my work at Stanford University or it might be through workshops by indigenous leaders. It might be listening to podcasts or reading books. I seek out content related to macro-level conditions that my clients and I are operating in, especially social and eco-justice issues. I think this is crucial because there’s an obvious trend of increasing breakdowns at bigger-scale and more complex levels of the systems we inhabit. The world is calling all of us to be more responsive to its needs. I try to understand that call for my work and attune to it in my clients' work.