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Ashlesh Rao: Coach par Excellence!

Updated: Apr 11, 2021

“Nobody needs coaching but everybody can benefit from it. If you look around, most people who are performing at their highest level, have a coach!”

These are the words of someone who is not just an awesome and much-loved person but an excellent coach who has transformed the lives of many. He is the one who introduced me to the world of Neuro Linguistic Programming! Ashlesh Rao has more than 20 years of experience in this field. Apart from coaching individuals and organizations, developing coaches and leaders, he also leads innovative, fun, creative workshops for teachers, managers, children and groups, assisting people discover what they truly want, moving to the next level and being happy.

Read on to discover how he designed his life in a way, that continues to be beneficial for everyone he engages with…

1. Tell us a bit about your journey into the field of NLP and the history & span of your work.

My wife, Monica and I started learning NLP in 2001. We happened to stumble upon it and learnt from some fabulous teachers and masters - Fr. Dick McHugh, Owen Fitzpatrick, Dr William Horton, Tony Robbins, Mr Prakash and Janakiram from the HAL management Academy and so many absolutely wonderful teachers.

When I first started learning NLP, I was actually quite confused and struggled to understand and apply the teachings, but, after sometime, the dots began to start connecting and soon we realized that this was a very powerful medium for transformation and went all-guns-blazing to go deeper into this work.

Both Monica and I, started working with people immediately after our NLP practitioner program. We engaged for free for about a year and a half. We worked with children, homemakers, professionals, CEOs, sports people and we knew we were doing something right, because, we saw people producing results in their lives and coming back for more and a lot of people were being referred to us as well.

From 2002, we started conducting our NLP Practitioner program, which became our flagship program and over the last 18 years, thousands of people have been through our training.

We have been blessed to work with people in different aspects of life and have seen people produce better results in their personal lives, have more confidence, transform their health, be more productive at work and in general be happy with themselves.

We also had a lot of people approach us wanting to do work with people and contribute to others, so, in 2010 we started bringing our attention to developing NLP coaches. Both Monica and I are very proud to see some wonderful coaches graduate from our academy. Our focus right now is on developing Excellent NLP coaches.

2. Tell our readers a bit more about what NLP is, top concepts and the different areas where it can be applied ?

NLP is a study of excellence. it is about understanding how people produce excellence in their lives and how we can learn those patterns to model that excellence, thereby accelerating our results.

For example, you will find that the best teachers, have similar patterns of communication and approach.

Their teaching style and personalities may differ, but at the core, they run similar unconscious patterns that helps them be excellent at their work. By modelling their patterns of excellence, we can also become excellent at teaching.

Another example is someone who seems to manage stress really well versus someone who tends to get stressed very easily. You will notice that the person who tends to get stressed easily, does certain things unconsciously that creates the stress and the person who tends to be stress-free and relaxed, tends to do things unconsciously too.

NLP can be used in almost any area of life, where people are concerned - Education, Coaching, Business, Health, Sports, Learning, building better Relationships, increasing Self-Confidence etc. are some of the areas where one can use NLP.

One of the things we saw last year was that a lot of people found it difficult to deal with the stress that came with the changes due to covid. A simple yet powerful NLP tool that we have used to help people through this period is called Dissociation.

Dissociation is the ability to mentally step out and watch situations as an observer. Generally, when people get stressed, they tend to either recall unpleasant memories or unpleasant futures as if they are reliving them and as a result, the nervous system tends to react to those images that we create in our minds, thereby creating anxiousness and stress.

If you look at someone who is has a phobia or fear of something (eg. cockroaches) versus someone who is not scared of cockroaches, the essential thing you will see is that the person who is scared of cockroaches will tend to imagine and actually see a big image of the cockroach right in front of their face.

And the person who isn’t scared of cockroaches tends to watch it as an observer and thereby the image tends to be a little more distant. This makes it easy for the nervous system to deal with the perceived situation and can give new ways of looking at the situation.

This one distinction changed my life and it is a mental skill that I highly recommend everyone to develop and master.

3. Which NLP practices can be built into daily rituals? Key tips.

There are many NLP practices that one can do, but I’m going to mention three daily rituals that I think are very useful:

1. Review Your Day

a. At the end of your day, sit back and look at your day. Quickly, run it as a movie.

b. When you notice something that you do not like, step back, watch it as an observer and watch yourself responding differently in that situation.

c. Take the actionable learnings from the situation.

Doing this will enable you to develop new perspectives and build new behaviours when faced with the situation in the future.

2. Re-living Positive States

Another ritual at the end of the day is to look at the good experiences and mentally step into those experiences and feel those experiences. This is something that I see a lot of people not do, because is so ingrained as a culture to look at what is wrong, what is missing, what is not okay and it is almost like if you cherish the good things and feel happy for your success then it is bad. I personally feel that this needs to go.

So, to be able to step into good feelings and feel those feelings (Association), would be something that I think is extremely important.

a. Look at the things that you liked

b. Step into this movie and experience it through your own eyes and feel the feelings.

This will enable one to start accessing positive emotions (which I see a lot of people are starved of). Learning to access your good memories play a huge role in feeling good and resourceful.

3. Visualizing Your Goals and Process

In having worked with few top sports people and performers, the one common trait that I have seen, is the ability to imagine the results that they want and imagine and rehearse the behaviours that they want to be able to do. Visualization helps strengthen beliefs, motivations and mental readiness, thereby, moving us closer to our dreams much faster.

There are 2 things that you can visualize:

a. The goals that you want

b. The behaviours that you want to do that can get you to get your goals.

These three daily rituals take no more than 5-7 minutes a day and go a long way in creating the life you want.

4. What made you set up Neoway Academy ? What were the challenges and high points of your journey?

When Monica and I got married, I was very clear that I didn't want to get another job. We wanted to be on our own but had no idea what to do and how to go about it. All I knew was that I wanted to work with people.

So, when I started learning NLP and began to get fairly good at it, we realized that this methodology was very powerful for personal change and thought that this could be a useful direction for us. It got clearer for us that we wanted our life to be more meaningful and we started seeing wonderful results that people produced in their lives through our workshops and one on one work. We just took one step at a time and before we knew it, we were running full workshops and had people from different parts of our country attend our workshops.

One of the main challenges that I experienced were my own self-doubts. I had lots of doubts about my ability to work with people, ability to produce results and the ability to deliver value. This took some time and there was a lot of work that I had to do to get competent at my craft. Here are a few of our USPs.

a. Our Programs: One of our highlights was seeing our NLP Practitioner programs run to full capacity and seeing the kind of breakthroughs that people created in their lives. It has been extremely humbling.

b. Client Breakthroughs: We have witnessed some incredible transformations in these years of working with people. One that stands out for me is the work that Monica did with a child who was said to have been dyslexic, and was unable to read and do well in class. Monica worked with the child for more than a year and saw the child turn around her life. To see the child go ahead and complete her Masters with distinction was very humbling for us.

c. Excellent Coaches: Over the years, we have seen some absolutely wonderful coaches emerge from Neoway. To see them excel and see their clients create wonderful results in their lives is very fulfilling and humbling for us.

d. Our graduates: We are blessed to have a fantastic group of professionals graduate out of Neoway. This network is as strong and close as that of a family. The sheer amount of goodwill we have earned from them has kept us moving forward positively.

e. Our Team: This is by far the most encouraging and rewarding part of running Neoway. Having an absolutely wonderful team has definitely been one of the biggest reasons why we grew, especially during the most challenging times.

5. Share any one or two stories or milestones from your career and life that have been transformational for you & why?

Ashwini Ponnappa (my first client!). I started working with her when she was 12 and saw her to go on to be one of the best Badminton players in our country and the world.

She was my first client and I had no idea what we were going to do, but, we just hit on a beautiful partnership. To see her produce such wonderful results was something that has been extra special for me. I learnt a lot while working with her and I think we both grew through this partnership.

We are also blessed to see our coaches and trainers do absolutely beautiful work - working with people in different areas of life whether it be in dealing with phobias, allergy cures, or being able to help people at an emotional level, producing breakthrough results at work and a lot more.

6. What have been your biggest learnings in the past year 2020, that has been truly unusual due to the pandemic?

2020 was a disruption for almost all of us.

What I saw was that some people adapted and got flexible and some people froze with the situation. Initially I froze and was completely clueless because we had no idea what was going to happen. But, Monica was extremely encouraging and helped me snap out of my trance and helped me go back to work.

From a work point of view, last year was most hectic for us. It felt like we were working all the time. It took a little time for me to get used the changes in our lives, but we found that we were able to make a difference through our online workshops. Many old clients reached out to us seeking support in terms of dealing with their emotions and anxiety.

One of the biggest learnings for me in the day year 2020 has been the importance of doing little things, building a strong foundation and a strong routine. The reason I say this is because with the pandemic, a lot of people had lost their daily routine that they were used to. Simple things like not being able to read the newspaper alone while having a cup of tea, not being able to go for a walk, not having their own personal space at home while working… simple things like this were what people missed. And I could see how much a void it was creating! I realized the importance of simple daily certainties. A lot of people shared with us that following simple daily routines has helped them get a hold of themselves and given them their grounding back.

I found a lot of people practice and benefit a lot from meditation.

The world has definitely changed in many ways and I don't know to what extent it can go back to what it used to be, but, it has also opened up opportunities of coming up with new ways of working, working online and setting up the possibility of more home-based businesses.

I also see the need for lots of coaches and empathetic people who can help people take the journey ahead.

7. What advice would you give to someone who is starting out as a coach?

The first thing I would suggest is to get in touch with why you want to become a coach? Does it really call you to work with people? Does ‘making a difference to others’ matter a lot to you? If your intent is clear, then maybe becoming a coach might be a useful direction for you.

Secondly, I would suggest treating coaching as a profession and go on to become an Excellent Coach. Don’t be satisfied just being good. There are many good coaches but there are very few Excellent coaches. When you are excellent at your craft, you will create clients and make a real difference. So, work your ass off and keep honing your skills to become excellent.

You can do that by working with more people. The more people you work with, the better you will get. It is as simple as that.

Thirdly, invest in your learning and yourself. I think it is very important to consistently learn and grow your coaching skills but also to grow and develop ourselves as human beings. I believe the product is not our coaching offer or package, the real product is you and I. We are the product and it is important for us to work on ourselves to grow to be the coach that our clients deserve.

8. What would be your advice to naysayers who aren't able to understand the ROI on coaching and the impact that being coached can make?

Well, the first thing I will say is that everybody has the right to choose to be coached or not.

“Nobody needs coaching but everybody can benefit from it. If you look around, most people who are performing at their highest level, have a coach!”

I have had the good fortune to work with some very successful and inspiring people in Sports and Business and the one thing that I see different with these people is the desire to keep working on themselves and constantly learning and growing.

When I was a student, I used to be a Badminton player (in Abu Dhabi) and I was quite talented. At the age of 13, my coach - Nagoor, took me under his wings and we went on a wonderful journey. In less than 6 months, I began to beat some of the top men’s players.

When I look back now, I know that I would never have gotten so good in such a short time if not for my coach. My results were Accelerated! That is exactly what the impact of coaching can be seen in - Accelerated Results.

9. You help people find clarity, direction, overcome limiting beliefs and express their fullest potential. How can people feel happier being authentic? Is there a secret sauce as per you?

I think the secret sauce is in the question itself! :)

I like to believe that most of have been programmed and have been sleep walking.

Many of us have been living in a world called “only when X happens…. “

For example..

Only when I look a certain way, can I call myself beautiful.

Only when I make so much money, can I feel rich.

Only if I go to this school, can I become successful.

We have unconscious rules that can stop us from experiencing our life fully.

I think the secret sauce is Awareness and Consciousness.

Through becoming aware and conscious, we can find clarity for ourselves, we can get in touch with what is truly important for us, we can get in touch with who we really are.

A client of mine once told me, “I don’t like the world that was presented to me. I refuse to live in that world. I am going to create my own world. My world is called ‘I am happy Being Me!’ ”.

Thanks Ashlesh for sharing your journey with us. It was a truly a pleasure to interview you!

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