Business Monday

Business coach on facing workplace challenges: ‘It’s all about the mind-set’

Rajan ‘Bobby’ Chopra is CEO at Chopra Coaching, Miami.
Rajan ‘Bobby’ Chopra is CEO at Chopra Coaching, Miami.

Born and raised in India into a humble family, Rajan “Bobby” Chopra learned early about the importance of hard work, setting goals, taking risks in furthering his education and pursuing his dreams. His journey led him from India to Sweden to earn an MBA, before arriving in New York, where he worked as a consultant for an international accounting firm and then as a successful derivatives trader on Wall Street for 30 years.

In between stints on Wall Street, Chopra had senior C-suite roles at public and private companies, founded businesses, and served as an advisor to senior executives and CEOs. He moved to Miami six years ago and now lives here full time. A year ago, he built on his long experience in the corporate world and founded Chopra Coaching. He now coaches, advises and mentors senior business leaders, entrepreneurs and investment professionals and helps them grow from good to great. At the same time, Chopra makes time to empower Miami’s youth and their families by teaching financial literacy seminars through a partnership he created with “Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami.”

A strategic thinker with a curious mind, Chopra says he enjoys helping clients bring positive change, innovate and grow into great business leaders

Q. As a coach to high level executives, what exactly do you do?

A. Coaching in general is about looking forward. It is a process of helping people develop a way of thinking that will enable them to make better decisions consistently and sustainably over time. For example, I am coaching the CEO and executive team at a Fortune 200 company on leadership development, business strategy and innovative thinking. These are already very successful and smart people who want to become even better. They want someone from the outside, an objective, forward-thinking coach who is a sounding board and guide to their future growth and success.

Q. Is business coaching only for upper level managers?

A. Coaching is for anyone who wants to get better at things they are doing. Often getting better in your career requires changing your mind-set. All of us have blind spots, certain self-limiting beliefs, such as “I can’t do it.” After someone changes his mind-set, the next step is to change habits and routines ingrained in the subconscious. A good coach will help a client break any process down into small parts, help them look at things the way they are, and help them move forward and make better decisions.

Q. What is the biggest challenge your clients are dealing with now?

A. There is no No. 1 challenge. There are so many, depending on where you are in the organization and the industry you are in. The CEO’s challenge is having an effective management team he can inspire and motivate. It is also dealing with competitive pressures and navigating through change, along with being able to reward stakeholders — investors, employees, customers and the community. For others, there are several large spheres of challenges, but you can break them into smaller ones. Some are quick fixes and some need more time.

Q. What advice do you give to people whose industries are going through rapid change, as many are at this time?

A. People whose industries are going through rapid change have got to have an open mind-set. They have to be quick to recognize new information, new knowledge and not be fixated or bound by yesterday’s plan. It’s critical to have the ability to recognize change, face the new reality and adapt to it. It’s all about the mind-set. An entrepreneur must continuously evaluate and test his business thesis for relevance and validity. He must consider how the competitive environment is changing and what other challenges he could face. He must ask, “How do we navigate through this? What resources do we need? Do we need to change something?” We all need to think, determine and act on the opportunities and challenges that impact us.

Q. What do you tell clients who are facing challenges, working long hours and on the verge of burnout?

A. When I am coaching people, I take a holistic approach. What happens at the office impacts our personal lives and whatever happens in our personal lives impacts us in the workplace. With that perspective I have to first establish deep trust with clients and when I do, you would be surprised at what comes out and one gets the whole picture and see how work and personal lives are impacting each other. It is important to understand what motivates people to get up and go to work. For some people, it is not just a paycheck. Good productive workers are motivated by something bigger. There has to be some passion that drives them. We try to determine what that passion is and channel that energy.

There is good stress, like the passion an entrepreneur experiences when he is working until midnight and is physically exhausted but is emotionally charged. There is also negative stress, the kind that brings us down, makes us sad and frustrated and often borders on depression. You start feeling like you want to quit your job. When you see those signs, you should seek help. Talk to a mentor, a coach. You might need to figure out how to make your relationship with your boss better, or how to make time to go to the gym, or take vacations, or whatever helps to relieve stress. Each individual situation is different.

Q. How did you avoid burnout while working on Wall Street?

A. I lasted a lot longer than most of my peers because I had a good balance with hobbies. I did two things to relieve stress. I played golf every weekend and raced Porsches. I had a happy family life. Those outlets gave me space and brought peace. But more importantly, I recognized that as trader you live and die a hundred times a day. Sometimes you made good decisions and at other times bad decisions. But I recognized that was the nature of the profession. Not every trade is going to be a winner. You have to be able to ride the roller coaster, know and accept that the waters are choppy most of the time. It comes back to having the right mind-set.

Q. Is it possible to make yourself indispensable, so that your employer or clients not only want to give you a raise, but see you as an absolute part of their business?

A. It is and it begins by demonstrating integrity — honesty, reliability, responsiveness and commitment to what’s in the best interest of the client at all times, and not only when it’s convenient. You also have to go beyond what is expected and over-deliver — better, more and sooner than promised. You have to be responsive to a client’s schedule and needs, not your own, and think of how you can benefit the client in ways the client has not even thought of or requested. You have to promptly admit and hold yourself accountable for mistakes made and rectify fast if fixable.

Q. You do a good amount of mentoring. How is mentoring different from coaching?

A. As a coach, I let people determine their goals, set the agenda and make their own choices. I get involved to encourage their thinking and to make sure they stay on track. In a coaching relationship, I’m not bringing judgment to the table and I don’t influence the process. A mentor, on the other hand, brings his previous experiences, knowledge and insights, shares them with the mentee, and influences the process. A mentor guides people towards specific choices and decisions. I have mentored many people over my career.

Q. What has your experience been as a mentor in the Miami community?

A. When I go to “Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami,” I think of myself when I was younger and try to remember what I needed then and what answers I was looking for. ... Financial literacy is a big part of it. Financial literacy is the backbone of anything we choose to do in our lives. It is like air we have to breathe. Kids need to understand the important role money plays in pursuing their dreams. I teach them about saving and investing and I am busting industry myths. As a mentor, I’m not asking anything in return. I am not selling them insurance or financial products or anything else for that matter. My return is my fulfillment.

Q. As someone who has reinvented himself in Miami, what is your impression of the business community?

A. Miami has grown for the better. There is more arts and culture, more business formations, more employment. Still, a lot more needs to be done in terms of business and employment. The city needs more intellectual capital and it needs to attract talent. It needs to shed its image as a party town or vacation place for transients.

Q. Do you believe anyone in Miami can live his or her dream?

A. I do, however, a dream is going to stay a dream unless you act on it. I don’t believe in excuses. You have to have the hunger and the passion to succeed. Nobody has to be average — we can all be extraordinary. All it takes is determination.

Rajan ‘Bobby’ Chopra

Age: 65

Title: Leadership and professional development coach, advisor and mentor to senior executives, entrepreneurs and investment professionals. CEO at Chopra Coaching, Miami

Previous experience: Market Risk Advisors, Cantor Fitzgerald & Co., Newedge USA, Prebon Bandwidth, JP Morgan Chase, RCN Corporation, PriceWaterhouseCoopers

Education: Bachelor of commerce, University of Delhi, 1973; MBA, Stockholm University, 1978; certified professional coach, University of Miami, 2016

Personal: Born and raised in New Delhi, India, moved to U.S. to work at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in New York. Became an interest rates derivatives trader on Wall Street at age 36. Founder and co-founder of several startups.