Ways to Choose a Good Coach

If you are convinced that a coach would be the right “intervention” professional for yourself or your organization, how do you go about choosing the right one? Here are some ways you can do so.

1 Coaching Qualifications

Ask them where they get their coaching training from, and for how long. By international coaching standards, they should have logged at least 100 coaching hours before they are competent to coach others. Be careful of those who are “jack of all trade” where they are consultant, trainer, coach etc. Can they make a good coach? A tip here: ask them what is coaching and what they as a coach would do for you. Use your gut feelings to help you decide if you are satisfied with their answers.

2 Coaching Experiences

Ask them to narrate their coaching work and experiences that they do for individuals and/or organizations. Find out the kind of individuals and/or organizations they are representing. It will tell you a lot about them.

3 Coaching References

Although coaching clients may be reluctant to talk to you, you may be able to find some who are willing to share about their coach’s abilities and whether they are satisfied with the services they provide. Find out the coaching techniques that they use.

4 Coaching Terms & Conditions

This is a must in order to determine the type of coaching relationship you want. All these areas need to be discussed and agreed: duration, frequency, logistics, replacements dates and coaching fees.

5 Coaching Trial Session

It is common to ask for a free trial session where you can experience coaching with a coach. Liken it to the small cup of free coffee offered to you by the promoter at the supermarket. It gives you the opportunity to see and feel whether you are “triggered” by the coaching proceedings, the rapport building, the questions asked and the new ways

you are beginning to think! And, it will reveal to you what will happen if you were to engage a coach.

6 Coaching-Personality

Since it is certain that you will meet the coach face to face, you will have first-hand experience to find out more about him/her such as self-projection, self-credibility, self-confidence, the questions they asked and the answers they provided, and most of all, whether you feel you will be in the good hands of someone you can truly trust and rely upon.

Coaching Workouts

1 What would be some reasons why you should engage a coach? What are you looking for in a good coach? How do you define “good”?

2 What are you prepared to “give up” if you were to engage a coach? What are you not prepared to give up? Why not?

3 Of the 6 areas above, which one would you be prepared to compromise? What would be some consequences of this choice?

Coaching, Distinctively Different!

I want to talk about something different today, that is, what’s the difference between coaching and other helping or intervention professionals such as therapists, mentors, consultants, etc.
 
Let me share a testimonial. A doctor client in a coaching conversation said this to me, “It has been a long time since someone like you are spending every minute of this conversation just talking and listening about me. In my profession, I tell people what they are, what they need, and they have to listen to me.”
 
Very often, I can see the faces of my coaching clients lit up and look so fascinated yet so touched that everything is centered on them!
 
This is what happens when you put people in the center of the coaching relationship. Coaches like other helping professionals such as mentors, consultants and counselors have to learn this and faithfully follow this golden rule that their relationship with their clients must reflect their needs. It is an intentional design which offers value of meaning and usefulness to the persons receiving them.
 
How do we put people as the main focus in a coaching session? There are at least 3 aspects.
 
1) FOCUS. Both the coach and client focuses on the client. This makes the relationship different from a “friendship” type where both parties take turns to share the spotlight. In coaching, the spotlight rests brightly and firmly on the client with the coach acknowledging his/her humanness!
 
2) CONTENT. In coaching, the client sets the agenda, and comes out with the issues or topic they want to work on in the session. This approach differs from many other helping professions where the professionals such as organizational consultants, therapists, human resource professionals set the agenda rather than the client. They offer valuable services but they are not coaching. In coaching, the client has the opportunity to direct the conversation, although the coach manages the coaching process and structure.
 
3) STYLE. Both the coach and client brings their own relating styles to the conversation, ie the way they talk to each other including the pace, tone, gravity etc. Coaches are keen observers and will follow the lead of their clients and match their moods accordingly.
 
And at the end of it all, the client feels that they have been heard and the coach cares about them! And this is one secret ingredient that makes coaching so life-transforming and empowering for many!
 
Coaching Workouts
 
  • Try spending time with a child. Let the child sets the agenda for the time together. After that, think about the experience.
  • Think of a time when someone places all his/her attention on you. What did the person do or not do, and how do you feel?
  • When are the times when you wanted to push forward your agenda? What prompted you to do it? What did you learn from it? What would you do now to put the spotlight on the other person rather than on yourself?

Fighters of a Different Kind


It has been 3 months since I started my blog. What an insightful and pleasant journey it has been as my thoughts and reflections reach out far and wide to my friends, fellow coaches and the cyberworld at large!

Coming back to my last post, I hope you have found it useful to reflect on things I have shared as you go through your daily life. I encourage you to share your thoughts etc with me and others who have been following my blog, by clicking on “Comment”. You can also forward the blog post to your friends who might be needing a “virtual helping hand” in their moments of discouragement or dilemma.

In this post, I want to share something about fighters. It is not a story about Mohammad Ali or Mike Tyson. They may fight for fame and money. Many of us do not have the muscles or the ambitions to be world-beaters in the boxing ring. Instead, we want to be fighters of a different kind, where the battles are everyday affairs. Let me explain a bit more.

In life, many of us have no choice but to fight especially those of us who have ever faced illness or a life-threatening situation. Similarly, a mother will fight in childbirth to delivery her baby safely, and a new jobseeker will fight to secure a job. There are other battles where we fight for love, security, acceptance and a better way of life. And of course, there are those martyrs who are prepared to die in their fight for freedom from oppression.

Nearer home, there are enough for us to fight the good fight in our everyday lives even as we strive to live by our principles of decency, integrity and leading by example.

The problem I have struggled with for a long time is reconciling the concept of “going with the flow of life” and “fighting the good fight”. At first glance, they seem to be incompatible; in reality, they are not. “Going with the flow” does not mean that we passively take in whatever life dishes out, or that life is always smooth and wonderful.
For me, that is what “fighting the good fight” is all about – making a stand and doing your best according to your conscience and what you know is right.

So, I salute you with “fight the good fight” as a clarion call to be warriors of light (to borrow a term from Paulo Coelho) with the intention to leave this world a better place than when we came into it! Come to think of it, it is a fight all on its own where, with each battle, we send out some ripples into the world!

Compromise or Sacrifice

If you are asked to define “compromise” and “sacrifice”, what would you say? Are they the same or different?

Compromise is about lowering our demands and expectations on people or the things we want, while sacrifice is about giving up something in order to get something even bigger. So, which one gives you greater happiness? Let’s examine both a bit more.

The word “compromise” is an interesting concept. Somewhere along our lives, many of us would have come to believe that compromise is the only way to keep the peace and stay happy. The paradoxical reality is that compromise causes frustrations and unhappiness simply because you cannot have your cake and eat it too! Like someone has said, “If you limit your choices only to what seem possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want and all that is left is a compromise.”

The word ‘sacrifice’ is a more empowering word. To me, it is the best and only way to find peace and happiness. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating sainthood or martyrdom in your quest to find and live a life of happiness, purpose and meaning. Really, it is about what you are willing to GIVE UP or sacrifice in order to have the life you want.”

Ask those who are successful in life and they can narrate details of sacrifices they have had to make to achieve their dreams or goals. This is because anyone who is serious about having something different in his/her life has to be 100% committed. Anything less is a compromise.

Powerful Questions:
• How often do you have to choose between “compromise” or “sacrifice” as defined above?
• What does it involve?
• What will make you decide if it is important enough to pursue it?
• What action/s will you take?
• What action/s will you not take?

To Resolve or To Resign?

Recently, I went to Sudan to coach a group of engineers to become coaches. For them being highly technical people, such soft skills concepts like Coaching were totally new to them.

After the session, a small group of them came privately to confide in me that, while they are excited about using their new coaching skills, they are also worried and concerned about their current reputation and credibility in the eyes of their subordinates. From what they told me, the relationship between them and their subordinates have not been good for a long time.

Inevitably, the subject revolved around 2 options:

Option 1 – To “resign”, meaning, to give up their plans to be coach-leaders; or
Option 2 – To ‘”resolve”, meaning, to find a solution to their concerns.

So, the million-dollar question was : which of these two was better.

Often in our lives, we are faced with having to exercise one of these two options as a way to get out of our woes or predicament. Whatever decision we choose will impact us differently. So, when we are at the crossroads of having to choose an option, we better think hard.

In my opinion, “to resolve” means having the courage to get it over and ensuring that the issue is laid to rest. There is a finality and acceptance to the issue and we also learn to adopt a perspective to challenge it with greater clarity should it surfaces again.

On the other hand, “to resign” is another kettle of fish altogether. It implies that there is a great feeling of powerlessness around us. It is a kind of shrugging off our shoulders as we have no power or choice in the matter.

So, what’s the next move?

The first thing to do is to ask ourselves what our value is and why is it important to us. Very often, we spend an inordinate amount of time thinking, talking and reacting over stuff that are not really important in our lives. In the bigger scheme of things, does it really matter?

Take an example of your spouse or friend not appreciating what you have bought for her/him, or your boss’s “bad taste” remark that your children do not listen to you! What’s your immediate reaction? Get upset, angry, or frustrated? Start an argument even though you know you may not win? Blame the other party and wait for an apology (which may not come, or takes a long time to come)? Wait for the other person to change his/her ways?

Or you can take time out to reflect on what’s really going on and look for an opportune time to talk it out when the emotions are not so high. Now, for the important part – act on what you know now. It is no point keeping it to yourself or hope the other party can read your mind and make the first move. Always remember, it is your call!

Do you always have to do this? No. It depends on the sort of relationship you want to have and the kind of life you are willing to work for. You can either work towards resolution or resignation. The choice is yours!

Powerful Questions:
• How often do you have to choose between “resolve” or “resign” as defined above?
• What does it involve?
• What will make you decide if it is important enough to pursue the issue?
• What action will you take?
• How will you feel about it?

Knowing the "Deeper You"

In this post, I would like to talk about the “deeper you”.

To start, I remember a quotation : “We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” I cannot remember who wrote it but it stayed in my mind for years.

Think about it: What does it mean to you? It seems a straightforward statement but yet can cause some confusion, second-guessing and even arguments! I came to the conclusion that the real you are not seen from the outside, but is found deeper in you.

When you ask someone, “Who are you?”, how much will you know him or her? If I were asked this question, I would say that I am a father to my children, a spouse to my wife, a corporate coach, a friend to many, a servant of God, a boss to my staff, blah, blah, blah… But do you really know who am I? I don’t think it will be very much. This is the first level of me.

Let’s go a bit deeper. How do you describe your personality? If I were asked this question, I would say “action-oriented, focused, assertive, fast-moving, lover of jazz and blues, etc.” Do you now know me? Yes, a little more than before.

Like many others, my personality has been influenced by the events that took place in the early years of my life. My dad was very disciplined and strict to us and I had learnt quite a bit of his ways. When young, many of my friends were musicians and we wanted to be different from our “next door neighbors” so we dressed differently, and played and listened to different sets of music. A large part of this stayed with me till today. This is the second level of me. So, do you know about me? Yes, a little more, but not all of me.

The third level of “me” would have much to do with my beliefs and what I want out of life. If asked, I would say this : “I always want to be positively dissatisfied so that I keep searching for improved ways of doing things, thinking out of the box, and looking for new possibilities where others only see problems.” Know a bit more about me? Certainly, yes.

Which leads me to this question: As a coach, do we need to go deeper to find out more about the person after having gone down three levels? My answer is a resounding “Yes” if there is a valid reason to do so. We need to find out the extent of misalignment between their actions and the bigger purpose of their life. Only then can we support them to reach the goals they really want. Not only my clients but many of us (including you and me) cannot explain why they do the things they do. Take me for instance, I know a lot of me and I can explain why and how I came to be the person I am today, but I still do not have sufficient explanation to know the real me fully.

For me, I like this challenge of my life. Apart from the intellectual stimulation, this journey of self-discovery has indeed helped me make peace with myself over so many issues. I can now succeed more in separating my behaviors from my “beingness”.

And, at the end of the day, if we are able to help your clients fulfill their goals and life purpose, the journey of their self-discovery would have been worth it.

Some questions to ponder…
• How well do you really know yourself?
• What do you need to do to know even more of yourself?
• How can you help someone close to know themselves more?
• What do you gain when you do this for yourself, and others?
What do you think? Would you like to share your thoughts with me?

Small Wins, Quick Success


Let us suppose we have defined our goal/s for our lives, say, for the next 2-3 years, in several important areas. And for each of them, we have the “perfect” Action Plan. Then, why do we still delay and not act when we already had said that we wanted to? And why is it that we still fail when the Action Plan is meticulously laid out and all set for success?

Many coaches, managers and people in the street will have many such “paradoxes” that make us wonder what then is missing or not right about the commitment we have made or the Action Plan/s we have created.

What I do know from my years as a coach is that a commitment can mean nothing, or a plan can still remain hazy if we do not create small steps to gain quick success or small wins as fast as possible.

Is there a winning formulae that can be applied in all situations or coaching issues? For me, for example, I jog a fair bit to keep healthy and at the last 100m or so of my jogging circuit, I have 2 routes to choose: a “lazy” route which is definitely easy but does not give me the satisfaction of a good aerobic workout for my heart, or a challenging route that goes uphill. As I prefer to take the more challenging route, the answer or formulae is to break the distance to be covered based on the 3 bus stops enroute. The motivating thing is when I get to the first bus stop, it fuels my desire to reach the second one, and then the third. By then, I would be “over the hill”. Wow! What a great joy and sense of satisfaction!

So what is the learning lesson? Break it up into bite sizes. For example, you want to make a big commitment, but you delay taking action. Why? Because the commitment is too huge with results that will only be known in the near or distant future. So, the waiting time is long, and there is nothing you can shout about right now.

What is more important is our intention to get it done with small broad steps instead of a beautiful detailed plan. And while we are in that process, we should have some fun and throw caution to the wind a little.

And this is what business coaches do when they talk about the importance of focus. It is really on the intent to achieve the activity and, along the way, putting in small steps to allow for change/s. Each step will reveal the next step of the journey, even as we keep our eyes on the big picture and not on the small details which can trip us up.

So, go out there and get some quick wins and early success fast!

Some questions to ponder:
1) When in a pursuit for a goal, what exactly do you want out of it?
2) What is the big picture of your overall action plan?
3) Why is it important for you to want it?
4) What will keep you focused in getting it?
5) How can you have fun and enjoy the journey?

The Most Important Goal in Your Life

In my last post, I talked about moving out of my comfort zone to venture out on my own. What would best describe my inner values? For some people it is passion, challenge, love, determination, gung-ho spirit, etc. For me it is “courage”. Why? “Courage’ compels people to go down the unconventional path, take risks, and face difficulties that timid souls will avoid.

I took this word of ‘courage’ further in my recent article. In it I said that courage is the most important attribute that anyone can ever long to have. There are many goals that all wish to pursue, especially those tangible (or materialistic) ones. Go for them by all means, but make sure one of them (and the most important one) is to know ourselves so well that it will help us build our courage.

Many of our life’s goals are temporary in nature. We want a car, house, rewarding career, even a lovely creature to live with ‘forever’. However, they will be taken away from us one day. There is no guarantee of permanence in any of them. Rather sobering, isn’t it? But it is true!

So what is something that has permanence and is 100% worth working towards? It must be a goal that is not dictated by forces beyond our control such as our bosses, the economy, nature or another person. It is this goal: “self-knowledge”. Simply put, it answers the question: “Who am I?”

Self-knowledge is about gaining deeper and deeper knowledge of ourselves or what we are made of. It means gaining so much of our awareness that we discover more and more of who and what we are, and it unfolds more and more layers of our untapped potential so that we can discover and use them to touch more lives.

On the flip side, there are people around us who have been “asleep” throughout their lives, refusing to learn and grow from life’s experiences and stubbornly declaring their innocence, ignorance or even proclaiming that there is nothing else to learn or that they are already living a perfect life and are perfect human beings!

Some questions to ponder:

  • What’s your experience in gaining self knowledge?
  • How does that help to grow your courage?
  • What have you used your courage for?
  • What are those that you still are building your courage for?
  • What can you tell others of your experience?

The Consequences of Choice

If you have been following my Saturday articles in the New Straits Times (NST), you would have noticed that I talked a fair bit about my personal life, besides coaching and HR topics.

Why do I open up my life to “public scrutiny”? It is a risk I am taking like there could be misinterpretation of meanings and intentions, loss of privacy (to some extent) including losing ‘credibility’ as well. But I decided to throw caution to the wind because I believe that to a great extent that what I have, and am going through my life represents some parts of what others like you may have gone (and will be going) through. And if I have learned from them, then others can learn from them too. Thus, the bigger purpose for what I‘m doing for the community (and society) far surpasses the little concerns that I have just mentioned.

In one of my recent articles entitled ‘ Limits On Limitations’, I shared why some seven years ago, I chose not to be an employee anymore, although I was then a top executive in a very dynamic and successful organization. Since leaving I founded 2 companies – Corporate Coach & Corporate Coach Academy as well as being involved in other businesses in tourism-related industries.

Besides giving up a lot of perks and benefits, it is more hard work now, more than my “employee days”.  Being CEO (Chief “Everything” Officer), I have to do almost everything and, with the current economic situation, bear more “headaches” too. Yet, the bottom-line is that I am really happy with what I am doing now. I can express myself more; there is greater autonomy; and I am my own boss to top it all!

Not everyone would have the courage to take the path I have taken. The key word here is “choice”. Once we have made our choice, we accept the consequences of our choice. Using my example, I would be so frustrated if I had stayed on and be unable to do the things that express my inner passion and motivation.

I hope mine is a lesson to those who are still wasting their time whining about their life, employers, closed ones etc and not taking any action to change the circumstances of their life.

The most important thing that matters is to feel empowered in your choices and be able to live your life with honor, humility and passion. And, perhaps more importantly, it is to be able to embrace ALL of life and accept ALL life’s consequences that come from our choices and decisions.

If you have taken the same path as I have, what were your experiences like? What significant lessons did you learn along the way? How would you help someone who is about to embark on something similar but is having “big butterflies in the stomach”?

 

Join My ‘Stories That Coach’ Blog Community

At last! I am now able to take my coaching thoughts and experiences across to many more people, many more cultures and many more countries. For many years I have been a columnist for the Malaysian media, New Straits Times. Until this ‘blog thing’ became a new and powerful reality in communication technology, I had only been able to ‘talk down’ to mostly Malaysians, giving my one-sided views on how I would overcome their life and work challenges that they asked me to.

Although I was much fulfilled for being able to touch lives in this way, it was grossly inadequate. I wanted to do more but I could not. The circle was rigidly limited; the communication was a dry monologue that was restricted to my views alone. I was sure that they were many out there who wanted to give their many cents’ worth as well but couldn’t.

I am so elated now that this constraint has been lifted; it is now a piece of my own history. With my blog, I am now able to take Coaching to many more levels. I visualize myself as an ‘idea stirrer’ (a better word is ‘facilitator’) to stimulate a world community of like-minded helping professionals of coaches, consultants, trainers, therapists, including ordinary people who are driven by a passion to help themselves and others grow in their lives.

Join me to create a new world of living and meaning made possible through coaches and coaching. Join me ‘grow a vibrant coaching community’, that’s my life mission on this planet. It can be yours too.

Mike's Blog Posts