Arrived in Seoul

November 23, 2010

My coaching sessions today were good, but a challenge. Notion of demand and being explicit and direct is a difficult one for some individuals. I’ve noticed this with other clients I’ve coached over the years. With audience in the room (was fun to have some of the younger folks in the office) both of my clients experienced that it is not about imposing will, but rather engaging on a meaningful level and giving the audience a reason to join in the discussion. I will work with both of the clients I had today again at the end of my trip. My sense is that given the mandate to create change in them quickly it would be best to give them two sessions close to each other.

When I return, I also will be working with one of my long-term clients, Scott—giving as he put it a “one point lesson” (golfing terminology). When I was last in Seoul, Scott and I met and had a conversation around his desire to introduce a new way to develop specific financial services expertise in Asia. His idea was dismissed by those above him. And then months later, this idea is now being spearheaded by those that initially dismissed it. Scott got lost in the mix. Scott, while culturally diverse in many ways, adheres to Asian ideas such as “an empty drum makes the most noise” and he can remain calm in the storm. This calmness manifests as quiet and gives others lots of airtime. However, there are moments when Scott needs to match some of the noise around him—or more to the point—find the way to be heard and command the authority of ownership around an idea. That is what we will focus on when we meet in a couple of weeks.

A former Communicating with Power & Presence participant introduced me to a friend of hers whom I met up with. Over a cappuccino after her workday, we talked about what it’s like to work in Korea. She has a mixed background—lived and worked in the US and now has returned to Seoul at her parent’s request. They would like her to get married. She’d rather not! Anyway, she gave me a glimpse of a young professional (she is 29) in Korea—open to an outside world and interested in things that most professionals in their late 20’s seem to care about. She is a Director in the Vice Chairman’s Office at an entertainment company. Sounds like she has opportunities to introduce and execute on her own ideas and I’m convinced she has a bright, long future ahead of her.  Enjoy these down times in between coaching where I can sit down and meet with people. I love learning about different cultures and careers and forging new relationships.

…Catching a flight to Tokyo.

Hong Kong

November 16, 2010

Arrived in Hong Kong to meet with my client Bill. He had his sixth of seven coaching sessions. In addition to excellent work he did in the coaching, Bill and I talked about: 1. His stepping down as Chairman of Asia; 2. The next successor taking on the role; 3. Bill’s new role as Chairman of China and what that will involve.

As often is the case, we had great conversations throughout the coaching. For example Bill reflected on his early consulting years in Boston. He has been with this firm for 27 years! He grew up here, so to speak, and got his early training in the ‘Wild West’ atmosphere of those days compared to the more systematized firm that exists today. As he reflected, he noted that today the firm is better—the processes in place for training consultants are a step forward. I could hear nostalgia for those other days however. The firm’s DNA is clearly packaged in guys like Bill who have strong roots and a long history. I talked about the new challenges that institutionalization of the brand brings—work you need to do with young consultants to spark that creativity and intuition that may be stymied in the current process. It’s not that big is bad. It’s the challenge of holding onto the pureness of the original DNA as growth happens and addressing developmental needs along the way. I mentioned the story of our coach Janice O’Rourke’s client. It’s the piece she wrote for the “In Session” section on the website.

In his new role as Chairman of China, he has some preparation. First, he will take off a few months to do a full immersion in the language. To build local clients, he has to speak their language. His current competency is basic conversation. He seems embarrassed about this. Who knows? He is a perfectionist. Maybe it’s better than he is saying. Nonetheless, he is poised to grow China. He said they need to develop leaders there. He senses that the partners in China are too junior at this point and wants to raise the bar.

For our next coaching session, we will work on his speech outlining his vision for China in his new role. I suggested we should collaborate now—so that he can begin thinking it out rather than trying to write this vision piece all at once. I will send him assignments via email—a serial development, if you will.

The overall coaching session went well. Bill has always been reluctant to bring in audience to get feedback. As a coach I know that while scary for the client, it is invaluable to catapult their growth and make the changes desired. The thing he wants—more intimacy in his communication—is the thing he is most anxious about. I pushed him to bring in audience by calling him a couple of weeks ahead of the coaching session to talk about my plan for the session. It worked. He handpicked two people who are in the finance department of the company, both Chinese and both old-timers like himself. Even though he orchestrated it and picked the individuals himself, having others in the room made a difference. He is one of those guys who can scan and almost get away with it. The biggest challenge for Bill is to stay with a person as he delivers a thought, to really see his audience. This was an excellent session for pushing him. Plus he wrote a wonderful piece about a person who had a huge impact on his life—his wife. A big surprise to me. It was well written, thoughtful and funny. Great material to work with.

At the close of the coaching I asked Bill if anyone has noticed any changes in him. He said it’s been things like people approaching him and saying they really liked the message—or really got what he was saying. Bingo. I told him I was thrilled to hear this. His speaking style is already very good so it would not be huge shifts or changes people would immediately experience. The changes would be more nuanced and subtle—and linked to creating a deeper, more intimate connection.

Next stop…  Seoul.

Last Day in India

November 9, 2010

The “Meet TAI and Experience Our Work” workshop that was supposed to happen in New Delhi didn’t. Why? Because it turns out the offices were closed the day it was scheduled for. Scheduling mishap. Despite this, Neelam, the woman who participated via teleconference in the “Taste of TAI Workshop” conducted in Mumbai during a previous trip requested time with me. She and I worked for two hours in my hotel room and it was quite wonderful. She is intensely focused on moving ahead—you can see it in her presence and hear it in what she says. She made some small shifts in a positive direction and knew she did. I asked her why it was so important to have this session—she had been in Mumbai in the morning and took a flight to meet with me at days end. She said when she watched the others being coached she saw changes happen from the first time to the second. She wanted that experience. Nice. She was lovely and didn’t mind working in my hotel room. We made the most of the space we had.

P.S. I am reading a book titled White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. It is a contemporary look at India and its development as it is happening. It’s a vivid telling of the growth, outsourcing and changes happening as told from one of the lower castes. I recommend it.

Overnight flight to Hong Kong.

First Stop… India

November 3, 2010

Flight to India was uneventful after a delayed departure due to technical problems. A bit disconcerting to witness two men clad in workman overalls appear from the bowels of the plane as I sat buckled into my seat thinking takeoff was imminent. In time they solved the problem and descended back into the bowels of the plane. The flight attendant stomped repeatedly on the square piece of carpet placed back on the spot in the floor that had allowed access from below.  I deleted these images from my mind and settled into the 14 hour flight. I had no trouble sleeping and arrived in New Delhi the next day rested and ready for my day, only to be reminded it was 8:30pm local time when I walked into the darkness and heat outside the airport.

New Delhi has grown and changed tremendously since my first visit a couple of years ago. The airport for example is greatly improved. It is looking much more like the international airports of other Asian cities. On my first visit in 2007, it was prehistoric in look and feel—and manic in energy. Lots of chaotic energy. Now that is reserved for just outside the airport.

The coaching session with my client went very well. This was session 7 of 8 for our Speaker Development Program, “Leader at a Critical Juncture.” I had expected he would write a speech related to running his new company. He will be the new CEO and has assembled what looks to be an excellent team. Instead he wrote the goodbye speech he will deliver to his fellow Indian colleagues at the firm he is leaving. We made excellent progress in both crafting and delivery—my main note to him (which he appreciated most) was to elevate the tone of the message. It’s more than a goodbye. It’s a challenge to the next generation of Indian leaders at this organization to bring a new wave of change. Many of his fellow colleagues in India worry that the culture will lose its source with his departure. His speech gave them an invitation to carry on as the culture lies within them and depends on them stepping up.

During a break, he volunteered that the value TAI has that others don’t is we make the work relevant to the individual’s business practice. My client greatly enjoyed exploring his own leadership via theater and the TAI principles. He was very willing to be pushed and I gave him plenty of challenges.  There are some clients who understand the value of going deeper in this way. He is one. At the same time we tackled his business challenges. I sensed a slightly different person in this coaching session. I am certain being up to his ears transitioning away from his position at this firm while at the same time gearing up to run his new company had some influence.  We spent time talking about the challenges with his new enterprise; he said the biggest adjustment is switching from a partnership to a corporation. He is deeply entrenched in the way his partners and he collaborate—willing to go outside boundaries of expertise and native domain. His corporate team is more singularly focused on the company through the specific role each plays. He will no doubt take the work we are doing here and use it as he forges ahead in his new position.