Seoul then home.

December 21, 2010

I ended this trip with a repeat visit to Seoul to work with Keith and Jong.  Both sessions went extremely well. Keith’s was particularly noteworthy as he is a bit of a challenge. He doesn’t listen well and he tends to be all over the place. Clients get lost. His partners tell him he is hard to follow.  We worked on keeping him focused and on point. Practicing in order to develop his communication muscles of clarity and directness; two hours, non-stop, just working in this area. We even did a bit of role playing and I kept telling him every time I was lost and told him how I felt as his audience. When we finished he said this was the best two hours of our work together. He really appreciated hearing his impact so directly. He admitted that others have told him he can be confusing and unclear. Changing behavior takes practice and we will continue to build on it when I see him next.

That’s all for now. Back to New York City.

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When I get to Sydney, I meet with my client Rick. He and I will focus his remaining sessions on issues relevant to his day-to-day, i.e. working on speeches, presentations, planning meetings, etc. We had an excellent coaching session this time around. We worked on a presentation for a high level government official regarding a project Rick is working on. I have been coaching Rick to bring more of his personality and zest for the work into his communication. He is reserved and modest and as a result can come across a bit stiff. He sits on his humor and warm personality instead of letting it come forth. The first run-thru for the presentation was a standard issue slide show. Afterward, I told him that at one point during the presentation I suddenly realized that if I were the official he was talking to, I would not be happy with this very expensive consulting firm. I wanted him to get to the point; distill the essence of the findings and help me discover the benefits and risks. I wanted him to guide me more, helping me see all of the issues and implications faster and more clearly. I wanted to be able to make a decision with some sense of the ultimate impact the huge investment would have. There needed to be some adjustments. Asking Rick what had surprised him when they began to work on the case, he had a ready answer that was both insightful and thought provoking. I helped him work that into the presentation. After incorporating these changes, he practiced presenting the second version and it was a 100% improvement. This time he provided all the data and necessary information, but it was a conversation—across the table. He never once turned to a slide (huge for Rick). I was able to envision the possibilities and the challenges which, as the official, would require me to recast expectations around the investment. More than anything, Rick was fully in it. He came alive. Afterward, he told me it was amazing the difference he felt doing it this way—it elevated his role in the room. He also realized the impact he could have managing the various officials that would be in the room. They have specific areas of focus and differing accountability. Rick would be able to unite them under the common cause and link them to each other’s accountability which would increase the likelihood of success.

This was one of those sessions where I left feeling as charged and excited as the client. I’m always invested in my client’s growth and success but it’s so rewarding to see such transformation in one session.

Spending tomorrow enjoying the city, then back to Seoul.

From Tokyo to Singapore

December 7, 2010

My last scheduled coaching in Singapore was with Clark. His session was supposed to happen in Auckland, where he recently returned with his family after a ten year stint in Jakarta and Singapore. However, early in this trip I got the bad news that he had scheduling issues. So, with fast work, we discovered an opportunity to meet on Saturday in Singapore before he took off for Jakarta.

If every client were like Clark I would never stop laughing and would always want to be in coaching sessions. He is constantly telling me how he looks forward to the coaching sessions. When I ask him what he thinks we’re going to focus on in the upcoming session, he always answers, “I want to have fun.” From the very first session, he has approached the work with open arms (a little challenge in Session One but we pushed on and he was converted by the end of that session). He embraces the work we do with monologues as if he were rehearsing for a part. Every time, the synergy between work done on monologues and the shift to business makes absolute sense—he gains insights for a speech or business conversation from the monologue exploration.

Back to our coaching session in Singapore—Clark arrived having spent time learning a monologue he requested to play with (an Al Pacino piece from the film “Any Given Sunday”) but without having written his assignment speech about a leader at a critical juncture. At the end, it didn’t matter. First, I was thrilled to play with the monologue. Second, in our opening discussion I learned he is opening a new office. Since his return to Auckland in he has been frustrated with finding ways to build significant business in New Zealand. He says that business leaders there are happy with where they are. They have enough success and money to enable golf three times a week so why would they want to do anything that gets in the way of that. So he set his sights elsewhere. He had been working with a mining client and looked around him, realizing no one was making the most of the opportunities that were there.  He has gotten the approval for a base operation and has chosen two young leaders to work with him to launch the operation. The Al Pacino monologue was a football coach talking to his dejected, losing team at half time trying to inspire them to be a team first and individuals second and win by working together. Clark had shared with me some difficult events shaping the road for the two young leaders. Both are high potentials and on the road to moving higher up in the company. Clark wants to eliminate all ego issues and create a team—the three of them—working seamlessly and transparently starting now. He understands that an aligned team will directly impact their success. He crafted the conversation he will have. We worked on it, adjusting and modifying, having Clark practice and then practice some more. Through this crafted conversation he not only revealed his leadership at a critical moment, his values and essential drivers but also highlighted how important it is to Clark to develop future partners and how committed he is to these two young leaders. He will check in with me once he has the conversation and I will continue to support him as he navigates his new challenges.

Sydney up next.

Time in Tokyo

December 1, 2010

I had excellent sessions with Kaname and Tomio. This trip is session 7 of 8 for Speaker Development and the topic is “Leader at a Critical Juncture.” Tomio began the program anxious because his English is weak. It has gotten better as we have progressed and he admits that one benefit of doing the program has been the practice. I believe, however, that as he lets go of the worry, he is naturally better in English. In this session, it was definitely true. We spent a lot of time at the opening of the coaching session talking about his leadership role. The speech he wrote for this session was about making changes within the organization in order to optimize opportunities to bring transformational change to clients at this exact moment. He says clients have begun to set their sights on bigger goals and it is in this downturn that they have realized what is not working at their companies and what it will take to be a global player.

Back to Tomio’s speech—his big ask to the firm is to supply the necessary resources to fuel the transformation focus, as he believes it will create substantial business. He knows the idea he has which will achieve this will not be universally received. He is an optimistic man who is fiercely loyal and devoted to this company and to making the Japanese presence something spectacular. He also is focused on developing leaders in Japan. The conversation was excellent and it led him to ask me how I perceive him. He said he realizes an individual is never certain how he is perceived. I told him what I’ve learned and experienced of him in our time together. He enjoyed hearing it. As he delivered his prepared speech I made notes and afterward remarked on his energy, vocal projection, and his pacing. It was clear he was connected to his passion in this piece. All these things are noteworthy because I’ve struggled to bring his presence more fully to life when on his feet. Even in Japanese he can be bland. Not this time. And as I looked at my notes I realized he had created his speech with awareness. There was a good structure in place, a good build and support for his message. It needed work—but the bones were strong. A significant step change in Tomio. I looked at him and told him so. He was so pleased. This was quite a moment and I expect based on all our work that the changes I noticed in him are lasting ones. His leadership showed up as well as his command of the room, the material, the audience, and his body.  Afterward, I wondered if he were driven by some competitive spirit to hit this mark. In our previous session he told me Kaname credited his work in the TAI program with winning a new client. He had to give the presentation in English and he said he did everything he’s learned in our work. He started with a story. I still remember how alien beginning a speech with anything but the agenda felt to these two when we first started doing presentation crafting work. Leaps forward for each of them.

To thank me for the work, Kaname and Tomio took me to a traditional Japanese restaurant. The meal had about 30 courses! Obviously, we’re not talking American sized portions. More than the meal, for me the fun was watching the two of them as they sat across from me. I sensed it was a bit awkward for them but things loosened up as the Japanese beer flowed and wine was poured. Watching how they interact with each other gave me an idea about the final session. Neither of them had previously allowed me to bring in audience, although in this session, Tomio finally acquiesced. He called Kaname to see if he would be audience and I could hear the relief in his voice as Kaname said no. It was in Japanese but I heard it. So for the last coaching session instead of an audience I will bring them together for the entire time. Tomio seemed to like the idea. We shall see…

As a final note, this coaching session with Tomio got me thinking about the cultural divide. I tend to focus on what I don’t know about the cultures and business protocols in the countries where I work, which is important. Acknowledging and learning about other cultures does matter. However, sitting across from Tomio, listening to him handle my questions about his leadership and later during the on-the-feet work when he told me he wanted to find more variety in his delivery, i.e. bring animation to his storytelling, it reinforced how truly applicable our approach and work is in all settings. I have always known this is true, but something about my work with the Tokyo guys brought a new dimension to the idea that TAI is truly about communication between humans. And that can transcend cultural differences.

Off to Singapore…