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.

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…

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.