International executive coaching takes off – Complinet News article

Internationally, executive and business coaching is growing at a phenomenal rate. Coaching has a firm footing in the United States, the UK and Australasia and now South East Asia is also reaping the benefits.

The use of executive coaches is becoming commonplace, and having a global client list is how many coaches tend to work. The coach could be based in London but their client could be anywhere in the world — Bangkok, New York, or even on an oilrig. After the initial contract is set up, coaching can be conducted face-to-face, by a videoconference, or simply over the telephone. A session can be put into the diary just like any other appointment; this allows for both flexibility and privacy.

Life at the top can be a lonely experience, and having someone capable and impartial to bounce your ideas off can make all the difference. Many organisations with offices around the world are handing coaching duties over to professional consultants who have no other involvement with the organisation. Knowing that the coach/client relationship is completely confidential creates an unrestricted environment in which the individual can investigate concerns and explore new concepts.

Benefits of a coaching programme include increased performance; raised morale; and a heightened awareness of how our behaviour impacts on others and how the behaviours of others impact on us. Coaching can also play a major part in helping staff to cope with changing roles or promotions.

International lessons

Moving into a new role is often a challenge but, in a new country, this experience can be overwhelming. Some local knowledge can go a long way. In Thailand, for example, employees are often more interested in the job title than any other aspect of the employment package. This is because a prestigious title — such as ‘manager’ — brings a great deal of respect, which is important for the employee and their family’s status within the community.

When in Rome, it pays to think in the same way as the indigenous population. Thais have a great sense of fun and, to get ‘buy-in’, you need to make things interesting. They are less serious about timekeeping and ‘dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘T’s’. This attitude can take a great deal of getting used to, and shouting will not speed the process up, only slow it down. If Thais like you, they will do their best for you. But if you upset them, then you are on your own.

Cultural differences can be confusing to say the least. Thai employees will seldom offer negative feedback to their bosses as this is considered to be disrespectful, even at the cost of productivity or profit. One way to overcome this attitude is the use of 360 degree feedback, where the employee, their superior, and at least three of their colleagues all complete performance related questionnaires. Downward, as well as upward, feedback can, if given with respect, be one of the quickest ways to develop an individual’s strengths and minimise their weaknesses by identifying ‘blind spots’.

The gap between ‘how we see ourselves’ and ‘how others see us’ can be quite surprising. Another useful psychometric tool is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality test which classifies the individual as one of sixteen types, no one better than another. Everyone has preferred ways of working, and the MBTI model identifies the conditions which are conducive to an individual’s performance.

For example, someone may perform better working within a team, others on their own; some need facts and data and like to plan, others are more spontaneous. Feedback is given on a one-to-one basis and the MBTI questionnaire can be filled in online.

Bad habits

If there is a particular problem area associated with moving around the global market place, it would be the potential to pick up bad local practices, e.g., poor e-mail etiquette. In some countries, not replying to e-mails is acceptable; in others it as a mark of disrespect — this is worth considering for Asian based companies who want to do business overseas. This is where coaching can really pay off: it is a question of taking the best behaviours from each situation, not only company to company, but also from country to country. People must be encouraged to learn to look outward rather than inward if they are to grow in the global marketplace, and the Asian markets are very enthusiastic to learn how things are done in the West.

Having an international coach is important when developing interpersonal skills which will invariably lead to better outcomes, both for the organisation and on a personal level. Agreed goals, which individuals, departments or organisations wish to accomplish, are put in place. These goals can either be people or work-related, and may even be of a personal nature. Some of the areas that coaching may cover include the development of people or communication skills, assertiveness training, team building and work-life balance issues.

Choosing the right coach is important, and making sure that the coach is competent and qualified is vital. This is why I was happy to accept the challenge of spearheading the Association for Coaching — South East Asia. The AC gives anyone who is looking for a coach the opportunity to check training levels, membership status and accreditation.

I have Coached across several countries, industries and disciplines. And whether I am Coaching Managing Directors, North Sea Drilling Engineers, Corporate Lawyers or Financial Services Professionals, I have found one common shortcoming: very few resources are invested in coaching executives on how to look after their main people and, equally as important, how to look after themselves.

Ian Claffey has an M.A. in Psychoanalysis. He is a qualified Psychotherapist and Executive Coach and is spear-heading the Association for Coaching – South East Asia

-Ian Claffey