A former Vice President and Managing Director of a UK listed organization, Sam Chia is no stranger to the demands and expectations of the corporate world. And in his search for "ways to better support" his colleagues to help them "achieve their personal and business goals", Sam was introduced to coaching.
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Q. What made you want to become a life coach and how long have you been one?
A. When I first started coaching on business related issues, I realized that some of those business issues were affected by their personal challenges especially with career, family, money, health, interpersonal relationship with colleagues etc.
I found that coaching was a highly effective way to work with my team. It helped them achieve better clarity of their goals and at the same time empower them to discover the relevant solutions or ways to achieve the goals through a process of thought provoking questioning, leveraging on their strengths rather than telling them what to do.
I felt the need to also help them get better clarity of their personal goals and to align them with the business goals. This was where I started to expand my executive coaching niche to include life coaching during the process. I could see miracle results when people are able to align their personal and business goals. One of my greatest satisfactions during my corporate career was to be able to help my subordinates grow in their career and achieve personal success in what they did.
I found that I could do more to develop people as a HR professional. Hence, I decided to leave a successful MNC career to become a HR consultant and subsequently as a professional coach where I find more meanings in what I do.
I have been coaching professionally for about 8 years now and I am credentialed by International Coach Federation as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) i.e. coach who has completed at least 750 hours of coaching. In addition, I have the following coaching certifications to enhance my coaching practice to better serve my clients.
- Certified Solutions Focused Coach - Canadian Council of Professional Certification (CCPC)
- Certified in Coaching – Henley Business School, University of Readings, UK
- Certified Coach – Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centred Coaching, US
- Certified in Job and Transition Coach, Career Planning and Adult Development Network, US
Q. Please explain the difference between a life coach and a counselor? In your professional experience, when should people see a life coach and when to see a counselor?
A. The boundaries between coaching and counseling are sometimes blurred to the general public.
The International Coach Federation (ICF), one of the largest coaching credentialing body defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives. They are a different type of coaching focus. It includes executive coaching, career and transition coaching, life coaching, business coaching, wellness coaching etc.
A life coach generally helps people identify and achieve personal goals in the absence of self-limiting belief. It helps them set a plan and develop actions to change their lifestyle, managing career changes, coping with job loss, improving businesses, cultivate new relationships, etc. The coach holds the client accountable for their progress, while providing structure, encouragement, and support in the process.
A counselor works with people who have thinking, emotional difficulties, or ingrained behavioral problems due to the past or recent wounds or trauma. They are directed at changing internal emotional distress, destructive thoughts and problem behaviors. Examples of people should seek counselor helps include depression, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder etc.
Coaching differs from counseling in that coaching is usually about the ‘here and now’ and the future. Counseling usually covers, past, present and future and includes an element of distress or psychological disturbance. The training between a life coach and counselor is different. A life coach does not act as a counselor as psychological intervention lies outside the scope of life coaching.
Q. Please tell us more about the various coaching methods you use.
A. Coaching involves a structured process of questioning and reflections that lead to a specific outcome. There are various coaching models, assessment, and tools used by coaches to enhance the coaching process.
I am certified in solution focused coaching where we employ questions that focus and refocus our coaching sessions on solutions, clients’ strengths and on the future. We do not deal much with the past. Clients are usually surprised how quickly positive changes can take place with this methodology. We trust our clients has the inner resources and skills and helps them to pursue a change in a specific and inspired small steps that ultimately leads to fundamental shifts in attitude, behavior, and habit.
Depending on the client’s needs, I will also suggest them to take a psychometric or personality assessment to help them to learn more about themselves so that they can leverage on their inept strengths. Other tools we use includes wheel of life assessment, metaphor, visioning cards etc. to help them gain clarity of what they want to achieve.
Q. Please share with us your experience as a life coach in Singapore.
A. Coaching awareness in Singapore is still lacking especially life coaching. People do not understand how life coaching can help them in their personal and professional life. I have written an article in the Straits Times on 14th March – "Get a little direction – steer your career on the right path with the help of a career coach".
I use the analogy of “tuition” where Singapore parents are spending 800 million dollars a year in tuition to help their children to get better grades. However, they are not investing in “coaching” to help themselves in their own personal growth as they do not know how coaching can help them achieve their desired career or life. Most Singaporeans probably assume their career development are left in the hand of their company. This is a serious mismatch in perception as a company is facing disruption challenges from technology and innovation themselves. The company is more short term focus and cost sensitive and prepare to engage freelancer who has the relevant skillset rather developing their own people.
Singaporeans need to take charge of their career now and not leave it to the company. After my article was published, I have received numerous inquiries to understand how coaching can help them. Inquiries are from people including:
- Housewives who intend to go back to workforce and what career they shall pursue in the new normal.
- Retrenched executives who are at loss when finding their next job.
- Executives who felt neglected by their company despite the perception that they are performing.
- Executives who are unhappy with their bosses or colleagues and afraid of losing their jobs.
- Unhappy executives who are doing their jobs they don’t enjoy but afraid to move forward.
Coaching is currently adopted by the large company in Singapore in the form of executive coaching to support their executive development. This is found mainly in multinational companies who saw the coaching benefits in US and Europe and introduced the process to their local companies in Asia.
Anyway, I do see the trend where people are investing in life coaching for themselves. I have helped individual clients have moved forward in their career.
Q. Who are the groups of people who utilize your service?
A. With the structural change in the economy of Singapore, people are in major transition as many traditional jobs are no longer available. Besides acquiring new skills, people also need to adopt new mindset and belief in their transition.
Life coaching can help people to shorten their pain in the transition process and it will help them to regain new confidence and empowerment to do things that they have not done before.
There is another group where coaching can help is the aging population in Singapore. This aging group is different from the past as they are more educated and had enjoyed a professional life in their past career. They need emotional support to transit to their new retired life so that they can remain healthy and see themselves valuable to society.
I can summarize the following groups of people can benefit from life coaching:
- Mid-career executives in transition i.e. retrenched, changing roles or industry.
- Unhappy executives i.e. roles, boss, colleagues.
- People returning to active employment or embarking on entrepreneurship.
- Aging professionals to find more meanings in their retired life.
- New entrepreneurs who are starting their business.
Q. What would you advise people do if they are often unhappy, before considering seeking coaching help?
A. Happiness is a choice. You have to choose to be happy. If you are often unhappy, you need to understand the “why”. If you have taken the steps to make changes and you are still unhappy, it is best to engage a life coach as he can provide you with an independent and objective observation about the issues. He can help you discover ways to achieve you desire happier life.
Q. When someone feels unusually depressed and overwhelmed with work, could it be a sign they may have a mental disorder?
A. It is common in the workplace where people become stressed out due to long hours, multitasking and additional workload in this competitive working environment in addition to supporting the needs of their family, dealing with conflicts with colleagues and bosses.
We can notice a behaviour change in the short terms where people become more emotional, greater negative thoughts, drop in work performance or sleeps disorder. Once we notice these symptoms, it is important to seek help early and a life coach can be a good support at this stage.
If the situation is not addressed, in the longer term, the person can have anxiety and depression and emotional distress. This is when coaching no longer be the right support and counselor is needed.
Q. What makes a good life coach?
A. In addition to having a formal coach training and affiliate with a professional coaching organization to practice good coaching ethics, a good life coach should display:
- Genuine Care - genuinely care and enjoy working with people that represent all walks of life. Sincerely want to make the clients lives better and more fulfilling instead of going into the motion of coaching process. A good life coach must have the heart to make a difference.
- Empathy – ability to sense and feel the client's experience even you haven’t experienced exactly what they are going through personally. This can be achieved through training and experience.
- Communication - an ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying (body language), to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client's objectives. Ability to share observation and seek clarification with insightful questions.
Q. What are the steps to become a life coach?
- First, he/she needs to identify some of the “whys” on why you want to become a life coach. Is this reason resonate and align with your personal goals and vision?
- Do you have some of the personal characteristics of a successful coach:
- A sense of caring and a deep curiosity about people?
- A high level of empathy and intuition?
- An interest in on personal growth?
- Excellent verbal, listening and written communication skills?
- Entrepreneurial and organizational skills?
- Talk to life coaches to learn what they do daily/weekly/monthly and see if this is the lifestyle you want to embark
Consider whether you want to be in employment (working with coaching organization) or working on your own (self- employed) as you need to plan differently.
- To get trained and certified as a coach, you’ll want to take a course accredited by the International Coaching Federation, the industry’s leading trade group and governing the body. Do research to compare different schools, coaching processes, cost and training times. Talk to a graduate of these schools to learn the pros and cons of different training. Prepare to fund the training.
- Identify a mentor who can support your new coaching journey.
Q. What would you say are the pros and cons of being a life coach?
- You can be an entrepreneur and work on your own terms.
- You can make a difference to people’s life that can be very fulfilling.
- Earnings potential can be high once you become establish.
- There is no retirement age as a life coach compare with another career.
- Cost of investing a coaching education can be high.
- It can be tough initially to gain trust and build your reputation as a life coach.
- You are trading your time for money as you are either on a phone or face to face with your client in order to generate income.
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