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The EMPOWER workshop presented some simple tools for leaders to bring out their inner coaches. Here are 4 quick takeaways from the session.

Emma Noguchi of Coaching Go Where led the workshop with co-founder Anna Tan


A company works most effectively when employees are engaged, have autonomy, and have the support and resources to ace their tasks.

But as most business leaders can attest, the reality is oftentimes not as smooth-sailing. Despite their best efforts, managers could use some assistance in leading their teams and boosting staff morale.

That’s where executive coaches Anna Tan and Emma Noguchi come in. Tan and Noguchi are the chief executive officer and managing director of Coaching Go Where, an award-winning leadership development firm that equips leaders with the essential coaching tools.

They led the EMPOWER™ Coaching Mindset workshop, held on 2 November  at The Great Room, which taught participants how to put their coaching hats on.

Both Tan and Noguchi’s leadership coaching methods use neurolinguistic programming and social psychology to “shift mindsets” and to ensure “desired behavioural changes are sustained”.

Why coaching is important

“Business leaders often have to grapple with a multitude of challenges when it comes to managing their teams”, explained Tan and Noguchi.

“How do you coach when you’re really busy? Or if you are so stressed and anxious that your whole team is starting to feel that energy,” said Tan.

Through a series of role-playing exercises, the three-hour interactive Empower workshop taught participants simple methods on how to apply a coaching mentality to their conversations with their colleagues and team members. 

The exercises are based on the ACT Coaching Model. ACT, which stands for “as-is”, “change” and “to-be”, consists of three sets of questions that seek to define the problem (as-is), define what the end result will like (to-be), and come up with the solutions and methods to get to the end result (change).

According to statistics from the Institute of Coaching, over 70 percent of individuals who have been coached benefited from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills.

“The point of the coaching mindset is not for leaders to become certified coaches, but to have it as part of a toolbox to help them effectively handle tricky or emergency situations,” said Tan. “Or to empower direct reports to help them find their own solutions,” she added.

Here are four quick lessons from the workshop.

What makes a good coach

Tan and Noguchi cited examples of good managerial behaviour from Google’s own findings. The largest tech company in the world conducted global research across its teams worldwide and deduced what makes great managers from its data-rich information.

Some examples of such behaviour are:

– empowering their teams

– creating an inclusive team environment

– avoiding micromanaging

Tan noted that having vast technical skills came in last, when it came to the qualities of a great coach and manager. “It’s more the soft skills that came in first in what Google is looking for in a manager,” she said.

Instead, coaching is more about encouraging self-discovery, often through asking questions and listening intently. “It’s a thought-provoking and creative process, that inspires the person to maximise their personal and professional potential,” she elaborated.

It also helps to sense emotions when the other person is sharing, and learning to listen beyond words. “They may not share that they’re sad or frustrated. By observing and sensing emotions, you will be able to deepen your listening skills,” said Noguchi.

Anna Tan, co-founder of Coaching Go Where, says good coaches are also active and empathetic listeners.

What coaching is NOT about

Many managers have a misinformed view of what coaching is. One common mistake is a “fix-it mentality”, where the more experienced leaders are tempted to dole out advice and solutions on the spot, instead of encouraging problem-solving and reflection from the team members.

“It’s how managers feel valued and justify the high pay,” said Noguchi. “When you have the coaching hat on, resist giving advice or the solution,” she said.

Another mistake is listening without judgement of the issue at hand – keeping an open mind and listening with empathy are cornerstones of good coaching. She also advises against asking too many questions at one time. “It’s more confusing rather than helpful,” she continued.

Noguchi also recommends team leaders ask open-ended questions to get deeper, genuine answers. “To encourage self-discovery, ask open-ended questions so that the person can share something that’s beyond the surface, instead of yes-no questions”, she added.

Setting intentions and managing your emotional state

Many of us go through our lives on “autopilot”, where we live our day to day occurrences out of habit and routine. “Our brain does it just to make our lives easy,” said Tan.

The first step to effective coaching is to break out of autopilot mode and decide what is your desired outcome from your interaction.

Doing this is part of the “intention-setting” process and is a conscious choice – this dominant energy will be felt in your interactions and help boost your influence.

“How do you want to feel during the interaction? Who do you want to be? An inspiring leader, a focused manager? Do you want to leave that person or people feeling like you’ve touched their lives?” asked Tan.

It is also important to set a positive and confident mindset when coaching someone. Make sure that when you coach, you’re not feeling flustered, annoyed or frustrated, because the energy that you bring into the organisation is not conducive,” she added.

Trust bridges cultures

In our highly globalised world, managers often lead international teams. Some cultures are less inclined to open up about their feelings than others, which poses a coaching challenge to leaders.

In a Harvard Business Review article, cross-cultural trust barriers are indeed a phenomenon managers often experience. It wrote that managers who are successful at building trust across cultures understood that the trust-building process could take different paths and different time frames, depending on whether the culture is more open or more cautious.

It’s a common problem that managers face, said the workshop participants, who asked Tan and Noguchi how to approach cultural differences when coaching global teams.

The first step to establishing trust is to show a keen interest in your global teams, in a purposeful and intentional way – in essence,  “showing up differently”, instead of interacting with your global teams in autopilot mode.

“When you ask them a simple question like how are you today, be curious and listen deeply,” said Noguchi. “Above all, we want to feel trusted and significant, especially towards management,” she added.

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