Prof Sattar Bawany Interview on Coaching in HRM Asia Jan 2014 Issue
Learning & Development
Professional coaching is a
distinct service and differs
greatly from therapy,
consulting, mentoring or
training. HRM looks at the
visibility, understanding, and
impact of coaching in the
By Shalini Shukla-Pandey
A concept that has moved from the world of sports to the
executive suite, executive coaching is a means to help
senior executives manage a constantly changing business
environment and refine their leadership skills, says
Professor Sattar Bawany, CEO and Master Executive
Coach, Centre for Executive Education.
Coaching isn’t just limited to senior levels either.
“Increasingly, people all over the world, at all levels,
utilise executive coaches to help them achieve their full
potential,” Bawany explains. “The process focuses on the
participant’s goals, reinforces learning and change, and
Coaching is a technique that anybody can use. It’s a
process that can help individuals and groups close gaps
between where they are at present and where they want
to be. Coaching differs from training in that it is a
personal and intimate way of helping one find a solution
to a problem, while training teaches one exactly how to
solve a problem.
“While internal coaches can be effective, external
professional coaches are better qualified and experienced
in providing expert opinions, unbiased views without
conflicts of interest with the organisation or individual in
question,” says Dr. Steve Morris, Head Coach & Partner,
Align HR - SMA – part of the Align HR Group.
“It’s like when you go for specialist opinions in
healthcare. A professional coach is a specialist in growth
and development,” Morris explains. “Professional coaches
have the relevant training, tools and experience to bring
out the best in people in a wide variety of circumstances.
In addition, they bring their experiences along with them.”
Amanda Moody, Assistant Director – Professional
Development Centre, British Council (Singapore), likens
a trainer to the captain of a ship; the one who decides the
content of the training session. “A coach is more like a
passenger of the ship, facilitating deep discussions while
the client is a rudder, steering the conversations in the
right way to help him or her succeed,” she explains.
The task of coaching has been anything but easy in
Singapore and the region. “In the ‘90s, people here were
generally afraid of coaching and thought it was a remedial
action for people with problems,” Morris explains.
“However, it was the winners and leaders in the US who
had coaches to assist them in getting to mastery levels.”
Agreeing, Helen Choe, Principal Consultant, Korn/
Ferry International, says people who have performance
issues go for skills training, while those on top go for
coaching to better maintain an executive presence and
navigate their organisations.
The landscape has now changed, with more people
being open to the idea of coaching and asking how they
can get more out of it. “The golden age of coaching is
here,” says Morris.
How to coach?
There are essentially two types of coaching. One is top
executive-level coaching that helps to maximise
individual capabilities and potential. In his nearly
15-year career as a leadership coach, Morris has
coached several high-ranking individuals including
Deputy Secretaries, Chief Executives, Group Chairmen,
Generals, Admirals, and even a former Commissioner of
Police, helping them find their aspirations and manage
how they are seen by others around them.
Choe believes coaching should be an intimate,
one-on-one engagement with an individual. “This will
allow the coach to truly help this person unlock
themselves and have an outside-in perspective, thereby
increasing self-awareness and understanding of the
impact their behaviour has on others,” she explains.
“The fact that it is such an intimate session will likely
make it uncomfortable for the person being coached,
but it yields the best results as well.”
Group-level, or peer coaching is essentially an
organisational development programme that helps
teams to form bonds, share experiences and values and
learn from each other.
“I am a big believer in peer coaching. Peer coaching is
a great tool for leveraging off each other’s experiences,”
says Morris. “We learn from each other while helping
each other. What greater way to work and grow?”
Initially, people in a group setting will feel rather
apprehensive about sharing and learning from each
in an average
Source: Study by
Communication skills coaching
A top ranking female executive in an international company wanted coaching in
public speaking so as to be able to present to large international audiences. She
also had some issues speaking up in meetings and thinking on her feet.
“We worked out what exactly the problem was, whilst also looking at her
strengths to keep the assessment well-balanced,” says Amanda Moody, Assistant
Director – Professional Development Centre, British Council (Singapore).
Due to the key communication style changes she learnt through the coaching
sessions, such as how to pronounce words, intonations, adding humour, posture
and how to work with visuals such as PowerPoint presentations, the executive
was able to deliver a major presentation at a large international conference
within four months.
“People were actually coming up to her to congratulate her for the excellent
presentation,” says Moody. “Coaching and consistent feedback helped her to
be able to better communicate in a business setting where there was a male
majority as well.”
Learning & Development
In the last two years, remedial coaching has taken off.
“Leaders in today’s hectic business environment tend to
behave in negative ways, not managing their emotions
effectively,” says Helen Choe, Principal Consultant, Korn/
Ferry International. “They want quick fixes to help them
become more aware of what their negative behaviour
With remedial coaching, leaders can see through
complex organisational issues more clearly and better
lead their organisations. “This ties back to the point
of coaching, which is to provide outside-in, broad and
unbiased perspectives to problems,” says Choe.
other. However, when people learn that others are
experience similar problems as them, they are less
self-conscious and more open about sharing, coming up
with innovative solutions in the process.
For instance, Morris has been working with the
leadership team at the National Library Board for the
past seven years, improving group dynamics along with
individual behaviours and capabilities.
Coaching is not necessarily only for people who are
already leaders, as it also plays an important role in
succession planning. Morris recently worked with some
key talents at BP to help develop them for future
“Management didn’t want to keep hiring expatriate
staff for such roles so they decided on coaching highpotential talent and grooming them to become leaders of
tomorrow,” he explains. “Indeed, coaching helped to
polish them and maximise their potential.”
Other organisations which have done the same
include Citibank and the Infocomm Development
Authority of Singapore.
Before and after
Still, coaching can get a bad reputation because people
don’t align their expectations of what coaching can do for
them, says Choe. “Coaching in Asia is a challenge as people
here want quick answers. Coaching can’t do that,” she
explains. “Regular sessions can provide some direction and
guidance and provoke people to think more deeply. That’s
where the real benefits of coaching start to show.”
Prior to finding a coach, HR should first assess the
current situation that the organisation or individual is
in. Using tools such as 360-degree feedback and profile
tests, HR can determine how big the gap between
“where I am right now” and “where I want to be”
actually is, says Morris. “In cases where HR doesn’t
have access to these tools, professional coaches can
conduct the analysis for HR.”
After the initial assessment is complete, a
developmental plan is then drawn up and reviewed by
the coach to address gaps in areas such as
communication and strategic leadership. “Coaching
generally consists of regular bi-weekly or monthly
90-minute sessions with the individual in question, and
spans a six, nine, or 12-month period,” Choe describes.
A key aspect of coaching is the measurement of
results. This can be done in two ways: qualitatively and
quantitatively. For a qualitative assessment, tools such
as a 360-degree feedback can be used to compare a
person’s behaviour both before and after the coaching
plan was put in place.
Questions such as, “Can you see a change?” and “Are
you getting a different reaction from people around
you?” can also be asked to get a feel of how successful a
coaching programme has been.
There are several qualitative tools to assess the
efficacy of a coaching plan. These tools include the
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Team Management
Systems and Six Seconds Emotional Intelligence
“A good coach should be using a framework and have
a structure to every conversation with a client,” says
Moody. “This also helps in measuring the success of the
coaching relationship in a very clear manner.”
Coaching is an ongoing journey. “Organisations must
clearly define the purpose of coaching, gauge the process,
and evaluate results. Coaching is not just about providing
support,” says Bawany. “Ultimately, coaching should
deliver what any business needs – real results.”
Coaching Week 2014
will take place from
May 19 to 25 in 2014.
Sattar Bawany, CEO and Master Executive Coach of the Centre for Executive
Education, once had a client who was working in the Asia-Pacific Regional
Operations team of a global financial services firm. The firm was expanding and
adapting to increasingly competitive market conditions following the Global
Financial Crisis of 2008-2009.
“In this intensely hypercompetitive and fast-moving environment, the firm
understood that there was one factor that keeps the company ahead - the
commitment, creativity and energy of its people,” says Bawany. “They wanted a
radical new focus for the leaders at all levels which would drive the results through
engagement of the employee in a manner which would capture the very spirit of the
company and act as a motivational, inspiring force.”
Using these principles and partnering with the firm, the “Leadership That Gets
Results” (LTGR) programme was designed and delivered.
“The LTGR programme created new levels of co-operation and trust that flourished
across the various business units of the company,” says Bawany. “Managers became
more energised and motivated to take positive action and their new commitment
was cascaded through the entire company.”
After the coaching intervention, managers were ready and able to shape the
future success of the company and steered the firm towards achieving its corporate
objectives and sustainable business results.