Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting Coaching in Asia RIGHT

May 20, 2011
1.00pm - 5.00pm

Hong Kong
All You Need to Know about Executive Coaching
A 1/2-Day sponsored program

Facilitator: Charlie Lang 
Organized by Progress-U Ltd.

More details & registration

Getting Coaching in Asia Right (Part I of III)
The latest trends how progressive organizations make use of the benefits of coaching

Jenny is the Chief Operating Officer of a Hong Kong based medium sized company with about 1,400 employees in twelve offices across Asia-Pacific. The company is a trading company importing various products including high-quality packaging, apparel, pharmaceuticals and furniture mostly from Europe and North-America.

Jenny was appointed by her CEO to explore together with the Regional HR Director how the company could evolve to the next level. The CEO pointed out to her that he heard from one of his business partners in France that they underwent a major corporate culture transition that accelerated both their growth and profitability. They developed a corporate coaching culture and redefined the overall direction of the company. He asked Jenny to find out more and if a similar transformation would help their company, too. He was not sure if the same approach would work for their company because they are in a different business and also because of cultural differences between Europe and Asia.

Besides interviewing the VP HR of the CEO’s business partner, Jenny thought that she’ll need local expertise to determine what would be the right thing to do for her company.

Her HR Director knew Progress-U and mentioned to her that we might be able to assist.

I asked Jenny what she learnt from the business partner of her CEO and she replied: “To be honest, we had only a 30 minutes phone conversation, so it was hard for me to fully grasp what he meant. He said that his company didn’t initially think of a corporate culture change but rather started engaging external coaches for some of the senior executives who wanted to optimize their leadership approach. When they noticed some significant positive changes that made a real difference, it was one of the executive coaches who inquired if the company would be ready to take it to the next level. Then he mentioned something about coaching as a leadership style, talent coaching and team coaching which were deployed to drive a cultural change. Apparently, they also did a corporate culture assessment to identify key areas that would have the biggest positive impact on the business if changed.

The thing is, I don’t have a full understanding what coaching is in the first place, but that VP HR was really excited about how the atmosphere in the organization changed and how collaboration has soared since they started working on a coaching culture. Politics apparently has been reduced also significantly and as a result overall engagement and retention seems to have improved as well.”

“So what’s your understanding of coaching, if I may ask?” I responded.

“The way I see coaching is that a coach works closely with someone to help that person to improve what he or she wants to improve. Probably the coaches use their experience and guide the one being coached in how to achieve what they want to achieve.”

I confirmed that this understanding is in principle correct and added that the purpose of coaching is two-fold:

  1. To assist the coachee (the one being coached) in thinking ‘better’ – to reach new insights and working out more options for acting or deciding and as a result make better choices.
  2. To keep the coachee accountable to actually undertake any agreed changes that are considered to help the coachee achieve her or his goals faster and more likely.

“So what is then a coaching culture?” Jenny wanted to know.

“There is no one coaching culture. A coaching culture in your company may look different from a coaching culture in another company, for example your business partner’s culture.

What coaching culture really means is that coaching is an important part of the culture of an organization. But any corporate culture has many different aspects and some of them may be entirely unrelated to coaching.

For example, the corporate culture of an organization may include a particular high pace – it’s not directly related to coaching. Of course, we could explore how a coaching culture could also integrate and support a high pace.”

I further shared with her that nowadays the most progressive companies integrate various forms of coaching into their culture. They may use coaching in various ways, for example:

  • 1:1 Executive Coaching for senior executives by external coaches
  • 1:1 Executive Coaching for middle managers by trained internal coaches
  • 1:1 Wellness Coaching for all employees – as a perk for top performers
  • Small Group Coaching for small sales teams (3-6 participants per group)
  • Team coaching for senior management teams to optimize the team performance (productivity & positivity)
  • Talent Coaching performed by trained senior executives for top talents 2-3 levels down the hierarchy
  • Mentoring to support and connect protégés who are considered for greater roles within the organization
  • Coaching as a leadership style for all managers with people responsibility
  • Experiential workshops to increase happiness and collaboration across the board

Depending on what we want the ultimate coaching culture to look like, an organization may need to deploy coaching in a variety of ways.

“Wow, this sounds quite extensive to me.” Jenny was concerned that this would be a high cost and wondered if it’s really worth it.

“Have you ever calculated the cost of staff turnover, especially of key talents? Have you ever calculated the cost of people not giving their best at work?” I responded.

“No, we haven’t, it seems rather hard to measure. Of course, I admit that with a better culture, we’ll probably have higher levels of loyalty and overall performance. I can clearly see for example the difference between my previous employer and the current one. In my previous company, the culture was overall stronger and I felt that people were more engaged and I know for sure that our retention rate was lower then, even though it was not a coaching culture.”

“I admit that it’s difficult to measure accurately the impact of the culture but we could make an approximate estimation of the cost of high staff turnover and lower than optimal engagement. We could define some benchmarks and calculate the returns if these benchmarks would be reached. This way we could mirror it with the investment you’d need to make for a first phase towards a coaching culture.” I knew that while not simple, it’s possible to work out some reasonable numbers to see if a sufficiently positive ROI could be achieved that would justify the investment. Jenny was excited about this idea.

[To be continued in the June 2011]

To automatically receive Parts II & III, click here

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

EQ and the 'Crazy Customer'

New Article: 
EQ and the ‘Crazy’ Customer

By Charlie Lang

Download this article
heroesTo prepare for a sales training and coaching program for a major cosmetics firm, we arranged ‘shadow’ coaching sessions, meaning that we followed selected sales people during their daily work, visiting hair salons. The exercise was revealing.

To give you a taste of our experience, here are some true stories.

In one occasion, we walked in and the owner of the salon, a well-groomed barber of about 45 years of age, shouted at the sales person, apparently totally ignoring my presence: “You guys are so useless! I placed an order for 10 bottles of shampoo and you delivered only 9. And when I called, people pretended not to know anything. Tell me, why should I ever order anything from you again?”

The sales person responded in a very defensive manner, trying to ‘be right’ which made the customer even more upset.

In another occasion, the customer – another salon owner - was sitting at a table reading the newspaper. Upon our arrival, he kept reading the newspaper, only interrupting himself by uttering a disinterested ‘hello’. The sales person I was shadowing started to chatter her five minutes sales pitch about the latest promotion items, etc. The salon owner didn’t put his newspaper down, not even when at the end of her pitch she said ‘good-bye’.

You think I’m exaggerating? Can’t believe that such ‘crazy’ customers really exist? Well, I couldn’t believe it either – but seeing is believing.

How are these cases connected to Emotional Intelligence (EI)? And why might it matter to you even if you don’t have crazy customers like that?

What these two cases have in common with the sales situation you are facing is that we all deal with people with certain emotions and that we have certain emotions as well. If we can optimize the management of our own emotions and influence positively the emotions of our customers, we tend to be more successful overall.

According to Daniel Goleman’s model of EI, people who have high emotional intelligence

1. Have a high level of awareness of their emotions,

2. Have the ability to successfully manage their emotional states,

3. Are sensitive towards other people’s emotions and can ‘read’ them accurately, and

4. Are able to positively influence others’ emotional states.

For sales people to improve their success rate, working on these four dimensions has proven to be an effective approach. Consider this piece of research:

At L’Oreal, sales agents selected on the basis of certain emotional competencies significantly outsold salespeople selected using the company’s old selection procedure. On an annual basis, salespeople selected on the basis of emotional competence sold $91,370 more than other salespeople did, for a net revenue increase of $2,558,360. Salespeople selected on the basis of emotional competence also had 63% less turnover during the first year than those selected in the typical way (Spencer & Spencer, 1993; Spencer, McClelland, & Kelner, 1997).

So how would a sales person with high emotional intelligence deal with the above two cases?

Case I: The Screaming Customer

Before responding to the customer, it’s critical to become aware of one’s own emotions in this moment. For example, the sales person may realize that he feels unfairly treated because it was not he who made that mistake. Also, he may feel put down by the customer triggering the feeling of helplessness. Obviously, these emotions aren’t very helpful to successfully deal with this situation.

Noting that these emotions don’t help, it’s critical to now manage these emotions, for example, by telling himself that this customer is not really upset with him but with the company and that he simply needs to release his anger. He may even sympathize with the customer’s situation and develop an emotion of compassion instead.

As a result, it will be much easier for him to deal with this customer’s emotions. Instead of being defensive, he could show his understanding and focus on how to make up for what the customer experienced and how to regain his confidence in the company.

Case II: The Indifferent Customer

Considering again the four dimensions of EI, the sales person first pays attention to her own emotions in that situation. She might notice that she’s fed up with this customer’s behavior and as a result simply don’t care anymore. That realization could trigger her to reconsider her job mission. And she might regain motivation to make a positive attempt with this customer if she realized that this customer probably has a good reason for acting the way he acts – she just hasn’t figured out yet what exactly this is.

As a next step, she could think about what’s going on with this customer, why he behaves the way he behaves. By paying more attention, she might realize that this customer actually does buy from her company despite his even if he ignores her most of the time. She might also realize that this customer expects to be dealt with in a particular way and she just never bothered to find out exactly how.

Walking her through the concepts of EI, she became quite curious and a few weeks later excitedly reported about her experience. Instead of doing what she has always done previously, this time, she didn’t rattle down her sales pitch but instead first asked with assertively for the salon owner’s attention. This puzzled him and he indeed put down his newspaper. Then she went on to say something along these lines: “I noticed that my sales pitches seem not very interesting to you and that’s alright. At the same time, I want to ensure that I don’t waste your or my time and therefore, I’d really like to know how I could best serve you so that you see value in my visits.”

Eventually, the salon owner shared with her that he actually appreciated the products of her company but that he finds her sales pitches very boring and most of the time irrelevant. They agreed that instead of producing a sales pitch, she would first ask him about any needs he may have and then very shortly update him on any special promotions – and that only if she felt they could be useful for him.

These are just two simple examples, somewhat extreme in how the customers responded, but the principles of EI are universal and can be applied successfully in any interaction with customers or prospects.

Feel free to contact us if you’d like to know more how to build a highly emotionally intelligent sales force.
---------------- End of Article ----------------

Friday, March 04, 2011

Coaching or Mentoring?

Dear Reader,

Asia, and especially China, has long been known for being excellent in catching up with trends that were usually set somewhere in Europe or North America. Perhaps with the exception of Japan, Asia has not been perceived much as a trendsetter. This is particularly true for the areas of management and leadership.

This is about to change. We notice an increasing number of organizations based in Asia that develop thought leadership in these areas. Granted, it probably will take years if not decades until the wealth of thought leadership on management and leadership can be compared with Western countries such as the US, UK, France, Germany or even tiny Switzerland, for that matter.

The interesting thing is that this kind of thought leadership starts to emerge in this part of the world and that sooner or later executives in the West will seek advise and inspiration from Asian based thought leaders, something that rarely happens today.

If you are looking for progressive and perhaps innovative inspiration for your leadership, are you only looking in the West? How open are you to check out latest Asia based thought leadership? Progress-U is contributing to the trend to set trends from this part of the world. Let me know if you’d like to know more.

Let's keep progressing!
Charlie Lang
Executive Progress Expert and Founder of Progress-U Ltd.
Author of The Groupness Factor
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trendsBecoming a Professional Corporate Coach
- for aspiring and experienced coaches
New programs have been launched in Hong Kong and Shanghai (Singapore will be determined shortly). Have a look at the sidebar at the right of this page.
For more info, contact us.
Coaching or Mentoring?
“What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?”

This is a question I am frequently asked which reminds me of the questions, “What is the difference between management and leadership?” or “What is the difference between vision and mission?”

Go online and use any search engine to answer these questions and I promise you, your confusion will be heightened, not reduced. Check dictionaries or ask several ‘experts’ and you won’t be enlightened either.

While I have my own definitions and differentiations of the terms coaching and mentoring, which make most sense to me, I would never claim that mine are the ‘correct’ ones. They just make sense to me, that’s all.

Ultimately, it’s really up to you how you define and distinguish these terms.

Why does it matter anyway?

Well, it does matter. Let me give you an example. About a year ago, one of our clients asked us to assist them in setting up a mentoring system in their organization. My first thoughts were: ‘OK, let’s first check the ability of their leaders to take on a mentoring role. Are they able to know when a coaching approach is more useful (and are they actually able to coach), when sharing is more appropriate, and when they simply need to teach the mentee?’

When I met the COO, I held back with my thoughts and wanted to clarify first the purpose of setting up a mentoring system. While it seemed obvious to me, I learned that even though such assumptions may 90% of the time be correct, sometimes they are plain wrong. And this was the case here, as I was about to find out. I assumed that they wanted to set up a mentoring system for taking care of their top talents and ensure their proper development and advancement in the organization.

It was a good thing that I first checked if this assumption was correct because I was in for a surprise. The COO’s understanding of mentoring was to appoint subject matter experts who could be consulted if anyone needed specific advice in the area of the mentor’s expertise. The purpose was to provide to any employee access to the needed expertise.
You see, had I not checked, I would have approached this case with my own assumptions and preconceived thoughts how to establish a mentoring system there. I would have been totally off track. It is important that an organization develops a common understanding of what certain terms mean for them, so that they minimize misunderstanding and ensure aligned communication and action.

I recently followed a thread on the definition of vision and mission statements on LinkedIn and got tired reading it after about 80 posts. In total there were a couple of hundred comments, many of them very passionately claiming that they have the ‘right’ answer and rejecting with equal amount of passion any other definitions. It was amusing and at the same time insightful to observe how excited people could get over two harmless words.

If people can get so engaged about two words when nothing is at stake, can you imagine how serious the implications could be for any leader or organization in terms of communication within the organization?

Over the years, working as an executive myself and having coached and trained hundreds of senior executives, I have learned to appreciate how important it is for an organization to develop a common ‘language’ and ensure that everyone in the organization adopts the same understanding of ‘soft’ words that are frequently used, such as vision, mission, strategy, management, leadership, coaching, mentoring, counseling, consulting, etc. To do so effectively, I found it’s helpful to openly admit that there are no strict official definitions for these terms and then agree on certain definitions for the said terms, within the organization. Everyone in the organization should be encouraged to adopt these definitions in order to facilitate effective communication. This is ever more important in multi-cultural teams or organizations.

Developing a common language, by the way, has some other advantages aside from reducing misunderstanding. It also leads to stronger groupness (sense of belonging to the group) which is a contributing factor to higher engagement and loyalty.

In case you want to know how I distinguish between coaching and mentoring, for me, mentoring is coaching plus sharing of relevant experience and assisting with the mentor’s own network. In my understanding of mentoring, an effective mentor is also an effective coach. Unlike a coach, a mentor needs to have specific and relevant experience in the field of the mentee and is able to make use of his network of contacts to help the mentees in their advancement. As a result, a mentor is typically more senior than the mentee. This is not necessarily the case for coaching.

If you want to know my definition of coaching, feel free to contact me and I’ll be glad to share it with you.
For more information related to Progress-U Leadership Training and Coaching, please click here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

About Sales and other Negotiations


Dear Reader,

I still remember when I conducted one of the first negotiation programs for Progress-U back in 2004. I developed the program for sales people but funny enough, the first deal we got was for a purchasing team. I thought, why not, it's just at the other side of the table and the basic principles of negotiation are the same.

The workshop went well and was in a way quite insightful for me: I noticed that these buyers actually had the challenge sometimes to get the seller to sell to them? This came as a surprise to me because having been in sales (and sales / general management) all my professional life, I would have wished that buyers 'beg' me to sell to them...

What happened? This company was challenged to get vendors sell to them simply because they had quite stringent quality requirements combined with rather low quantities for this industry and at the same time couldn't pay too high prices. So not exactly an ideal customer to their vendors who loved big volumes and rather lenient quality standards.

As a result, I improvised on the spot and conducted a 2-hrs workshop on 'how to sell to the vendor to sell to us'. You see, if buyers might get into a position where they need to sell so that the vendor sells to them, then the traditional view of selling and buying stops to make sense. In negotiations, actually, both parties are selling and buying, no matter who is the 'seller' and who is the 'buyer'.

Share your comments and thoughts on my BLOG:

Let’s keep progressing!
Charlie Lang

Executive Coach and Founder of Progress-U Ltd.

Author of
The Groupness Factor

Why the business world needs a Supersalesteam

By William Ho

3 Download this article
heroesSometimes it takes a team to complete a negotiation successfully … or does it?

You hear footsteps. You know your client’s team is coming. You are waiting with your own team.

Are you prepared, Mr. Supersalesman?*

You remember that the aim of negotiation is to explore the situation, finalize the last piece of the puzzle, and to find a win-win solution that is acceptable to all parties.

You have learned all about negotiating skills. You have been involved in many tug-of-wars. You have earned your stripes. 

Each time, you have done it singlehandedly – winning or losing. However, this time, you are part of a team.

It is not surprising that you have to do this: your client’s team needs to meet the TEAM and not just you, and would like to make sure that they are dealing with the full force and support, and they want to make sure that the final negotiation is not just one decided by you but by the entire TEAM.

To read the complete article, visit

For more information related to Progress-U's Stop Selling! programs including our negotiation program, please click here.

* Refer to our 2010 sales article “Why the (business) world does not need Superman”

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What would it take to make (sales) training REALLY work?

Have you attended any sales training recently? Or perhaps organized one for your sales team?

One point that keeps troubling me when it comes to sales training (or any soft skills training for that matter) is that I can’t help getting the impression that it’s a waste of time and money for the participants and the organization funding it.

The sales management (often including HR or L&D) spends significant efforts in selecting a vendor, designing with them a program, arranging for venue & catering and not to forget the fees for the vendor.

What is the outcome? Hard to tell. Are the participants happy with the program? Often yes. How much did the participants really apply? In my experience much less than expected. Was it ultimately a good Return on Investment (ROI)? Who knows...

What is missing?

I have attended a number of sales and leadership trainings myself and while I enjoyed most of these trainings, I’d say they were not worth the time and money invested if I look at my actual behavioral change resulting from these trainings. Analyzing why the change didn’t happen, I can see three reasons:
  • No clear commitment to any specific (!) changes at the end of the seminar
  • No support during the implementation of any changes – when something doesn’t work immediately, one easily gives up and returns to previous behavior
  • No framework that reminds me of keep trying new behaviors that lead ultimately to more success
To achieve significant behavioral change that leads to better results, we came up with a number of cost-effective strategies how to overcome these short comings. Contact us to find out how. 

Let’s keep progressing!

Charlie Lang
Executive Progress Expert and Founder of Progress-U Ltd.
Author of The Groupness Factor and the upcoming "A New Map for a New Age"

Upcoming Special Events in August & September 2010
starbucksAugust 30, 2010 in Hong Kong
The Starbucks Experience
click here for more info

September 02, 2010 in Hong Kong
Sponsored Half-Day Event: How to Become a Professional Corporate Coach
click here for more info

bresserSeptember 07, 2010 in Hong Kong - with Guest Expert from Germany
What prevents your organization from fully benefiting from coaching?
click here for more info

lennySeptember 14, 2010 in Hong Kong -
with Guest Speakers from Israel and Germany

The Joy-Care Factor -
Achieving personal happiness and better relationships

click here for more info
Starting in September 2010 in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore
Signature Program: Develop Yourself as a Professional Corporate Coach
click here for more info

Sunday, August 15, 2010

It's done! India is confirmed

As some of you know, we are in the process of establishing a joint-venture company in India together with our Gurgaon/Delhi based partner Asha Sridhar.

We got confirmation now that our desired company name Progress-U India Pvt. Ltd. is approved, i.e. officially we are now 'on the map'.

Unfortunately, there is also a software company with the name Progress India but since their biz is quite different, we don't worry too much.

I'll be heading to Gurgaon this coming Thursday as we (Asha and I) will co-deliver already our first workshop with our first client for Progress-U India: the health insurer Apollo-Munich. That's actually a nice coincidence because Apollo-Munich is an Indian-German joint-venture and Asha is Indian (obviously) and I'm German (somewhat obvious).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stop! to Accelerate


Charlie Lang
Dear Reader,

Are you actively involved in social media? Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you avoid it?

I avoided it for quite some time as I’m already busy enough and I didn’t want to burden myself with even more ‘requests’. Also, I was a bit suspicious if this would be all just a big waste of my time. 

Nonetheless, I signed up with LinkedIn and Facebook already a couple of years ago but was never very active and somehow didn’t see the point. About five years ago, I stopped blogging and Twitter is something that I never even started as I didn’t fully comprehend the concept behind it.

Update August 2010: A few days ago, I signed up for Twitter, restarted this BLOG and became much more active on LinkedIn and a bit more active on Facebook.

Why the change of mind? Actually, my mind didn’t change that much. I’m still rather skeptical but I reminded myself of an important principle I dearly believe in: “You don’t know it until you do it.”

So I decided to ‘do it’ and will see what happens. Perhaps I’ll come to love it, perhaps I’ll hate it or perhaps it will just become a normal thing to do like sending emails or browsing the internet.

What’s your experience? Feel free to share here on this blog.

Let's keep progressing!

Charlie Lang

Executive Progress Expert and Founder of Progress-U Ltd.
Author of
The Groupness Factor
Follow Charlie on Twitter

Upcoming Special Events in Aug. & Sept. 2010

August 26, 2010 in Hong Kong
Sponsored Half-Day Event: How to Become a Professional Corporate Coach
click here for more info

bresserSeptember 07, 2010 in Hong Kong - with Guest Expert from Germany
What prevents your organization from fully benefiting from coaching?
click here for more info

lennySeptember 14, 2010 in Hong Kong -
with Guest Speakers from Israel and Germany

The Joy-Care Factor -
Achieving personal happiness and better relationships

click here for more info

Starting in September 2010 in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore
Signature Program: Develop Yourself as a Professional Corporate Coach
click here for more info

Stop! to Accelerate
By Charlie Lang, Executive Progress Expert
Corporate Culture & Senior Leadership Expert @ Progress-U Limited

Stop - AccelerateNo, this is not another article that bores the busy executive with the appeal to slow down, take a vacation, and recharge the batteries.

No, it’s neither an article that appeals to find more work-life-balance by reducing one’s pace.

As you might know, a core part of my work is to coach senior executives. Having been in this line of work since 2002, I sometimes wonder why the majority of my clients truly cherish the time with me.

Over the years, I learned to admit that I (and my charm) might only be a secondary reason.

The people I’m spending time with in my coaching sessions are typically first or second level executives – Managing Directors, Sales Directors, General Managers and the like. And they all have at least one thing in common: they are super-busy! They are often the ones who are the first to arrive at the office in the morning and are frequently among the last to leave. Their schedules are insanely packed with meetings and before, in between and after they need to go through their emails, often numbering 100 – 200 per day. Have I mentioned that most of them travel a lot, too?”

When every minute of the day is precious, why would they want to add another 3-4 hours per month to their schedules to see me? 

Interestingly, while many of my coaching assignments started out with some very specific objective to be achieved, they often turn into a continuous assignment and the specific objective seems to disappear.

That seems strange, doesn’t it? Very busy executives cut significant time out of their schedule for something unspecific? And even cherish that time? 

Let me explain what I observed. 

Did I say that they waste time with me? By no means! They cherish the time with me because they figure that it makes a significant difference. And as I said, I might be only a secondary reason for that – and secondary means that I still have a role to play… 

What I noticed is that the executives I’m coaching realize through our sessions - which may have started for a very specific reason - that a ‘time-out’ with their coach makes a bigger difference to how they run their business than they would have thought at the outset. 

They realize that during these 90 – 120 minutes, something almost like magic happens. They stop, yes, really stop – and think. This is part of my job: to really make them stop by establishing certain boundaries to ensure that there will be no disturbances. Take for example, the case of one of my coachees, the only person who is allowed to interrupt our sessions is his wife. My job is not only to stop them, but to challenge their current way of thinking as well, as to trigger new insights.

That’s not where it ends. New insights in most cases require a change in action. Part of the process is ‘to nail the action’, to ensure the coachees actually make specific changes in the way they think and do things that will lead to improved outcomes. The last part of the process is to keep them accountable through follow-up and follow-through in the subsequent sessions. 

Tom, Managing Director of the Global Sourcing office of a European retailer once shared with me the following after I asked him why he still kept seeing me once or twice a month even after 1.5 years since we started his coaching sessions:

“Charlie, you know by now how crazy our business is. You are aware of the daily madness and the pressure we get from both headquarters and our customers. Taking these 90 minutes off to meet you every few weeks is a great way of recharging myself for the daily battle.”

“You could go to the spa instead. I’m sure that would recharge you, too, and might be even more pleasurable.” I responded. 

“Perhaps, but I wouldn’t get the same level of inspiration and I’d probably make more stupid decisions which would lead to even more pressure. So it’s not just the 90 minutes that make the difference, but the impact of these 90 minutes on my daily work. That’s something I can’t get in the spa.” 

One of my friends at Toastmasters and NLP expert Talis Wong insists: “Practice doesn't make perfect – unless you get useful feedback. Otherwise, practice may make you perfectly wrong.” 

Let me twist that a bit: “Just taking time off doesn’t guarantee gaining great insights. Most of the time, to make a real difference, it takes qualified feedback, as well as effective challenging of current thinking.

” But why pay a coach for that when you could do the same with spouse, friends or colleagues. There are two main reasons why using a professional coach tends to be more effective: 

Spouse, friends, and colleagues are all ‘party’ in your life, so they’ll tend to be biased to some extent. Even if they consciously try to be totally objective, it would be difficult for them to avoid being biased. 

Professional coaches are trained in the art of reflection and use various tools to get their coachees think on a much deeper level thus triggering more profound insights 

Stop – Think – Accelerate! What do you do to move faster? 

Feel free to share on this blog.

Want Content for Your Web Site or E-Zine?
You may copy any of the Manager as Coach articles written by Charlie Lang to your web site, or distribute them in your e-zine or magazine, provided that you include the following attribution (including links to

With permission of Charlie Lang, Executive Progress Expert of
Progress-U Ltd

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Are you tweeting? And other news

1. Twitter

This twitter thing has been on my mind for many months now and quite honestly, I still don't get what's the fuss about it. Following my motto: "you don't know it until you try it" I finally signed up on twitter a few days ago: (in case you'd like to have a look or send me comments on Twitter).

Any idea how to get a 'following' there? Am still a very green newbie on Twitter.

2. Progress-U News

Am quite excited to share that we have two new colleagues at our Progress-U office in Hong Kong. As our assistant Rosanna Shek - who has been with us for almost exactly 3 years - has decided to expand her experience by working in a different company and perhaps different role, we had to look for a replacement and found one in Vanessa Lui who joined us yesterday. Rosanna will hand over her work to Vanessa and have her last working day on 31st August 2010.

Also, we eventually hired again a Business Development Director for Hong Kong. Owen Wong will join us on coming Wednesday (18th August). He has already experience in doing similar work with one of our competitors here in Hong Kong, so he should be 'up and running' within a short period of time due to his past experience.

I wish both of them a great start at Progress-U and all the success they and we wish.

3. Hot upcoming events

After a hot summer (which is still ongoing here in Hong Kong) follows a hot event season. We'll have 3 special events coming up:

facilitated by Charlie Lang

facilitated by Frank Bresser (flying in from Germany) and Charlie Lang

facilitated by Lenny Ravich (flying in from Israel) and Avi Liran (flying in from Singapore)

Hope to see you at any of these events!

Keep in touch!


Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Fish Starts Smelling from the Head

Do you remember when you were back in school? How would you distinguish between an excellent and an average teacher?

A good test would be to see what happens when a teacher is called out of class at mid-lesson. If students still keep working, it means that the teacher managed to truly engage them in the learning subject. More often, you’ve probably seen the opposite - how kids behaved if the teacher wasn’t that effective.

If we look at the workplace, isn’t there a strong similarity between effective teachers and effective leaders? Have you seen teams that perform on a high level whether or not the boss is around? And other teams where performance takes an almost instant dip when the manager leaves the office?

Or does maintaining performance depend more on the kind of people working in the team?

That’s what Marty, Head of Finance of the Hong Kong subsidiary of a large American Media Company thought.

“We just can’t find the right people here who are really passionate about finance, accounting, and controlling. So I have to keep being after them, making sure the quality of reports is right and deadlines are being respected. 

It’s quite tiring, but it seems that’s the only way to make it work over here.”

Marty has been working in Hong Kong for the past two years. He was transferred by the New York headquarters due to a successful track record as Chief Controller there.

This is a quite common situation: executives who were able to successfully manage teams overseas struggle to repeat the same success in Asia. So is Marty right? Are there simply not enough people here who are passionate in his field?
In Germany, we have a saying that translates to “The fish starts smelling from the head.” Perhaps you can guess that the fish here stands for the team and the head stands for…the head of the team. So if the team ‘smells’, then there are good chances it started at the head, i.e. the manager of the team.

Getting people engaged in Hong Kong or other parts of Asia might not work exactly in the same way as it does overseas. It turned out that Marty tapped into the limiting beliefs trap.

When his leadership style which successfully worked in the US failed to produce the same results in Asia, he simply put the blame on his Asian team members. He replaced a couple of them which hardly improved the situation.

When this was not working, he changed his leadership style from an empowerment to a controlling approach. Now his results improved somewhat but he felt quite exhausted from continuously checking the work of his team members. What he didn’t realize – as we eventually found out – was the fact that his Asian colleagues were used to a directive style from his predecessor. They needed first to be prepared for a more empowering leadership style.

The paradox here is that on one hand, his people actually wanted to be more empowered which in turn would make them more engaged and at the same time, when Marty tried to do exactly that, it didn’t work because they were not used to this leadership style.

So what to do?

First, Marty agreed that his current style of managing the team is not what he really wanted. So he was willing to make yet another change provided that there would be good chances to achieve what he wanted to achieve: to build a highly engaged team.

Second, Marty needed to open up to his team and share his frustrations without putting the blame on anyone but himself. He decided to run a facilitated offsite half-day event with his team. He agreed to apologize to his team members for his recent directive style. This was difficult for him to do because his own frustration with his team members was still emotionally affecting him.

Third, during the offsite event, after airing his frustrations and offering his apologies, he shared his vision of how to work together and solicited comments from his team. Since the trust level was not yet sufficiently high for his team members to feel comfortable enough to confront Marty directly with their views, the facilitator asked Marty to leave the room and collected their comments.

It turned out that there was actually a close match between Marty’s vision and what his team members wanted. In order to feel more comfortable with taking more ownership, however, they needed better clarification of his expectations. Initially, they felt that he was simply dumping work on them without explaining exactly what the expected outcome was. As a result, they were hesitating which way to go, and this lead to delays and eventually suboptimal results.

Marty was happy to learn that his initial and actually preferred leadership style would only require some modification to work in the same way it did back in the US.

As it turned out, his Asian colleagues could get equally, if not more, passionate than his previous colleagues. All that was needed was confidence in them and a slight but important modification in his approach to leading his Asian team.