Research Paper By Jenna Loh
(Career Coach, MALAYSIA)
Case Study – Coaching Introvert to Achieve Breakthrough
Thu Hang, Graduate Chemical Engineer, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Malaysia
Thu Hang was typical of many top foreign students. She finished top of her class in her high school in Vietnam and was offered a scholarship to study at the University Technology of Petronas in Malaysia renowned for Industry specializations in Oil and Gas. And so she travelled to Malaysia in 2009 to pursue her dreams of a life made secured by academic excellence.
My name is Jenna and i have been a head-hunter for past 12 years. Joined ICA with the purpose to be a Coach and thankfully I made the right choice with ICA. In 2011 I was given the opportunity to share with the undergraduates at our local and private Universities in Malaysia, this is how and where I met Hang.
Our organization MyPath was invited to organize the workshop event at University Technology Petronas to help their undergraduates discover themselves and thereafter find their career paths. After the workshop, we issued a personal invitation to undergraduates to participate. Subsequently Hang stepped forward and we started to help her discover her true career interests..
To paraphrase the famous saying,
when the coachee is ready, the coach appears.
I first knew Jenna when she came to my university to deliver a workshop about how graduating students can prepare themselves better to join the work force after graduation. I was inspired by what she was doing figured out what was a meaningful career to me.
Many graduates like Hang would pass through their educational life without any more thought or additional preparation for their future except to do well in their studies. In the case of Hang, the reality hit her one day when she went through her internship which was meant to prepare her for the bright future career in the oil and gas industry. She then realized that she had the passion to work helping people rather than just working with machines, data and systems as an engineer. Hang approached me for guidance and I offered my coaching sessions with her.
Together with the passion of working with people, I decided to register as an Associate in the Executive Search Program of MyPath for which Jenna became my coach, and eventually is my business partner.
At the same time Hang decided to join our Program as our Executive Search Associate, I decided to commence our coaching sessions so that Hang can have the opportunity to overcome all her natural fears, shed all her natural inhibitions so that she can embrace all the necessary changes in her approach towards her work.
As my coach, Jenna listens to my sharing, from which identifies my hidden concern and brings it to the surface for discussion. She continuously asks me constructive questions to reveal my doubts, clarify the root causes and encourage me to find the solutions to face my doubts/fear and then move forward. Furthermore, throughout my coaching sessions with Jenna, she supported me to identify the negative habits and perceptions that restrict me from excelling in my chosen career path. She understood I was an introvert.
Statistics support the well-known fact that about *50% of working adults and professionals are introvert in their basic personality type and as such they try very hard to fit into the work environment which seems to be more favorable to extroverts. Many introverts keep their fears, inhibitions and thoughts privately to themselves. They exert unnecessary pressure on their own selves so as to be seen and heard more, very much like trying to “fit-in” with the rest of the crowd. In this respect, Hang made herself no different from the others as she allowed herself to “drift along with the main current”.
As my coach, she believes in me, giving me chances to prove my ability.
Coaching begins with the position of trust and then working towards enhancing that trust. As such, it was important that I first began by establishing a genuine relationship with Hang so she would open up and trust me with the whole coaching process that we would be going through. As her coach, my support to show her my presence and patience in listening to her must be clearly seen and felt.
She also suggested learning materials for my self-learning and development.
I started coaching Hang to share more about her introvert nature and how she can apply her understanding and knowledge into her advantage. With her permission, i asked her to rank the following list of Introvert’s Advantages** in the order of relevance to her, as follows:
- Work Well With Others, Especially In One-to-One Relationships
- Maintain Long-Term Friendships
- Strong Ability To Concentrate
- Creative, Out-of-the-Box thinking
- Analytical Skills That Integrate Complexity
- Studious and Smart
And it was interesting to note that as she started to rearrange the list of the top 10 advantages, she began to realize the true extent of who she was back then. With the help of Coaching techniques learnt from ICA, I was able to play my important role in helping Hang develop her self-awareness and thereafter affirm her commitment towards her own self-directed views of who she can become in the future. And as she embarked on this journey of her own self-discovery, I can clearly see the catalytic effects of coaching opening her up to her inner self, like peeling off one layer at a time. She was becoming to be the true gem that she is today.
The Experience Realized
Then one day an opportunity came along for us to work together on a business project: Head-hunting engineers for a Multi-National Corporation.
Recently, we have a wonderful opportunity to work together in a recruiting project.
As business partners, we really tag well with each other with speed and determination which results in the client’s satisfaction after the series of interviews.
Working together with Hang was like dancing tango with a knowledgeable partner. Her natural introvert nature meant that she was more reflective in her interview approach and I coached her in asking the right questions with all the candidates we were screening. Her training in engineering allows her to appreciate the structure involved in the interview process. It was a real pleasure working with a graduate Associate like Hang who had a natural curiosity and finely-tuned engineer’s mind.
Our journey together is still a long way ahead and I’m thankful for having Jenna as my coach, and business partner. Using her life experience and acquired knowledge, she has coached me to have a positive and proactive mindset personally and professionally. Jenna is my role-model for her determined and purposeful attitude in life.
I am grateful, what I have learned from ICA classes, I was able to distill my knowledge into my own practical coaching model. In Hang’s case, this has enabled me to apply my Coaching model: The Tango with its 4Ps as follows:
- Purpose: Coaching must always follow a clear objective and a plan of execution to achieve that objective. In this respect, the series of coaching sessions were agreed upon when Hang shared about her issues which became her natural objectives to be achieved for each session. Each time I listened to her, i responded with the coaching tools learnt from ICA. The power questions enable her to further develop her own awareness of who she was. Simple self evaluation tool designed by Susan Cain (sample of the questions is listed at the end of this article) was being used as one of our early exercise during self-discovery session. Each session worked towards achieving her objectives as well as todetermine whetherher personal resources were enough to achieve them.
- Private: Very much like the Tango, Coaching begins and ends with 2 persons. It is this private face-to-face interaction that frames the space, attention and the presence. My coaching sessions have always encouraged Hang to think, reflect and articulate within the security of confidentiality as agreed upon. As her coach, I respected her space as she shared her innermost thoughts by intensively listening, actively sensing and responding to her every step she makes. In this respect, Coaching is very much like Tango – a personal intimacy of communication between two persons. As her Coach, I will listen and by utilizing power questions allow her thoughts to blossom into her self-action and direction.
- Professional: Every tango dance can either be a spectator sport or a very private event. From the dancers’ attire, dance venue and the music, nothing is left to chance. Similarly I practice professionalism in my coaching sessions with Hang from the very first day and this is best reflected by the high standards of respect we have for each other till today. We continue to maintain our daily communication through the online social media on a daily basis and we talk to each other weekly using the online Skype phone. It is most gratifying to note that our coaching sessions are full of candor and openness, where both parties show mutual trust, respect for each other as well as allowing difference of opinions. Coaching must exhibit the presence and ability to listen, facilitate, inspire and connect. As a result, Hang was connected to her self-directed journey and coached to explore new ideas, solutions and limitless possibilities.
- Pace: As I was coaching Hang, I constantly ensured that she was comfortable with the pace of our sessions. Thanks to the ICA training, I became more sensitive to the “grey areas” whenever Hang expressed her fears, doubts as well surface her prejudices that have hindered her progress so far. Sometimes our coaching sessions would slow down in pace whereas sometimes on other occasions, she would subsequently pick up the tempo and dash off as if in search for “the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” especially when self-realization suddenly dawns upon her.
Throughout the Purposeful coaching sessions with Hang, she began to understand more about herself (Awareness) and reflect on what she is capable of doing. This awareness has borne fruit in her Commitment as she made her choice to be our Associate Career Specialist in Vietnam. In time to come, I am very sure that her Experience will grow her self-confidence and further fuel her desire to achieve whatever her heart desires.
I have this firm conviction that Thu Hang will naturally evolve herself, like the butterfly pupae into her final career role. Coaching, very much like the tango dance, is all about providing the correct environment that nurtures and promotes leadership and motivation at the very beginning of the dance. Then as the dance continues, it is allowing the other partner to take over the lead as and when the opportunity arises. The final objective of the coaching very much like the tango dance is to deepen the appreciation for one another as equal partners to be well-connected and moving in unison to the same tempo and music.
At the time of writing this article, Hang is now very much in her own career journey being self-employment as our Associate based back in Vietnam after achieving some early and encouraging success in head-hunting for companies based in Taiwan and Penang, Malaysia.
Below is one of the useful tools used as an exercise with Hang at the beginning of our coaching session:
***Questions for the Introvert nature
- Do you prefer one-on-one conversations or group activities?
- Do you often prefer to express yourself in writing?
- Do you enjoy solitude, thinking and talking to yourself?
- Do you seem to care less about wealth, fame, and status as compared to your peers?
- Do people say that you are a good listener?
- Are you a big risk-taker?
- Do you enjoy work that allows you to “dive in” with few interruptions?
- Do you like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale, with only one or two close friends or family members?
- Do people describe you as “soft-spoken” or “mellow”?
- Do you prefer not to show or discuss your work with others until it’s finished?
- Do you prefer to think before you speak?
- If given the choice, do you prefer to let calls go through to your voice-mail?
(***These questions were adapted from the book Quiet by Susan Cain, based on characteristics of introversion)