[Day in the Life of a Coach] Interview with ICA Coach, Valerie Lim
(Executive Coach, ASIA)
Valerie Lim was pushed into coaching, sort of. As a partner at Innovative Formula, a training and coaching firm with offices in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, clients continually asked her to coach them. Having a ton of experience but no coaching credential, Valerie politely declined until one day a colleague told her it was the ‘practical’ thing to do for the business.
Well, what started as a practical journey turned in a passionate one. After choosing ICA as her training school, Valerie now coaches a wide range of incredible individuals, including students, young graduates, business owners and senior executives.
And she brings with her more than 20 years of management experience to work with companies such as American Express, Seagram, Unilever and Singapore Airlines.
In this interview with Merci, she tells the rest of the story.
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Interview with Merci
Merci: So I’m delighted to be with Valerie Lim today on “Day in the Life of a Coach”. Valerie is a recent ICA graduate but clearly from her background, she’s been coaching for many years I suspect. So welcome, Valerie!
Valerie: Thank you, good morning, good evening on your side, Merci. Very happy to be here.
Merci: It is lovely to have you Valerie.
So Valerie is a partner in an interesting firm Innovative Formula, and you have presence in three countries in South East Asia.
Valerie: That’s right.
Merci: Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. And I just glanced at your background…
You’ve been working with some major companies, American Express, Seagram , Managing director of the EMI music, which is a fascination field. And you’ve lived between the US and China and you’ve traveled quite a bit. So I’m curious how did you find coaching or did it find you?
Valerie: That’s an interesting question. Well, as you’ve mentioned, I’ve been in the corporate world for what seems like forever. You know in two big companies and then I left, we moved away because of my husband’s job. So when I returned, I was actually looking for something to do. I had offers from organizations because of my background, but I thought, “well do I really want to do this? Do I really want to go back into the corporate world, back into the rat race?” I’m not so sure. And then I was approached by Lilian. Lilian is actually also an ex-ICA student, and alumni. And she asked me if I wanted to set up Innovative Formula in Singapore. And as you saw on my website, it is a training company for executives, middle and senior managers and leadership roles. So I said, why not? With my kind of background, I thought I could contribute something to that field. And then once I started training, I started being approached by clients to coach. And I remember saying, “Me, coach? No no, i dont think so. I have colleagues who coach. They’re certified. I will get them for you.” And after a couple of months of being asked to coach, finally one of my partners said, look, this is ridiculous, you have to start coaching, you’ve done it before. You’ve been in the corporate world, you’ve been an MD for so many years, I’m sure you’ve developed many young people. So at that point in time, it was a very very practical business reason that I decided to get into coaching.
Valerie: So that’s how I started. And I did my research and the more research I did, the more confused i got.
Valerie: And I wasn’t sure. Do I do a physical class, or do I do an online? Do I join an online facility that would help train me?. And this part of the story is particularly interesting because I was so confused, it was December, I still remember, I was very very confused and I wanted to get it settled and I said, how do I do this? And then because of Lilian, she said, “Check out the ICA but I’m not going to tell you anything, you have to decide for yourself.” I looked at your website and there was an inquiry email, i think where I put in my name and asked for more information. And a few days later, I was actually called by someone I knew and I had met in China while on Holiday.
Valerie: She had been on holiday there with her two kids and I was there with my three and we got along like a house on fire, she was living in Beijing and I was living in Shanghai and that was the only time we met and we parted ways because it was just a week’s holiday.
Valerie: It was Daisy.
Merci: Oh! Daisy! Yes!
Valerie: Yeah, it was Daisy and she said, this must be you. Because I hadn’t written my name down, I hadn’t put in the country I was from. And because of that I got this lady from Dubai calling me otherwise it would have been someone else from I guess Asia.
Merci: Yeah that’s incredible.
Valerie: Yeah, yeah and I didn’t even know she was a coach. She didn’t know who I was. Like I said, and we spent three hours on skype and I asked her, every question I had in my head and she sorted things out for me.
Merci: The world is so small, isn’t it?
Valerie: I know. I know
Merci: Its just incredible. And I like hearing stories like, you’re right. They’re very interesting when two things come together. It’s meant to be as they say.
Valerie: That’s right
Merci: I for one am glad you found us. There was so much choice out there.
Valerie: Yeah that’s right.
Merci: I know this must show up in your business too. But a lot of it has to do with somebody who knows somebody and connects with them well a more powerful message than a marketing message so I’m so glad it worked for you and you found yourself here and really pointed you in the right direction.
Valerie: I know, because when she first mentioned ICA and it was something that is very flexible, you call in, dial in, do the classes whenever you want to. I said, forget it, that’s not for me. I don’t think I could do that. I don’t think I’d be discipled enough. I think I need a physical class. But I don’t know, Daisy was sent to me to just help me with that. And as they say, there’s no turning back and I’ve enjoyed all my months in ICA and doing all lthe studies, I really really thoroughly enjoyed it.
Merci: Great!. I get to ask this question all the time Valerie…
Merci: So it sounds like, you have a lot on your plate as they say. So what’s the typical day in the life of you. I know you coach and you train and you probably do some consulting. What’s the typical day like for you?
Valerie: Well I spend my time doing a bunch of things, there’s no real fixed day for me because, you know, my office is my client’s office. Wherever they are, that’s where I sit, that’s where I train or coach. When I’m not in my client’s office, I’m working from my home office or working from my Kuala Lumpur office. And as you know I do primarily executive coaching. Which means that organizations are my clients. So that kind of coaching is very structured. My clients, the organizations, they want to see results. They want to be able to get a return on the investment (ROI) so all that makes it a little bit different, a little bit more structured. So while I coach individuals one on one and in groups, I also have to do the back-end work. Like write reports , like meeting with the HR people. And we all learn in coaching, everything is confidential, everything that we discuss with our coachees is confidential but we still have to give an overall feedback as to how things are. How things are going and that’s what takes up a lot of my time as well but it’s interesting because it makes me think back, how effective have I been. What did we work on yesterday, today. And I have to plan forward. So it is very much more structure than let’s say when I do career coaching with individuals. That makes it a little more different. The other thing that I spend a little bit of time more this year, which I find really cool, is I’m working with organizations, to run workshops that turn their internal managers into internal coaches.
Merci: Yeah that’s fascinating work, isn’t it?
Valerie: Yeah I love it, I love it. Now are they going to become professional coaches eventually? Probably not. But these are organizations that have come to realize and recognize that coaching skills are very useful in the workplace. So we go in, we teach them listening skills, questioning skills, being mindful, being aware. Using coaching techniques. And they love it. They love it.
Valerie: They come in, the employees come in unsure. Some come in begrudgingly, but after the first workshop, they say, “Oh my goodness, this is so useful, I even use it at home.”
Merci: Yes, yes. It’s interesting isn’t it? I do that kind of work too Valerie and I just can’t get over how some of the simplest coaching techniques can really change the culture of a team and you know that I really believe that an entire organization to address the biggest obstacles in the workplace, which is communication.
Merci: That’s right.
Valerie: And organization, doing more with less and always doing more, so I love hearing that. It’s an exciting way that coaching is showing up in the world and what a great way of just sort of blending everything about who you are in your background and your love of coaching and just share it with others and makes a difference.
Merci: That’s right.
Valerie: So it’s been interesting because you know, I thought, “I’ll just be certified and just get that out of the way.” But little did I know that it would become such an integral part of what I’m doing today. You know, so our workshop is ICF certified. ICF has really high standards as we know so we went through the hoops to get certified and that’s really cool and that’s something that I enjoy working on right now.
Merci: So I have to ask, I ask everybody I talk with on Day in the Life of a Coach, if you could tell the world Valerie one thing about coaching, what would it be?
Valerie: Ah, that’s probably the toughest question.
Valerie: I think I would say that coaching brings many things to different people but I would say that the one thing I love most about coaching is the fact that it empowers people to take control back to their lives and why I say this especially and what I do is, well, I personally have been very fortunate and that I’ve worked in two jobs where I really really love what I did. But today I meet a lot of executives who are very unhappy at work. They feel trapped, they feel, oh my goodness, they’re counting down the days to retirement. They’re feeling very stressed. And as you mentioned just now Merci, it’s all about communication. And things are changing so quickly in the workplace, in the world, that you need to be able to change along with your environment. So I strongly believe and I’ve seen it work, I’ve seen the power of coaching. I strongly believe that coaching can empower people so that they can either change the way they feel about their jobs or they can start looking for something better that will bring them satisfaction, bring back peace into their lives instead of blaming their bosses, instead of blaming their environment, their circumstances. Coaching can help them examine their inner self, their beliefs, their values.
Valerie: And if you truly cannot change the environment and the way you see things, well maybe there’s something else you can do. And to me coaching does that beautifully.
Merci: Oh my gosh, I couldn’t add one word to that. That’s so well said.Well thank you so much for letting the world know a little bit more about coaching and what it really looks like. I find it fascinating. You have combined a number of different things and I’m sure our listeners will to.
Valerie: Thank you. Thank you for asking me Merci. Really enjoyed this.
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