Taking the plunge
Hello, I am Yvonne Chin and I am so happy to be talking to you today! I graduated from Taylor’s University in August 2018 and I am currently working as an event manager. Reflecting back on my life, what a big transition this is from the course I graduated in i.e. a course in Bio-technology. I quickly realised in university that event management was the area I wished to spend time on and not to be working in a laboratory. To a large degree, I had the resources in university that helped develop my communications and leadership skills and provided me the confidence to get into event management. I wish to share with you this journey of self-discovery that I took in university – and I have my knowledgeable and experienced coach, Jeff Cheah, to thank for it.
It was in Taylor’s university that I first went into event organisation as part of my extra-curricular activities. Whilst organising the first and second conferences as team leader of events, I realised I lacked communication and leadership skills to lead my team. Nonetheless I was, and still am very competitive. A close friend of mine had made so much progress in terms of holding leadership position although both of us started off at the same level. I felt that she had advanced whilst I stood still. Therefore, I decided I had to up my game and I took the plunge! For the third conference, I applied and interviewed for the position of Conference Director…and succeeded! Then the butterflies settled in my stomach.
It was during this period that I heard about pro-bono coaching provided by International Coaching Federation, Malaysian Chapter (ICFM) members to some students of Taylor’s University. I went for their talk and was taken up with what I heard. Personal Coaching, as I understood it, was all about setting goals, creating awareness, self-discovery, identifying options and taking action. During the talk, students and coaches picked up little cards depicting different animals. Students were paired off with the coaches carrying matching cards to them. That was how I met my coach, Jeff Cheah.
My first impression of my coach was that he was really experienced and knowledgeable. I was nervous. I did not get along easily with people, even students, what more with someone older. However, Jeff was so approachable that I soon got over my nervousness. Our first coaching session was in May 2017 and it focussed on setting expectations and goals. In that session I identified that I wished to work on my communications skills, public speaking and leadership. Jeff asked me a lot of open-ended questions. All simple questions but they made me think. For instance, he got me to articulate where I was in terms of the goals I wanted to work on and where I saw myself one year down the road. He used a scaling method i.e. on a scale of 1 – 10 where was I now and where did I want to be. He also got me to picture how a 10 out of 10 will look, what I would feel, hear and see when I got to that perfect score of 10 in terms of achieving my goals. I believe this visualisation of the goal and connecting it with emotions made the goal that much clearer and it fired me to take action.
Overcoming my inner critique
When I went into coaching, I thought Jeff will provide me with all the solutions I needed. It soon became clear to me that he was not going to spoon feed me. Instead of providing me the fish, he thought me to fish! Jeff asked challenging questions that got me thinking and had me explore possibilities.
Even as a Conference Director, I struggled with self-confidence. In one of our meetings, the Deputy Director came prepared with the full presentation slides. My inner critique started whispering – no – shouting down at me: “my deputy was not happy with me”, “he was better, more experienced than me – he deserved my position of Conference Director”, “he was close to the Conference Advisors, they would have liked him better if he had been in my role”, “Perhaps I should just resign”. Amidst all this noise in my head I sat quietly and listened as he took charge of the meeting and handled queries from other members. I felt like a total failure in my role.
I brought this incident to my coach, Jeff. He was practical about it. He asked if I had personally approached my deputy and when I responded in the negative he encouraged me to have open discussions with him. I guess I had always tried to escape the situation. Talking to Jeff helped me look at the situation objectively. Was I looking at it from my own perspective, my own story of the world? Was my reaction a result of my inner thoughts and not the actual event itself? At the end of that session with Jeff I had an “aha” moment. I realised leadership is NOT about handling everything on my own. Leadership is about getting everyone in the team to play to their strength – to let the right person handle the right job for the overall success of the event!
Another situation that impacted me as conference director was the conflict between a member of the conference management team and his team leader which impacted the whole event management. Jeff coached me on how to handle the situation and taking on from that I got the two of them to communicate with each other. During the open communication between the two of them, it turned out that although the team leader was not happy with the member’s performance, the member continued in a blissful state thinking he was performing well…quite unaware of any shortcomings. That is when I really experienced first-hand how important communication is. People tended to have different perspectives and different views. With open communication, challenges could be handled effectively.
I used this new-found awareness on the effectiveness of communication not just in my professional capacity but also in my personal capacity. It led me to reflect more when it came to disagreements. It occurred to me that all those times when we disagree, the other party may not be completely wrong- no more than I was. There are two sides to every coin and it was all a matter of perspective. Today, I am able to discuss things over and yes, I still do argue, but not as much as before!
Then I took another plunge! I did a maiden speech for my conference opening ceremony. It may not be a big deal for many but public speaking was not my strength. Growing up, I was a timid, awkward and introverted child who hated socialising and stayed away from people. So that inner critique of mine started whispering again. I sat down with Jeff for some more coaching to overcome my fear and prepare myself for the big day. Jeff asked me questions such as what I thought good public speaking was and then got me to identify the steps I needed to take in order to get there. He also helped me overcome my fear by getting me to face it. When I finally gave the speech, people came over to congratulate me. They assured me my nervousness did not come through at all. I realised then that preparation is the key to a good speech.
What great coaching I received on leadership, communications and public speaking!
Accepting my imperfections
I had a total of six coaching sessions with Jeff from May 2017 to October 2017.What I really liked about Jeff was that he did not limit the coaching sessions to just the six face to face meetings. In between our sessions, Jeff shared a lot of inspiring and motivational videos and articles. Two of these really had an impact on me:
The power of vulnerability by Brene Brown
In this TEDx Talk Brene Brown talked about what separates people who have a strong sense of love and belonging from those who don’t: they BELIEVE they are worthy of love and belonging. That’s it!
- They had the courage to be imperfect.
- They had the compassion to be kind to themselves.
- They had authenticity – they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were
- They fully embraced vulnerability, they were willing to do something where there were no guarantees
She invites us to be seen deeply and vulnerably and to love wholeheartedly even though there are no guarantees. She invites us to shift our perception and to believe we are enough.
I loved it, it made me realise it was okay to be imperfect. By accepting my imperfections I become strong. I applied this awareness in my journey as a Conference Director…I understood now that I cannot do everything on my own. Some areas where I was not so strong in, I could rely on the Deputy Director or the Team Leaders to help. It was not a sign of weakness to ask for help. By letting other people to help me, I was able to focus better on the tasks that I am good at and overall our team became more effective.
The other article I liked was:
Your words are powerful: 8 positive speaking habits to build yourself up by Margie Warrell
What I got from this article was:
- The words you use hold immense power.
- The world mirrors yourself back to you
- Your language impacts how others perceive and relate to you
- Realising just how capable you truly are begins the moment you decide to use words that embolden you
As I grew up, I was used to putting myself down. I did not believe I could achieve certain things…until I actually achieved it. I have always labelled myself with negative adjectives and have taken feedback as criticism. Hence this article really helped to change my perspective.
With the six face to face sessions and his sharing of great articles and videos, Jeff helped me in my journey to be a leader. He helped create awareness in me and to develop myself. I tended to overthink and magnify issues. Through coaching I was able to take a different perspective. I learned how to embrace myself and express myself positively. Coaching empowered me to achieve more than I thought I could.
For all of you out there who are looking to make changes in your life, I encourage you to embrace your insecurities and imperfections, take that plunge and enjoy the journey. You may wish to take this journey with a coach, who could help you get to where you want to go faster and help you discover your potential.
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