28 Jan, 2022


By |2022-01-28T10:28:00+00:00January 28th, 2022|

For the first time, I’m sending out a Lunar New Year e-greeting on behalf of my company. This reminded of the Diwali greeting cards my father used to send to corporate clients every year. It was always the same pattern – a stark white, glossy background with an image of Goddess Laxmi in the center, flanked on each side by a globe which were parts of the company logo. As a young girl, to me these cards always looked very official, stately even. And now, here I am with my own festive greeting card, white background and all.

It’s a simple idea, especially now with e-cards and templates, yet I never thought about sending one before. I decided to do it this year, because not only is Tiger my year (for those of you doing math in your head, I’ll be 24 soon?), but it’s also the 3-year anniversary of my company, Unlocked Ltd.

In Feb 2019, armed with only a Level 2 coaching certificate and just as many contacts in a new industry, I registered Unlocked with the Companies Registry. What followed was a highly unsettling year of doubts, uncertainties and missteps. And that was before the pandemic started.

So, it gives me great pleasure to write that in the three years since then, I have racked up a few hundred hours’ coaching experience and another couple hundred in delivering corporate workshops. While my current clients include senior executives from multi-national organizations in diverse industries such as luxury, manufacturing, hospitality & legal, it wasn’t always like that. There was a time when I was coaching ex-colleagues in exchange for a cup of coffee at Starbucks – a group of people I’ll always be grateful to for trusting a hopeful novice. In light of these developments, the act of sending an e-greeting this year, while small, somehow also feels exhilarating, as if reaching a milestone.

The truth is, I still make mistakes, but I cannot remember the last time I felt this invigorated. So, in the coming Lunar New Year, this tiger looks forward to roaming old lands and new, and hopefully earning a few more stripes along the way.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Image credit: cover designed by www.freepik.com

28 Sep, 2021

50 Shades of Bias

By |2022-01-25T07:44:56+00:00September 28th, 2021|

Recently, my middle niece has taken to reading – to be clear, reading bestsellers, modern and classic literature rather than the fan fiction she used to read. We’ve been bondingover books, and even having impromptu mini-book reviews on Hong Kong’s double decker buses on our way to yet another bookstore. Given how new she is to this genre, she is surprisingly knowledgeable about literature. Curious about how quickly she has grown in this space, I asked her where she is learning about books.

“TikTok,” she said, beaming. “Sometimes Insta and YouTube.” I actually laughed out loud when I heard this, but she was indignant. “There is valuable information available on these sites if you would just give them a chance!” I dismissed her, saying she needed to seek ‘legitimate’ sources to be taken seriously as a reader.

It turns out my nieces and nephews get all their information on books – and other topics – from these platforms. Previously, my niece used Tumblr to find out about the latest in fan fiction. My nephew even decided to read Crime and Punishment because the main character on the Netflix drama ‘You’ is obsessed with the book (and to my nephew’s credit, he got through one chapter which is one more than I’ve read).  It is through social media they keep up with what’s going on in the world, learn new skills, discover and cultivate hobbies, and so much more.

So, what does this have to do with bias? Recently, there’s been a lot of interest in unconscious bias, and as a corporate trainer I’ve delivered some workshops on it myself. Most people would like to think that they have no biases when it comes to the big ones such as race, gender and sexual orientation, some are even right to think that. It’s the lesser talked about biases that creep up for so many of us, becoming a part of our everyday lives without our knowledge. And thankfully, as a coach and trainer, I’ve been able to challenge myself in this space and reflect on my approach when interacting with the younger generation. What filters do I have on when I communicate with them? And at what point does harmless teasing transform into judgment?

I’m embarrassed to share that my generational bias shows up in conversations with my nieces and nephews. Whether it’s their source of news, their slang (which is lit) or even priorities, I admit that I make assumptions that their choices are perhaps inferior to the ones made by my generation. And while this may be true at times, it is my hubris to dismiss their approach entirely. I may not understand why one would look up ‘best books of this century’ on TikTok, but I admit that my niece is learning. Quickly. And she’s doing it her way, and the way of a generation. So, regardless of how she’s getting there, I am grateful that I finally have a family member who likes the same books I do, and rather than deride her for her proclivity towards social media, I’d rather nurture what is now a hobby, and hopefully will transform into a lifelong passion.

31 Jul, 2021

My Dog, the Coach

By |2022-01-25T07:47:34+00:00July 31st, 2021|

A few days ago, I attended a talk on business development hosted by a local coaching community. The guest speaker said that at the risk of sounding blunt, everyone and their dog is calling themselves a coach these days, and that we need to find ways of differentiating ourselves from the rest of the pack. This made me think – albeit about completely the wrong thing.

I looked down atmy 9-year-old Sheltie who lay asleep at my feet, as she does throughout most of my working day, and I thought that Ellie would indeed make a great coach! Even without any training, she displays a surprising number of coach-like qualities.

Perhaps her most enduring quality as a coach, is her uncanny ability to detect a shift in my energy. When I’m out walking her and I see an Alaskan Malamute across the street, I pretend not to notice and keep walking, but Ellie senses her leash being tightened by a sixteenth of an inch, and is ready to launch into a battle of the canines!

Ellie is an excellent listener who never interrupts, holding space for me like none other. And, she even acknowledges me by being in the room and holding eye contact for extended periods of time. One time, I could’ve sworn I saw her nod.

What I love most though, is that I can be completely vulnerable and authentic around her. In fact, I’d argue that she is perhaps the only living creature around whom I am so fully present in my skin and sense of being. So while Ellie may not be an accredited coach, she is still able to create a psychologically safe and empathetic environment with the best of ‘em!

And finally, there are all the ways in which she challenges me and helps me grow. Whether it’s the functional learnings of being a first-time dog owner or surprising myself with my capacity to love a dog this much.

So while her questions may seem repetitive (Is that cheese I smell? Can you share your food?), she more than compensates for it with all her other coach characteristics.

I guess the guest speaker was correct – every dog could call themselves a coach! Especially mine.


9 Apr, 2021

Perfection in Imperfection

By |2022-01-25T07:54:02+00:00April 9th, 2021|

For the last couple of decades, I lived by the axiom ‘what gets measured, gets improved.’ It was a great mantra for a project manager focused on streamlining clunky business processes. In my past life, I measured everything: how long it took us to place orders to a factory, how long the factory took to confirm them, order raw materials, inspect them, make product etc. And I challenged, squeezed, and shortened these times along the way. Whether I was improving, organizing or competing, it all came naturally to me.

So it wasn’t a surprise that this way of being seeped into other areas of my life. I’m the only person I know that has a fully labelled pantry at home, and I can write a SOP in my sleep. Seriously. A friend introduced me to the Good Reads app over Christmas, and I set up my account by the first of the year. It tracks how many books I read in a year, a month, a week. I was overjoyed when I discovered the feature to mark the date you start and finish a book. What gets measured, gets improved.

I started developing an awareness around this when I started coaching. Initially, I found myself asking clients to rate goals and emotions on a scale of 1 to 10. Not a bad question as such, but I had a bias for numbers, so I stopped asking it. Eventually, I began practicing curiosity in earnest, truly letting go of the expectations of an neatly packaged outcome. This hasn’t come easy to me, and I occasionally still find myself getting tempted to solve problems and organize a client’s jumbled thoughts. It finally occurred to me, just like my old habits trickled into areas of my life where they didn’t belong, what if I introduced and practiced letting go more broadly?

With some difficulty, I stopped tracking turnaround time on books I read, instead focusing on the immersive experience they offer. I find myself seeking hobbies that for a long time will permit me to prioritize being an explorer over an expert. I’ve been belabouring a 500-piece puzzle, a gift from my nephew, I’ve taken up chess, and don’t get me started on the amount of time I stare at word games, looking for and failing to find patterns. I am finally starting to become comfortable with not knowing, planning or improving. Just being. And now when I sit with a client, I ask myself what letting go of expectations would look like in the next hour.

For someone who can create a KPI for everything, I surprised myself by pursuing disciplines where there’s little room for perfection and expertise. Of course there is competition in yoga and writing, but it is regarded with either controversy and/ or subjectivity. Yoga, writing and coaching are all paths that despite their respective foundations and crafts, encourage us to be perpetual beginners – to wonder, explore and experiment.

It has taken me over 40 years to see that I still learn when I don’t excel. In fact, I enjoy myself more. I’m increasingly curious to experience pursuits without self-imposed pressures and expectations, revelling in the journey and growth, not the accolades or outcomes. How many of us are holding on to legacies that have shaped and defined us for decades, not knowing they stopped serving us years ago? And maybe they never did.

24 Mar, 2021

The Not-So-New Coach

By |2021-11-15T14:03:33+00:00March 24th, 2021|

A few weeks ago, I attended a group (coaching) supervision session. At the end of the session, the supervisor pointed out that I frequently refer to myself as a ‘new’ coach, and she challenged me to drop the ‘new’ based on my two years’ experience.

My immediate (silent) reaction to this challenge was one of defensiveness: “I’m certainly new compared to all the other coaches in this group. And I don’t appreciate being called out in front of the others.”

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for me to change the trajectory of this unhelpful but natural reaction. I thought about the supervisor’s challenge, and observed that I only used this language when in company of other coaches. It was an armour giving me blanket protection in case I asked a stupid question or made a shallow observation in front of my peers. A couple of days prior to this session, I had heard a lecture about how disrupting ourselves means that we will make mistakes, the key is to not allow the shame we feel to make a comment on our identities. But I was so afraid of making mistakes that I either held back, or when I did contribute, I prefaced it with a remark on my relative lack of experience.

I likened myself to those new-joiners in companies that refer to themselves as ‘the new person’ a year into their roles, and blame their predecessors for problems well into their tenure. This is so widespread in some corporate cultures that years ago, when one of my team members resigned from his job, he joked that he was a placing a “six-month moratorium on blaming him for shit.” In my case, my predecessor was my previous career, and I sought to excuse myself from participation because I had been on a different path not long ago.

Being invited to join others at the table as a qualified member of the community with an equal and valid voice, felt intimidating. But of course, I accepted the challenge, because it is also exciting. It is actually liberating to think of myself as a coach amongst peers, one without apologetic or explanatory adjectives. I may be surrounded by those who have been at this for a longer period of time, but I realized that the concerns and emotions being raised by other coaches are not dissimilar to mine. There’s both humility and humanity in this profession that, in spite of accreditations and experience, makes and keeps us as one.

As for the idea of being challenged in front of peers, well, it was my decision to sign up for group supervision after all. You can’t go to the kitchen and not expect some heat.

Nobody loves receiving feedback. It’s uncomfortable and difficult to hear. While I value the importance of delivering feedback in a way that’s constructive and supportive, I realized that what’s more important to me is how I receive it and what meaning I attach to it.

19 Mar, 2021

Husbands and Lovers

By |2021-11-15T14:05:05+00:00March 19th, 2021|

I don’t know much about husbands and lovers. By circumstance or design, they haven’t been a part of my life. And perhaps on some level, I didn’t think they could co-exist with my career.

I love work (if I can call it that). Recently, I’ve devised a fictional battle between my two current work loves: coaching and writing. While I spend more time coaching, I tell strangers in zoom breakout rooms that I’m stuck, and cannot choose which I’d rather engage in at this stage of my life. More often than not, I receive well-meaning but unhelpful responses:

“It’s doesn’t have to be either/or.”

“You’ll find your rhythm, I’m sure.”

And, my personal favourite: “You still have time to choose.”

Truthfully, I am not rushed. To me both are fruits of an orchard in which I find myself strolling. And while ‘leisurely’ is not an adjective that my friends and family would use when describing my approach, it does ring true for me right now.

In the two years I’ve been doing it professionally, coaching has become more comfortable, but not boring. I liken it to a marriage in its early stages, one in which an ex-lover isn’t quite ex yet. And so, when things get sticky in this young marriage, I turn to my paramour, my writing.

This week, I’ve been languishing in its arms. Naked and vulnerable. And when I emerge, sufficiently loved and perhaps a little hungover, I’ll return home to my marriage. Because it relies on me, and I on it. There is an ease, a rightness that comes with the coaching. A crucible for my clients, so too, it is for me, a vessel of hope, development, and an untold future.

Maybe, my two loves can co-exist after all.

3 Dec, 2020

True Selves

By |2021-11-15T14:05:31+00:00December 3rd, 2020|

When I was 16, I was an English tutor to a 10-year-old girl for a couple of months. Shortly after, I declared to my mother that I want to become an English teacher. She dismissed the idea immediately, and I never asked why. Then, one of my first jobs after graduating from university was as a researcher/ writer for a news magazine – the now defunct Asiaweek. I worked for them for six months and even got my first (and only) byline, a book review of Memoirs of a Geisha, an article that is until today available somewhere in the recesses of the internet. I loved my job for so many reasons, but it wasn’t full-time, and there were no guarantees that it would be someday.

Along came adidas and offered me a management training program. A three-year commitment: one year in Germany followed by two in China on a full expat ride. They mailed me a contract on heavy stock white bonded paper and a business-class ticket to Nuremberg. I was 23, it was an easy decision.

When I got the job offer, my best friend asked me why I was considering it when I already had a job I loved, even if it wasn’t permanent. “That’s the problem,” I said. “I love it too much, writing is emotional for me, and I don’t want to combine passion with work. Sportwear will just be a job.” How can someone be so wrong and so right at the same time? To top this, my parents were incredibly proud of me when I told them about the adidas offer. Thanks to them, every Indian aunty within a 5KM radius knew that my company was going to pay for my apartment.

Fast forward 22 years, I am now a teacher (technically, a soft skills trainer but poetically it’s close enough) and a writer. Yes, it took me over two decades to come full circle. But I’m also a coach and I’ve learned a thing or two about reflection and courage. Over the years, I’ve learned that I have multiple true selves. And maybe you do too.

A disproportionate number of my clients from different age groups come to see me because they’re unhappy/ lost/ stuck in their careers. They experience a sense of doing what they should be doing versus what they want to do, but are in too deep to get out. Or so they believe. I generally hear two reasons for this (though there may be others): (1) I don’t know what I want (2) I’m doing this (knowingly or not) because of my Indian aunties.

According to professor and author Herminia Ibarra, we need to flirt with our possible selves to discover what we truly want. In spite of my early forays, I didn’t wake up one morning knowing I wanted to be a writer or trainer. For over twenty years, I entertained various options before arriving here, and I still flirt. Ibarra also posits that this process is a necessary prerequisite to finding our true selves and yes, selves, not self, for there may be more than one thing you want to do. Along the way, I didn’t know I was flirting, and you may not either. I often hear my clients tell me how they wish they could pursue a passion as a career, not realizing that they have already started the journey and just need to nudge themselves.

As for your Indian aunties, define them. Who are they and what’re they saying? When did they start telling you what to do or rather, when did you start listening to them? One client recently told me that every time he thinks about his strengths, there is a woman’s voice in his head disagreeing with him. Upon further probing, he described this voice as his mother’s which led to reflection on how best to ‘use’ it in future coaching work, and when to tune it out completely.

This is uncomfortable work, and not everyone wants to engage. But maybe you do. Whether you’re 25 or 55, ask yourself: are you your true self?

18 May, 2020

Define Your New Normal

By |2021-11-15T14:05:54+00:00May 18th, 2020|

As communities emerge from semi/lockdowns, I’m hearing clients and friends share (that although challenging at first) how much they’ve enjoyed this time at home. Some have appreciated the solitude to reflect, others have re-connected with family, both at home and abroad. There is a rising sentiment amongst many that they don’t want to ‘go back to normal.’ Normal wasn’t working.

We don’t have to go back to that. Ask yourself what you’re appreciating about this timeout. What are you learning/ how have you grown? Most importantly, what will you hold on to and let go of after the lockdown has been lifted?

The universe has pressed a ‘reset’ button, forcing us to live in the present moment and reevaluate our priorities. For most of us, we needed a pandemic to bring about this shift, because we live in our own stories, afraid to push boundaries. But, now that we’ve been forced to go without for months, we’re finally learning to look within for what really matters. It would be a shame to let this pass by as a freak, global event and resume where you left off a few months ago.

So, before you rush to your old frenzy, take a moment to pause and define your new normal. A normal that will bring you closer to your spirit.

17 Apr, 2020

WFH: Find Your Game Changer

By |2021-11-16T03:36:32+00:00April 17th, 2020|

The internet is awash with tips and advice on working from home. This post is about not doing everything on those lists. The articles and posts are well-meaning for sure, and point out all the best practices, but there is no one right way. Some people do work productively in their sweats, others would rather take longer lunches with their children and let working hours spill later into the evening. Figuring out what advice to adopt, and how, can feel overwhelming to the best of us. A dear friend told me today that she has stopped reading the articles altogether.

When I first started working for myself, I joined a co-working community. But when we heard rumblings of a virus in January, like most others who experienced SARS in Hong Kong, I knew the drill -this would mean an extended WFH period. I paused my membership at the co-working space and asked myself what is the one thing I disliked the most about working from home, the thing that impacts my productivity and joy the most. For me, the answer was not having a proper work desk.

When I worked from home, I roamed my apartment like a nomad in lulus, clutching my laptop, looking for a space to settle into comfortably, and never finding one. So, in January, I traded in my cute (but otherwise wholly impractical) letter-writing table for a proper, if characterless, working desk and office chair. And without a doubt, this was my one game changer! Everything else you read about in the articles followed naturally: my discipline improved and my productivity shot up.

Yesterday, I did a casual poll with friends and family about their one thing. Some said they would create a dedicated workspace in a corner of their home, buy a proper chair, incorporate exercise into the day, improve network speed and implement a ‘do not disturb’ signal for the kids to follow. All of this is very do-able with a little creativity and/or investment.

So, in keeping with tradition of coaching, ask yourself, what is your one WFH game changer, then go make it happen.

16 Apr, 2020

Coaching in the Time of Covid-19

By |2021-11-15T14:06:27+00:00April 16th, 2020|

As the news shifts from implementation of lockdowns to the new norm of WFH and how to get the best out of it, there is also chatter about lockdown extensions and the rise of the flexible work arrangements on a permanent basis. What does this all mean for coaching?

Video-coaching isn’t new to the industry by any means; I even had the opportunity to practice video-coaching several times when I was training to become a coach. I video-coach my overseas clients, and had to occasionally do it for local clients who couldn’t meet in person for some reason. So, it was natural for me to extend this option to all local clients when Hong Kong started socially distancing much more broadly.

I observed that while some clients readily took me up on this, realizing they needed coaching more so now than ever before, others have opted to wait until ‘things are back to normal.’  There is no right answer, it only matters what’s right for you.

This got me thinking about why some people may be averse to video-coaching. Some are taking a timeout from everything right now: coaching, gym memberships, work projects etc. are all on pause, because there is a feeling of impermanence in the current situation. Understandably, others may feel that coaching is so very personal that they just prefer to do it face-to-face even if it means postponing it a little.

I reflected on how I felt about switching to video-coaching as a client many years ago for the first time when my own coach moved back to the UK. There were primarily two reasons I was so comfortable with the switch: (a) I had been coached before so knew what to expect and didn’t think the video would be an obstacle (b) I had a trusting relationship with my coach and wished to continue with her on video, rather than switch to a new, local coach. The trust existed on multiple levels: we had a trusting relationship therefore I wanted the continuity with her (not relevant to my blog entry as such), but also, I trusted in her ability to deliver as a coach over video.

Years later, I’m observing my own clients as we switch from in-person coaching to video, and wondering about the presence of the two factors I had observed in myself as a client. As I transition over with them, I find myself reassuring them subtly, allowing them space to experience and settle into the new norms, but never pressuring them to adopt it.  Truthfully, Hong Kong’s numbers are improving, which means we will likely transition back to in-person meetings sooner than some other cities perhaps. And yet, because of the convenience and agility it offers, I’m also sensing that, even for some local clients, video-coaching isn’t going to go away anytime soon, much like WFH.

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