I interviewed Simon Lee, one of the pioneers of coaching in Singapore and a founding member of the Singapore chapter of the ICF. Amongst his many achievements, Simon co-created the Certified Business Coach program for the University of Malaya (UMCCED), training a few hundred coaches over afive-year period. It was during this time that Simon met the General Manager for Petronas Leadership Centre and he shares with us the inspirational insights from one the largest coaching projects in Asia – coaching at Petronas.
From five people to 8,000!
Five people from Petronas Leadership Centre initially attended the coach training at the University of Malaya (UMCCED) including the General Manager. When the GM graduated from that program, he asked Simon to create a three-day workshop for the Petronas training centre.
Simon said ‘he never looked back!’. This gave him the opportunity to coach and train at Petronas for another seven years and during that time, Simon estimates that he has
trained more than 8,000 managers in Petronas including certifying more than 50 internal coaches.
Today, Petronas is already offering coaching services to their internal clients. And more recently they have been utilising the internal coaches to deliver executive coaching services to other organisations in the industry.
Sparking the interest in coaching
Coaching was quite new at that time, even for Petronas, so it was Simon and his colleagues that introduced the concept of coaching to the leaders at Petronas. The leaders were very open to coaching, and they continued to find out more about coaching and Simon shares with them more about the ICF and solutions-focused coaching (which was their interest). Since coaching in the early days (and as it is today) really about raising awareness and generating responsibilities, the leaders who came for the workshop found it useful. As they began to apply coaching, the ripple effect started. Simon says ‘I would say that because of the work we do, we are helping people to unleash the potential, we are helping people to play to their strengths, that itself was attractive.’
Four key pillars from which you build a coaching culture
Simon explains ‘We started with these four pillars and the basic foundation that we believe in the potential of people.
- 1. Building coaching relationship (to create coachable moments)
- 2. Asking questions (GROW model, solution focused, peer coaching approach)
- 3. Providing feedback (we all have blind spots)
- 4. Setting a goal.
The people who came for the program found it useful, but implementing coaching can be a challenge. It was not uncommon to hear people say ‘We coach our subordinates, but our bosses don’t coach us.’
Therefore, we expended the program for senior leaders. Other than the four key pillars, we introduced more advance concept for senior leaders and started to groom the senior leaders into coaches.’
‘For new managers, we built coaching into their curriculum with a module called Leadership Coaching skills. When the new leaders go through the three-day coaching workshop, they are assigned internal coaches as a follow-up. From there, we build on the coaching culture.’
‘After a while, we were already introducing coaching at three levels, for new managers as a regular program offered in training center in Petronas, then for senior leaders. Over time, senior leaders became internal coaches to the middle level managers, and the middle level managers started coaching the employees. That’s how the ripple started.’
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