A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a training session with Asian Games gold medallist judoka Tatsuaki Egusa. The training was organised by one of my sensei’s and founder of our club, Mr Tang, himself a SEA Games gold medallist. Aside from the intensity of training, I could not help but be struck by the vicarious learning that occurs when watching a master of their trade in action.

English is not Mr Egusa’s first language and learning during the session was predominantly through what he did rather than what was said. By demonstrating the techniques repetitively, critiquing throws and illustrating the beauty of a throw in all its glory, those of us attending were able to enhance our own ability. This teaching without the use of words is the manifestation of years of training and Mr Egusa’s continual desire to improve his craft.

The experience left a lasting impression on me as I reflected on the role of an executive coach. While it is one thing to espouse theory of personal change and supra-performance, can one really do this if they themselves are not on the same journey?

Can an executive coach teach executives without having had the experience of being answerable to a Board and having their career on the line and the fate of an organisation in their hands? Is there a level of external accomplishment that coachees should look for in a coach who they are entrusting to help them achieve their goals? Can a coach talk of growing a business if they have never gone through the trials and tribulations of this endeavour?

My interest is in supra-performance and radical behavioural change, with a focus on how this translates to improved functioning at work. My desire is to help people reach their goals beyond the norm, as opposed to return to a functioning benchmark. This is why I chose not to walk the path of a clinician but instead elected to register as a psychologist within the division of organisational psychology. This choice does not make me better or worse than my peers who take a clinical or counselling route, but my focus is different.

Having adopted this type of vocation does come with a set of obligations. In my opinion, this is to have both achieved and continue to strive to achieve, to the best of my abilities in the same way I have these expectations of those I coach. I’m convinced that executive coaches must journey towards realising their potential across multiple life domains if they intend to ask clients to do the same.

I have long opposed the concept of ‘work-life balance’ and encourage my coachees to think of ‘work-life integration’ and the need to achieve across domains with varying priorities across the lifespan. Thus, I too must be striving for this goal and be able to point to how my life reflects my philosophy as a coach.

The executive coaching bar is not a regulation but simply requires the same degree of self-awareness and congruence between thought and action that we ask of our clients. As coaches we require of ourselves honest self-appraisal, the desire for constant improvement and, where appropriate, self-disclosure. Our Johari Window must be a little more ajar than those we coach lest there be a disconnect between what we project and profess and the reality of our own life. Much like Mr Egusa and Mr Tang, the calling card for executive coaches cannot be the words you speak, philosophies you espouse, or words you have written. Rather your calling card is your life, past and present, and the future self you are working towards becoming.


Tatsuaki Egusa: http://www.judoinside.com/judoka/2856

Mr. Tang Soon Onn, International Judo Federation ( IJF) Black Belt 6th Dan, represented Singapore in the SEA Games from 1983 to 1989, winning 1 Gold medal and 2 Bronze medals.