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The Best Coach I Ever Had

At some point in our life, some of us may have experienced a person who helped us to see our own strengths, who shaped our thinking and spurred us to move on. Often, this person does not even know how much impact he had on us. We probably never told him.

Many years ago, when I was new to the professional life with only my study and some months of exposure to the business world at AT&T under my belt, I met Doug. Then, being young in my training experience, my challenge was to deliver some modules of the newly developed culture building programme to the entire organisation over several runs of workshops. Doug was our master trainer who was supposed to help us getting started.

I clearly remember the first time I stood in-front of 50 participants delivering my topic. Before I took the stage, Doug was next to me, smiled at me and said “Go! You can make a difference. Just be yourself!” During my presentation, I could see him sitting at the back of the room, raising his two thumbs up to tell me that I was doing well. This little gesture was so different to what I encountered from many other wannabe coaches. I got the impression he was focussing 100% on supporting me – although he had many other trainees.

Doug cultivated the habit of a daily “check-in” dialogue. Every morning, he asked me to share what I wanted to do for the participants that will benefit them. He did not give me the answers. Instead, he guided by asking. By doing so, he got me thinking and exploring myself. It was the same after the training, when Doug usually asked three questions at the “check-out” dialogue: What did I do well today? What did I learn today? What will I do differently tomorrow?

Once at the check-in dialogue, I shared that I would like to spend time in getting to know the participants better, to be able to support them. And, I suggested that trainers should immerse with the participants. Doug caught the word “immerse” and from then on, he would always use the word to remind the trainers – a little acknowledgement that went a long way to encourage me. Subsequently, I had no fear to bring up new ideas. Even more, I learned how important it can be to listen well. And, I learned that little gestures and timely credits can really motivate you and shape your behaviour – just as Doug did.

I still treasure two items I received from Doug. The first one is a bookmark he presented to me one day – after a job well done, as he said. He wrote “You have made a difference. Thank you!” The second gift is a book titled “Golden Nuggets” in which he wrote for me “You are a special spirit. Your love for people inspires me very much. Always remember how wonderful you truly are.” I was not really aware that I had the ability to inspire others. Doug spotted this skill in me and encouraged me to make use of it. With this awareness, I learned to focus on developing and enabling colleagues and team members.

The Best Coach - 7 Habits of an Effective Coach

COE’s 7 Habits of an Effective Coach


So, what is it that made my coach so special to me, my best coach? He cared about me. He taught me by observing, by listening patiently and giving immediate feedback – always in a constructive and positive way. Doug constantly reinforced my strengths instead of working on my weaknesses. Using discovery questions, he got me seeking for solutions. He developed the sense of being there when I needed him most. Doug took pride in making me winning.

These ingredients made him the best coach I ever had.

3 Responses so far.

  1. Pamela Dua says:

    This reminded me of Amy Tan (previously Director at MOM and now Director at CoE), whom I respect as my Mentor and Coach.

    Amy inspires and motivates me in every way. I recall when I had to make a presentation in front of some 15 fellow HR practitioners on Talent Management, and was not very confident, she was full of encouragement and assurance that I will do well. I overcame my nervousness.

    When I needed advice on HR matters, she is within a phone call. She shares her knowledge and experiences through stories with me. I have benefitted from her good advice and had improved my decision-making in many ways. To me, a Coach is someone who can change you to become a better skilled person and Amy has done that. In addition, she shared her personal values with me which was another way of coaching me to become more successful in what I do. Thank you, Amy.

  2. Frank Janu says:

    Amy, this is a coincidence. I just read the book “Facilitating Transformation” by Douglas O’Loughlin. The amazing part is that Doug obviously remembers well his coachee Amy Tan whom he mentions in the book. This must be you, right?
    What a nice story. And the best is, it is really true. Congratulations!

  3. Josephine Ho says:

    Having such a boss is indeed hard to come by. At the end of the day, Doug can proudly say to others that his greatest achievement lies not in what he has accomplished for himself but the people he has developed. I aspire to learn like Doug!