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Answering Unexpected Questions
Senior Talent, OE & Inclusion Manager - Asia Pacific, at BAT.
A recent coachee of INSEAD Virtual Executive Coaching
INSEAD’s Virtual Executive Coaching programme proved eye-opening to BAT’s Yongshin Kim in more ways than one. And while the experience was not always comfortable, it has equipped him with an invaluably fresh perspective.
When you are stepping up into a new leadership role, there are two challenges. The first is to see your impact broaden across your organisation. The second is to deliver more value to the business to allow senior stakeholders to make informed decision. So says, Yongshin Kim, Regional Head of Talent, Organisational Effectiveness, and Inclusion with the British American Tobacco Company (BAT).
Kim was recently appointed to the Asia Pacific & Middle East HR leadership team within the company. Eager to meet the new challenges that this role has presented, he felt he needed some support to reframe certain issues and try out new approaches. It was this realisation that brought him to the INSEAD Virtual Executive Coaching programme in 2020.
“I was ready to explore new ideas and accept guidance from an external source and INSEAD came highly recommended to me. BAT has a long-standing relationship with INSEAD and I knew that I would have exposure to the kind of expertise and broader perspectives I felt I needed.”
Going into the programme, Kim first had to respond to a detailed survey with the INSEAD team to determine and pinpoint his specific needs prior to the first session and this first session experience was eye-opening, he says.
“Right from the get-go, I was really surprised by the programme & questions asked by the coach. The questions that I found myself responding to were not at all what I expected. I had envisaged talking about some of the very concrete aspects of my new role, and while we did explore these, we also looked at some of the more intangible dimensions of leadership at the off-set. This really set the tone for the coaching – we kicked off by unpacking the root cause of my own development needs.”
From there, Kim’s coaching journey played out over an intensive six months, he says. The four sessions with his coach were broken down into opportunities to identify and discover focus areas, to reflect and plan, to practice new tactics and to create a personalised road map for his ongoing development.
“One of the aspects I most appreciated was the combination or reflection and discussion and really hands-on, highly practical ideas and tips. So you have this unique opportunity to really explore your own values and priorities, synthesis that learning and then put it all into practice in the workplace and reflect on how it is playing out.”
The experience was not always “comfortable,” Kim adds. A good part of the coaching he received revolved around pushing him to explore deeper areas within his own professional make-up – and even unearth things he had not been aware of previously.
“Taking coaching like this requires you to look squarely at things you have maybe not addressed before: things like why you might lack confidence in certain areas for instance. What makes the process so incredibly rewarding, is that once you are armed with these insights, you then build the practical tactics – the toolkit – to address them.”
For Kim, the experience delivered three core advantages or benefits that have proved game-changing.
First is the quality of the coaching itself, which he describes as “enormously experienced” in technique. Second is the “safety” of the dialogue; a relationship with his personal coach that he likens to the confidence between a doctor and patient.
Then there is the freshness of perspective.
“When you are working within an organisation, it’s hard to get a really novel or different take on a problem or an issue. During my career, I have always interacted with colleagues and sought out opinions and feedback. But this experience has shown me the added value that you get when you go outside your own organisation for input and perspective. You get a really unique and important chance to look at things with fresh eyes.”
Kim would not hesitate to recommend the programme to others. In fact, three of his colleagues are currently enrolled on the basis of his feedback. The virtual format, he says, is also a huge boon.
“Doing this kind of coaching virtually is really easy and immediate. You have full access to all the good stuff that INSEAD experts offer with total flexibility. And as people get a greater sense of the benefits and impact that these virtual programmes have to offer, maybe we will also see a shift in thinking – that coaching is not something that should be solely reserved for chief executives. It is accessible and it has benefits for others within the organisation. And that’s a great thing.”
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