Coen Helps Leaders, Professionals, and Educators Express Themselves Compellingly
What’s your story?
Since I was a little child, I have been aware that I was highly sensitive to the emotions of people around me, and I would often internalise these emotions. I struggled to deal with all the “emotional information” that I had unwittingly collected. Whenever I attempted to express my own feelings and observations, I would often be dismissed as being “overly sensitive” and “thinking too much.”
For a long time, I lived with these labels and therefore learned to keep my emotions to myself, since I felt I wouldn’t be understood anyway. This led to isolation and getting bullied by my classmates. I fell into a depression. But I was determined to find healing. I have gone through years of counselling, therapy, and coaching to work through my experiences and gain inner healing. I am now able to embrace the gift of natural empathy and curiosity that I bring to my work.
What excites you most about your industry?
With the COVID-19 pandemic crisis and its effects on the economy, and the change in how work and business is done, there have been a lot of adjustments. New skills, new mindsets, new ways of doing things are driving change. What is most exciting about my industry is that we are in the middle of change, and have the opportunity to teach, inspire and lead these changes.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Singapore, right where economies and cultures meet in Asia. I have spoken to and trained people in China, Taiwan, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, The Philippines, and Indonesia. I have also visited Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Timor Leste. I believe that being fluent in both English and Mandarin, and being Singaporean puts me in a unique position to be a bridge for businesses and individuals who want to collaborate between China and ASEAN.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
A place I enjoy visiting for business is Shanghai, because it’s always pulsing with energy and possibilities. My MNC clients in China fly in their leaders and sales representatives from all around China to Shanghai for meetings and training sessions. So interacting with participants always teaches me about the nuances of people from different corners of China. Having been to other cities in China on business development trips, there are several other cities that also intrigue me.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have always struggled with the “imposter syndrome” whenever I am called to take on tasks that I have never done before. While my desire for growth makes me seek such situations constantly, I will often doubt myself, and feel that I don’t belong and will eventually be found out. That has always caused me to sabotage myself, until my mentor gave me this advice, “You always belong. Show up, and figure out as much as you can along the way.”
Who inspires you?
I’ve been inspired by many people. Anyone who embraces the discomfort of challenging oneself, and adopting the growth mindset and grit to work and get better at his or her craft inspires me.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
One thing that I learned recently that really blew me away is that who I am today, and the life experiences I’ve lived through is “Good Enough.” Given what I’ve been through, I’ve spent a lot of my adult life trying to prove my worth to people. I would learn new skills, think of how I could better present myself and my ideas in order to get more opportunities. I am not saying that these are unimportant. I am saying it is more important to connect more deeply with who you really are, and be unapologetic about showing it. I have to trust that who I attract to me will be the right people – clients, colleagues, and friends.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I guess I would have taken more risks in life. Instead of trying very hard to prove my worth in areas that I am not passionate about, just to gain acceptance and approval, I would follow my own dreams and find environments and endeavours where I can apply my strengths.
How do you unwind?
I unwind by reading books that are not only related to my business, but also a myriad of interesting subjects like cinematography, history, anthropology and psychology. Finally, I also love to cook and have tried my hand at cooking various types of regional cuisine, like Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Indian, and food from further away like Mexican, Italian and French.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
This is a tough question! I have many favourite destinations! Generally, I like a mixture of everything when I travel. I don’t want to just go to the beach, to the sea, the mountains, or the city. I like to have variety on every trip, so that is the reason why Penang is my favourite Asian destination. I love the food and there are so many experiences available. I also love the nice beaches, hiking trails, the traditional old-town feel, the modern shopping centres and waterfront promenades with their mix of cultures. I also have many good friends who live in Penang, so whenever I am there, I always have a great time.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Right now, I would say, “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups,” by Daniel Coyle. The ideas in the book often challenge the way we think about things in a surprising way. Daniel Coyle is also an excellent storyteller, and the real-life examples he quotes in his book are unique, lesser known, but bring across the messages beautifully. Businesses these days are finally understanding that building a great work culture is essential, not just a “soft” concept, and to build a great culture requires the three pillars presented in this book.
Shameless plug for your business:
As a speech coach and communications trainer, I help highly competent business leaders, professionals and educators express themselves compellingly so that they are seen, heard and respected. I work with my clients to uncover their personal stories, innate talents, and their acquired wisdom, and teach them how to present themselves through narratives that influence and inspire others.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 1000 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.