So if people actually get A-B-B-F most of the time, people, parents and teachers will spend most time onthe F. They will actually ignore the brilliance that you have. "The As? Forget it, don't focus on that. Focus on what is bad about you." So as parents, we focus on what's bad. As teachers we focus on what's bad. And then when we go into the working world, our managers focus on what? What you're good at, or most of the time what you're bad at? Most of the time, they will focus on AFIs, which is Areas For Improvement, and it's kind of bad. So we have a fixation for helping people grow by trying to fix them. So when we change that, and that's why it's difficult to have that paradigm shift, instead of focusing on what is bad about people, can we start focusing on what is good? Because the best people out there actually do that. So how do we actually change that mindset, and start focusing on the great, rather than trying to put in what's not there? - Jason Ho
Jason is the founder of Strengths School™ and Performance Capital™, who has over 13 years of Training and Coaching Top Leaders in MNCs, SMEs; to optimise team development and drive PERFECT PERFORMANCE™.
His work spans organisations across Asia, Canada and the UAE. Some of many include Ubisoft, DHL, Johnson & Johnson, Lee Jeans, Vans, VF Corp, National University of Singapore, NUS Business School and Singapore’s Ministry of Education.
He also sits on the Singapore’s NUS Business School panel as a StrengthsFinder® Advisor.
Jeremy Au (00:00):
Hey, Jason, welcome to the show.
Jason Ho (00:03):Hey man, thanks. Thanks, Jeremy. Glad to be here.
Jeremy Au (00:05):
So I'm excited to bring you on, because you are one of Southeast Asia's first StrengthsFinder coaches, and you're someone who has worked a lot with executives in both the technology space and beyond, as well. So I'm interested in going deeper with you, of course about your professional journey, but also of course, go into what are common themes that you see in leadership in Southeast Asia, as well as, I think the perennial question in the audience, and that's come through like reader messages and WhatsApp messages, which is like, "How in the world do I know this coach is legit, slash a good fit for me?" So we're going to go through all of that. I'm very excited to go about it. So, Jason, could you share a little bit about yourself with those who don't know you yet?
Jason Ho (00:47):
So I'm Jason. I actually have been exposed to this tool of StrengthsFinder for over 14 years. So, very passionate about how it's helped so many people. I work predominantly with MNC leaders, so director, regional director, GMs, and I do coaching for them. We also do a lot of workshops, where we help teams get to quickly understand what their strengths are, because most of the time teams actually don't know what their strengths are and they'll assume.
So a little bit more about me, personal. Based in Singapore. I have five children, right? From 12 all the way to one. I enjoy kids a lot. Usually on the weekends, I would spend time hunting for different playgrounds. And recently, Admiralty Park playground was the bomb.
Jeremy Au (01:38):Well, sounds like those kids would definitely have all the pro bono coaching they need to become, to find their strengths, right?
Jason Ho (01:46):Yeah. Hopefully. Yeah, definitely.
Jeremy Au (01:48):Hopefully maximum human potential, and not rebellious teenagers.
Jason Ho (01:54):Yeah. Yeah. Hope so. I really hope so
Jeremy Au (01:57):Oh, so you've got to use all your maximum coaching skills when they're passive-aggressive with you, about what they did wrong and then you'll be like, "Oh, do you see the upside in this?"
Jason Ho (02:07):
"You see the upside, let's have a chat. How do you feel?"
Jeremy Au (02:12):"Let's have a chat. What's to be learned from this? How do you feel about this, a 98? Of 100."
Jason Ho (02:16): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (02:16):I'm just kidding. That was my dad, it was like, "Oh, so let's talk about it." Right? So, you've obviously been doing a lot of coaching and everything. So what brought you into coaching?
Jason Ho (02:27):
Yeah. So what's interesting is that, I think one of the things in my life is that in the last 20 years, before I even went into this world of coaching, or in the last 20 years, I've done 32 different businesses. And I failed a lot. And one of the things I realized was that the fundamental things that, when it comes to business, it's not just about hard work and grit. It's really about also, there are certain talents that you have, and if you have those talents and you play to it, that multiplication effect kicks in. While there's some businesses which I failed really badly in, I was trying too, I wasn't using my strengths as well, at all. So what I realized was that strengths play a very big part when it comes to success, individual success and even company success.
So once I realized that, I kind of went into strengths, because I was exposed to it and I suddenly realized that when I started coaching people, people really saw the difference. And they saw, and they could say things that, "Hey, actually, this is my strength. I never knew about it. I thought this was normal." And that's the usual thing that people say, "I don't even think this is a strength, it is normal." But the funny thing is that the normal for you is very different from another person. So almost like this whole analogy. If I talk to a fish and say, "Hey fish, you swim very well." And the fish would be like, "What nonsense are you talking about? I do this every day. It's normal for me." Yeah, but if I'm a bear, that is a huge talent.
So, when I got into this coaching, I realized that, "Hey, I enjoyed changing that person's life." And when I was able to change that person's life and usually it's the leaders, the best thing about leaders is that they have a huge cloud of influence. And when I'm able to influence the leader, they are able to change the mindset they have and see people as very unique individuals that really have that talent that's just waiting to be, to just explode. Yeah. So, I kind of like did this and I started doing workshops, and I went into coaching, and I love every minute of it.
Jeremy Au (04:36):
Amazing. So that's awesome to discover, and you really drop quite a bit of knowledge here, right? Which is, I think firstly, the theme about looking at strengths rather than weaknesses. But also, how that translates to different environments and things, based on who you are. Of course you talk a little bit about the impact of coaching, right? And how it gets other folks. So let's talk a little bit about the first part, right? Which is about strengths and weaknesses. So, frankly, it feels like in Asian culture, we grow up very much with this like very stacked rank. And I don't want to say Asian, but maybe it's a Singapore culture as well, where there's a very stacked rank, and I joke about 98. I definitely remember. I think I did, I think it was like 99 and a half or something like that, you know?
And then, second in class for science, then my dad was like, "Oh, no one remembers who's second, right? They only remember who's first place." And that like broke me. Now obviously, I think this is my childhood memory, so I was mashing a couple of them together, but it was the general theme I got. And after that I was like, "You know what? If I can't be first, then there's no point fighting for it, right?" And I was just like, basically trashing my grades and just floating around the bottom cutoff point, right? I worked hard not to be the bottom because of all the eyes on you by the teachers.
Jason Ho (05:54): Yeah.
Jeremy Au (05:57):
But if you're just a few steps above that, you escape a lot of the heat, but get a lot of the chill time, right? So what do you think about that? I mean, is that, do you feel like it's a cultural thing, do you feel it's like an environmental thing? Developmental stage of the economy? Like why is it that we don't really seem to be talking a lot of strengths, especially in the education and the parenting system?
Jason Ho (06:16):
Yeah, it's a good point. Usually when we think about, as a child, when we think about children, most of the time as parents, even for me, I'm guilty of it. When we think about children, sometimes we pinpoint the things that are bad about them, rather than we pinpoint what is good about them. So actually since a young age, we've been doing that early. So parents tell, if I were to ask parents, "What's the number one or two words that you use most of the time?" Jeremy, what do you think it is?
Jeremy Au (06:50):I don't know. Two words? No?
Jason Ho (06:56): Yes! So no, or don't.
Jeremy Au (06:56): Stop.
Jason Ho (06:58):Yeah, no, don't, or stop, right?
Jeremy Au (06:58): Yeah.
Jason Ho (07:00):
So most of the time, the kid grows up when they're young, to understand that actually, "Don't do this, don't do that." As parents, we keep telling them not to do something, but we don't tell them what to do, right? And then when we go into the education system, same thing. If you have A, this grade called A-B- B-F, right? If I were to ask you... Okay, probably you will never get F, so maybe this is A-B-B-B or something like that, right?
Jeremy Au (07:27):
I always tried to get a D or so. Because today, like I say, you skip the heat, right?
Jason Ho (07:33):
So if people actually get A-B-B-F most of the time, people, parents and teachers will spend most time on the F. They will actually ignore the brilliance that you have. "The As? Forget it, don't focus on that. Focus on what is bad about you." So as parents, we focus on what's bad. As teachers we focus on what's bad. And then when we go into the working world, our managers focus on what? What you're good at, or most of the time what you're bad at? Most of the time, they will focus on AFIs, which is Areas For Improvement, and it's kind of bad. So we have a fixation for helping people grow by trying to fix them. So when we change that, and that's why it's difficult to have that paradigm shift, instead of focusing on what is bad about people, can we start focusing on what is good? Because the best people out there actually do that. So how do we actually change that mindset, and start focusing on the great, rather than trying to put in what's not there?
Jeremy Au (08:30):
Yeah. There's a lot of truth there, and I totally get it because, once you get an A, you can't go any higher, right? In the education system. But actually, the truth is, if you actually look into a person's talent and let them, explore their A, it could be A*, A+++++++, right. Diamond, platinum, right? I mean, there's a lot more to go, but because the system says the maximum score you can get in this bound is 90 or 100. And then like you said, I think therefore we don't maximize the strengths on one side and let people leverage it. But we also force them to bring up the floor, right? On something else that they weak at. And I think something you said about helping people grow by fixing them?
I think that's actually a very common mentality. I definitely have flunked a few relationships by trying to fix the relationship. And the perception, when you're young it's like, you fix people, right? And then you realize it doesn't work, right? So as you get older, more mature relationships... But I think a big part of it is like, I just unconsciously imbibed a lot of that mentality, right? Which is that you can fix people, you can fix relationships, you need to like, cover your weaknesses. Right? And so I'm just kind of curious from your perspective, growing up, did you have any of those experiences yourself?
Jason Ho (09:53):
Yeah. So one of the interesting things you shared just now was this idea that in education, there is actually this thing called a ceiling, and the ceiling is As. But when we go into the real world, there's no ceiling at all. That ceiling gets lifted. And the most successful people actually now focus on the As, rather than focus on the Fs. I haven't seen somebody who's really successful and says, "Okay, I'm bad in all these things, I'm going to be good at it." So it's the other way around. The best people out there, they find where they have a natural, unfair advantage, and they capitalize on that. It could be the way you talk to people. It could be the way you present things, could be the way that you see numbers like the matrix. Whatever it is, you have a different talent.
And when you share that, you are able to actually get a lot of success. And the success sometimes comes quite accidental. So personally for me, when I was younger, I really enjoyed this whole idea of design. And I think for me, I enjoyed it, but I never knew whether I was good at it. But I knew that I felt alive doing it. So one of the stories for me is that when I was younger, I was doing logo designs. So I was doing logo designs, I was learning it from YouTube. I was trying out using pen and paper, just drawing. Then after a while I said, "Hey, I can't do it this way. I need to use software." So I actually learned Adobe Illustrator. Then when I started doing that and I realized, "Hey, I was actually quite good at it," but I didn't know whether I was good because there was no benchmark.
So one thing I did was say, "Hey, I think I'm talented in it. I feel energized." So that's a clue to some of the talents that we have. So I trained, and I invested time and effort, but I needed to see results. So what is the results? So, one thing I did was, as I was learning and learning, I felt that, "Hey, how do I know what's my benchmark?" So I actually entered an international competition for logo design and out of 148 entries, I won first prize. Somebody who has no prior knowledge to design work. And that helped me to seal and cement this idea that there are certain things that you do naturally. And we talk about this whole idea of perseverance and resilience, but you have more resilience in the things that you'll feel most energized, most alive doing. And that's where it will get you through that whole phase of learning, trying, and practicing, because that's important. Yeah. So when I got that and I was like, it helped me cement this whole idea that, "Hey, strengths is the way to reach success in the most natural way possible for yourself."
Jeremy Au (12:37):What was it like having people point out your Fs?
Jason Ho (12:40):
I think since young, it's always about this idea that we need to get all four As, right? So I was from a school that didn't really, actually promoted that Chinese wasn't or Mandarin wasn't... Mandarin wasn't the thing that you needed to focus on, right? It didn't help when business owners came back and said, "Ah, Chinese, forget it." Right? So sometimes that kind of helped me understand that, "Hey, actually, some people were able to be very successful, even though they didn't have certain things that everybody thought was important." Right? And so when I got Fs, usually, it was in my Mandarin and Chinese. It got me really down, but I also realized that that was something that I tried really hard, put in a lot of effort, and it could be limiting beliefs, and it could be also the environment that I'm in, right?
In school, people say like, "Oh, if you get an A, that's it, man, who are you?" That kind of thing. But in life, as I carry on, when I get these Fs, it helped me to realize that these Fs that I have, either I could put in five times the effort to try to solve it, or I can just put in one time the effort to do something that I really enjoy, I really feel passionate about. And I, when I did so many different businesses, the results of the businesses helped me to understand that if I focus on my strengths, I will succeed a lot easier, and in a quicker amount of time compared to if I focus on things that I'm not built to do.
Jeremy Au (14:18):
Yeah. So, the school you mentioned, actually we went to the same school, right? Anglo-Chinese school system, and it has this interesting set of cultural values. And you mentioned a couple of weird things about it, right? For those who don't know, it's a Methodist school, that is very Anglophile in terms of culture. And so it's interesting, because it was founded by Chinese business leaders who were looking to the West, right? And so, the first thing you mentioned was, the people who came back as speakers were business owners, which is actually quite different, right? In terms of a speaker choice. And two, it's okay to have Fs in Chinese. In fact, it was actually a cultural norm, actually, that it was like, "Oh, you got an F," people kind of like weirdly celebrate. Or like, it's an antihero or something like that, right? And then we were like, "Wow, you did so well!" And then more interesting as well, like you said, if you got an A, it was considered weird, right? It was like, "Oh, you got an A?"
Jason Ho (15:15):
Jeremy Au (15:16):
"You weirdo." You know? And so it was interesting, because it was like a cultural thing, right? Where you grew up in it. And of course, growing part of it, I was, I learned very quickly not to study too hard for Chinese, even though I spent a lot of time in Chinese tuition, trying to cover up for it. But I just never had that intrinsic. I think at the end of the day it was more like, I was studying it because I had the extrinsic motivation of avoiding an F because I knew it was there, but I didn't have the intrinsic motivation because I knew that if I studied well, you would be uncool. Right? I didn't want to be a try-hard on Chinese, which in retrospect as I've grown older, I kind of regret that, right?
Jason Ho (15:50): Yes, definitely.
Jeremy Au (15:53):
Yeah. Because, I think you're older and you're just like, "Oh, why did I care about that?" Right? The peer pressure and that. But I think a lot of it has to do with, like you said, it's just like the settings actually help determine what's socially acceptable as a strength and what's socially acceptable as a weakness, right? So could you talk a little bit more about that? Like settings, because... How it has an impact on people, on what they choose to build strengths in, versus cover their weaknesses.
Jason Ho (16:24):
Yeah. I think you are... When I coach leaders in MNCs, most of the time, if I ask them what they focus on, a lot of times they will say they focus on the weaknesses. And I think it's just the way that we are brought up, where in education, we always focus on the Fs. A lot of times the first things that we, whenever we talk about operational aspects, right? Leadership has a few aspects. One is operational aspects, things that mess up, right? So we always focus on that. But then we realize that to be as efficient as possible, we want to just keep focusing on of all the 10,000 things we produce, what is, why do we have two defects? So we focus on that, and that's very much blue collar, very old school. Right? But now when we go into this idea of, we want to be able to get people to really start contributing, meaning that we need... Another way of saying, basically, we need people who think and are empowered to think, and they really want to be able to contribute.
How do we get the best out of them? And it's not just about just fixing the weaknesses. It's about pinpointing specifically, "Hey Sally, for you, you speaking in front of your own stakeholders, that is gold." Right? And so recently one of my my team members, and this was an intern, right? And she went, when she was sharing things over video, she has a very specific tonality that was just radio quality. It's just... I don't know how to say it, but it's just radio. It's just very colorful. So when I shared this with her, that that is gold, it's something that we don't really see, and that's going to be great when you further your career in the future. And most of the time when you pinpoint something as a leader, when you pinpoint somebody's strengths, most of the time, they're not aware of it.
And they'll say that, "Oh really? I didn't know about that." And time and time again, when I share this with people, and a lot of times when we pinpoint as leaders what the strengths are of people, they're blinded to it because it's very natural to them. But when we want greatest productivity or performance, if we want world-class standard, we want to know that, what are they built for? So to give you an example, there are two industries that actually do this very well. One is the sports industry and one is the arts industry. So the sports industry is really about, if I do tryouts and this guy has zero training whatsoever, a hundred people, and these guys are great in 100-meter race, right? A great sports coach will never say things like, "Hey, 100-meter race. You're great at it. That's your A. Let's focus on marathons." Never, never ever.
Or even in art, if Adele, how she sings, just so beautifully with a piano, "Hey, you're good at that kind of music. Let's go to Eminem-style rap." She'll fail. So in sports and arts, we see that, but in business and development of people, we don't see that at all. We still harp on the weaknesses because we think that if we cover up all the weaknesses, we get operational 100%, but we fail to realize there's a world- class standard that we're not pushing. And if you want to hit world-class, we need to understand that there are certain things that some of your guys can hit world-class in. Out of the 10 things they do, maybe only two things, they have a chance of hitting world-class. Not all 10. When we talk about strengths, I think it's fundamental. If you want to break the world-class barrier, and if you want to go best-in-class, we need to understand different people are built for different things. And I have this belief, and this belief really drives me, in what I do, that everyone is built for greatness. The key in either mentors or leaders, is to call out what that greatness is, and what you're built to do gives you a clue of what your greatness is.
Jeremy Au (20:14):
So we're talking about leaders, right? And responsibility of the setting, right? At the end of the day, when we were at Anglo-Chinese school, the leaders were the cool kids in our class, right? About what was cool and uncool, right.? And in the workplace, of course, there's more explicit leaders, right? In that sense, the social leaders, which would be classic, your managers would set the tone for the culture about whether, what is acceptable strength, and what weaknesses that we all can forget about and don't worry about. And what weaknesses that we really want people to correct, right? So I think it makes total sense, right, as a manager to be like, "Okay, let's focus on strengths. How do we maximize our collaborations and our strengths?" But I think most people, kind of on a consumer level, kind of understand that intuitively. I think every person wants to work in a company where they feel like their strengths are being highlighted rather than their weaknesses.
So, more from the eye of someone who is like, an employee in a technology firm or reporting to a manager who doesn't look at it that way, right? What should they do? Should they just leave the company to a place where they're being coached by Jason or... How should someone who is more of like, part of that team, what should they do to help move the team or find a setting that's more strengths-oriented?
Jason Ho (21:34):
So I think the main thing is that the leader needs to believe in this, that there's really a difference. People will do things differently. There's research, or there's an experiment done Silicon Valley, I think you know about this, that they put every, all the coders into one room, and then they asked them to do code. And when they did code, they were all given a manila envelope and it says, "Finish this code." And some of them finished faster than others. And just make a guess, Jeremy, what is the difference between the best and normal? How many times different? In terms of just coding, all of them have to do the same coding.
Jeremy Au (22:11):Well, they always talk about, Silicon Valley is all about 10X engineers, right? So that's my guess.
Jason Ho (22:15):
Yeah. So, that's exactly where it came from. So the whole idea is that there's some people who can do it 10 times faster than you, which means that that person is equivalent to 10 employees, if you think about it. So Netflix used that model when they were starting off, with their Chief Human Resource Officer, and then they tried to figure out, "Can I get the best there? Because the best will bring, not only 10X, will bring so much more, because of the synergies that they have." So you need to believe in it first as a manager, if you don't believe in it, then you'll go back to your same old ways of just fixing weaknesses. But the second thing you can do, and it's very practical, a lot of times when I ask managers this question, if somebody's good at doing something, this task, let's say task A, you are good at doing task A. What is the first reaction? What's the thinking that you have? Do you think that person likes it, or do you think that person hates doing it? What do you think, if he's good at doing it? That means nine upon 10, eight upon 10, do you think he loves it? Or do you think he hates it?
Jeremy Au (23:23):Well, in general it'll be correlated, right? I think if you're really good at something you generally like doing it. Yeah.
Jason Ho (23:29):
Yeah. So that's the norm, and that is, that is not true. So if you think about it, there are many things that you do in your work that you're good at doing, but given a choice, you don't want to do anymore. Right? And all of us have that. So a very simple thing that a person can ask, rather than ask that person to leave and go somewhere else, really ask this question, based on the certain task that they have. So for example, let's say they're doing task A. For task A, I want to understand from you, I'm curious to understand how energized or drained do you feel when doing this task? And give them a scale. Because in coaching, we always give scales. The reason why is, if they say, "Yeah, I don't mind." You have no idea. You have no visibility of what that means.
But if you give them a scale from a zero to 10, 10 being, you feel energized, you feel alive, you can't wait. You look forward to that task, right? Or zero, you feel drained it's almost like kryptonite to Superman. If that person says, "Hey, actually for this task, I feel eight upon 10." You have, now, the clue that you need, that this person is energized doing it, most likely he's using his strengths. If this person says it's a two upon 10, then you need to keep figuring out or asking different questions, "What are the things that feel most energized for this person? Because I will get the best results from him and the best ROI for things that he feels most energized." Why? Simply because he feels intrinsically motivated to do that.
So a very simple question, how energized do you feel in doing this task from a scale of zero to 10? 10 being energized, zero being drained. And you will see a huge, almost enlightenment. There's some things that that person does that he does very well. He'll say it's a two upon 10. And I've coached people like that before. "I don't like doing it, but I do it out of responsibility, and I'm good at it. My company sees it, but given a choice, actually, I don't want to do it." And managers are clueless. Leaders are clueless about this part. And most of the time they will, they will believe what you just said. If you are good at it, you must love it, which is not true.
Jeremy Au (25:39):Well, thanks for the free tip here. Gotcha. Yeah. I've got to remember that now. So that's like that two by two in my brain now. What you're kind of saying is, every teammate has occasions where they're managers, they are project leaders, they initiate responsibility. And so I think everybody, even at a junior level, has opportunities to exercise their strengths leadership in terms of articulating what they want from the team, but also articulating how they feel about certain responsibilities or initiatives that their manager is there. What happens if you are like trying to convince your boss, right? You know? Because I always tell people, even executives have bosses, right? Even the CEO has a boss, right? So, you're always managing upwards in that sense as well, no matter how much you get promoted. So let's say your boss doesn't really have that culture, right? How should you manage upwards, and bring forward that strengths-first culture?
Jason Ho (26:39):
Yeah, great question. So when a boss doesn't believe in it, what we want to do is that we want to be able to help them understand that, fundamentally, as leaders of organizations, there's only one thing that you can do. And that's the maximum thing you can do. Get the best personal performance from each person. That's the only thing you can do, honestly, if you think about it, getting the personal best from each person. What is personal best? That means they feel that they're pushing all cylinders, and they're fighting hard. So when we think about that, that we just need as leaders, we just need to do a simple thing, but yet so difficult. It's everybody at their best, all the time or most of the time. And the answer is really, no. Right? And we see disengagement throughout. Gallup has researched that out of 15 people worldwide, only two, two people are engaged.
Two people are firing off all cylinders. The remaining 13 are not. So out of 15 people worldwide, you see only 13% are engaged. What that means is that they're vested. So what we want to do is, if you want to be able to share it with them is to understand that, "Hey, how do we actually bring up the best in each person?" And when we do that, we want to give them certain opportunities. So we do case studies. "Oh, this person is trying out this opportunity. He says that he's good at public speaking, right? I'm going to give him some opportunities." Then I share these case studies, and I hope he succeeds. And if he succeeds, then we share with the boss. Because most of the time, whenever we talk about change, we want to give them facts, and data.
So I'll give you an example. A lot of, one of my team members, she's really good at design work, right? She will see in a piece of very simple design, she will see 10 things that's wrong about it, while another person will not see anything wrong. "I think it's good. It's good. It's okay." "No, but this cursive, it's too cursive, really. You can't see it."
So I have this philosophy, when I coach people, and coach leaders, right? What you detect, you can perfect. And the funny thing about it is that all of us will detect different things. So to give you an example, Jeremy, you and me, we go into a restaurant. We will see very different things on how to improve it. I might see how the waiter doesn't smile. You might see about the lighting, but we'll see very different things. But as a team together, as a team, what we detect, we can perfect. And all of us detect different things. So to show your leader, or to show your boss, actually this works, we need to try it out and give them, "Hey, you know what? I tried it with Jane. Jane is trying this out, and she's actually really good at it. And I really want to give even more opportunities to do that, because that saves X amount of money, or that saves Y amount of time." So if you are able to present your case in that way, where you tried out certain things and it works, the influence is easy.
Jeremy Au (29:39):
Awesome. So, I hear you. So it's really about speaking to the manager, and speaking and the language they understand, right? Which is about performance, retention, collaboration. So I think which all translates down to like, hopefully financials, right? From everybody's perspective. But because logically it does, right? I mean, we all know that a team that is not maximizing everyone's strengths, not collaborative, not working well effectively, is definitely going to underperform, full stop. Right? So we know it's going to translate into better performance overall. So from that angle, obviously, how do people find a good coach, right? Because, frankly speaking, I've seen so many coaches reach out to me, and they all have the same thing, right? There's all the credentials, all the certifications, which, you've heard of some terms before and some of it you haven't, and then you're like... There's a whole bunch of them, right? So it feels like overall, it's hard to tell the difference between all these things. And of course, if you go the other route, if you ask your friends, and your buddies will tell you all these like very personal stories. And you're like, "Okay, do you reconcile with my story, and would it be a good fit for me?" So what would be your recommendations, advice on how people should think about finding and evaluating a good coach?
Jason Ho (31:02):
Yeah. So good question. I'll think it's almost like, "How do I find a good doctor?" Right? If I need to find a specialist, most of the time it's similar ways, right? We find like what you say, word of mouth, "Hey, can you recommend certain people and all that?" And I think the main thing that we want to talk about is that coaches can actually go through certain things with you, and they can have many, many different sessions. So I think if I were to, in that position, and I flip it, I really want to understand what kind of results that they have seen, right? And certain things that they can share in a very tangible way. And if they're able to share certain things like that, then I think that those results can play a huge part in decision making, rather than, "We will get you through these topics and we will try to help you understand this."
So there are coaches where you go just purely self-awareness, or, "You're aware of it now? Better? Good, great. Now you're enlightened. Now, go, and go to your mountain of enlightenment." Well, there are other coaches where you talk about results, and so, "What have you done for other leaders? What have you, what results have they seen?" So I think that self-awareness is always important, but I do feel that if you want to ask deeper questions, you go towards the results part. Yeah. But it's very difficult. I would say that it's challenging, you can interview 100 coaches and try to figure out which one, you'll probably... Most likely, you'll probably go with, after a while you'll lose drive in trying to figure out who, and you will just try to find and decide based on your own factors.
And sometimes even chemistry is a big part, right? So chemistry is the part where, "I like this person because this person tells this as it is, or this person really is almost super real to me, while another person is very professional and I prefer him." So there's different aspects. It's almost... I mean, I will say it's actually quite difficult, but I will say that if I were to pinpoint, the number one thing is, look at the results. And the number two thing, I would say that if he aligns to your values that you have, then that would be great, because then along the way, there are many other things that you uncover. It's almost like open heart surgery. When you open, then you see, "Hey, there's an issue here, there's an issue here, there's..." Along the way, there are many things that as coaches we uncover, and if you have very aligned understanding of maybe success, or what you want to do, then they speak your language and your values align. So that's something else that you can actually think about. So one is the results that one values, and lastly, a bit fluffy, but chemistry still plays a big part.
Jeremy Au (33:48):
How does someone know they're ready for a coach, right? Because, there's so much stigma, to be honest, right? I mean, I think in, I think the stigma in therapy all over the world, I would say in the US for coaches, it's much more accepted as a common thing. And I feel like in Southeast Asia, if you say you have an executive coach, everyone's like, "Oh, what weaknesses are they working with you on?" Right? That's very much, a lot of people are like, "Okay." I literally had a conversation and I was like, someone was like, "Oh, A, B, C, not so good, so the person should have an executive coach." And I was like, "Whoa!" You know what I mean? That's what the perspective is like.
Jason Ho (34:28): Yeah, it still is. It still is.
Jeremy Au (34:29):
You hire an executive coach for someone to help them improve on their weaknesses, right? And so if you admit that you have an executive coach, everyone assumes that there's something terrible about you, right? So, how does someone summon the energy to say like, "Okay, I want a coach," and then two, should they ever articulate that to other people, that they have a coach? Yeah.
Jason Ho (34:50):
Yeah. I think you're right in Asia, that we still have some runway to go, when it comes to the maturity of it. I do feel that people still... People do still see it as tuition, rather than as performance coaching. So I would say that when it comes to performance, and let's just talk about work performance, think of it as that you are a corporate athlete, and you're running the corporate athlete race. And as a corporate athlete, we want to hit world-class, which is the Olympics level, and world-class in your industry is different from mine. There is nobody in the sports scenario that is working in that same parallel, where they're an athlete and hitting world-class, that doesn't have a coach. Nobody, because the thing about it is that you can only see what you know, but a coach helps you see things that you don't see at all.
So if you want to really play in that level of world-class standard, then I'll say a coach is something that is imperative and essential, for you to be a corporate athlete or be a person that pushes that barrier. But if you're okay with no world-class standards, and you're okay with like, average, then you don't need a coach at all. Yeah. A coach is a waste of time and a waste of money, for you. So I will say that this is really about the idea that, if you are pushing that barrier, you want to save as much time and effort as possible, because pushing that barrier means that you are seeing things, and you are learning from mistakes. But a coach can help you understand and unwind many things that, "Actually, do you see this? Do you see that? How do you think about that?" And so instead of costing you time and effort, it's actually saving you, and that saving is that value of that coach.
Jeremy Au (36:40):
Wow. I love it. I love what you said. Like every world-class athlete has a coach, right? So the question is, do you want to be world-class or not? And I think that's just a good way to think about whether I am ready for a coach. And also at the same time, also a good way to articulate to other people who are a little bit passive-aggressive about the fact that you have a coach, right? Which is framing up as, "I'm pushing for world-class performance, and that's why I have a coach. That's why I'm making this investment." So I think the tricky part for a lot of folks of course is this affordability, right? Because coaching, unfortunately, there's not yet robots that could do it, that could lower the cost of coaching. And so it's a very human, one-on-one time, for example.
And so for a lot of, obviously, startup founders and operators at startups, they're kind of like facing a double whammy, right? Which is one of causes. They want to be world-class leaders, world- class operators, and they're doing this, oftentimes, in a new domain, right? So there's no like map that lays out exactly like, there's a whole bunch of people who are doing alternative proteins, right? And the truth is nobody has ever made alternative proteins really mainstream, really successful yet, to the magnitude, right? And so someone coaching them is going to be like, "Wow, there's very few proven paths.," if that makes sense, or standard paths, I wouldn't use the word standard, but you know, there's not a lot of examples of role models, right? To show that exact path there. So they want to be world- class in emerging problems that have not been solved before, versus being world-class at Unilever is kind of like a more-known path, right? Based on generations of leaders who have succeeded and risen to the executive level.
And then the second thing of course, the double whammy for them is of course, it's that the companies are often growing very quickly, or they're growing too slow or failing, right? And so there's this weird binary thing where they're either climbing really fast, or they're stalling and dropping like a stone, right? In terms of plain analogy. So, as a result, affordability and predictability of the... To be able to afford a coach is quite tough, right? For a lot of, even great tech founders, right? So how would you recommend they should begin thinking about how to access coaching or other support, in terms of that?
Jason Ho (38:58):
So I think for tech, for founders, there are two things they struggle with. Number one is that they struggle in terms of really being very clear about what environment, and what triggers them to be at their best. That means their own personal peak performance. So we are not talking about the industry anymore. We're talking about the human being, and the human being has certain things about that person, that in the right environment, with the right people, somehow, maybe in the right time of the day, they're at their best. And we want to know that if we draw a line in terms of their peak performance, we won't see it all the way up there. So we want to understand, first thing, a founder wants to understand, "Where am I at my best? Because I'm going to be burning through this and I'm going to be pushing hard for the next two, three years, right? To just get the plane lifted off, right? And I want to know personally, for me, where do I perform at my best?"
And a lot of times, those questions are very hard to answer by yourself. And that, that's a reason, one of the greatest reasons for a coach. If you are a founder, you want to be performing your best. You need to understand how, or what kind of environments you are at your peak performance. So that's one. The second thing, when it comes to founders, this issue that they are very passionate about the idea, and the philosophy, and the vision that they have for it. But the thing about it is that same thing in terms of MNC leaders, they might not be good at people management. And if you want to build a small sandcastle, do it on your own, no issue. But if you want to build a pyramid, you need a huge team. One that stands the test of time.
So if you know that you're going to build something big, you need a team. And when you have a team, you have dynamics that you have no control over, or you think you have no control over. And that's where it comes to leadership coaching, and helping them understand very fundamental issues of how to solve people problems. I like to say that if I draw a circle, right? If I draw a circle, 10% is work, logical, what things we can discuss and okay. The issues that leaders have, the 90%, is people. Why this person's not talking to this person anymore. Oh, because he said this one small word that offended him, my goodness. So what, what does the leader usually say? "Hey guys, please be professional." And that's the first part where I know that the leader has failed, because it's not about professionalism.
It's about understanding the human mindset. So I'll give you a very clear example of understanding the human mindset. In psychology, there are two parts of a human being. One part is, we call it the rider. The rider is the logic. And he rides an elephant. An elephant is two tons, right? An elephant, he feels he's in control of the elephant, most of the time. And the elephant analogy is actually emotions of a person. So every time a leader sees a person, they need to see two things. One is the logic, which is the rider, which is taking control most of the time. But Jeremy, have you seen an elephant go berserk on videos? Can anything stop it? Nothing can stop it, except for a bullet. Right? Nothing. That... That elephant goes berserk. So one thing we need to do is, as leaders, they only see logic.
"Hey, this player should be professional, right? He's 40 years old. He's 50 years old. Shouldn't he be mature?" Not true. We've seen people with, not in terms of age, maturity, we've seen people who are all older, and they behave very erratically because why? Somehow or other, you've awakened the elephant, and the elephant's going berserk. You need to control it, but you have no idea how to control it. So what do you do? You go back to the normal things like, "Okay, so let's talk about SOPs. Let's put in more logic. Let's talk about professionalism, right? You're paid to do this. Let's talk about it. Let's logic,." But you're not addressing the main thing about human beings, which is the emotional part. So coming back to your question, the second part I'll say is even more difficult than the first part. If you are a founder, and you're managing people, and you have no experience in managing people before, all these issues will drag you down. That person, your head of IT will not talk to your head of Ops, and you will spend time and effort trying to babysit them.
And then you walk away from a four hour meeting thinking, "How come they can't just be more mature?" And imagine that time, four hours of that time, how much is it worth for you? Times a recurring pattern, because this will happen again and again. Maybe in one month, it's 10 hours, in one year, it's 120 hours. How much is 120 hours worth? And that's just one issue about two people. So I'll say it's same thing. If you want to go in the school of hard knocks? Yeah, you can. But if you want to find a way that you can understand how to lead people better and all that, you can save a lot of heartache and a lot of time, and also a lot of good people who might have left because you didn't manage it well.
Jeremy Au (44:03):
Amazing. So what I took away from that is that if you're a founder, you should know that the right time is when you feel confused about the environment that you're trying to build. And also when you have a team, right? Which I think, of course, presupposes that you achieve some fundamentals, right? Which is, achieving product market fit, being able to raise capital, being able to hire a team. So that's roughly the time to start bringing in a coach to help you. And I think one tip I have for people is, I think coaches can be expensive, but sometimes it's better to have a coach on a more episodic, like once every three months, for example, if you can't afford it right now, once every three months is better than never doing it, and doing it only in six months or one year, right?
Because the coach can come in and start a more progressive relationship with the understanding that it could deepen over time as the company scales. And so I think people look at it as, "Do I have a coach?" Versus no coach, which, the simplicity of coaches like every two weeks, right? Or every month. But I think, I think when you have the right fit, the right chemistry, I think frequency can be something that you can dial up or dial down, depending on what you need. So wrapping up here, Jason, just the last question here is, could you share with us a time when you faced adversity, a challenge that you had to overcome and choose to be brave?
Jason Ho (45:19):
Yeah. So what's interesting, when I have done so many different businesses and I failed really badly in some, a lot of times, the hardest thing is not those things that fail, but the hardest things are those things that, you succeed. So you succeed very well. Remuneration was really good, but yet you had to make a choice to see that, "Is this going to be my life?" So I feel that for me, I tend to see that, once I reach a certain level and I feel very comfortable and I feel that, "Hey, actually, that's something that financially, it's great. The work that I do is great," great meaning that I can do it, "but there's emptiness inside." And that's where I feel that some of us are ,when it comes to overcoming that settling of, "Hey, you know what? Good job, great things that are happening, but something's empty inside."
So it is to that risk of throwing that away and saying that, "You know what? I'm not going to do that anymore. And I'm going to do something else that really, really lights the fire that's already inside." So for me, it's what was that, that time and time I did something really well. And I felt, I felt very empty, to a point where I felt that, "Hey, actually, do I want to see myself doing this for the next five, 10, 20 years?" And usually, the answer is no. And when I reached this idea of coaching and influencing people, and influencing leaders, I somehow found all the subsets kind of crossed, from strengths to my understanding of people, to understanding, "Hey, how do we get the best of people?" So I'll say that to overcome that level of adversity is... I wouldn't say adversity, but settling can be a huge regret, 20 years from now.
And that's why when I coach, when I do some career coaching as well, the most dangerous part is where you are good at something, but you feel no life coming out of it. That's the most dangerous part. Because when you keep going to that, you go deeper and deeper, and you dig a hole to a point where your pay scale is increasing ever more, every year, to a point where to make that jump, you're going to take a lot of guts, because that jump can be to something else that is half what you're getting paid now, for what you're doing now.
I would say that could be very much a first world problem. That could be very much a fulfillment problem. But still, do we need courage to do that? We need huge amounts of courage, to say that, "I will not settle. I'm good at it, but I really don't like it, I don't feel any life coming out. I need to explore other things that cause me to do that." So I like this quote by Howard Thurman, "Don't ask the world what it needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
Jeremy Au (48:26):
Wow. Amazing. It could, that's another podcast for sure. That's no life. So this one is more about those getting into Coaching 101, and then we'll do the next one as Coaching 201, which is a lot of people I know who are successful, if you know life, right? I do know them as well, personally. And so thank you so much, Jason, for coming on the show. I want to kind of summarize the three big things that I learned from you in terms of themes. The first thing I really learned was just the whole fundamental conceptual slash underpinning on what strengths-based coaching is, and also how it comes about, right? Which is the fundamental fact that, growing up as kids and educators and the education system is very much about the fact that there is coaching or training, and expectations around really fixing the things that you're weak at, like the Fs, and to bring up that floor to where you need to be, but also a cap on the ceiling, right? Where the A does not fully encapsulate how good or brilliant you can be in that one subject or domain. And we shared a little bit about how you saw that translate in your own life as well, not just as a child and teenager going through design, but also as a parent and how you see your kids as well.
The second thing I really enjoyed was of course, the more nuts and bolts of what we think about strengths-based coaching, in terms of like how managers should be thinking about what their team is good at, but also what they like to do, right? And I made the error of saying that they're correlated, which they can be correlated high-level, but also fair to say that there should have many instances where they are not, true, and you can't presume or assume it. And this by fixing it, and by really kind of like activating the energy that's part of it, you really get to maximize not just the collaboration, the energy levels, but eventually translates to financial performance for the whole team, right? So, money talks in that sense for managers.
And I think the third thing I really enjoyed of cause was the more personal take, of like people who are part of those cultures and thinking about whether they should be maximizing their strengths, whether they should be getting a coach, whether they want to be world-class, how they want to fix things, their very personal eye. And I love a couple of phrases you hit here, right? Which was like, the rider in terms of logic versus the elephant of emotion. We talked about every professional athlete has a coach, the arts and the sports have coaches, and they're looking for world-class folks.
And I think the part I also really enjoyed was also the part where, there are lots of people who are very successful, but if you know life and what they are good at, but they no longer want to do it. And so that applies not just at a junior level, who are people who are working up obligation, but also for high-performers who have dug a hole with them, in their success and their pay scale. So, I think that is an amazing set of learnings, that I'm very excited that a lot of people have learned from, and you and I, myself, have learned from this conversation as well, Jason.
Jason Ho (51:31):All right. Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Jeremy Loved this time with you.
Jeremy Au (51:35): Thank you.