Behind Asia-Pacific’s new surge in coaching

As the digital era cements itself in organisational discourse, one-on-one coaching is being utilised to help leaders face the new and unexpected challenges.
By: | April 9, 2019


It’s a volatile, fast-changing business environment out there at the moment; not just in Asia-Pacific but around the world. Agility, resilience, and the ability to make good decisions with incomplete information are becoming key skills and character traits for leaders across all types of organisations.

More importantly, it is a very different environment to what many experienced leaders have built their careers around previously. The transition is an important, but difficult one for many leaders to make, and it’s not commonly part of the learning curriculum of organisations today.

Prakash Mathur, Trainer Consultant with the Professional Development Centre of The British Council in Singapore, says this is where one-on-one coaching is filling an increasingly common gap. Where training is limited to a specific skill – or a lateral extension, Mathur says, coaching is about growing the individual “vertically”.

“It’s about engaging their maturity and understanding,” he says.

Mathur has been with the British Council for over 11 years, and says coaching can have a positive impact on staff of all levels and ambitions.

“It could be about learning to receive and give feedback effectively, or developing confidence and ‘executive presence’;” he says.

Coaches can also help instil positive habits, or correct negative ones. “Different situations require different approaches, and that is the value of a great coaching relationship,” Mathur says.


Helping Asian organisations transform

The value of coaching is perhaps particularly strong in this part of the world. Mathur says the abundance of traditional management styles across Asia-Pacific businesses makes them prime candidates for organised coaching modules at the senior levels at least.

“In Asia we still have a culture of command and control, and hierarchy-based styles of management,” he said. “But in the VUCA world, goals are shifting. Even the most senior leader or specialist needs to rely on others to a much greater degree – and that puts the emphasis back on communication skills and relationship building.”

Whereas many years ago, coaching was reserved for private individuals – hoping to build on their professional careers outside of the organisation they were working for, today many organisations are recognising the skills gap, and how it impacts on their own potential.

They are introducing and funding systematic coaching programmes in response; offering key staff the opportunity of one-on-one coaching relationships with reliable experts.

Mathur cites a recent example of a multinational organisation that engaged coaching trainers from the British Council to help it develop an internal coaching programme. Over the six months of each activation (the first cohort of 20 staff is finishing the learning part of the programme now), the participants have been trained to champion a coaching and mentoring culture within their organisation.

“They are learning to become mentors, and coach people assigned to them,” Mathur says. “the goal is to create pools of mentor-mentee relationships throughout the company, each with regular meetings and defined terms of engagement.”


Flexible training provider

British Council’s Professional Development Centre offers a wide range of both bespoke and pre-programmed interventions that can help organisations to adapt a similar coaching culture across their workforce or senior leadership groups.

Mathur says there are two levels of coaching programmes: one for senior management level specifically, and one that can be implemented across all levels. In addition, the British Council offers a wide range of soft-skills programmes for both individuals and corporate groups.

These include in-depth looks at communication skills, emotional intelligence, and “executive presence”.

“This kind of professional development becoming hugely-important in the digital era,” Mathur says.


For more information, visit the British Council’s Professional Development Centre here.