This leadership coach teaches bosses to be more empathetic during the pandemic

Drawing on his training and experience in psychology, counselling and coaching, Mr Ian Tan helps others develop new mindsets and capabilities

Like the clients he coaches, Mr Tan has also had to pivot his business and adopt new, innovative and employee-centred solutions, as well as integrate new technologies. PHOTO: JCU

During the pandemic, leadership coach Ian Tan observed an uptick in requests for coaching and workshops on resilience training, trust building, mental well-being and organisational health.

“Over the past two years, workers have been facing more stress, loneliness and burnout. This has highlighted the importance of employee welfare and well-being, and given rise to a renewed focus on human-centred leadership’,” Mr Tan notes. 

Human-centred leaders are defined by global talent market thought leader Josh Bersin as ones that put people first and make success happen with people, not despite them.

“Now, more than ever, leaders need to be empathetic, inclusive and highly flexible,” says Mr Tan, who is the founder and “Chief Enabling Officer” of training provider Lifeskills Institute. 

Human resource departments in many companies and organisations are stepping up to play a bigger role in developing new leadership mindsets and capabilities.

“Well-being has become an essential leadership capability – caring about the overall employee experience positively impacts productivity. Leaders need to be good listeners and connected to the employees. It is crucial to understand what makes people flourish and thrive.”

Making this critical transition and “unlearning” management habits of the past can be very challenging, however. Mr Tan believes that coaching and development is the best way to help develop human-centred leaders and to unlock their potential in the new post-Covid workplace. 

He says: “Training is a great way to help people pick up new skills. To make learning more effective, however, we need inner reflection, motivation, behavioural change and sustainability. That’s where coaching comes in. Coaching not only complements but enhances training. It accelerates progress by providing greater focus and awareness of choice.

“The days of command-and-control approach are over as it is not as effective and likely to be counter-productive. The best leaders today behave like coaches, not managers.”

Coaching 4.0

Mr Tan has more than 20 years of experience in training, development, performance coaching, and consulting for multinational corporations, small and medium-sized enterprises, schools and organisations across Asia. 

Armed with a Master of Guidance and Counselling (2007) from the Singapore campus of James Cook University, he draws on his training and experience in human psychology, counselling, coaching and business to improve leadership skills and personal development.

Since Mr Tan started training, he has chalked up an impressive list of achievements. He is a Master Facilitator for Zenger Folkman, a leading world authority on strengths-based leadership development, and is one of Asia’s pioneer Master Behavioural Consultants. He is also a Master Accreditation Trainer of the renowned PeopleKeys-DISC Personality System for the Institute for Motivational Living in the United States.

Like the clients he coaches, he has also had to pivot his learning and development business to stay relevant, especially so during the pandemic. “With increased digitalisation, and the influx of information available online, people are looking for a more personalised approach to learning,” he notes.

The industry veteran has been working to transform traditional classroom-based practices that are no longer as effective. He is adopting new, innovative and employee-centred solutions, and integrating new technologies so that training is focused on meeting the individual needs of each client. 

He also recently ventured into a new start-up BestOfMe. It is the first Asian-based digital coaching platform that integrates behavioural science, AI-powered learning and one-on-one coaching to help organisations in the region scale coaching and build a culture of coaching. 

He says: “I learnt many years ago that we are the ones who make our work significant and not the other way around. This is why it is so important to find out what you love to do, what you are passionate about, and to discover what your strengths are. Your greatest contribution and value to your clients, community and the people around you is when you are operating from those premises. 

“I am fortunate that I found out early on what I love doing and have made that work part of my calling. My mission now is to help people discover and develop their potential so that they can become their best version of themselves - personally and professionally.”

The Master of Guidance and Counselling course offered at the Singapore campus of James Cook University is accredited in Australia by the Australian Counselling Association (ACA) and in Singapore by the Singapore Association for Counselling (SAC). Visit this website to find out more.

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