Yeo Chuen Chuen has been honored with accolades and praise for her outstanding work over the years. In 2020, she has already been named “Women Super Achiever” and surely, the honors will continue to arrive throughout her career.
Yeo’s work as a leadership agility coach and the Founder of ACEsence has made her a highly sought-after individual in the business world. She is a Professional Certified Coach (ICF), John Maxwell Coach, Marshall Goldsmith Executive Coach, Agile Certified Coach and Conscious Business Coach. Yeo works with business executives enabling leadership development in organizations, and excels at organizational mindset shifts and creating learning solutions for companies around the globe.
The agile leadership expert doesn’t just work with anybody and devotes her fullest effort to create the best experience for those who are fully committed to their development. It is truly an exceptional learning process that turns individuals into the leaders they want to become.
You were labeled as one of “Asia’s most talented coaching leaders” in 2019 and again named “Top 101 Global Coaching Leaders” and “Women Super Achiever” in 2020. How did you get involved in leadership coaching, and what made you want to work in the field?
I started working as an educator, which taught me how to help diverse audiences learn how to overcome hurdles and challenges, many of which they did not think were possible. Through this, I discovered how rewarding it was to help others find and use their strengths.
Along this part of my journey, a world-class leadership program opened my eyes to what is possible through professional coaching. There was little understanding about the coaching occupation in Singapore at the time, but it aligned nicely with my teaching specialization in leadership development for student leaders and fellow educators.
Applying the coaching methods produced encouraging results that validated the techniques. Simultaneously, the world’s need for great leaders became more apparent. So, I started evaluating how I could play a role.
While self-limiting beliefs found me doubting myself, I continued to step towards my dream by accepting more serious coaching engagements. Coaching the senior officers from the United Nations was a significant turning point. Their positive feedback gave me the extra boost of confidence that I needed to go into leadership coaching field full-time.
You have worked with many mid-level and senior-level executives. What do you do for these individuals, and how does it improve their careers exactly?
My goal is to help leaders discover keys for unlocking their greatest potential. Using thought-provoking questions, I help executives gain clarity around their needs and “whys.” We use this information to construct how they will fulfill their goals. It is astonishing how much people achieve once they possess clarity of thought.
James Allen said it best in As a Man Thinketh (which is one of my favorite books): “Every man is where he is by the law of his being; the thoughts which he has built into his character have brought him there, and in the arrangement of his life there is no element of chance, but all is the result of a law which cannot err. This is just as true of those who feel “out of harmony” with their surroundings as of those who are contented with them.”
By helping clients think with laser-focused clarity, they are elevated to another level of being as they start seeing things from a different perspective. They learn to interpret and measure their lives differently while taking action on goals and projects they desire.
The improvements they see are beyond their careers. As one of my clients said about our work together, “Yeo’s program is the only one leaders need to do.”
While their need to improve in business is what drove them to coaching, they often emerge with personal and internal benefits. This process sets their lives on a very different trajectory, so they are taking charge of their decisions. In turn, they truly own every aspect of their careers, lives, emotions, thoughts, and character.
Yeo employs an interesting four-step coaching model that helps leaders gain more clarity. The system looks at discomforts that individuals possess enabling them to unlock their leadership capabilities over time.
You use a four-step coaching model. How does the model work, and can you take us through it step-by-step?
My philosophy is to make things simpler instead of more complex by focusing on the basics. Our goal is to identify and address any contradictory discomforts they have suppressed, so their thoughts, feelings, and actions align. This exercise may sound very simple, but it is amazing how many executives struggle with mindset issues despite all their success.
The first step is for leaders to do is a real reality check. I emphasize “real” because many executives focus on stories they’ve created instead of reality. To be fair, we all live in stories that we imagine to a certain extent. But if we want things to change, we must first align our perception with reality. The reality check often requires courage to peel off rose-colored glasses that obscure their judgment. This step can be difficult and humbling, so I provide support to challenge my clients gently through the process.
The second step is to validate their new perception-reality alignment and find some clues of what needs to change. They do this by asking the people they interact with regularly to share their perspective of a situation. We all have information sources around us, but not everyone dares to tap into them. Since speaking the truth is as difficult as hearing the truth, this step in the process also requires courage and humility.
The third step is where clients move into a new persona. The gap they uncovered in the first two steps drives this process by showing where there is an urgent need for change, and what will occur if they stay unchanged. I help them get there by constructing a relatable metaphor that increases their motivation for change.
The final step involves arming them with the right mindsets and skills to enable change. At this point, I may offer a resource or two that will help them gain insights or learn new skills. We may spend some time roleplaying to help clients get comfortable using their new skills so they can apply them immediately in the workplace.
Real cases showing how my four-step model helped clients navigate the complexities of today’s workplace are available in my soon-to be-released book. Read them inside “The 8 Paradoxes of Leadership Agility.”
The phrase “agility as a mindset” is used on your website and in connection to your coaching. Can you explain what “agility as a mindset” is and how it works?
There are many definitions of agility out there. In my book, I define agility as being flexible and able to navigate through uncertainties and complexities while maintaining a sense of ease and authenticity. You will only achieve agility through mindset, which is the way one thinks. It is not accomplished by following frameworks, models, and protocols.
As a mindset, agility requires the leader to know and demonstrate authenticity. They learn to do this by uncovering who they are, what makes them tick, and what is important. In today’s workplace—where so many variables are changing at one time—acting with authenticity lays the foundation for genuine change to occur more easily.
Yeo has worked with a diverse group of clients all seeking to become better leaders in the business world. She is sought out by individuals from major companies and corporations who hope to gain the insights and strategies that will help them become better leaders. Yeo doesn’t work with just any client as a mutually beneficial fit must be made before beginning her work.
As a leadership agility coach, you have worked with individuals from more than 30 countries and Fortune 500 company leaders. How have these individuals found you and is it difficult to get them to buy into your coaching program?
Since my clients come from many avenues, I focus on meeting every individual where they are from the beginning of our relationship. For an individual who found me online or through word of mouth, I first assess if there is a good understanding of professional coaching. Because the term is used so loosely in the marketplace, it is important to ensure my clients know what they will receive from my professional services and that we see things eye-to-eye.
For those who already understand the concept of professional coaching and are ready to get started, I assess our rapport and chemistry while helping them picture their ideal scenario by identifying any gap. Client fit varies and determines who I accept into my program. Sometimes we decide to work together and at other times, we do not.
It is more important that we begin by confirming that working together is mutually beneficial. By hiring me as a coach, my clients permit me to see their inner world while questioning and challenging them. So, establishing an initial trust and rapport creates the bedrock of our relationship, which is fundamental and essential for deep transformation to occur. This mutual understanding ensures that the clients I accept into my program are highly satisfied and that, in turn, they will refer others to me.
Who are your ideal clients to work with and coach?
My ideal clients are leaders working in complex situations. Most of them are in large organisations working in diverse teams. They may or may not be people leaders at the time we work together, but all of them have the same desire to be the best they can be. They are mostly high performers and achievers who are looking for the next level in their careers and lives.
Yeo’s debut book will be published in 2020 and provide practical and quick ways to business leaders who are keen to learn how they can develop more agility . She hopes readers will learn how to “shift their mindsets” to become more agile leaders and improve their lives in the business world.
You have an upcoming book 8 Paradoxes of Leadership Agility. Can you tell us about your debut offering, and what led you to write it?
My curiosity about agility and agile processes led me to become a Certified Agile Coach. During my training, it was emphasized how an agility mindset is critical for any transformation at the organisational and individual levels to occur successfully.
So, I started wondering how leaders could begin to obtain an agility mindset when the pathway to attain it has been sorely lacking. In today’s Fourth Industrial Revolution—where the lines between physical, digital, and biological worlds blur—transferring knowledge to leaders across the board is critical.
Seeing this need, I wanted to write a useful book that would show leaders how to shift their mindsets and become more agile. As I began working with a large number of clients, I connected ideas quickly. The commonalities I saw resulted in the 8 Paradoxes of Leadership Agility.
Was the book writing process something you enjoyed? Will there be another written in the future?
To be honest, writing the book was not an easy process. Once I got the basic structure right, writing the book became easier. Thankfully, I had the support of other coaches and mentors who had done the same.
If anyone has suggestions on topics you would like to learn about in my future work, feel free to connect with me at [email protected].
Let us go back to the beginning. What led you to start ACEsence?
ACEsence comes from my first coaching model, which I developed as part of my professional coaching training at the International Coach Academy. I always loved the metaphor of water, and this first model had the notion of purification to obtain the essence. I believe everyone has an essence to excel (or to ace). Combining essence to ace, produced ACEsence.
Before ACEsence, what was your career?
Before launching ACEsence, I spent a year as the Head of Corporate Training in a global franchise, which had a presence in 20 markets at that time. My most significant contribution was constructing a new training framework for all the franchisees. I also created online learning content delivered in bite sizes. The goal was to help the franchisees become more profitable by increasing their staff’s capability in a time and cost-efficient manner through the training framework.
Yeo, how is a day in your life?
I spend most of my days coaching, learning, and networking to create strategic partnerships. I have three young boys, so I’m focused on spending quality time with them during the evenings and weekends.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Connecting with a wide range of clients is one of my strengths, which aligns with my
bubbly, funny, and positive outlook. Ironically, I am actually an introvert and require downtime to recharge my batteries.
What makes you smile?
I enjoy the simple pleasures in life. A day out in the park with my children or a great cup of fragrant coffee at a coffee shop will always make me smile.
What scares you?
Not reaching my highest potential scares me. I never want to stop learning and growing, so I never have a life of regrets or unfulfilled dreams.
Do you have any hobbies?
Mind-body exercises help me focus and increase my mindfulness. Both Pilates and vinyasa yoga are my favorite hobbies at the moment.
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
“No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.” ~Albert Einstein
“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” ~Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
I would change how adult learning is carried out in the world because the field needs some serious disruption.
Yeo has helped businesses executives gain and develop leadership skills they didn’t realize they possessed. Her work has improved the lives of a large number of people, and with a new book set to hit shelves this year, she will continue helping others through agility coaching.
Whether it is self-confidence or problem solving, Yeo can provide the help individuals seek. She just may be the secret weapon needed for businessmen and women to become the best they can be in the executive world.
For more information on Chuen Chuen Yeo and ACEsence visit https://www.acesence.com
Journalist and author. Contributor