Leadership Interview: Jennifer Yao ‘My Experience as a Coachee’

What does the coachee’s experience look like? We see how a Key Account Sales Manager responds to being coached by her experienced Leader and raises her sales performance within a very short period of time.

Jennifer Yao

The voice of the Coachee. This article is another chapter in an ongoing story about how coaching is Blooming in Shanghai. One year ago I published the article about Key Account Sales Manager Tracy Zhi’s experience as a Coachee. Staying with the same team in Shanghai, in February and March of this year I featured articles about Jerry Chen’s ‘Best’ and ‘Most Challenging’ coaching sessions with his direct report is an account manager Jennifer Yao.

Now it’s Jennifer Yao’s turn to tell her story. We hear from the person being coached. So listen up again Leadership Coaches; see what you can learn from Jennifer’s experience as a Coachee.



Trevor: How, when and why did you get started as a ‘coachee’ (that is, being coached by your manager)?

Jennifer: I joined KCM team on Jun 01, and we started the coaching project one month later.

Trevor: What was your attitude towards coaching at that time? (What did you know about coaching? What were your expectations? What, if any, concerns did you have at the time?)

Jennifer: This is a very good opportunity for me to know how to be a qualified KC sales from the beginning. My main concern is different client have different backgrounds, so can our coaching outcomes can be used for all client situations.

Trevor: What were your personal goals as you set out on your coaching journey? (What did you hope to get out of it?)

Jennifer: To get to know about more successful cases and Electronics clients’ (My manager Jerry’s main industry) business needs, and our solutions to meet their expectations. Then I can try to play the same role in my own industry (AUTO).

Trevor: What were your priorities at that time – improving your performance, personal development or both?

Jennifer: I hope to improve both performance and my personal development.

Trevor: How were you held accountable by your manager for your success as a results of the coaching? (Or how did you hold yourself accountable?)

Jennifer: My manager and his manager Allen attended our coaching monthly sessions, and gives us important comments after each session. On the other hand, Allen also reviewed our coaching summary and gives us feedback by mail.

Trevor: How did you see the coaching you were receiving integrating into other programs and initiatives at that time? (For example, formal training, on the job instruction, learning from role models, participating in or leading projects)

Jennifer: Joint sales call and role models.



Trevor: What were your memories and experience of the first coaching session you received?

Jennifer: Jerry did not say much about theoretical knowledge; he tried to get to know me and build a friendly relationship first. After the first session he shared coaching project materials, and gave me enough time to think about it.

Trevor: What do you believe were the success factors for you and your coach/manager as you started out on this coaching journey together?

Jennifer: Mutual trust

Trevor: What do you believe are the core skills, factors and processes for coaching to be successful? (From your perspective as the coachee and for your coach)

Jennifer: Jerry always use smart OPEN question to help me open my mind. Allen worked as an observer and gave Jerry some ideas to improve our discussion efficiency. It is also a good chance for me to understand the meaning of the coaching project.

Trevor: What were your early achievements from your coaching – what are you particularly proud of?

Jennifer: I understood coaching project well and used outcomes in daily communication.

Trevor: What did you discover about your strengths as a result of the coaching you received?

Jennifer: I became more confident when communicating with clients.

Trevor: What were your early challenges as a coachee?

Jennifer: I’m not sure if I can ask some direct questions during coaching session.



Trevor: How do you prepare yourself now for a coaching session? (Including being clear about your and your coach’s goals for the session)

Jennifer: I list my main concerns and case background in an email and send to my Coach Jerry one week in advance. It can help us to save a lot of time.

Trevor: How would you describe the structure and process of a typical good coaching session?

Jennifer: Coachee explains own idea and Coach reopens discussion. Then recap outcome and testing to use it in real sales call.

Trevor: What skills, personal attributes, tools and techniques do you think your coach/manager is using to make a coaching session successful?

Jennifer: Listen carefully and good preparation.

Trevor: What do you appreciate and value about how your coach/manager supports and follows up with you between coaching sessions?

Jennifer: My Coach and his Manager spent a lot of time to discuss with me and help me find out the right way to achieve target.

Trevor: How do you ensure you are using the coaching time you get with your coach/manager effectively and wisely?

Jennifer: Follow-up sales call is the best way to evaluate our coaching value. I think our coaching is very useful to improve my sales call efficiency.

Trevor: What do you appreciate and value about how your coach/manager uses feedback in your coaching sessions?

Jennifer: Quick and clear feedback.



Trevor: How has being coached helped you in other areas of your job role? (That is, in addition to improving your performance and/or your personal development)

Jennifer: This is a good chance for me to understand Electronic clients’ needs and characteristics.

Trevor: How do you evaluate the success of the coaching you have received? (Personal benefits, business impact, confidence, engagement and motivation, career progression, problem resolution, how you do your job, your relationship with team members and other stakeholders, other)

Jennifer: This coaching project made me confident, and let me build good relationships with internal and external stakeholders.

Trevor: How have you and your coach/manager embedded coaching into your business rhythms? (For example, with one-to-ones, team meetings, customer contact, performance reviews, PDPs)

Jennifer: Join each other’s sales call

Trevor: What metrics are you working to for yourself to assess the success of the coaching you receive? (If appropriate, give examples of what you believe you might not have achieved had you not been coached)

Jennifer: In my opinion, build relationships with high level client contacts should take more than half year. But under Jerry’s help the period was shorted to one quarter.

Trevor: How would you describe the correlation between performance (yours and the team of which you are part) and your success as a coachee?

Jennifer: I joined KCM team only 9 months, but now both original and new clients regard me as their focal in our company. This kind of trust helped me understand their needs on a timely basis, and secure more business opportunities easily.

Trevor: What are you aiming for in terms of future performance and personal development as a coachee – both short term and longer term? (And if appropriate, how confident are you that you could now coach others?)

Jennifer: I plan to deep dig into AUTO and Chemical clients’ needs and characteristics, and drive more volume. As well as business results I can also share more industry news internally to help team members know more market intelligence.


Comments & Observations

The first thing that strikes me about the interview with our Coachee Jennifer is how many of the ‘best practice’ coaching themes are mentioned. This is a credit to her Coach Jerry Chen. Here are some of those themes that jumped out of the page to me:

Open Questions: “Jerry always use smart OPEN question to help me open my mind”. See Coaches Toolkit ‘Tools – Purposeful Questions’. Generally your coaching questions should be open – this means the Coachee cannot answer with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and they have to think and process deeply to respond.

Listening Carefully: What skills, personal attributes, tools and techniques do you think your coach/manager is using to make a coaching session successful? “Listen carefully and good preparation”. See Coaches Toolkit  ‘Tools – Levels of Listening’. In Active Listening you will put in more effort than in Casual Listening to stay focussed on what the Coachee is saying and the understand the meaning of what they are saying.

Preparation: What skills, personal attributes, tools and techniques do you think your coach/manager is using to make a coaching session successful? “Listen carefully and good preparation”. Preparation? “It can help us to save a lot of time”. See Coaches Toolkit  ‘Templates – Coaching Preparation’ and the Blog article ‘Planning’ & Preparation’. The goal of a Leader and Coach is to achieve results through others by making the most of the valuable resources who are their direct reports. Having decided how to invest coaching time, plan for whom and when that coaching will take place.

Mutual Trust: What do you believe were the success factors? “Mutual Trust”. See Coaches Toolkit  ‘Techniques – Building Trust & Rapport’. Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is quoted as saying: “He who does not trust enough, will not be trusted”. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric is quoted as saying in his book ‘Winning’: “Trust happens when leaders are transparent, candid and keep their word. It’s that simple”.

Practical Application: “Jerry did not say much about theoretical knowledge”. We should congratulated Jerry on making sure his coaching with Jennifer is rooted in practical application within the business. This means linking the coaching subject to the business goals. It also means understanding where the Coachee is now in relation to their performance expectations and the size and nature of any gaps to close.

Confidence: “This coaching project made me confident, and let me build good relationships with internal and external stakeholders”. Coachee confidence is one of the key aims of coaching. Whether the situational coaching approach is Support, Guide or Inspire – the aim is self-sufficiency, responsibility and confidence.

In answer to Jennifer’s comment “I’m not sure if I can ask some direct questions during coaching session”. Of course you can Jennifer, but don’t be surprised if your Coach Jerry does not give you an immediate answer. He wants you to do the thinking (Raise Awareness) and make your own choices and decisions on what you will do (Create Responsibility). Don’t be surprised if Jerry responds to your questions with something like “What do you think?” or “What do you see the options being?” Of course if this is all he does then it could become a bit frustrating for you. Sometimes you need a direct answer. I’m confident that Jerry is sufficiently well tuned into you and your needs to know when this is the case!


Additional Reading

Leadership Learning Log Case Study 1 ‘Most Challenging’ Session

Leadership Learning Log Case Study 2 ‘Best’ Session

Author: Trevor Sherman

Trevor Sherman: Author, Blogger and Coach. What do I do? I develop leadership training material and personal learning modules. I am the owner and operator of this Blog. I coach senior executives for their development and role transition. I am based in Northamptonshire UK and operate globally - in person and through technology.

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