May 16, 2015

Interview with Human Behaviour Specialist and Life Coach Adrian Cahill on coaching in China and cross-cultural understanding (Part One)

I sat down with Adrian Cahill to talk about his experience in China. Adrian is a motivational coach who has lived in China for more than 3 years now. He will talk about the challenges of living and working in China, how he copes with cross-cultural expectations, and his perspectives about what you can expect as a coach and how the Chinese think about coaching.

Jing Yan: Why you initially choose to come to China?

Adrian Cahill: I was on a bit of research and development trip human behaviors in different cultures, and this led me to a journey across 60 or so countries, and I was looking for somewhere to stop and really get around the locals. One Australian expat recommended about Shanghai, so here I am. China is going to be the centre of the world, and there will be a good need for emotional intelligence training. When I actually came here, the response I got from people was fantastic. Many of them who I met the first day are still my friends. Now it is almost 3 years. China is an ideal location to start, people wanted to change, but not much momentum, I had a couple of clients, but it wasn’t really working. So I went back to Australia, studied more and became a member of ICF.

China is going to be the centre of the world, and there will be a good need for emotional intelligence training.

What was mostly the challenges back then, when you first started?

A lot of people are interested in coaching, I was one of them, thought I could do it and also know I can do it, yet I wasn’t getting the client, what’s more, the difficulties emerged during the process of coaching them. I guess I didn’t really have a clue what coaching is about. I have never been formally coached, and never was a client of coaching, yet I was trying to sell myself as a coach to other people. I see this a lot of time, that people who try to coach have never been coached before. If you have never bought a car, how can you sell cars. People need to get prepared. And also the western method of coaching as well as the marketing tactics need to be localized. So when an American is trying to do coaching in China, you need to Chinese’it, you need to make it easier for the Chinese to intake. Now over half of my clients are Chinese, so my stuff has been adapted enough for the Chinese to digest it.

“The western method of coaching as well as the marketing tactics need to be localized.”

What was the difficulties when you first approached the Chinese people?

Lack of knowledge

‘What is coaching?’ people would say, ‘oh, but I am not sick.’ It is not about sickness. Some people would say, ‘like a soccer coach or a football coach?’ No...In fact, football coach is mostly trainer, they train people to do sport. 

Language barriers

I guess there are some language barriers, when you say coaching, Chinese people never approached this word professionally before. In fact, when I started coaching myself in 2012, I have never heard of ICF in China before, I only knew NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming), and I thought that was it, as many NLP practitioners would become coaches. But later, some of my HR friends introduced me to this accreditation - ICF (International Coach Federation). And now ICF has a bigger presence in China, but I guess, the language barrier is still bottle necking them. And I think if you want to become a coach, you need to use the native language for your customers. To be a coach in another language, you should be more than just an expert of coaching, you should also be an expert in that language. Everyone I coach has very high efficiency of English, I coach in English, I have some clients who are not very skilled in English, we didn’t have as much success. 

Coach as a group

And we need to coach as a group, if you try to coach by yourself, it’s a battle, when you coach in a group, have a group of coaches around you, they can push each other to do better. ICF is by far the most well known standard group for coaching, and I have seen many other accreditation but I trust less of them.

“I think if you want to become a coach, you need to use the native language for your customers.”



End of Part One. Part Two is coming up soon in which Adrian talks about cross-cultural barriers and how to deal with it. Stay tuned..