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Reflections on Personal and Professional Development

Personal Mastery


Turning first to personal mastery (Senge, 1990, pp. 7–8), I think that Master Nan Huei Chen's comment on leadership also applies to coaching. Chen states, 'The core of Confucian Theory of leadership formation rests on the idea that 'if you want to be a leader, you have to be a real human being. You must recognize the true meaning of life before you can become a great leader. You must understand yourself first'' (interview quoted in Senge, 2004, p.180).

Unless a significant degree of maturity in life experience and personal mastery has been achieved by the coach, I would question the effectiveness of any coaching intervention. I am wholly in agreement with the legendary American Organizational Learning leader Bill O'Brien, who stated that, 'the success of an intervention depends on the inner state of the intervener' (O'Brien quoted in Senge 2004, p. 180). It then follows that to develop personal mastery requires deep awareness of one's own mental model(s) (Senge, 1990, pp. 7–8) and Inner Theatre (Kets De Vries, 2007, p. 4).

I have a long-standing daily practice of heart-centred meditation (Joy, 1979 and 1990) yoga, reflection and physical exercise, all of which support my ability to be present. This enables me to hear myself, my own nurturing voice and internal critic (Jeffers, 1987, pp. 57–59), as well as clients (which I will address later) with all of my being (Einstein, 1935, p. 107; Tolle, 1999, p. 15), and to engage in constructive dialogue with myself. I systematically reflect on my experiences, evaluating what can be learned from them. These daily practices have also fine-tuned my intuition, my ability to observe my own thoughts, actions, and feelings, account for my coaching decisions as I make them, and enable me to be centred in highly fluid situations. 


I also have a practice of beginning each day with some brief (15 minutes +/-) reading on philosophy and spiritual issues, which provides a frame for me to include the deeper aspects of life as they unfold throughout each day. 


I have been studying Analytical Psychology predominantly through the works of Carl G. Jung's colleague Marie Louise Von Franz for many years. During this period, I have worked with professional experts in the field to explore more deeply my understanding of how theories such as the shadow, animus [Jung (1917) quoted in Von Franz, 1970, . pp. 124-47, 1978 pp. 134,135,168] projections and recollection [Jung (1985) quoted in Von Franz, 1978], archetypal patterns [Jung (1971) quoted in Von Franz, 1972, p. 59-60; 1987, pp. 90, 166] and the collective unconscious [Jung (1971) quoted in Von Franz, 1987, pp. 81, 297 ] have played out in my own life. Doing so has deepened my capacity for insight. It is my experience that through highly informed feedback, a light can be shown on aspects of oneself, which are in the shadow [Jung (1917) quoted in Von Franz, 1974] and hidden in blind spots (Scharmer, 2007, pp.6-8). I apply these insights during the coaching process.

I carefully pay attention to my own projections on people and objects. My emotional reaction(s) provides me with the tip-off. When I discover this, I have the discipline to work through the arduous process of re-collection [Jung (1959) quoted in Von Franz, 1978, pp 169-174]. This is always challenging work. Indeed, my experience of staying conscious is that it takes just as much energy and mindfulness as it ever did, even though I am highly practiced.

This psychological grounding in my approach to coaching, awareness of my own unconscious and the archetypal patterns inform my insight. How? It has given me the ability to recognize influences that may be operating in others' lives that are not explicit, to formulate hypotheses in this regard, and explore their validity with the client(s).

I consider myself blessed to have a high degree of Spiritual Intelligence (Zohar, 2000 pp. 2, 4–5, 28, 61–73), a culturally ingrained ability to 'field independence' (Zohar, 2004, pp. 96–97) and find 'positive use of adversity' (Zohar, 2004 pp. 102–104) [see Critical Career Review (RAL 3.4, pp. 5–7)]. I am 'vision and value led' (Zohar, 2004, pp. 87–89). My visceral experience of being an inseparable part of a greater whole, interconnected to all through the oneness of all (Bohm, 1980, pp. 1-25.) has instilled me with an 'ability to respond' (Chopra, 1994, pp.58–59) and the courage of faith in life to do so. All of the aforementioned support me in making effective decisions in uncertain situations and give me a deep sense of confidence and humility.

Because of my experience as a serial innovator, I am cognizant of my ability to astutely observe and alternate perspectives on challenges. I apply this in coaching and am proficient at synthesising theoretical and scientific knowledge with personal experience to create powerful insights from which I generate effective questions. I am also able to articulate these insights and present my own learning from them (View Publication 3 and Publication 5). This capability to synthesise is so fundamental to my company value proposition that the name of the company is a combination of the word synthesis and innovation: Synovations.

Setting myself challenging goals and high standards, taking independent action for change, willingness to take calculated risks, perseverance in the face of obstacles, and constantly seeking improvement are attributes that are hardwired in my DNA, as demonstrated in my history and Evidenced in the form of third party recognition by testimonials and references. In the Wharton Society of Fellows programme, I was nominated as a 'change agent'. I have continued to apply the aforementioned attributes in my coaching work.

Over the last seven years, Synovations has expanded its mission to design and develop more comprehensive leadership development programmes with multiple coordinated consultant interventions as described on the web site. Furthermore, specifically with regard to taking independent action for change, I have been an early mover stimulating thought on 'Widening the Circle of Engagement on Sustainability' through changing executive perspective on sustainability to one of business opportunity. Indeed with respect to the coaching community's level of awareness on the importance of this issue, I started making requests in 2007 to International Coach Federation Singapore to speak about the responsibility of the coaching community and importance of this issue in coaching. They did not understand its relevance. It was not until 2009 that the Asia Pacific Alliance of Coaches invited me to speak about this subject.

Einstein's guidance (with whom I, as a child, was fortunate to have spent an afternoon) has most powerfully informed my values, purpose and coaching. His deep resonance with nature called me to discover my own and the sacredness of the universe (Berry, 2009). At the heart of my development of personal mastery, resolution of my own challenges and my work with others is the deep resonance with nature and the quote attributed to Einstein, which I think is wise counsel: "You can't solve a problem from the consciousness that created it", and:

Concern for man himself and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavours... in order that the creations of our mind shall be a blessing and not a curse to mankind. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations (Einstein, 1931, cited in NYT, p. 6).

I am deeply committed to the overarching principle that whatever I am and do must serve life (Chopra, 1994, p. 28). Evidence of my ability to communicate the benefits of ethics and values and facilitate others in developing their own is found in references from clients.

Self as an Instrument

Without personal mastery, I would question my ability to effectively use myself as an instrument. Of primary importance, with regard to the self as an instrument is my ability to be present (Tolle, 1999, p. 35) or in a state of 'presence' (Senge, 2004; Scharmer, 2007, pp. 11-14). I am particularly mindful of remaining so during the coaching process. Thus, I am able to do the following :

  • Fully 'meet' the client (Claremont de Castillejo, 1973, pp.11–26);

  • Hear the client with my whole body (Bohm (1980) in Jaworski, 1996 and Tolle, 1999, pp. 105–105) and being;

  • Be conscious of my decisions in the process of making them and account for them in each moment;

  • Access intuition, which enables my synthesis of the information and experience of another being's life.

Read more about Innovation Capital

Cognizant of my responsibility for containing the chrysalis with the client, the alchemical nature (Von Franz, 1980, p. 168) of relationship, synchronicity [Jung (1959), quoted in Von Franz 1977, p.183; 1978, pp. 91–92, 104, 118, 149, 189–199; 1992, pp. 293–323] and reverent of the 'I and Thou' (Buber, 1970 translated from German by Martin Kaufman), I take quiet moments before each session to centre and align myself.

Key to managing myself as an instrument is heightened mindfulness about key dynamics, which can be easily triggered in the coach-client relationship. These include:

  1. Transference (Jung, 1969, p. 1): not only the unconscious redirection of the client's feelings on to me but mine on to the client. I agree with Kets de Vries that Freud's theory of a 'Transference Cure' is collusion between analyst and client (Kets de Vries, 2011, p. 9.)

  2. Projections (Von Franz, 1978, pp. 1-12): not only my own projections onto the client but also the client's projections onto me. I work through the recollection of my own projections (Von Franz, 1978, p. 169). If I think the client may be projecting on to me, I explore the hypothesis. I often remind myself, reflect on, and share with clients the fact that when Jung proposed this theory the world met it with resistance. It was only about ten years ago that visual cognition research proved that one's eye visually takes in any image, breaks it apart into small particles and puts it back together again in one's own mind. Recognizing this in the process of recollection can be very helpful (Jacob et al., 2003, p. 34).

  3. The Drama Triangle (Karpman (1968), in Berne 1972, pp. 186–188). I keep a heightened awareness of this dynamic in any of its multitude of manifestations when exploring charged issues so as to ensure that I do not unconsciously move out of the learning triangle of teacher (coach), lessons (discoveries), and student (discoverer). I have noted this triangulation is most likely to configure when either party feels any basic need is challenged.

  4. Shadows (Jung (1957) in Von Franz, 1987): I remain aware of my own shadow and acknowledge that I have blind spots. My discovery process can take multiple forms and includes a constant review of my work and some deep conversations with colleagues. I am also mindful of the reality of this dynamic in the client.

Continuing Development

I fully recognise that continuing education and development along with periodic supervision and peer review by qualified colleagues is an essential part of carrying out my work with competence and integrity. Because I am human being, I need to continue to deepen my understanding of my own issues, discover and reduce potential obstructions to the effectiveness of my work. I therefore engage with multiple platforms to achieve this.

First, I create opportunities to engage in dialogue with practitioners whom I respect. I have found more of these practitioners in the Society of Organizational Learning (SoL) founding consultant approved member community than any other group. Thus I continue to participate in this group's high level ongoing education opportunities and colleague review. Also, I arrange to have one-on-one dialogue with certain SoL colleagues on issues or reflections as they emerge and am and have been for all of my live engaged in continuous ongoing education. A core commitment of the SoL community is individual and collaborative growth. Evidence of my commitment to the SoL work is my facilitation of peer case reviews and leading the founding of SoL Singapore.

Second, I participate in continuing education at the Presencing Institute, Cambridge, MA. Through the institute, I have had the benefit of studying with leading Organisational Development and Organisational Learning educators, such as C. Otto Scharmer, PhD, and Ed Schein, PhD.

Third, I am credentialed by the International Coach Federation (ICF) since 2007 and re-qualified in 2011; part of this qualification involves supervision of my practice by an approved supervisor and includes review and feedback on recorded sessions with a client.

Fourth, my work as a supervisor of the practicum in INSEAD's Executive Master's Degree Consulting and Coaching for Change programme includes supervision in the form of pre-session group preparation with the lead professors and other colleagues, and post-session feedback from the professors and supervisor colleagues. Working in this capacity at INSEAD has also afforded me the opportunity to keep up to date with the cutting-edge practices and approaches in this field by one of the world's leading business schools.

Fifth, I participate in ongoing education that qualifies with the ICF for ongoing education units and continue my professional development through study and certifications in a variety of methodologies and practices.

Sixth, I qualify to administer a variety of the leading assessment tools such as Meyer Briggs Type indicator, Firo-b.

Seventh, I continue to read seminal work from genuine thought leaders in book, journals such as SoL Reflections, Wharton@Work and Harvard Business Review, etc., such as referenced in my bibliographies.

Finally, I am a member of the Asia Pacific Alliance of Coaches, and participate as a speaker and attendee listener in some of their monthly speaker calls. This is an example of my active contribution to raising standards in the coach/mentor field.


Berne, E. (1964) Games People Play. New York, Grove Press.
Berne, E. (1972) What Do You Say After You Say Hello? New York, Grove Press.
Berry, T. (2009) The Sacred Universe. New York, Columbia University Press.
Bohm, D. (1980) Wholeness and the Implicate Order. London, Routledge & Kegan Paul
Buber, M. (1923) I and Thou. Translated from German by Walter Kaufman. New York, Charles Scribner's Sons.
Claremont de Castillejo, I. (1973) Knowing Woman. New York, Harper & Row.
Chopra, D. (1994) The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. San Rafael, Amber-Allen Publishing/New World Library.
Einstein, A. (1935) The World As I See It. London, Bodley Head.
Einstein, A. (1954) Ideas and Opinions. New York, Crown.
Jacob, P., Jeannerod, M., Heckscher, C., Maccoby, M., Ramirez, R., Tixier, P. E., ... & Movchan, A. (2003). Ways of Seeing: The Scope and Limits of Visual Cognition. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Jaworski, J. (1998) Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership. San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler.
Jeffers, S. (1987) Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. New York, Ballantine Books.
Joy, W.B. (1979) Joy's Way: A Map for a Transformational Journey. New York, Penguin Putnam.
Joy, W.B. (1990) Avalanche. New York, Ballantine Books.
Jung, C. (1917) The Psychology of the Unconscious. Tel-Aviv, Dvir.
Jung, C. (1957) The Undiscovered Self. New York: Penguin.
Jung, C. (1969) The Psychology of Transference. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Jung, C. (1971) The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious. London, Sage.
Jung, C. (1985) The Practice of Psychotherapy: Essays on the Psychology of the Transference and Other Subjects. Translated by R.F.C. Hull. Princeton, Princeton University Press.
Kets De Vries, M. (2007) The Inner Theatre Inventory. Fontainebleau, INSEAD.
Kets De Vries, M. (2011) Coaching's "Good Hour": Creating Tipping Points. Faculty and Research Working Paper. Fontainebleau, INSEAD.
Reason, P. & Bradbury, H. (2001) Handbook of Action Research. LOCATION, Sage.
Scharmer, C.O. (2007) Theory U. Cambridge, Society for Organizational Learning.
Senge, P. (1990) The Fifth Discipline. New York, Currency Books/Doubleday.
Senge, P., Scharmer, O., Jaworski, J. & Flowers, E. (2004) Presence. London, Nicholas Brealey.
Tolle, E. (1999) The Power of Now. Novata, New World Library.
Tolle, E. (2005) A New Earth. New York, Penguin.
Von Franz, M.-L. (1970) Interpretation of Fairytales. Transcripted from the German by Uma Thomas. Dallas, Springs Publications.
Von Franz, M.-L. (1972) Problems of the Feminine in Fairytales. Transcripted from the German by Uma Thomas. Dallas, Springs Publications.
Von Franz, M.-L. (1977) Individuation in Fairytales. Transcripted from the German by Uma Thomas. Boston, Shambhala.
Von Franz, M.-L. (1980a) Alchemy. Tran scripted from the German by Uma Thomas. Toronto, Inner City Books.
Von Franz, M.-L. (1980b) Projection and Re-Collection in Jungian Psychology. LaSalle & London, Open Court.
Von Franz, M.-L. (1987) Shadow and Evil in Fairytales. Tran scripted from the German by Uma Thomas. Dallas, Springs Publications.
Von Franz, M.-L. (1992) Psyche and Matter. Translated from the German by Michael Kohn. Boston, Shambhala.
Von Franz, M.-L. & Hillman, J. (1971) Lectures on Jung's Typology. Tran scripted from the German by Uma Thomas. Dallas, Springs Publications.
Zohar, D. & Marshall, I. (2004) Spiritual Capital. San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

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