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Coach the Human, not the Culture – Part One

  April 27, 2021

Coach the Human, not the Culture

In 1999 a glossy brochure promoting executive coaching arrived on my desk at General Motors. I did not pass it to my Managing Director or to the HR department, I carried it home and researched executive coaching. Something had caught my eye and I was eager to learn more. For most of my corporate career I felt ‘split’. What I appreciated about the corporate world: the pace, the power, the product, the impact, the intellectual challenge; and what I treasured about personal development: the depth, the discussion, the direction, the whole-heartedness; were at odds. I left my corporate self at work and my personal self at home. Yet this executive coaching brochure resonated with me and I understood, for the very first time, how I could integrate my love of the workplace with my love of personal development. Being a coach meant I could be fully me, both at work and at home. My journey had started, and I was on my way to becoming an executive coach myself. I was on my way to being fully authentic in any arena. As a mathematics major, my success formula sums it up:

IQ + EQ = Wholehearted Relating

Now, over two decades later I run a global practice based out of my property in the countryside in the Victorian Central Highlands, 90 minutes west of Melbourne, Australia. My story is not unique.

Many coaches emanate from a place of longing to make the workplace a more user- friendly environment. We may come from different backgrounds stretching from psychology to consulting; from training to IT; from the arts to the C-suite. I came from  physics and mathematics, via business systems. No matter how you arrive at coaching, it is a calling and one that often integrates much of our previous study, career, and experience. Coaching asks us to continue to be learners and have a beginners’ mindset.

Now having coached clients in 29 countries, I have concluded that we are human beings first and foremost. No matter where you were raised, what your beliefs are, where you live now, and what community you identify with, those of us who come to  coaching are called because we want to partner with others by exposing, exploring and expanding potential.

As one of the first International Coach Federation (ICF) Master Certified Coaches (MCC) in our region I share with you my journey, the lessons learned, and the wisdom of experience. I speak to those clients searching for truly Masterful coaching,   and to coaches aspiring to become Masterful coaches themselves. Now a seasoned coach-practitioner, I am proud to have been an early adopter of coaching in Asia Pacific.

It is my premise that Masterful coaching has universal application, no matter where or with whom we practise. I respectfully ask you dear reader, to keep an open mind as we investigate this premise. Let us act as experienced coaches do. Let us look through a different lens, let’s explore a different perspective, and like all good coaching conversations, let’s begin at the beginning.


The Growth of Professional Coaching

The first Australasian Coaching Conference was held in Sydney in 2002 and it was there that I was fortunate enough to introduce myself to Foo See Luan. Little did I know he was the founder of Asia Pacific Alliance of Coaches (APAC), the leading organization of professional coaches in the Asia Pacific Region. APAC is a diverse and dynamic community of coaches committed to the highest standards of Professional Coaching. It didn’t take long for See Luan to convince me to join APAC     and soon I was introduced to, and introducing, coaches in our region.

My APAC family, along with my ICF family, continues to bestow new friends, colleagues, and new opportunities to travel (pre, and hopefully post, CV19). The joy I receive and give from spending time with ‘my tribe’ is invaluable.

We live in a global environment. We discover global science and work in a global economy. Yet, it seems that often in the field of Professional Coaching, our limiting beliefs around regional culture differences, diversity and communication are tending to lead us down a path of fragmenting our beloved profession. Let us not do this. Let us not become Balkanised1, segmented and limited in our understanding of what coaching, Masterful coaching can be.

So, “What is Masterful coaching?” I hear you ask. I assert that Masterful coaching is to show up with the conscious intention to relate, connect and be present with another remarkable human being who has put themselves forward to unleash their potential and grow themselves by being curious.

Of course, we all want to be ‘special’. Be it our nation states, our religious beliefs, our environment, our community, our upbringing. Yet when we delve into the heart of the matter, we are all similar when it comes to coaching. We want to be solid in our self- belief and maximise our potential. Certainly, there are language barriers, and of course there are cultural protocols and nuances to be aware of. Yet as coaches we want to be whole-hearted and grow ourselves in the process, as we inspire workplaces to transform into flourishing and thriving places where teams choose to be. As coaches we bring back the ‘human element’ into workplaces increasingly weighed down by process and bureaucracy. When we feel deeply heard with a social connection and support, we become motivated to change2.

The era of individual and heroic leadership is over. It is so 20th century. Now we need many minds and hands to navigate this VUCA world. To be successful in business, as in life, we want diverse input and experience. We value collaborations and collective leadership. Hive minds. Teams. Partnerships. It is time to move into the 21st century and collaborate, partner, team up and share the load. No one has the skills to navigate the complexity of business alone anymore.

Simply put, coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.3

There are many ways in which coaching can be practised. Executive coaching offers this process in a workplace, at a senior level. Career coaching offers this to employees wanting to further their careers. Business coaching offers this in small and medium size businesses. Corporate coaching offers this in large private or public organisations. Personal coaching offers this in a larger ‘life’ setting, not just the workplace. We can go on and on with definitions of what ‘X’ coaching is. In reality ‘X’ is the market segment that we choose to target. In this essay my premise is that truly Masterful coaches can coach anyone, anywhere, on anything.

Let us explore the possibility that who the coach is being is not nationality or regionally defined. What if it is more important and relevant that the coach is coaching from a Masterful way of being which is only gained from thousands and thousands and thousands of coaching client hours? By the time we are MCC’s, our models, frameworks, structures and training schools are dissolving, and our unique way of being is what we offer. As we start to own this we start to coach Masterfully, free from constraints. We become able to coach anyone, anywhere, on anything.

I first traveled overseas as a teenager to Japan to study the language. This was my first taste of Asia and I have been drawn north ever since. Parag Khanna includes Australia and Russia in his definition of Asia calling us White Asians4, no wonder I resonate with Asia Pacific. My travels have carried me to 15 Asia Pacific countries as a businesswoman or/and as a tourist. In Asia Pacific I have coached clients in 18 countries. My European, North American, African and Middle East clients are not forgotten either, and I am grateful for each and every one of these courageous human beings who are willing to have the spotlight shone on them so they can examine their lives. Socrates was right… ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’.

Thank goodness, otherwise we coaches would be out of a job!

This coaching history I share with you to establish my credibility and to let you know that I am a seasoned coaching practitioner. I am not a coaching researcher nor a coaching academic. When I commenced coaching in 1999 there was little or no research into coaching. There simply were not enough clients who had experienced being coached for academics to perform research on. I look forward to evidence- based academic research5 in the coming decades to see if there really is a specialised way to coach clients in Asia Pacific, or if, as I experience, there is not.

There are larger numbers of experienced MCCs6 globally coaching larger numbers of clients, thus this research is starting to become possible. As MCC’s move into Masterful coaching, it will be interesting to review and research their clients globally.


1 Balkanisation, is a geopolitical term for the process of fragmentation or division of a region or state into smaller regions or states that are often hostile or uncooperative with one another. (Wikipedia)

2 The Neuroscience of Coaching by Boyatzis & Jack (Consulting Psychology Journal; Practice and Research Vol 70, No 1 2018).

3 International Coach Federation (ICF) definition of coaching.

4 Parag Khanna – The Future Is Asian published by Simon & Schuster 2019.

5 David B Drake PhD - Evidence Is a Verb: A Relationship Approach to Knowledge and Mastery in Coaching in the International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring (IJEBCM) 2009.

6 At the time of writing approx. 1,200 MCCs globally.

Coach the Human, not the Culture is a four-part series that continues with Part Two in our next blog posting.



Belinda MacInnes was one of the first MCC’s in Asia Pacific (2005) and has coached many nationalities and levels of seniority in clients in the region. She has been privileged to coach 300 clients over 7,800 hours. She has over 500 hours of coach specific training behind her and plans to have many more ahead. She is on faculty with a global coach training school. Belinda is an ICF MCC Assessor and has served as ICFA President and APAC First Vice President. She is also a Professional Mentor Coach. Belinda is the author of the globally- selling Professional Coach’s Business System (pcbs) Revisited – a step-by-step manual supporting coaches in private practice how to set up and run their business using systems. Belinda has, and continues to, attend as a delegate, speaker, and sponsor, numerous coaching conferences internationally and locally. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Melbourne (physics and mathematics) and a Graduate Diploma in Business Systems (with Distinction) from RMIT University. She is a passionate student of where theoretical physics, neuroscience, philosophy and AGI are heading in this 21st century, and enjoys synthesising these to give her a unique approach to coaching and the business of coaching. Belinda is a 20-year veteran.




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