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Realising potential

Martin Luther King Jr had Bayard Rustin. Steve Jobs had Ken Segall. Tsar Nicholas II had Rasputin. And modern-day executives out to conquer the world have Potchanart Seebungkerd, better known as ?Jimi the Coach?. Throughout her life, Jimi has been the person everyone turns to for advice, but it wasn?t until 2004 that she tapped into her warm, attentive, and non-judgemental personality and became a professional coach. As a coach, she guides her clients, most of them executives of large corporations, not only to perform more efficiently and successfully at work, but also to catapult their careers and lead more fulfilling lives through a deeper understanding of themselves and their potential.

Potchanart ‘Jimi’ Seebungkerd.

In recent years, life coaching has become a billion-dollar industry in the US and has been growing in popularity in Thailand. As one of the pioneers in coaching here, Jimi talks to Life about how she started as a coach as well as the fundamental facets of coaching.

What exactly is coaching?

The logic behind coaching is that everyone possesses untapped potential. Coaching is a science that guides you to really understand people, why certain people live and think a certain way. You could call it the teaching of dhamma or leadership development but it’s guiding someone to achieve happiness through understanding their state of being.

The coach and the individuals talk face-to-face. A company sets a target when it hires you to train employees. For example, the company faces the problem of declining profit. The employees are not up to standard, or they are not driven. These cases are straightforward — there are definite goals, and definite actions to be taken.

Life coaching goes beyond that to question the individuals: “If the profit is declining and you are not doing the right things, what is stopping you?” The obstacle might not be the budget, or teamwork. It might be a personal problem. The coach guides the individuals to see the problems and find ways to deal with them by asking the right questions. The individuals must arrive at their own decisions. Coaching strengthens people from within. It urges people to believe in themselves. It’s a life philosophy.

How did you get into coaching?

I stumbled upon it by accident and realised the mentality of coaching uncovers what humanity fundamentally is. I worked in PR for 20 years. I learned about coaching when I translated for training managers from overseas. I later became a training manager, and then grew to become the head of the HR department.

At the time, the company hired a trainer to teach us about time management. I was very impressed with him, very drawn to him. He was older and spoke slowly.
I found everything he said meaningful. I later learned that he was a coach and I became very interested in it. It must have been about 10 years later when I decided to attend a coaching school in Melbourne. There, I found something much deeper than the coaching I originally knew of.

What was memorable or significant about the course?

During the first class, the instructor asked us: “Why do you want to study coaching?”

I wanted to help people. When I worked in HR, people were always coming to me for advice. I think it’s in my nature and I wanted to learn theoretical skills. He asked: “How much do you charge for coaching?”

I thought it was mean to charge for helping someone. But the instructor questioned: “So do you think everyone else here is mean?” I denied it. It was never my intention to insult anyone. The instructor turned it around, presenting another point of view, questioning me. It was just a sentence but I felt like I was already learning.

Throughout the course, I felt like I was learning about humanity. I was unpacking who I am. I forgave people who had wronged me, because I could see the reasons they behaved the way they did.

What did you learn about yourself?

I am afraid of not being loved, of being disliked. There are two universal fears in all humans: the fear of not being loved and the fear that you are not good enough. I fall in the former category. I’ve always been nice, treated people well, got gifts for people. The CEOs that I coach usually fall into the latter.

Are there trends in the issues faced by your clients, since most of them are employees at executive level?

They tend to have relationship problems. I am initially hired by the corporate company and they start by following
the individual development plan. Sure at the beginning, they talk about issues in the work context, their bosses and their subordinates. But after the first couple of sessions, they begin talking about their children, their families, their wives and the impact on their work.

People often think you need to hit a low to turn to life coaching. But for growth to occur, people often have to unload the baggage they drag around with them.

What is your strategy in getting CEOs and top-ranking employees to listen to you, respect your advice?

It takes skill. I have coached a lot of “difficult cases”. It’s actually very simple. You first build a rapport between you and the client. You have to build trust, withhold judgements and people will start to open up. Being a coach means being able to ask the right questions. It has to do with the physical brain itself. People store memories at the back of the head and make decisions with the frontal lobe. The questions make people draw from their memories at the back of their brain and analyse them.

Have you made your own self-discoveries?

My daughter once asked me: “Do you realise you are crazy about shopping?” I had never thought about it. Upon reflection, I realised I’ve come to associate buying things with freedom. Why? My father once told me if I placed first in class, he would buy me a dulcimer. I never did place first so I never got it. I wanted to learn English at a YMCA and I couldn’t do that because we didn’t have enough money. The first thing I bought when I began making money was a dulcimer. I guess I associate buying power with freedom, with independence.