[What brought you into coaching]

I’ve always been interested in psychology, spirituality, and human development. I originally wanted to be a monastic monk and spent time at a couple monasteries in the Pacific Northwest to see if that is where I wanted to dedicate my life. What I really appreciated about monastic life was the contemplation and discernment pieces. But I never quite felt right being a representative of one religious institution. 

I went to University of Washington and got my bachelor’s in international studies. From there I wanted to try something completely different and went to the Marine Corps Officer School which  was an incredible informative experience for me. It’s where I got the leadership bug. 

Both of these experiences showed me that formation is something that I wanted to help both myself and others with. I wanted to find a place that would let me merge my experiences in monasteries with the military. There’s a program called transformation and leadership within Seattle Universities’ school of theology and ministry and it was the perfect marriage between these two aspects. 

After grad school I went into consulting, at the time, coaching and change management were not well known. I started my own consulting practice and started doing a lot of work with the city here, eventually I started focusing on the coaching piece.  

[who is the generic client that you work with?]

I work with burnout in the tech field and healthcare practitioners. A lot of times we focus on getting out of the psychological discomfort of burnout, and not enough of asking, “if you were to get out of discomfort, what does that allow you to do with your life?”

One thing I want to bring to the burnout field is the idea that, in order to successfully navigate burnout, you have to talk about your highest aspirations and core values. Who do you want to embody as a person, human being, leader, something that is a big enough motivation to spring board out of burnout. I see burnout as a misalignment of our core values and a healthy signal from ourselves and our body to say, something is not right. That we need to take a closer look and inquire into ourselves. 

With my clients in tech and healthcare, their fields have immense pressure and challenges. Oftentimes my clients come because there is some discomfort or pain point, and the first thing is to get clear and investigate the pain points. I particularly enjoy working with a framework from Robert Keagan for understanding an individual’s limiting belief that is giving energy to maladaptive behaviors.

For example, a physician who isolates themselves, but has a value of being a compassionate individual. How can you be a compassionate human being if you isolate yourself? People can have a disconnect between their values and where they are. The context of being a physician in a high stress environment and being bombarded with responsibilities makes it very difficult to live up to one’s core values. 

I help people get clear on what might bridge that gap they are experiencing. If someone wants to engage with people with a more regular basis, behind that ties to how we make sense of ourselves as people and our sense of self-worth. A lot of physicians are in the field because they love to help, to give their all to make the world a better place. Investigating the shadow side of this desire can uncover things like ‘I’m only valuable when I’m being useful for others’, which sets them up to view relationships as work. 

[how do you begin helping a client recognize their core values?]

Core values is something I used to overlooked in my own life and as a coach. I realized they are a huge opportunity. I always assumed that everyone has similar core values and maybe on a high level we all do. But when under pressure, we have to prioritize which core value we are going to set above others. That can be hard, but it can also be a huge opportunity for growth because we can see, how are my core values unique to someone else’s.

For me that has been an essential and core part of the coaching engagement, seeing what someone’s core values are when they are under pressure.

[have you had any client stories in adjusting core values?]

I had one really incredible client who was a physician and was being set up to be a leader in her field as an academic researcher. Highly specialized, intelligent, and she had a 3-year-old. She knew that her values and priorities were changing but she wasn’t quite at the point where she could accept that. She was worked up to this point where she was going to be a leader in her institution and field, but simultaneously, what gave her life was spending time with her husband and child, to be a present and available mother along with having another kid.

We explored options for her and looked at what is the perceived risks and costs of the options. What she got to was, first that she wanted to be present, available, and engaged parent and partner. The second piece was that she never saw herself as the typical physician, she was artistic in college with a non-ordinary track to medicine, and she loved this about herself and she wanted to live a life that was creative and funky. When she got clear on these two things, the vision that motivated her was being able to spend 2-3 months a year working in flexible environments, and having time with family. 

Her being able to articulate that was important as it was creating a tension between her reality and her changing goals, but talking about values helped her realize she could and wanted to do. She left her academic institution and found a position at a biotech company that makes it doable for her to spend time with family and traveling. 

[for you right now, where do you want to grow as a coach?]

For me and newer coaches, it is still a developing idea to coach less, to hold myself back as a coach.

When someone hires a coach or a therapist, the person is experiencing high psychological discomfort, we automatically want to save them. But it’s not about the solution as much as it’s about the journey. In transformative coaching engagements clients need to sit in their fire and burn. With that comes a moment when someone realizes that they are burning and they have control and don’t want to be there anymore, they can stand up and get out of the fire.

Earlier in my career I would act like a consultant and come up with solutions and that was mediocre coaching. Something my own coach has been challenging me with is to do less, ask non-leading questions. And don’t save your clients, if they’re suffering, reflect that but allow them to suffer and make mistakes. Because they are going to want to save themselves, but if you always go to save them you’re short circuiting their ability to grow. 
So as a coach that is one of my growth edges. 

[how do you think being a coach has impacted your life]

I think if anything, there needs to be more boundaries between my coaching persona and my own personal persona. I feel like coaching people through their most complex and self-defining moments gives me a glimpse into all the different possibilities and ways people can navigate change, grow, and what is really a problem we should address and what are some of the challenges that are part of life. 

Coaching people I see discomfort a lot more as an opportunity for growth and change and not something to just automatically escape as soon as possible. 



[when working with a client, how does that conversation look to see discomfort as opportunity]

My physician burnout clients, they come in with a lot of psychological discomfort that they hope the coaching can mitigate. Oftentimes, they want to talk about the problem but they don’t want to change things about the problem. Part of my role there is to reflect back how they are contributing to their own fire. To the point where they can say, I notice that I’m doing this actively.

[What else can you see coaching impact?]

More and more I’m starting to see the need to address people’s spirituality from a non-religious sense. There’s kind of two poles, from my experience I have my marine leadership formation and the theological formation 

The military brings people from all all walks of life and puts them together creating a very solidly formed and established culture with norms, and values, that everyone is locked step with. This is very different from spiritual direction which is about listening deeply to who you are as a person. Our culture in the western societies have emphasized you can be who you want to be, and not that much on the positive parts of understanding your limitation. In theology we call it our embodiment. 

I’m Asian American, I’m not going to be able to change that, but that informs me in life, how I make sense of the world, and how people engage with me. And oftentimes I think in western society we think of this as too much of a limitation and we need to break through our embodiment. It can be good to break through embodiment, but I think the things we cannot change about ourselves are an opportunity to ground ourselves. There’s a huge opportunity to bring that into the space of burnout as well. 

One big catalyst for burnout I see is parenthood. You have a child, they’re your responsibility for at least the next 18 years. There’s no stop or pause to parenthood. When we are stressed, it really does feel like a ball and chain, but there is also an opportunity to see these things as an anchor, the thing that grounds us to our core values. Sometimes we don’t know what those core values are, and we make decisions that we didn’t really think through. 

A lot of the time physicians and tech professionals have this plan for themselves that they would be at a certain point at a certain stage. They can’t balance career and family, and they feel a big loss in that. But what happens later is they can find rootedness in that. They’re sensing a core value emerge in their life that they didn’t expect but it does feed them and ground them, and there is deep acceptance that can happen in that space. 


[when did you find the IOC]

I think I was looking into training with Robert Keegan and Deb Helsing around the immunity to change framework and I think the IOC had hosted them before. I read on the Institute of Coaching and what really resonated with me that was different than other coaching associations was the research and evidence based value. The push to professionalize and ground coaching into evidence based practice is key, when I started out I wanted to know if coaching was really transformative. And so I became a part of the IOC to make sure I’m staying abreast with the cutting edge of research.