Coach Interview Series: Anna Tsui

by Brandon

Anna Tsui

Business Leadership Coach

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing Anna Tsui. Anna is a Business Leadership Coach based in Houston, Texas. She is the author of Shadow Magic: Turn Your Fear Into Fuel and Create a Prosperous Coaching Business.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

Anna: I work with business owners and professionals. I help them define their core mission and their core essence so that they can have a stronger direction in their lives which helps them achieve their goals in a more powerful and expedited manner.

NCA: What initially got you interested in going down this career path and what factors led you to become a coach?

Anna: I’ve been in the venture space and the entrepreneurship world for a long time.
I was on my second startup in Beijing working on a health tech startup. We got funded and hired a group of engineers. I had to come back home because my grandparents, who were living in Boston at the time, were very ill. It turned out that they both had different types of Stage IV cancer and I ended up being their caretaker. As I was taking care of my grandparents I decided that I really wanted to do something that would allow me to be available for them, but also something that I love doing and that I could master and get really good at.

About seven years ago, I was in a networking event and met an executive at Bank of America. We were just talking and then she asked me, “Anna, will you be my coach?” I told her, “I don’t know what that is.” She said, “Oh, I thought you were a coach.” And I was like, “What is that?”

That got me on the path to really learning about it and investing in it.

NCA: In working with your clients, what would you say is the most rewarding part of that process?

Anna: There are clients that you just have instant chemistry with and who allow you to see the transformation and the changes that they’re making. Other times, you get clients who aren’t so willing or as participatory. It feels like, “Oh, there’s so much potential here,” but you’re not seeing the changes that you know are possible. But then you remind yourself that it’s their journey, not yours.

To be able to connect with the right type of clients for what you do is really important. There are so many different types of coaches now. It’s the coach’s responsibility to recognize the people who work best with them. They should be putting out content and marketing, listen to their prospects, and refer people who might be a better fit for another coach, much like a therapist would. It’s a professional responsibility: “Okay, I want to make sure this person gets the best person for them.” Sometimes we know we can help them but maybe we’re not the best person to help them with their specific personality or issue.

As a client, I wish my coaches did that for me. I have had instances where I hired coaches just after the first meeting and then I realized, “Wow, that was not a good personality fit.” But then they told me, “Well, we still have a contract, so let’s go through with it.” I wish that they were more professional and admitted that it wasn’t the best fit even though they might have been a great coach.

NCA: What is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Anna: Personally, I had a background in business — scrappy business like startups — and we needed to get the users, the money, or the proof in order to get the investment.

What I find is that a lot of coaches will go through wellness training programs because they love what they do, but they don’t realize it’s a business. They don’t realize that no one is going to magically send them people. They don’t realize that actually working with the people is probably 30% of what you do. Another 30% is administrative stuff and finance and the other 40% is spent on marketing and sales. Successful coaches need to have a certain skill set or a willingness to learn. That’s what distinguishes a coach who’s in it for a long term versus someone who isn’t.

It’s a different type of skill set, the business part. You will find that a lot of very successful coaches who are very competitive and who run these mastermind groups which are competing against each other. Unfortunately, and this is a big part of why I left the business coaching landscape, what I’ve found is that it becomes less about the client and the actual craft and more about this competition of, “Oh, can I have my next seven-figure launch? How many followers can I get?” People need to be wary of that because, in the world of social media marketing where it’s all about me, me, me, the person who’s good at that might not necessarily have coaching or your best interests at heart.

It’s important for people who aren’t of that personality to be grounded and confident in who they are and what they’re doing. That will also pull them ahead, so they can tell themselves, “I’m interested enough and I believe enough in what I do that it will get me through those horrible days when I do have to market myself and I do have to go through the sales calls.” To have something that you really believe in will help you stand out and get a grounding in the market.

We need to realize that who we are is already medicine for our people. Sometimes, just holding the space is everything that someone needs because there’s no one else in their life that has those qualities that can hold space for them. It’s not really about us.

NCA: Can you think of a mentor or a coach in your own career who was the most vital to your success and in what ways did this mentor help you thrive in your career?

Anna: I am a big advocate for having a collection of mentors who are experts at different things. It is not so much about their expertise, but more about how they live their life. That’s always been the most profound for me.

My background is business and service, but I also do very deep study on energy work, energy healing, and more esoteric things, and I have mentors who are really good at that. I think some of the best mentors are people who truly bring life in the values that I value.

One of the people that I respect is also a previous coach of mine, Gary Mahler. He lives his life according to his values and it’s very clear. Even though we’re not working together, we’re still in conversation. I know I can count on him. Whereas I’ve had so many other coaches and mentors, who in the moment I’ve told, “You know, let’s pause the coaching,” and then they’re just gone. It’s really the people who live their lives authentically who I really admire. Those people who will just share, “Oh, I had a great day today with my kids and I was able to see clients, but then my wife was upset at me. I had a conversation with her and I sent myself a lot of compassion.” Honest things like that. It’s simple and it’s profound.

I know a bunch of coaches who hit the 7-figure mark and they will tell you, “Yeah, and it cost me my marriage and my health. I burnt out.” Or sometimes they find themselves caught up in doing things that aren’t natural for them, or they end up spending more money on the ads than they actually end up making. It ends up taking up a lot of your life so you ask yourself, “Wait, do I want to do that every year?” The people who really embody true success and the life that they want, those are really rare. I see them as mentors.

Some of my best mentors I’ve never met, like Byron Katie. I just put her YouTube videos on replay for the energy that comes from her of authenticity and true service. That also mentors me. It reminds me of something that I value.

NCA: One of the most common challenges new coaches face is self-doubt. Some coaches call it Imposter Syndrome, where early on they feel somehow inadequate to take on the role of coach. What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is in the beginning stage of their coaching career and dealing with these doubts in their mind?

Anna: A really great question to ask people is, “Why are you here? Why are you working with me? Why do you want to work together?” A lot of times when we feel that imposter syndrome, it’s because we’re stuck in our own story about ourselves. When we can actually come back into the room and come back to the fact that it’s not an accident that this person is here, and when we just allow ourselves to really serve that person, we might surprise ourselves. I continue to surprise myself all the time. It’s like “Wow. That’s what you got from our session?”

This is how I see beginning coaches sabotage themselves, too. They compare themselves to other coaches, but you never know what’s going on behind closed doors. We sabotage ourselves because we’re too stuck in our personality and our limitations.

When I first started coaching, most of my clients that came to me were actually twice my age. I was in my late 20s and I had that thought almost every single moment. “Why is this person who’s a million times more successful than me talking to me here?” But I was so in awe and so present to what they were saying that at that point, I didn’t really question it.

If you can come back to the moment when you’re so curious, so fascinated, and so willing to serve that you just become a vessel, that’s really the work that you do. That’s it. At that point, I was this youngish Asian girl who was spiritually inclined and also had this experience in doing startups in the venture world, but there was something about who I was. I knew myself. I was very caring and nonjudgmental. Maybe that’s exactly what they needed. Actually, that is exactly what they needed.

Even if I had not said anything, we need to realize that who we are is already medicine for our people. Sometimes, just holding the space is everything that someone needs because there’s no one else in their life that has those qualities that can hold space for them. It’s not really about us.

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