Brian S. Lee, Lead Sprint Coach at NewCampus

Six questions with our Lead Sprint Coach about his career journey and his hopes for future learners at NewCampus

Brian is the Lead Sprint Coach at NewCampus, responsible for leading and managing the delivery sprints run by NewCampus. Here are some of his vital stats! 

  • Prior to joining NewCampus, he worked as an executive coach across APAC and started facilitating courses at Rochester Institute of Technology aimed at professional branding 
  • His body of work empowers people to practise the art of navigating human relationships, communicating across cultures, and emotional intelligence
  • His super-power is helping people to adopt other perspectives, take time to structure their thoughts and experiment with new ways of communicating

We thought it'd be fun for NewCampus learners (and their leaders) to get to know Brian better through 6 simple questions...

Tell us about your journey and experiences before you first became a NewCampus sprint coach.

I love coaching with NewCampus and feel very lucky to be serving as a coach here! Before I joined NewCampus, I had been working as an executive coach across APAC. My clients include UNICEF and Fidelity, and this year I started facilitating a course in professional branding at Rochester Institute of Technology for their Masters in Professional Studies Program. I've been in this facilitation and coaching space for a few years now with a focus on cross-cultural management, given that I have lived in eight countries and now live in Seoul.

What are some similarities/differences between the areas covered by the NewCampus Management Sprint and your personal experience with other development programs?

I think there are three things that make NewCampus unique: 

First of all is the cohorts that we work with. They're all emerging leaders from primarily Asia and the Middle East. That global component becomes a lot more salient, especially when it comes to communicating to their teams in other countries. 

That process of communication is something that requires a lot of cultural knowledge and emotional intelligence, and that's something that all of our managers must navigate skillfully on a daily basis. 

Second, I think what NewCampus does to target that audience is quite special.The content and the program design takes into consideration the unique problems and challenges that our managers are facing. When it comes to hyper growth startups in this region, they're moving at a pace that's unlike any other place in the world. The fact that we really tailor the program to that population is really unique and something that I haven't seen in the market before. 

The last piece is who is designing these programs. When I think about our Deans Council and our program designers, they're coming in with deep experience from this area. Our advisors have decades of experience running different startups and global companies in the region. Deans that come to mind are Momo, who worked at IDEO and now is a leading Digital Experience at IKEA Shanghai, and Dr. Susan Chen who has led teams across Asia when she was the Senior VP for Leadership Development at Gojek. They are impressive faculty members that have informed the design of these programs. 

We’re led by people from this region and our programs are for people working in this region. It's really been a huge pleasure to work with a team as diverse as NewCampus. It's a very distinct brand. It's online first, but there's something authentic and natural about it too. I think NewCampus strikes a really nice balance there.  

How did you discover that your passion was in coaching?

I think in many ways the industry found me. When I first received requests for coaching, I felt a lot of imposter syndrome because most executive coaches have traditionally worked in a field for 20 or 30 years, and then when you're ready to exit that you transition into having your own practice based on your network and expertise. 

I think what's changed during COVID is that you see people all around the world who need to work online and struggle to manage teams in new ways. They're struggling in terms of managing the workload. They're struggling in terms of their mental health. They're struggling in terms of knowing how to develop themselves professionally. 

I was invited to coach by global firms who can coach across cultures, across different languages. And I tried it out with a few pilot cases. Those clients referred me to more clients, and it grew very organically. I went from having five clients to over 30 clients that I coach every year outside of NewCampus. 

I've been very fortunate that it worked out well. I think what coaching allows is to have very genuine personal connections with others to support them in their own success. For a lot of my clients, that success is contingent on things like emotional intelligence and cross-cultural communication, which are not skills that are typically taught in your ordinary business school. 

These skills are what a lot of global firms know how to hire for it, but they don't always know how to teach them. When somebody is promoted from within, oftentimes they need to learn new skills, but they don't know where to turn. I think that's where NewCampus can specialize in supporting and that's where I find a lot of passion in helping people navigate these challenges.

What are the joys of coaching when being exposed to diverse ideas, talents and backgrounds from learners throughout Asia?

I really love those breakthrough moments when communicating across cultures is very difficult. For most professionals working across different countries, they know how painful it is to have either a manager or direct report simply not understand each other because of their cultural differences or differences in perspective. 

Ideally, you can coach someone to the point where they can adopt other perspectives, take time to structure their thoughts and experiment with new ways of communicating. If that leads to a moment of clarity or an “aha” moment where there's a breakthrough, people really light up and see that there is a path forward available to them.

You can see in a lot of our NewCampus sessions that people are smiling, they're energized, and they're curious. It's really that energy that I think that leads to the greatest learning. I work hard for those moments!

What challenges do you see learners facing as first-time managers?

First-time managers, especially when they're being promoted within the organization, they're often transitioning from executing or implementing their tasks to enabling others to execute on tasks. They need to learn to let go of all of their day-to-day tasks and instead need to focus on growing their team. 

Those are actually two different skill sets. When it comes to the former, we often receive lots of training and onboarding and support to be taught exactly how to do our jobs. That works really well for standardized processes and specialized roles. 

But, when it comes to managing people, you need to practice the art of navigating human relationships. That type of emotional intelligence is really difficult to teach. Companies often don't have training programs or the emotional resources for developing these skills. 

Not only that, but all of these challenges compound when we're communicating across cultures or if we're working remotely. NewCampus is in a strong position to focus on these skills by connecting emerging leaders across companies, and I think is the reason why a lot of our learners come to us.  

What are some of the hopes that you have for the learners after experiencing the Sprint?

The first one is they learn a lot from each other. The fact that this is a network of people sharing best practices and insights from across different regions, companies and industries is really valuable. If we can facilitate the space openly, we can give them space to create those genuine bonds. 

The second thing is that I hope they can recognize there are many solutions to any single problem. To try new techniques and new models and to be patient with the process of learning. We have several weeks together with the learners, but I hope that in the months afterwards they can continue to try out these frameworks and see what works for them. 

Last would be this sense of courage and I suppose also a sense of safety to try new things, to break away from the status quo or business as usual, even their own assumptions. 

At the end of the day, we like to say that these frameworks are our training wheels. Any framework you learn in a school or  in an educational program, we call them training wheels because at some point you need to learn to go out on your own, develop your own frameworks, and make it relevant and useful to you. 

I hope that the emerging leaders who join us can develop that confidence and safety to try new things and develop their own path forward. 

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