After a twenty-year career working with corporations like Nike and Apple, Hong Kong-based David Siu took a leap of faith and started his own leadership coaching business and a school. Read about his fascinating journey, here.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
One day, in the midst of yet another midlife crisis episode, my therapist said, grudgingly, "You know you can always take the same route to the eventual destination of your life. But you can also experiment with a different route and take a look at the new scenery."
That did it. He prompted me to leave my 20+ year of corporate career at Nike and Apple, and start my own businesses: Enliven Works, a leadership coaching consultancy, and The Island Waldorf School of Hong Kong, the only Kindergarten to K8 Waldorf school in Hong Kong.
What kind of work does your role involve?
I work with start-up founders who need to improve their leadership acumen to keep up with their growing businesses and teams. I also work with executives who believe leadership needs to be honed, who believe leaders are made, not born.
All of this means I work with anyone who wants to benefit from everything I've learned from leading teams and driving results at Accenture, Nike, and Apple.
I'm also working to build our school and bring affordable excellent alternative education to Hong Kong.
What gets you excited about your industry?
Leadership has an indisputable ripple effect. Good leadership leads to better business results and more fulfilled teams. I am sure most people can relate - when we're happier at work, we tend to become better spouses, parents, in-laws, pet owners, car drivers, etc.
The same is true for education.
Therefore I am eager to try and help leaders lead better, and kids find their purpose. I think we would all like a future where there is no road rage...!
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Motivation comes from autonomy, purpose, and mastery. This helped me pace myself and also how I tried to lead teams.
What, or who inspires you?
These days it has to be Amanda Gorman.
"For there is always light,
if only we're brave enough to see it.
If only we're brave enough to be it."
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
Subscribe to Newsletters,
Clean up my Twitter feed,
Refrain from commenting online, and
Don't get too stuck in my own opinions.
Hopefully, I free up some extra room in my brain for different ideas by doing the above.
And lastly, I make sure I don't lose touch with the users (those being led / our children) of my customers (those who lead / our parents)
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
One busy afternoon, a man came to our store and made a verbal threat to one of our teammates. He then left a newborn child in front of him. Our teammate began to break down, and the baby started to scream. We were stupefied; everything froze.
One of our managers ran out of the break room, took the baby, changed her diapers, and calmed her down. Then she counselled the teammate while directing everyone else to focus on our customers.
One customer started clapping, the rest soon followed. The manager nodded and took the teammate back into the break room.
Truth = Parenting for a peaceful world. :)
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
I don't feel ok doing anything with it and would want to give it back.
But if I won the lottery, assuming this is US$, I would:
Invest $1 million into running a self-sufficient Waldorf Teacher Training Program in Hong Kong.
Put aside $1 million into a fund for financial aid for our school
Put aside $3 million as start-up funds for not-for-profit Waldorf Primary and Secondary schools in Hong Kong
Invest $1 million into starting a Parenting Academy
Set up a fund of $1 million to support local musicians, starting with Jazz musicians.
Invest $50,000 to develop a coaching app I have in my head
Donate the rest to causes that assist the underprivileged communities in Hong Kong
How do you switch off after a day at work?
Since I became my own boss, I have been able to cook dinner every night, which I find relaxing. That is, so long as I don't think about what my family thinks of my culinary experiments!
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
That we external leadership coaches should no longer exist because companies should be the best at coaching their own leaders. Shopify has a team of coaches on its payroll so that anyone, at any level, can sign up for coaching sessions as often as they want. I think that's the smart way to go.
That the goal of education is to create content, well-attached, self-sufficient, and responsible people.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
Book - Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words by David Whyte. He is the best at putting a spin on some of the most basic words.
For example: "Nostalgia is not an immersion in the past, nostalgia is the first annunciation that the past as we know it is coming to an end."