He’s been a C-suite executive of a global comms agency, led high-performance companies, and has won over 100 industry awards. Now a certified executive coach, Victor Ng talks to MG about learning valuable lessons in leadership and personal performance, plus overcoming challenges and finding balance in his working life…
You tell a very inspiring story on your site – newandimproved.me – about how you started out in business. Please could you elaborate more on this; how did you find employment?
I graduated in the midst of a huge recession back in the late nineties. Getting a job was tough.
To make things worse, I wanted to work in advertising – one of the most competitive industries around.
After sending out over 100 copies of my resume, I finally landed an interview – I was over the moon!
In my first interview, however, I was sent crashing back to earth. They told me the work samples I’d prepared ‘should be thrown out of the window!’ That didn’t deter me – it actually motivated me.
A week later, I got an interview at another ad agency.
The industry veteran who interviewed me said he liked my work but they would prefer to hire someone with more experience.
I wasn’t going to let that stop me, so I offered to work for free.
I told him that if he liked my work and wanted me to stick around after three months, he could back-pay me for the three months of work. It was win-win. In fact, it was a Hail Mary shot and it actually worked.
He said he liked my attitude and was kind enough to pay me a salary from day one. I caught a lucky break for which I remain grateful to this day.
Overall, what I learned was, sometimes you have to give yourself a chance before someone else can give you a chance.
Please could you give our readers a quick recap of how you came to be a certified executive coach…
I was very interested in personal development in my late teens and read up a lot about it.
What I learned helped me tremendously throughout my career in a very challenging business.
I believed then that attributes like purpose, focus, resilience and communication were the intangible advantages we need to be successful – and I still believe in that now, probably even more so in today’s increasingly volatile workplace.
It is this belief that made me want to help other executives become the best versions of themselves.
Being an executive coach has been a most satisfying journey so far.
You got to the very top of your profession as a C-suite executive, what was the key to your success?
I guess it’s never just one thing. Nobody makes it to the C-suite just by talent alone. For me it came down to two things: hunger and resilience.
The two questions I kept asking myself over the years were ‘How much do I want this?’ and ‘How many times am I prepared to get back up after falling down?’ Life, like work, has a habit of knocking you down, usually with a sucker punch.
Successful people aren’t always the most skilled or intelligent or capable, often they are the most tough-minded people who used their failures to succeed.
What is your advice to someone considering a career as a C-suite Executive?
Work on yourself and your work will take care of itself.
The person that you are determines the professional that you will be.
The best career strategies or tactics are useless if you’re trying to be something you’re not.
Choose a career that aligns with your interests and strengths. Lock down on the values that will guide your decisions. Develop your mental strength for you will be tested often.
It doesn’t matter whether or not you want to reach the C-suite. You may not be the CEO or C-anything of your company, but you’re certainly the CEO of your career.
What’s the most important aspect of your role as an executive coach?
I help clients unlock their potential as executives so they can perform at their highest level and grow as leaders.
Why do we often see the potential in other people, yet cannot see our own potential, even if it’s right there within us? The simple answer is our potential is often locked away by something that is a big part of us. This can be a limiting belief; fear, procrastination, a lack of confidence, even people-pleasing.
My coaching methodology is centred around opening this ‘lock’, which is unique to every client.
To do that I dig into my coaching repertoire and past experience to create a customised ‘key’ just for the coachee.
Change takes time and commitment, but when my coachee trusts in the process, they can experience a personal and professional breakthrough. I’m just happy to be a part of their success.
Do you think being in the comfort zone is a good thing or a bad thing?
The comfort zone that we should watch out for is the one that lulls us to complacency, dulls our focus and eases away any motivation to keep challenging ourselves. It’s the most dangerous safe place to be in.
What’s your one piece of advice for a job seeker who is having trouble securing an interview, let alone a new job?
Stay confident. Your self-confidence is probably your most important asset. It’s proven to be a precursor to success and the one thing you can control.
Also, believe that you have what it takes and keep improving your odds. Ask yourself some hard questions: does your CV represent you well enough? Are there skills or experience you need? Who can help you connect with someone in the organisation? How happy will you be a year from now if you do get the job?
What was your dream job as a child?
I wanted to be a professional basketball player. Teamwork, competition, dedication, creativity and performing under pressure made it so appealing, I couldn’t believe it was a real job.
What keeps you up at night?
Nothing really. Nowadays I help busy executives with what keeps them up at night.
Who do you look up to the most?
As an executive coach, I have a lot of respect for the work of Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, who I feel sets the example for coaches everywhere with his knowledge and humility.
If you could listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Anything by Peder B. Helland, the Norwegian composer whose hauntingly beautiful tunes I put on loop.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
Reading, basketball and European films.
What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?
It’s better to fail at doing the right thing than to succeed at doing the wrong thing.
Finally, what is your life motto?
Live, love, learn and laugh.