Interview with Saad Ahmadi, Executive Coach

Saad Alhamidi

Written by Rachel Young

I had the privilege to meet with Mr. Ahmadi and learn about his experiences as Head of Talent Management at a government agency in Saudi Arabia as well as his experiences working as an Executive Coach here in BC.

What drew you to working in Organizational Development?

While I was in University, I very much enjoyed working on self and self-development. The feeling of helping someone to improve their life is so fulfilling. I worked for a time in learning and development, and then I discovered coaching.

When did you know you wanted to pursue the Coaching Profession?

After attending almost 100 training courses, I attended a course facilitated by a Coach, I don’t remember his name. Unlike Tony Robbins, he commanded all of our attention, but without the loud voice and while sitting down! I wondered, “how did he do that?” It was because he was a Coach conducting the training session. He was using unusual methods, though I didn’t realize at the time that what he was using were coaching methods. Seeing him help others find the solutions within themselves and change is what made me want to be a Coach. He was generous enough to refer us to CTI in Dubai for coach training. A year later I joined their certification program.

What obstacles have you overcome to get to where you are in your career?

There are many obstacles, and some of them are still here:

Fear of failure – for me as a Coach, because I know that I might make a mistake while coaching – because I make mistakes. It’s important to learn from your mistakes and grow from them.

Coaching is new – In coaching, it can be difficult to develop buy-in and get people to understand the value of Coaching. Especially in my country – there is little literature about coaching in Arabic, which is an added challenge.

Educating coachees – For Arabic people, we like to learn by listening and to see more than to read. To address this challenge, I developed an online series of short videos to educate potential coachees on what to expect from coaching and how to prepare yourself for coaching. Other series were introducing individual coaching and group coaching. Moreover in the group coaching series, a Saudi certified ORSC coach joined me to deepen the topic. Some of my friends started giving my videos to their coachees to start building awareness, and now more than 2,000 people have watched the videos!

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing the Profession?

One of the challenges is how unfamiliar coaching is for our times. Clients are unclear on what the return on investment for coaching is for them.

To address these concerns, I start with a free diagnostic tool to assess their needs. We then have a session to reflect on the diagnosis and to establish goals on what they want to work on specifically. We then discuss, how do we monetize this goal? What do you think the contribution of coaching would be, in terms of percentage? It is important for many clients to understand what the ROI is on coaching – what the anticipated return will be, and what the investment will be – so that the client can make a decision. I learnt this from team coaching international (TCI).

Coaches work in silos – Coaches don’t often get the chance to share their experiences and challenges with each other. For me personally, a colleague of mine and I make sure we meet once a week to discuss what we are learning, challenges we are facing, and best practices. It would be wonderful for more coaches to have a forum to share experiences and learn from one another.

When you first started practicing in North America, what most surprised you?

What most surprised me is that we are facing similar challenges!

While Vancouver has about 500 coaches, in all of Saudi Arabia we have about 30 Coaches, according to ICF records. Although we are different in number of coaches and stage of maturity for the coaching profession, we are facing the same problems. The NGO I am working with here has the same challenges as the NGO I worked with in Saudi. It helped me to understand that really, we are living the same life – and we shouldn’t focus so much on our differences.

What was your role in Saudi Arabia?

I managed the Talent Management department in Saudi Arabia’s government agency. While there, I had the privilege to participate in introducing coaching into the organization. It was no easy task as we were the second government organization to introduce coaching in Saudi Arabia, according to my knowledge, and the program is still in place.

Is there anything you miss about practicing at home versus here?

Maybe the thing I miss the most is coaching and consulting in my own language. I often share an Arabic saying which tends to land beautifully with others – centuries ago, in the Arabian peninsula, Arabs used to whine or cry very loudly as part of grieving process when one relative passed away. Historically, some grievers even hire someone to whine with them, so there is an Arabic saying “The authentic whining person is not like the rented whining person.”

When you have pain, and you are acting out of pain, or if you face trauma – and you are now coaching people who face the same pain – you will be a real whining person, not a rented whining person. This is important in coaching because when you are empathizing you are not acting, you are doing so authentically. We can do this when we have had experience, we can empathize, and we are very connected to the situation.

What advice would you have for people getting into the industry now?

I would say start coaching as soon as possible. Start implementing what you have learned so that you can start sharpening your skills. Usually, people get the training and then they practice but when they start practicing they can’t reflect on why they are in the training themselves.

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were starting out?

It’s ok to practice even if you don’t have the credentials. If I had spent more time volunteering and practicing my skills, I would have been better for it. The financial component of coaching adds another layer of having to prove your value to your client. We have an opportunity to coach more people and get more practice if we volunteer to improve our skills since we don’t have to convince someone to pay for something.

Have some pro-bono clients to sharpen skills so that most importantly, you start doing it!


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