ASIASPA Magazine’s Full Interview With Cedric Signori, November – December 2019
Before you became a professional consultant, what sort of relevance did therapy have in your life and how did it shape your personal experiences?
As far as I can remember, I have always been looking for self-improvement, mainly because I thought I was not good enough in many areas or not completely satisfied by who I was. Trying to understand yourself and the world you are living in gives you a unique opportunity to expand your knowledge, explore the unknown, fail a lot, and then to finally learn valuable lessons and gain confidence in the process of life.
The word “therapy” never really resonated with me and I have to say, I still don’t like it very much when it comes to describing a method of better understanding yourself. First, it’s a very general term with a broad meaning, and second, it has that “never ending” connotation. In short, you know when you started, but you never know when it will end.
My aunt Christiane Deniot was a Sophrologist in Lyon, my hometown in France, so I was introduced to therapy very early in my childhood. Because of that, I became aware at a tender age, of the difficulties that one can face as an adult or a teenager. By sharing with me how sophrology works, my aunt put me very much at ease with the world of therapies. It was natural for me that you have to deal with your inner self, your fears, your doubts, your emotions, your past experiences that shaped the person you are now. Lack of Self-Confidence, Self-Love, Self-Esteem, Anxiety, Procrastination, Anti-Authority attitude, Depression, Burn-Out, Inflated Ego, you name it, I’ve got it… from my teenage to my late 20s, I’ve been through a lot of them and experienced all the struggles necessary to start aiming for a purpose-driven life!
In a way, therapy was for me, back at that time, for people that needed external help because they didn’t have the time or courage or opportunity to do their own self-introspection, or simply didn’t really want to face some aspect of their life.
Tell me something about your coaching business?
I didn’t become a coach because I wanted to. I’ve been indirectly chosen by others to become a coach. In my corporate career, people were coming to me searching for advice or guidance because my teams were performing very well, in a very natural way, almost effortlessly. So everybody was wondering what was so special, what was my recipe for success. The truth is that I didn’t rely on any magic recipe; the only right answer was that I was doing my best to empower each individual on the team by sharing all my knowledge and by giving them the opportunity to better understand themselves, overcome their limitations and unlock their full potential. I was empowering the individual at a very personal level like l did for myself in my youth. I wasn’t afraid to expose myself, revealing my failures, fears and struggles in order to show them that it’s all part of the journey.
That’s how I started to coach other teams. After that, I created training seminars, and because my corporate clients were so happy with the results, I ended up coaching the CEOs that first hired me to coach their own employees!
For me, coaching is still a natural state more than it is running a business. I have never developed it into a full-time activity. It remains a part-time job that I will not push any further. I make most of my money with other businesses. That’s the reason why every person I am coaching has my full attention during our sessions and that person is still on my mind days after the session. Very often, I can have an “aha moment” three days after our discussion because subconsciously I am connecting the dots between all the things that were said during the session.
Dealing with only a few persons per day gives you the freedom to complete your mission with the maximum chance to succeed in getting them closer to their goal. I still don’t understand how a therapist can manage one client per hour, for 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, and still be the most effective, optimally helpful coach… that’s almost 45 different challenges at the same time, and you can only focus for a very short time span on each of them.
I see my consulting and coaching activities more like that of a mentor, where someone will share their own experiences and guide you through your own journey in order to help you to discover the gems that are hidden inside you.
Coaches vary considerably in how they run their practice. What sort of modalities do you use to counsel your clients?
I’m good at reading people, so when I recognize a behavior or anything that they don’t necessarily want to verbalize, I can use that insight later on in the conversation when it’s appropriate, and thereby avoid putting them in an unnecessarily uncomfortable position that would slow down our progression instead of reinforcing our bonds.
In my personal life, I am a private pilot, and what aviation taught me is that you have to be very humble and always be ahead of the plane or the plane will fly you. So I behave the same way in my professional life: listen, understand, don’t believe you have the answer until you can verify it, have a plan, be very aware, have a plan B, think ahead, rely on facts and for the emotional part, be very open-minded and FEEL as much as possible; be ready to walk in the shoes of someone else, like an actor would do. So people feel comfortable with me very quickly. I have my expertise, but basically I am nothing more than another human that wants to help. I don’t have the ‘right’ answer, but they will find it themselves with my guidance.
Studies indicate that men are more reluctant to seek help than women? Why is that?
Men are not very comfortable when it comes to revealing their feelings. Sharing your emotions is considered mostly a sign of weakness. That said, it’s not necessarily only our fault. The highly male dominant society we have been living in for centuries reveres a strong, responsible man in control of his life, who can handle everything on his own, so the collective consciousness pushes men to behave like they never need outside help, which is not good at all. We all need support, attention, love, insights and help from others from the day we were born to the day we die. What I like to call the “Hollywood” model of men doesn’t help boys to become open-minded men willing to speak about their problems… even though we all love Hollywood characters in movies.
Sixty percent of my clients are men. The two main reasons are that first, my profile resonates with them, as I have been an executive, business owner, coach of CEOs/ top executives. They are looking for someone that will be able to understand them, with the same reference points. Second, Hong Kong and big cities like New York, Paris or even in Tampa, Florida where I spend a lot of time, are full of stressed people, working hard and very close to a burnout. They need somehow to find a way to get back in control and when they look for answers, they might find me on the Internet.
Is getting help from a coach a ‘manly’ thing to do?
Men tend to be inherently competitive, and that’s mainly because physiologically, we are influenced and driven by the hormone testosterone. There is that raging fire in your gut that unconsciously pushes you to play the “I want, I know, I can” game, where you have to prove yourself and you can do it. So as you are highly influenced by testosterone hormones until your mid-life, you are not looking for a passive therapy. You want a partner that is on the same page and will coach you on how to activate, ignite, trigger some changes in yourself. So yes, the word ‘coaching’ appears, at first sight, related to the same feelings as in sports, teamwork and competition. So men are more attracted and interested when they see “Coaching” than when they see “Therapy,” but in fact the two are very similar. The coaching process is a little more pushy because through it, we accept engagement toward some tangible changes that we want to make happen in our life, so in a sense it’s more dynamic.
Would you be able to share any anecdotes on how you helped a client achieve his goals?
Many of my clients come to me because they want to change their life… at least some aspect of it. Often, during your 40s you realize that you’ve already spent a lot of your time on earth dealing with your financial situation, your family, your job… and you didn’t take care too much of yourself, especially of your dreams. It might be becoming your own boss, creating something, going to a different country or even becoming more of the person you have always wanted to be since sometime in your childhood or young adulthood.
To share an anecdote: once I was stuck with a client that I couldn’t help anymore to find his own answers, so we decided to do a hypnosis session to see if by being in an altered state of consciousness, he would ‘let go’ more easily and find some new clues… and he did indeed! The man had a very high position in a financial institution, but to relieve the high pressure of his job, he couldn’t stop partying, using and abusing many substances on a daily basis for years… he was literally killing himself. By exploring his subconscious mind in a sort of deep meditation through hypnotism, he was able to turn back time and live again his last years of studies in university. He was working so hard to be the best student, in his dorm room, curtains closed, in the dark, even during weekends and vacations, that the day he received his diploma he unconsciously made a promise to himself: “I will never again miss a day of pleasure in my life and I will live it to the fullest until the end”… Well, he did that! It was a revelation to him! He couldn’t believe that he did what he said to himself that day, but now it was very clear for him. So then we worked on how to be at peace with the past and go for a brand new start with… new promises!
Also in one of my parallel activities, I organized a private event. Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess grandmaster was my guest. At first sight, I was very impressed by the highly confident, smart and driven guy he is. Later on I realized that he was, through his unconscious behaviors, very easy to read, just by watching and looking at him, and what I saw was very interesting.
At a social event, you have this fantastic opportunity to connect with various people from different horizons, so you are in a permanent adaptation mode. Garry Kasparov is a fast calculator. He can, in a fraction of a second, generate the many combinations of a possible outcome, like a computer would do. He has a very factually oriented, binary mindset that processes information and classifies it as a yes/no result. It was very funny to see that unconsciously he was doing exactly the same thing with people. Every time he was introduced to someone new, he was sorting and classifying the person standing in front of him, and in the second after hands were shaken, I could tell you if he liked the person or not! There is no room for “maybe” in his mind, not a chance. It was very funny because after that he offered me a copy of his book, How Life Imitates Chess, and my first thought was that an accurate title could have been “How Garry Plays Chess with Everything in Life”!
Are millennials more open to coaching than say males from a generation prior?
Yes, definitely. They see it more as a useful tool than as a therapy process per se. They are very relaxed with that. Their relationship with work, friendships and their social environment has become highly complicated because of technology and the lack of real social interaction. That makes them prone to inner complications. They face different problems but have the same need to work on themselves from the inside out, It all goes to the roots of first, self-esteem, self-acceptance, love of yourself and then your vision for your life, what you like, what you would like, what you feel comfortable with, what you are attracted to… and finally a plan and the action to implement it.
How has technology (apps, video conferencing, etc.) shaped your business practice?
Video conferencing is absolutely a ‘must’ for keeping in touch with clients or even conducting coaching sessions if the client doesn’t want to be seen entering your practice office. Any type of text chatting app is useful for keeping in touch, but also can be very intrusive in my opinion. If the client is trying to be connected with you always or constantly, you have to be very clear about boundaries and the rules of “being in touch” through Whatsapp, Messenger, Wechat or whatever. If technology or any app can help you to relax or at least to make an effort to take some time for yourself, it’s a good move, but there is no magic app that will help you to better understand yourself and clarify your vision of life. No such app is available yet, but Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Computing could possibly help us out in the coming years!
Seeking a coach can pinch the pocket? What is the price point like? How do you explain to your clients that the monetary investment is worth it?
When I see how much one can spend on a new smartphone or any tech product that gives you the feeling of “being someone” simply by owning something trendy, I think to myself “if only they would spend some of that money on better understanding themselves, they would become the 2.0 upgraded version of themselves!”
Education sometimes has a cost, but in life we should be in a permanent state of learning, and occasionally we should spend some of our resources on educating ourselves.
I personally spend money for lessons, seminars, workshops, and online courses as well. It is as natural as spending money for a good dinner in a restaurant or any other positive activity.
A coaching session can run anywhere from 800 to 1500 HKD ( $130 USD in the states) per session each usually 45 minutes to an hour. Given that people need more than one session to move toward their goal, I like to propose to my clients a package of 10 sessions which is also kind of an upfront sign of commitment. By doing this, they commit themselves to coming at least 10 times, so even though one session might be more difficult than usual or is not exactly what they might have expected, they don’t give up on the spot, which would be a total waste of the previous sessions. I’ve never had a client who gave up.
Are there any miscellaneous comments you would like to add?
Yes, don’t be shy! A good coach is just another human being… one with no judgment, so no shame, we are all in the same boat, same planet, same universe!