Azman Sulaiman: Helping Transform Leaders From Good To Great

Azman Sulaiman: Helping Transform Leaders From Good To Great

Azman Sulaiman,  Founder

Azman Sulaiman


The professional training and coaching industry in Malaysia has been growing rapidly in recent years as many individuals and companies recognize the importance of developing their leaders with even greater leadership abilities beyond classroom teaching. Azman Sulaiman, the founder of ICOACHKL, is a prominent figure in this industry. With more than 35 years of cross-industry corporate and consulting experience, Azman is able to draw on this knowledge to complement his executive coaching practice. His private executive coaching practice focuses on C-Suite executive coaching at the very top for aspiring young leaders who are looking to move up the corporate ladder. Through his coaching, Azman aims to help individuals unlock their potential and achieve their personal and professional goals. Let’s dive in and learn more about his journey.

Give a brief account of your professional journey.

I’m a graduate of the University of Malaya. I then read for a post-graduate degree from the University of Strathclyde and later an MBA from the Australian National University. Additionally, I am an alumnus of the Harvard SMDP program and a Certified Professional Coach by ICF. Throughout my career, I have gained experience in various technical & corporate roles both in Malaysia and abroad.

I believe that furthering my qualifications has been part and parcel of what I refer to as my ‘One-Thousand Day Itch’. In reflection every three years or so, I’ve either progressed to a new role or returned to school to improve my qualifications. I started my career as a field Engineer, working on major infrastructure projects in Malaysia and overseas. I moved up the ranks from technical roles to leadership roles and eventually assumed senior leadership & CEO roles in subsidiaries of UEM Group.

After 20 years with UEM Group, I spent nearly 10 years with Korn Ferry International eventually retiring as a Senior Partner. I found that Executive Coaching was my next calling and gained professional credentials before establishing ICOACHKL in 2019. Complementing my time in retirement from full-time employment, I also currently serve on the boards of PLC and private companies. As a Faculty Member of the Institute of Corporate Directors Malaysia (ICDM) I also advise PLC Boards on Enhancing Board Effectiveness.

What is the mantra for your success? Also, explain your leadership style.

Reflecting on my career, I've come to the realization that my leadership style has been anchored on people engagement. Whether it was working through technical challenges with the engineering team or addressing corporate matters, my approach has always been centered on effective engagement with others in order to resolve issues. Ultimately, I believe that everything comes down to people. While I may not always have all the answers, I have developed an approach to problem-solving that involves empowering others to contribute their expertise and insights.

Define ICOACHKL as an organization and its position in the market.

While with Korn Ferry, I became known as a trusted confidante to clients and colleagues alike. This has helped anchor the positioning of ICOACHKL as a premier Executive Coaching practice for C-Suite leaders. The firm not only offers individual executive coaching but also coaching senior leadership teams looking to strategize and navigate business direction and growth.

What factors do you consider while creating successful company growth strategies?

In my opinion, there are three crucial elements for developing successful corporate growth strategies. The first is Clarity of Understanding. How well do we understand what exactly do we want to be? How much do we believe we can get there? The second is the Alignment of Aspirations. Now that we understand the ‘what’ and collectively believe we can get there, how do we plan to get there? Finally, the third step is Awareness & Ownership. It is good to have nice plans, but now who does what? How does every member take ownership and be accountable for what they are tasked to do?

What industry best practices have you included in the products and services offered by the company?

I believe that trust is a crucial best practice that I bring to the table. Drawing from my experience in infrastructure development, for example, the focus was always on delivering quality projects on time and within budget. It was ingrained in us to be  trustworthy and committed to delivering results, while also steering clear of corrupt practices. Essentially, it's important to never engage in actions that we may later regret.

While i may not Always have all the answers myself, i am fortunate to take an approach to problemsolving that involves empowering others to contribute their expertise and insights

Another best practice is being able to see the big picture and not be drawn too much into minute details. Some term it as ‘Missing the Forest for the Trees’. My cross-industry experience helps to see trends, ‘take high ground’ and be more comfortable in supporting those whom we are serving.

What is your anticipation regarding future market changes and what is your advice to CEOs of companies moving forward?

The future is all about speed. Speed of awareness as well as speed to react. Whether it is in terms of adapting to new technologies, reacting to shifts in the market, or delivering on expectations with speed. To address this, leaders need to remain agile and flexible in their approach, adapting to the changing landscape. For instance, coaching is not necessarily limited to physical one-on-one interactions, as the pandemic has demonstrated the effectiveness of virtual engagement. Even as an Executive Coach, I can’t afford to be rigid and stick to old processes, when the market and expectations expect me to respond differently. I’ve even learned the skill of coaching via text messaging, to help with real-time coaching rather than being rigid in relying purely on formal appointments.

Whilst speed is important, I also encourage leaders make greater effort to listen. Coaches refer to this as “active listening”. Not just hearing with your ears, but also observing emotions, motivations and values underlying what your hear. This may require more time and effort, but it helps decision making.

What is your advice to upcoming leaders in this domain?

As a coach with years of experience in leadership development, I strongly recommend that leaders, particularly those aspiring leaders, adopt a mindset of patience yet be fearless when it comes to trying new things. In today's rapidly changing business landscape, leaders must be willing to take risks and think outside the box to remain relevant and competitive.

One of the biggest misconceptions about leadership is that it is only about maintaining the status quo and preserving the existing way of doing things. However, I believe that true leaders are also innovators who are willing to challenge conventional wisdom and blaze new trails toward success.

As a coach, my role is to help my clients develop the confidence and courage to take those necessary steps toward growth and success. Through personalized coaching sessions, I challenge my clients to think critically and creatively, and I provide them with the support and guidance they need to overcome their fears and take action. In today's fast-paced business environment, leaders who embrace patience yet be fearless and who are willing to take calculated risks, can achieve extraordinary results. I am committed to helping my clients navigate these challenges and realize their full potential as leaders.

Azman Sulaiman, Founder, ICOACHKL

Azman is certified by the International Coach Federation (ICF) USA and is credentialed as a Certified Master Coach, CMC. He established ICOACHKL as a private coaching practice focusing on C-suite executive coaching to CEOs as well as aspiring young leaders moving up the corporate ladder.

• Hobbies: I’m an avid fan of sports and the outdoors. I was a keen athlete and played competitive rugby and tennis. Today it’s mainly golf. I’ve also had my fair share of outdoor hiking and mountain climbing. With childhood friends of St John’s Institution, in 2016 we scaled to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.

Favorite Cuisine: Penang Char Kuay Teow

Favorite Books: I love reading autobiographies. Among my favorites are ‘When the Moon Split - An Autobiography of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH’; ‘My Autobiography - Sir Alex Ferguson and more recently, “Seeking a Life Balance - Elm Edge’

Favorite Travel Destinations: Scotland, Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah

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