Helping a CEO gain better self-awareness

"Khun Raj, what do you want to achieve from our first coaching session?"

“I’m not sure, Coach,” Raj tells me. “I’ve been a CEO for three years. I’ve achieved business results that have been much better than the plan. So I guess my question is, from your experience, what other types of success have other CEOs gained from having a coach?”

“It depends, Khun Raj. Different strokes for different folks. Usually, the common learning point for people who participate in executive coaching is gaining better self-awareness. Also, they learn the implications of their behaviour toward the people around them.”

“Could you elaborate more?”

“Khun Raj, let me explain my role as an executive coach first. In our coaching sessions, I’m basically ‘a friend who invites you to think’. A ‘friend’ in this context means we are equal — I’m not your boss and I’m not your subordinate. We are two professionals who come to learn together. ‘Invite’ means that I act as a facilitator to solicit your wisdom in our discussions. Your ‘thinking’ role in this case means that you will articulate your thoughts based on my questions. How does that sound to you?”

He nods as a sign for me to continue.

“Khun Raj, if I asked a couple of your subordinates who interact with you on a day-to-day basis how it feels to work with you, what would they say?”

“They probably would say that they feel tense when they talk with me.”

“What would make them say that?”

“Because I’m serious and determined. I never smile during meetings. I focus on the results. I’m a no-nonsense person. I come in early and stay late. I’m a perfectionist; I have a hand in every detail. All decisions have to be reviewed by me.”

“You seem to have good self-awareness.”

“I believe so.”

“What about the implications of your subordinates feeling tense?”

“What do you mean?”

“You make them feel tense. What are the consequences?”

“They work hard. They are focused. They deliver results.”

“That’s very impressive. But every coin has two sides. You just told me the positive side. What about the downside?”

“What?”

“Have you ever thought about the negative aspect of your leadership style?”

“I haven’t thought about it.”

“Do you agree with the logic that every coin has two sides?”

He nods with a slight look of guilt.

“What would be potential negative implications from it?” I ask.

“My people would be afraid of me. Hence, they may avoid making any mistakes. They wouldn’t want to be creative. … Ah! I think now I know that why they don’t think out of the box. It’s me that’s causing them to hold back.”

“What else could it be?”

“They don’t want to make any decisions because they’re afraid of making the wrong one. It ends up that all the decisions come down to me. Okay, Coach, now I get it. I have a better understanding of self-awareness and its implications. What do I need to do?”

“What do you want to achieve, Khun Raj?”

“I want the people who are working with me not to feel tense anymore.”

“What do you need to do to achieve that?”

“I have to change.”

“Khun Raj, what do you want to see exactly? Could you elaborate more vividly?”

“I want my direct reports to interact with me without a tense feeling. I want them to come to talk with me feeling normal — to be themselves.”

“Why?”

“So they can be as good as their potential. I think that in the past, I was the one that blocked their potential. I made them fear mistakes. I don’t want that anymore.”

“What actions do you need to take to change their perception?”

“I think I have to be open and clear. First, I will start with a meeting with my seven direct reports. I will apologise to them if I caused tension in the past. I want to change now. But I also need help. I want them to tell me what I need to do.”

“How do you think they will respond?”

“I think they probably will accept my apology but they may not trust me enough to tell me what to do.”

“What would be an alternative?”

“I think after apologising, I will tell them that I intend to start smiling more. This will make them feel at ease. I need them to give me the feedback as well. I want them to tell me in the next two weeks how well I’m doing in terms of making them feel more relaxed. Once I make progress, I can carry out another action plan,” he says with enthusiasm.

“All right Coach, let’s follow up on how well I’m doing in our next session.”


Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at coachkriengsak@yahoo.com. Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/TheCoachinth. Previous articles are archived at http://thecoach.in.th

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