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Handling CEO egos

'Coach Kriengsak, thank you for your time. My chairman recommended that I have an executive coach, so I wanted to learn more about it," Somporn tells me. "I asked other friends who are CEOs and had been coached, and your name was mentioned frequently. Nevertheless nobody has really told me much about how it works. Perhaps you could tell me more?"

"Definitely, Khun Somporn. One of my strengths is the ability to understand coaching clients' needs," I begin. "To do that I ask a lot of questions." I pause and observe his reaction.

He nods, smiles and says: "That's what others warned me about _ that I'd get a lot of questions from you. I'm okay with that. So what do you want to ask then?"

"Khun Somporn, why do you want to have a coach?"

"To be honest, I'm not sure. But I have a great admiration for our chairman. He's smart and has very good intentions toward me. Whenever smart people who care about you recommend anything, don't waste time trying to justify it. I apply the Nike motto _ just do it! Coach, can you give me some testimonials?"

"Sure. First Bill Gates of Microsoft once said. 'Everyone needs a coach. It doesn't matter whether you're a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player. We all need people who give us feedback that's how we improve.'

"Second, Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google said: 'The best advice I ever got is to have a coach. Our board member in 2002, John Doerr said: "You need a coach." And I said: "Well I don't need a coach. I'm an established CEO. Why do I need a coach? Is there something wrong?" He said: "No, you need a coach. Everybody needs a coach." So Bill Campbell became my coach and served Google very well. Every famous athlete, every famous performer has somebody as a coach. Somebody who can watch what they do and say: Is that what you really meant? They can give you the perspective. But one thing people are never good at, is seeing themselves as others see them, a coach really helps.'

"The final observation I'd like to share is from Kevin Cashman, senior partner of Korn/Ferry Leadership and Talent Consulting and author of Leadership from the Inside Out. He wrote: 'CEOs today live in a VUCA world _ Volatile, Unpredictable, Complex and Ambiguous. So in coaching CEOs today, the leadership development processes need to bring them as much clarity and impact as possible. Because with global organisations we have so little proximity _ every interaction counts. So when we're coaching and developing senior leaders we're helping them get clearer about who they are as individual leaders, what they have, what don't they have. [We help them] get clear about their teams and their organisation and how they have an impact and make it clearer about how to be innovative in this volatile, unpredictable world."'

"Coach Kriengsak, what about your experience in coaching CEOs in Thailand? What is the common benefit they get from your coaching?"

"Several CEOs appreciate my feedback to them on the consequence of their egos. Once I have established a good trust between myself and the client, I tell him or her my perspective on their behaviour. Usually, the behaviour was driven by ego. They didn't realise that because no one wants to tell the boss, 'You have such a high ego."'

"What are common mistakes CEOs make in terms of their egos?"

"Usually it shows in behaviours such as these:

- Doesn't listen to subordinates' comments.

- Isn't aware that one dominates others' opinions in an aggressive way.

- Isn't aware that one talks too much.

- Isn't aware that one is being stubborn in insisting on a wrong judgement.

- Isn't aware of one's defence of past mistakes."

"How do you help them?"

"I give them a perspective that other people might perceive these behaviours differently. Then, I ask them to replay the situation again by asking. 'What would you do if you could go back in time and redo it again?' This way, they learn about their past mistakes. As well, they can practise their responses, so that if such situations come up again in the future they could handle them more constructively."

"So basically, you reflect their self-awareness and help them to prepare for future interaction?"

"That's correct. What else do you want to know?"

"How do I know that I really need a coach?"

"You're the only person who really knows that. Nevertheless, there are some questions that might help:

- How much of your potential do you think you're using now?

- How much more would you be able to unleash it?

- What will be your best option to unleash your potential: doing self-coaching or with some help from a coach?"

"Thank you coach. I need to sleep on it."

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under TheCoach brand. He can be reached at Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page: Previous articles are archived at