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Leadership in today's ever-changing 'New Normal'

'Coach Kriengsak, I liked the quotation you posted on your Facebook fanpage the other day: 'We're unable to say, "Normally, we do" because we have a "New Normal" every day,'" Don tells me. "That's so true. That's why I'd like to discuss uncertainty with you today."

"That's a good suggestion, Khun Don. What prompted you to want to talk about this topic?" I ask.

"Over the weekend, I read the book you gave me last year: Leadership in the Era of Economic Uncertainty, by Ram Charan. There are several key points that I think apply to me at the moment," says Don, and he mentions the following:

1. Recognise reality. Don't fool yourself thinking, "This will end soon, and we will be back to normal."

2. Leaders must deploy management intensity: a deep immersion in the operational details of the business and the outside world combined with hands-on involvement and follow-through. As the author put it: "It's not enough to sit in your office, read reports and issue directives. You need a granular understanding of what is happening outside, with customers, and in your own operations. Plans and progress must be revisited almost daily. Big-picture, longer-term, strategic-level thinking cannot be abandoned, but every leader has to be involved, visible, and in daily communication."

3. Conversations have to cut across silos so that you know what others in your business are picking up on and they know what is happening in your area. That way, your efforts are coordinated and your company can respond faster. The author draws an analogy to basketball, a game of speed, urgency and flexibility that demands a high level of synchronization: "Any lack of focus, speed, urgency, or flexibility will hurt the company because the lack of liquidity pushes a company over the cliff faster than anything else can."

4. During the good times, some CEOs spend most of their time in public or outside the company and delegate day-to-day management to their teams. As a result they lose touch. They have to change. Leaders need to reprioritise their allocation of time and focus more with a hands-on approach.

5. Be alert to the sudden availability of talent. "The best and brightest will always be mobile, and you stand better chance of attracting top talent if those people can see that you have a plan to emerge from the crisis stronger as well as a plan for their personal growth," the author writes.

6. Protect the core by asking: "What is it that we cannot afford to lose?" Look for ways to sharpen or strengthen the core and drop the rest.

7. Keep your best people. "Cut loose those who are indecisive, loners, and those who are frozen in 'analysis paralysis'. People like that drain energy from an organisation."

"That's interesting," I say.

"It is," says Don, "But it's also like I'm trying to drink water from a fire hose. It's a bit overwhelming. I think you can help me to gain more clarity by asking some good coaching questions."

"Certainly. Khun Don, if we have to be more focused, here are my questions to you

1. What do you need to do more?

2. What do you need to do less?

3. What do you need to do differently?

And to make it more actionable, please come up with only three actions for each item."

He nods and spends a few minutes taking some notes.

"Coach, here are my plans to do more:

1. I will start doing a daily morning briefing of 30 minutes with my direct reports.

2. I will encourage cross-functional communication to cut across silos. I will tell and do. At every morning briefing, I will remind everyone about this topic. I will also lead by example. And I will praise anyone who demonstrates cross-functional communication.

3. I will do more to monitor the effectiveness of management meetings.

"I will do less of the following: social functions; appointments with prospective suppliers, and I will reduce the number of poor quality suppliers. They are a major cause of our service quality problems.

"Finally, here's what I will do differently:

1. I will talk with key talents individually. It's time to learn more about them. And I want to seek their input by posing some questions such as: How should we improve our organisational effectiveness? What would they do if they were a CEO? How should we engage them more?

2. I will contact my personal network outside the company to search for key talents. It's time to hunt.

3. I will champion the organisational culture initiative. First, I need to ask my top team to identify the culture that fits with us. Then we need to communicate it widely. And lastly, I need to act as a role model for the new culture."

"That's lot of things to do."

"Coach, I need time to prioritise these action plans. Let's meet again next week."

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