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How a CEO inspires people in tough times

?Coach Kriengsak, I?ve started to notice low morale among my team. I think it could be dangerous if I?m not able to do anything to help,? Don tells me.

“Khun Don, what do you have in mind?”

“I want to inspire them.”

“What is the outcome you expect?”

“I want people to feel energised. I want them to be confident. I want them to believe that we can prevail.”

“Before you can inspire others, you need to be certain about yourself. In other words, how do you feel?”

“I feel energised by the challenge facing us.”


“Because I’m confident in my people. They are capable but not aware of their unlocked potential. This is a good time to reveal their full potential.”

“What else makes you feel energised?”

“I have been through several crises. Each time we made ourselves stronger after the crisis. We learned so much. The reason is that we have a clear vision and we have strong foundations.”

“That’s good, Khun Don. So let’s talk about how to inspire your team. What will be the first step?”

“Coach, I will start by reminding them about our vision and our strengths. And I will let them know that they have untapped potential to be unleashed. To prevail in the face of the current crisis, we have to work together.”

“How do they do that?”

“First, they have to realise that the majority of us use only part of our capability. The barrier is in our minds – limited belief and fear.”

“What do you mean?’

“Most people would say that they want to do more and they could do more. But company policies don’t allow them, their bosses are too focused on command and control, or there is no opportunity. Or so they say.

“But when we dig down deeper we discover that the real reasons could be fear of failure, lack of self-confidence, self-doubt, or low self-esteem. Mostly the real reason is our own thinking.

“If something happens as a result of our own thinking, it’s a choice. If it’s a choice, we can liberate our thinking by being more confident, developing more self-esteem and not being afraid to fail.”

“Khun Don, how do you plan to do this?”

“I think we have to have the right mindset. Instead of fear of failure we have to perceive that mistakes are part of learning. If we do something wrong, we have to have the courage to admit that we made mistake. We learn from it and move on.”

“Easy to say but difficult to do,” I interject. “This goes against the local value of saving face, doesn’t it?”

“That’s something we have to unlearn,” Don replies. “Saving face in this context is outdated. It’s not working anymore. I always show my people how. Whenever I make a mistake I admit it and apologise. If I’m afraid of making a mistake, I will not be able to do anything. Alfred Sloan, the legendary former chairman of GM, once said: ‘If you do it right 51 percent of the time you will end up a hero.’ ”

“Okay Khun Don, once your team has the right mindset, what comes next?”

“They have to leave their comfort zone. We live in the world of VUCA: Volatile, Unpredictable, Complex and Ambiguous. Hence, whatever we did in the past may need to be modified in response to the new environment. Here are the things we need to do:

l  Stay focused. You have to be as alert as often as you can. You cannot operate in autopilot mode because there is unpredictability in the circumstances.

l  Use informal communication. You have to rely on each other more. Hence, you will have to do more informal communication by using more direct contact, face-to-face, telephone, e-mail. Don’t communicate by formal methods or processes as in ‘normal’ times. We are in unusual times.

l  Take initiative. The lower you are in the command chain, the more you know about the work. The closer you are to the problem, the more you know about the solution. You cannot rely on your boss to come up with the right solution. You have a better view of the problem and solution. Hence, offer more information and solutions.

l  You can say ‘I don’t know’. If you’re not sure what to do, say so. If you think this is your assumption, tell it. If you think something is a fact, show the evidence. You have to be clear on whether your input to others is fact, opinion, an educated guess, or you don’t know.

l  Stop whining about work-life balance. This is not the right time to seek it. We have to put extra hours and effort into work.

l  Reward each other. When we see any progress from anyone, compliment that person no matter how small it is. This is the time that we should be learning to praise each other when things go right.”

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