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Stress management for chief executives

‘Coach Kriengsak, I went for my annual medical checkup last week. My doctor told me that I have a very high blood pressure,” Peter tells me. “He advised me to start a stress management programme. He also recommended that I read Eat, Move, Sleep by Tom Rath.”

“Okay, Peter. What have you done?” I ask him.

“I’m eating more carefully, exercising three times a week, and I’m trying to sleep more.”

“You’ve done several things already. What else do you plan to do?”

“I notice that most of my stress comes from my work.”

I nod, which encourages Peter to elaborate.

“Coach, it’s been happening since early this year,” he tells me. “I’ve noticed that whenever I had a one-on-one meeting with my chief marketing officer, I ended up feeling a lot of anger and frustration.”

“Tell me more.”

“The CMO always comes up with the old ways of doing things. He’s been proposing the same old marketing strategies and programmes. He’s been in this position for four years now. What he proposed this year is almost exactly the same as he did in the previous years. I’m not seeing any signs of initiative for new programmes.”

“Did you tell him?”

“Yes, I did. Several times.”

“Do you think he understood what you said?”

“Yes!” His tone of voice is getting stronger.

“Then, why he didn’t change?”

“I don’t know. You tell me, Coach.” His face is turning red.

“I don’t know Peter. Perhaps, you could help me.” I pause. “When you told him about your comment what was his response?”

“I don’t remember.”


“Because I was so angry when I saw his work. It showed such a lack of initiative.” The tone of voice is aggressive.

“Peter, how do you feel now?”

“I’m angry.”


“Because I expected him to learn and grow after he’d been in this job for four years.”


“I compare him with myself. Usually, I find myself growing on the job every three years or so. My first year is a learning period. My second year involves getting better with fewer mistakes. I usually master my work in the third year. By the fourth year I’m able to come up with several new initiatives. But he isn’t.”

“Why does he have to be like you?”

He pauses to reflect, and then exclaims: “Oh! I use myself as a standard. I’m frustrated with him because he doesn’t behave like me. Like you always said, Coach, we are unique individuals.”

“So, what’s your insight?”

“Coach, I think my frustration comes from my ego. I use myself as the standard to measure other people.”

“Peter, I think you’ve just learned something valuable about better self-awareness. Congratulations. What will happen next?”

“I think I have to change the way I approach my CMO.”

“What’s on your mind?”

“Because I’ve judged him wrongly in the past, he must aware of my anger toward him. I have to rectify this first.”

“What exactly will you do?”

“I will apologise to him. I’m sure he’ll forgive me.”

“Then what?”

“I will explain to him again that the market conditions today are not the same as they were a few years ago. We need new marketing initiatives suited to the times.

“I will ask him how he plans to come up with new ideas. Once I hear his approach, I will coach him in line with his response.”

“What do you think his response will be?”

“There are two possibilities: he will ask for more time to think, or he might respond with some great ideas immediately.”

“Which one is most likely to happen?”

“He’s the kind of person who needs time to think, so I guess that’s what he will ask for.”

“How do you ensure the he will come back to you with some great initiatives?”

“Coach, that’s a very good question. In the past, I asked him to think about new initiatives and ended the meeting. Once or twice, he came back. Usually, they were not great ideas. Let me think about it.”

He spends a few seconds making some note.

“Coach, I think that in order to help him have better ideas, I should give him some guidelines:

Look at our business in other countries.

Look at our competitors in other countries.

Look at other related businesses in our country.

Look at other non-related businesses in our country.

Ask key accounts for some inputs.”

“That’s great, Peter. How will you ensure that the discussion will go well?”

“I must ensure that I’m in a good mood before talking to him. Usually, I’m very bright and clear in the morning. He’s also an early bird. I’ll make an appointment first thing next Monday morning.”

“Peter, let’s follow up in the next session.”

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