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Helping a chief executive develop coaching skills

Surat has been a CEO for three years. Having successfully built up many of the capabilities of his organisation, he's now focusing on coaching his successor to replace him in the near future.

"Coach Kriengsak, I've had two coaching sessions with Khun Preeda during the past two weeks," he tells me. "Each time I spent an hour with him."

"How did it go?"

"I'm not sure."

"Did you ask Khun Preeda?"

"I did, and he said I was doing fine. But I'm not sure whether he really means that. The thing is, he's a nice guy who's not very comfortable giving constructive feedback, particularly to the boss. I would rather check with you."

"All right. I have six questions that will help you discover how well you're doing as a rookie coach. Question 1: What are the values and styles of the person you're coaching?"

"Coach, why this question first?"

"Khun Surat, coaching is about individualisation. You have to tailor your communication styles to suit the personality of the person you're coaching. Hence, knowing these things is a necessary first step."

"Khun Preeda's values are integrity, relationships, seniority, loyalty and respect. I would define his styles as quiet — less talkative; paying attention to detail; analytical; and cautious — he takes time to respond to questions."

"That's good. It seems to me you know him quite well. How did you use this knowledge in the coaching sessions with him?"

"I used it a lot. I listen and I'm patient. I anticipated before the coaching sessions that I would have to wait for his responses to the series of questions I needed to ask. I planned to take notes to capture his replies and also jot down my thoughts instead of trying to push forward very fast, which is my usual style."

"How well would you rate yourself in tailoring your approach to suit Khun Preeda's personality?"

"I'd give myself 8 out of 10."

"Great. Question 2: How well did you ask your coaching questions? Did you try to manipulate or apply too much pressure?"

"I don't think I did great in this aspect. I'd give myself 5 out of 10."

"What makes you think that?"

"Because I'd already planned several questions prior to our sessions. I was too rigid, trying to follow a process that I'd already set out. I tried to complete my list of questions instead of asking them in the natural order in which they came up in our conversations."

"Khun Surat, you've just discovered the problem. Do you have any idea about the solution?"

"No, I don't."

"Don't worry, we'll come back to this later. Question 3: How well did you summarise what you heard? How often did you do that?"

"Not well. In fact, I'd give myself zero."


"Because I didn't recap what I heard. That's why I was bad at questioning. If I'd summarised Khun Preeda's comments regularly for him so that he could tell whether I'd grasped what he was saying, I would have been able to ask better questions."

He's quiet for few seconds, and then he has a 'Eureka!' moment. "Coach, I think I just got a solution to your second question. If I listen attentively and summarise what I've heard for the person periodically, I will ask much better questions. My questions will be follow-ups to what I've recapped. It will flow naturally."

"That's good. You just discovered your own solution."

"Thanks, what's the next question?"

"Question 4: How attentively did you listen? Did you interrupt frequently?"

"I didn't interrupt him. But I didn't listen attentively. I was thinking about the next question to ask instead of trying to understand what I was being told. I'd give myself only 4 out of 10. But I know the solution now — restate or summarise."

I notice how excited Surat is about his new insight.

"Good. Question 5: How well do you provide suggestions when asked? Did you give a suggestion at the right coachable moment?"

"I'd rate myself 7 out of 10. It's part of my 'autopilot' approach to share my views with my people. Khun Preeda is also comfortable asking my opinion whenever he gets stuck. I think I'm doing OK in this area."

"OK. Question 6: How well did you help the person you're coaching achieve better self-awareness and willingness to change?"

"I'd rate myself 5 out of 10. Because I didn't listen well, I was unable to reflect back, which would have helped Khun Preeda gain better self-awareness."

"Khun Surat, how well do you think you're doing as a rookie coach and how will you do it better?"

He does a quick mental calculation and says, "I rated myself 29 out of 60. I know that in the future if I listen and summarise periodically, I will improve dramatically."

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