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Inspiring your staff during an economic slowdown

'Coach Kriengsak, I want to discuss how to lead during an economic slowdown," Panit tells me.

"Khun Panit, that's a great idea. Where do you want to start?"

"I want to re-examine myself first. Am I the right leader for this situation? How do I evaluate myself? Here are the questions I've been asking myself:

What is the current landscape of your business? Stable, Growth, Decline, Turnaround, or Realignment?

What are the qualities of leader that most fit the landscape?

How well do you fit the bill?

If you're not fit, what is the alternative?

"Our business situation is in the Stable stage. This year our growth will be less in line with the market. Next year we expect to have slight growth. The quality of leadership we need will be the same, except that the leader will need to be better at inspiring people."

"Khun Panit, why do you see more need to inspire people now?"

"My company is a long-established one. Most of my employees feel that we have good job security; we have never laid off employees before. Hence, there's more of a comfort zone than in other companies. Consequently, the leader needs to ignite our employees to be more passionate about their work -- that's why we need to inspire them more."

"All right. What about the other two questions on your list?"

"Coach, I think I do fit the bill. Hence, there's no need to change the leader -- except that I need to inspire people more."

"What's your plan?"

"Good question. I'm an introverted person. I don't enjoy doing big crowd presentations. I'm also not a good cheerleader. So, what should I do to inspire people?

"Khun Panit, what outcome do you expect to see from people who are inspired?"

"I want people to be more passionate about their work. I want them to engage more."

"How do you do that?"

"If I can make them proud of what they do, they will be more inspired."

"How do you make people proud of their work?"

"I don't know."

"Khun Panit, do you know anyone who does volunteer work?"

"Yes. My cousin works as an administrative officer at a private firm and on weekends she volunteers to do administrative work for the Thai Red Cross."

"How does she like that work?"

"Oh, she's very passionate about her weekends. She has fun and works very hard. I'm not sure about the compensation -- I guess she probably doesn't get paid for it."

"Why is she so passionate about the volunteer work?"

"I guess it's because she feels that she's making a contribution for the greater good," says Panit, who is quiet for a moment and then exclaims, "Coach, if I can make people see the WHY, they will be more passionate."

I nod. "How will you do that?"

"I need to help my people to see the why. Specifically, what's the greater good that comes from their contribution?"

"That's a good idea. How will you do that specifically?"

"I have to reinforce the message based on our vision and core values. My company has a vision to be the best service provider for our selected customer segments. One of our core values is pride in delivering outstanding service. But as an introvert, how do I communicate these messages in a way that can inspire others? I'm not a good presenter."

"Khun Panit, I think you need to have a more healthy ego."

"Coach, I don't want to have an ego. Ego is bad."

"Khun Panit, we all possess an ego whether we like it or not. I like to use a simple military analogy to explain the different levels:

Too high: you're a major but possess a general's ego level.

Too low: you're a major but possess a captain's ego level.

Healthy: you're a major who possesses a major's ego level.

"In your case, you're too humble and much too self-critical. Hence, you have a tendency to have too low an ego."

"You're right. That's why I always tend to be less assertive. How do I develop a healthy ego?"

"Khun Panit, be realistic. You've been chief executive for three years. You've done a lot of good things. What are your strengths?"

"I'm a good thinker. I always come up with a good strategy. I'm good at observing other people's strengths. I'm always put the right person in the right job."

"How can you apply your strengths to inspiring people?"

"I think I'll ask our chief marketing officer to handle the communication part. He's very good at it."

"All right, let's stop here and follow up in our next session."

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the TheCoach brand. He can be reached at Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fanpage, while previous articles may be found archived at