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Coaching Generation Y to go in the right direction

Somkiat is a rising star in his department and the organisation. Both his boss and the head of HR regard him as one of the people with the highest potential to grow. In his late twenties, Somkiat has been chosen for talent development and a one-on-one coaching programme.

Developing young leaders from Generation Y, who are quite different from their older colleagues, is becoming a challenging issue for corporations nowadays. Somkiat is no exception.

An analysis of his profile, which is based on the "Big 5" personality assessment and cognitive ability test, reflects his high potential in a number of areas. For example:

He prefers to use logic and reason when having conversations with others.

His high "achievement" score reflects his tendency to enjoy challenging assignments; he does not see any work as something that cannot be done. Problems may occur, though, if he pushes others too hard to finish the work.

He enjoys thinking outside the box to find ways to get things done. However, his abstract reasoning skills are only moderate, so he may struggle to solve complex abstract problems, especially if the pattern is something he has never experienced before.

Somkiat will never give up on difficult work even if he faces uncooperative co-workers. He will try to find another way to finish the task.

Tests identified three areas of his personality as focal points for behavioural improvement:

With his very low "sociability" score, Somkiat tends to keep himself in his own comfort zone. Such people tend to feel uneasy interacting with others outside their area of responsibility.

His high "diplomacy" score means he strives to be pleasant towards others at all times and may not want to confront anyone because co-workers may not understand his true feelings.

He cannot stand high pressure, but whenever he encounters an unsatisfactory situation, he tends to suppress it, which places high pressure on himself.

Generally speaking, when the above combinations occur in one person, we will see someone who wants to finish the work without much social contact. He will also feel uneasy about talking with people he doesn't know, and even in the office environment, he cannot behave naturally.

Talking with him in more detail, it becomes clear that Somkiat wants to deliver "perfect" work at all times. And while he seems reserved, he does participate in meetings, sometimes speaking his mind too directly for some.

Feedback from co-workers also discloses that he is the kind of person who always wants to look good all the time in others' eyes. Therefore, he tends not to accept that he did something wrong. It can be easily observed that he feels he has lost face whenever he did something wrong.

After reviewing his personality assessment and cognitive ability test with him, together with feedback from his direct boss, Somkiat drew up his own DAP (development action plan) to deal with the above issues by taking the following actions:

Try to move myself out from my current comfort zone by reaching out to another department to seek better cooperation among business units. I will adopt a "walk the talk" practice and attitude and try my best to make it easier for others to approach me.

Find an opportunity to talk with superiors in order to provide a platform to communicate with senior executives who do not have much time. In this regard, I have to prepare myself and may need to work across functions to find more information when preparing for meetings.

I will practise listening, catching the right words and summarising key messages. I will try to adopt systematic and critical thinking in order to analyse and follow more effectively what people are saying.

Gen Y workers generally are young people who look for quick solutions and prefer talking directly about issues. Their world is full of the flow of new information, highly dynamic and interconnected, and seems to offer easy solutions for everything. But since their digital devices offer so many rich experiences, they tend to go deeper into isolated worlds of their own.

In reality, we are all aware that our world does not move as fast as the virtual world. Everything has its own rules and procedures.

Human beings still need each other. Locking oneself up in the virtual world is not a route to success in the business world.

Organisations need to help young talents such as Somkiat realise that a healthy relationship with reality will help them achieve long-term success in corporate and personal life. In this regard, the direct boss holds the critical key to success in an ongoing talent development programme.

Sorayuth Vathanavisuth is the principal and executive coach at the Center for Southeast Asia Leadership and lectures at Mahidol University's College of Management. His areas of interest are corporate strategy, executive coaching and leadership development. He can be reached at