Coaching a CEO’s Secretary on Emotional intelligence

Article: Coach Kriengsak Niratpattnasai
Photo: Rodnae Production

Kanoon is a secretary to Khun Sombat, a CEO who is a client of mine. One day as I was waiting for Khun Sombat, she approached me.

“Coach Kriengsak, Khun Sombat is still busy in the videoconference with a major overseas customer,” she tells me. “He asked me to apologise to you for being late. He will be here in 10 minutes.”

“No problem Khun Kanoon.”

“Coach, would you mind coaching me on my emotional intelligence?” she asks while we wait.

“Sure. What is this about?”

“I always get angry at Khun Sombat when he repeats the work instructions that I already knew.”

“Does it happen only with him or with everyone?”

“It happens to everyone. But since I’m his secretary, he’s the one that I interact with the most.”

“Okay, why do you get angry?”

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe you can tell me about a recent incident?”

“Oh sure. This morning he asked me to prepare a document for a presentation tomorrow. After that half an hour, he told me exactly the same thing again. The second time, I was so upset. But I didn’t show any reaction. I felt angry inside _ angry both with him and myself. I didn’t want to suppress my emotion but I didn’t know what to do.”

I nod. “Okay Khun Kanoon, I can imagine how you feel. What’s the voice in your head telling you at that moment?”

“I heard the voice say, ‘Boss, I got it. You don’t have to worry. I’m not a child.”‘

“Why did you say that to yourself?”

“I don’t know.”

“Khun Kanoon, let me give you an example from my own experience. A few years ago, I was conducted a group coaching session with the team of one company at Khao Yai. On the first night, there was a party. The CEO enjoyed karaoke. So that night, there was karaoke after dinner. An emcee asked everyone to sing a song. When she asked me I told her that I wouldn’t sing since I was not good at singing.

“She circulated to ask everyone. Most people agreed. Fifteen minutes later, she came after me again. She insisted that I sing _ ‘just for fun’ she said.

“After she repeated her insistence, I was really upset. So I told her with an angry tone of voice, ‘I told you the last time that I wouldn’t sing. If you insist again, I’ll go up to the stage and scold you on the stage.’

“My reaction was a shock to everyone including the CEO. Fortunately, someone broke the tension by going up to sing another song.

“That night, I went back to my room. I felt guilty since my behaviour was impolite. I tried to understand why. After some self-reflection, I realised that I was angry because my independence was being challenged. But why do I value independence so much?

“After reflecting back on my childhood, I recalled that when I was 10 years old, I took my youngest brother to play basketball. I came home at 9pm. My father was angry since he didn’t want anyone to come home after 8pm.

“He punished me with a badminton racket. It was not only physically painful but emotionally painful as well. At that defining moment, I promised myself that I would never be dependent on anyone. Since that realisation, now I know how to manage my emotions whenever my value of independence is challenged.

“Can you recall any previous incidents in your life, Khun Kanoon.”

She thinks for a while. “Aha, coach, I remember my my aunt. I was an upcountry girl. I came to study in Bangkok when I was 18 years old and I lived with my aunt for four years. She’s always nagging me about everything. Whenever she repeated something twice, I was always upset. Because she said: ‘Kanoon you’re 15 years old, not five. You must take responsibility to do things without aunty repeating an order.

“Since then, whenever any boss repeats an instruction, the voice in my head will say: I know I am an adult. Don’t talk to me like a child. I am a responsible person.”

“Kanoon, what value of yours is being challenged?” I ask.

“Responsibility, I guess.”

“What would you do with this knowledge about yourself?”

“First, I know the root cause of my frustration. Second, I will prevent this frustration from occurring by informing Khun Sombat whenever he gives an instruction to me, ‘Boss don’t worry, I promise I will do it. Please, there’s no need to repeat the instruction.’ And finally, if he’s still doing that in the future, I would have much less frustration because I can choose to be happy instead of letting my ‘auto pilot’ drive me crazy.”

“Kanoon, you’re a fast learner.”

“Thank you very much coach. And guess what? Khun Sombat is already here.”