Coaching CEO to be a coach

Article by: coach Kriengsak Nirattanasai
Photo: Antoni Shkraba

‘Khun Kriengsak, I want you to help me to be a coach to my team,” says Sompan.

“Khun Sompan, let’s clarify the definition first. What does coaching mean to you?”

“Coaching relates to the activities you have done with me for the past six months,” says Sompan. “You observed and learned about my styles and strengths a lot in the beginning. Then, you sought my concerns and listened attentively without judging me. Thus, you facilitated by asking questions that enabled me to discover the solutions by myself.”

“Okay, so, we have same idea about coaching. Lots of people have a misunderstanding that coaching is about telling or teaching. Khun Sompan, why do you want to coach your team?”

“Because I think my team can do much better if I can unleash their potential. I was inspired by the way you coached me. Before you coached me, I had been mentored by my chairman. His command-and-control style didn’t help me progress much. I reflect back that I did the same to my team. Now I realise that these teams have a lot of potential but they may have been unable to reach their potential to be high performers because of me. Do you think I should coach them as a group or one by one?”

“How many people do you plan to coach?”

“Eight of my direct reports”

“Why do you have eight direct reports instead of 300 people?”

“Because I will not have time to work with 300 people,” says Sompan, pausing to think. “Ah, coach, I should coach them one on one. But it will take a lot of time. How much time should I spend on people?”

“I don’t know. It depends on each organisation and several factors such as the organisation phase: startup, growth or turnaround. The nature of business: fast-moving and dynamic, highly technical or people-oriented. In Talent Masters, authors Bill Conaty and Ram Charan found that leaders in high-performance organisations invest at least a quarter of their time in spotting and developing other leaders, at GE and P&G, it’s closer to 40%.”

“I think I will spend 20% of my time. I plan to have a one-hour meeting per week for each person.”

“What’s your plan?”

“I plan to inform everyone in my executive committee meeting today. One hour per week with each person will be the pilot phase for the first three months. After that I will re-examine the result and probably modify things according to the situation.”

“It sounds like a good plan to me. What will be the outline for your first meeting?”

“I will start by asking about each individual’s career goal. Based on the goal, what are the capabilities required? Then, compare current capabilities and those required. One should be able to spot the capability gaps. From those gaps, we can discover the areas in which I will be able to help that person develop. Once we agree on the development area, then our coaching sessions will be on that subject.”

“That’s good. What could go wrong?”

“I’m afraid that I will not be able to listen to them well.”


“Because several of my direct reports have complained to me directly that I am impatient.”

“Do you think you will be impatient during the coaching sessions as well?”

Sompan nods.


“Because there will be lot of things that need to be done.”

“So, if you have already allotted time to each individual, why aren’t you calmer?”

“It’s who I am. I’m an impatient person.”

“Who told you that?”

“Lots of people.”

“Do you always believe what other people tell you?”


“But why do you believe you’re impatient?”

“Because it aligns with what I tell myself.”

“When did you tell yourself that you’re impatient?”

“Since I was 10.”

“Tell me more.”

“One night at the dinner table, everyone had finished while I had eaten only half of what was on my plate. My father was so frustrated. He shouted at me: ‘Boy, if you want to have a good life, you have to be quick in everything, starting with eating.’

“That belief has helped me be successful to this day. I’m an overachiever who is always fast and good.”

“Khun Sompan, that belief is probably good for several situations but not for coaching. You have to be ‘present’ with your coaching client. What belief must you have when you’re listening to your coaching client?”

“I have to believe that listening to them is the foundation. It’s how I learn more about this person at this particular moment. I am a doctor and my coaching client is a patient. If I want to unleash her potential, I have to really understand her.”