Is time management the real problem?

Article by: Coach Kriengsak Niratpattanasai
Photo: iStock

“Khun Kriengsak, I need your help. I have a lot of work and I need you to coach me on time management,” Surat tells me.

“Khun Surat, before you assume that the root cause of your problem is time management, let me ask few more questions. Would that be okay?”


“Tell me more about your workload.”

He summarises his responsibilities for me.

“Khun Surat, how much of this work is yours and how much is really the work of subordinates?”

“Half and half, I would say.”

“Why do you do your people’s work?”

“They’re ineffective.”

“How many of them are ineffective?”

“Two out of our six directors.”

“Why are these two directors ineffective?”

“I think they’re not fit for their roles.”

“When did you notice they didn’t seem to fit?”

“I started to notice it six months ago after we merged with another organisation.”

“What would it be like if you continue to do what you’re doing now?”

“I think these two directors will burn out, and I’ll also burn out.”

“What must you do?”

“I have to replace them with the right calibre of directors. Ah! It’s not about time management skill,” Khun Surat exclaims.

“Coach, I’ve never replaced anyone in my career. What do I do?”

“To be fair to them, what have you done in terms of supporting them to cope with new roles?”

“We did provide training, coaching and mentoring. That’s why the other four directors have been able to make the adjustment since the merger. But for these two directors, I think they’ve realised they don’t match these roles any more.”

“What would happen if you informed them straightforwardly?”

“They would probably be hurt but not surprised. Perhaps they might even feel relieved. But I’m still worried. How do I talk to them?”


“Because this company has never let anyone go,” he says, a stressed expression on his face.

“Khun Surat, you look so serious now. You’re unable to think creatively under this stress.

“Let’s put that on hold for a moment _ I want to change the subject to interrupt your negative train of thought. Do you drive to work by yourself or have a driver?”

“I drive by myself. I enjoy driving.” His expression lightens as he talks about something he enjoys doing.

“That’s good. Khun Surat, how much time do you look ahead compared to looking back in the rear-view mirror?” I ask.

“I look ahead 90% of the time and back only 10%.”

“What if you look 90% in the rear-view mirror and only 10% ahead?”

“I probably wouldn’t be able to leave home.”

“Khun Surat, I like this quotation from Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher.

“He said: ‘The past went that-a-way. When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavour of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.’

“Coming back to your work, do you look ahead or in the rear-view mirror?”

Khun Surat thinks quietly and then exclaims: “I’ve been looking backward since six months ago. That’s why I was unable to move ahead. I have to change my thinking.”

“That’s good.”

“Coach, will you role-play with me how to talk with these two directors?”

“Sure. Which director concerns you the most?”

“Khun Daeng. He’s been with the company for 20 years.”

“Why are you so concerned about him?”

“Because he’s a good guy, works hard, is responsible and tries his best.”

“Then why is he ineffective?”

“His major weakness is English. He’s unable to write English correspondence. That’s why I have to do all the email, reports and other English correspondence. He has a reporting line to the regional office in Hong Kong now.”

“Does he realise this weakness?”


“Then you just inform him based on this fact.”

“Coach, how do I start a conversation without hurting his self-esteem?”

“Why would his self-esteem be hurt?”

“Because he’ll think he’s worthless.”

“Do you feel that he’s worthless _ as a human being?”

“Of course not.”

“How do you see this circumstance?”

“It’s just not the right fit for him.”

“Then you tell them it’s not a good fit.”

“Aha!” says Surat, his eyes brightening with the realisation.

I offer some affirmation: “It happens all the time. Situations change, people have to change.

“Some can change and some are unable to change because the fit has changed. You see it everywhere. This is not about good or bad _ it’s the fit.”

“Okay, I will inform him about the fit. What’s next?”

“What do you think, Khun Surat?”

“Then I will walk through the exit procedure.”

We role-play for few rounds.

“Thank you, Coach.”