BRIDGING THE GAP
'Coach Kriengsak, what subjects will we cover in our coaching discussions?" Panya asks me in our first meeting. The chief financial officer of a conglomerate that has 10 subsidiaries, he is one of three candidates who have been identified as potential successors for the group CEO position.
"You have two paths to prepare yourself as the next group CEO: either strengthening your critical strengths or filling the gaps in your crucial weaknesses," I tell him. "So, what are your strengths and weaknesses?"
Panya thinks for a moment and says, "My strengths are financial management, strategy formulation, working well with the board of directors, and ability to inspire employees. My weaknesses are impatience, listening, and the fact that I have not been in charge as a CEO in any subsidiaries before. Coach, what will the right coaching subjects be for me?"
"I can't make this decision for you," I tell him. "Which one do you think is the most logical one?"
"I want to prepare myself to be a CEO in a subsidiary for 18 months. How many subjects should I select?"
"Coaching must be done one subject at a time. We can change or modify the subject once both of us have experienced the process.
"From over 10 years coaching experience, I have seen that subjects need to be quite flexible. Once I know more about you, and you also understand the coaching process better, we can change in accordance with the environment."
"Okay Coach, which subsidiary do you think I should select?"
"Khun Panya, it depends on the experience that you want to gain. Based on your organisation's strategic goals, what will be a critical requirement for the next group CEO?"
"The new group CEO will have to be keen on change management. In this case, I think I have to rotate to be a CEO in a retail company."
"Why is that?"
"Because it's very dynamic and demands a change management leadership."
"Khun Panya, when will you be able to rotate there?"
"Within three months. I need time to prepare my successor to be ready for the CFO role. I also need to prepare myself for the new role as well. What will I need to prepare myself for once I lead the subsidiary?"
I was quiet for a while. I had a dilemma: Should I tell him or ask him to think instead? I decided to ask him but I needed to inform him first.
"Khun Panya, I probably could share my view with you. But my solution might not work well with you because of the differences in contexts and background between us. I want you to think for yourself first. How does that sound?"
"Oh! Sorry Coach, I forgot. You already mentioned to me that this executive coaching would work best if the client seeks to find his or her own solution. Because no coach would really understand the context, environment and organisational culture as much as the client. Okay, what is your question?"
"Khun Panya, assume that you were in my shoes. If you were the coach, what would you ask your client?"
He's quiet for few seconds. Then he asks: "From your experience in the past, when there was a new CEO in a subsidiary, what was the most common mistake?"
"Khun Panya, what prompted you to ask that question?"
"I have observed on several occasions that most new CEOs were good at preparing: business knowledge, examining business strategy, and focusing on financial aspects. But what they had missed was an understanding of the culture. Even though we are under the same roof, each subsidiary has its own subculture. Assuming that we all work by the same norms and cultures is a big and common mistake.""That's interesting, Khun Panya. How would you prepare yourself to really understand the organisational culture of the subsidiary that you will be a CEO?"
"I think I will learn by talking with two key people there: the existing CEO and CFO. I have good relationships with them."
"That's good. Who else could you talk with?"
"I can't think of anyone there."
"What about people outside the organisation?"
"I don't have a clue. Can you give me a hint?"
"Can you think of any supplier, contractor or business ally?"
He reflects for a while. Then he has a "Eureka!" moment and exclaims: "I know _ I think I'll speak with Dr Narong. He's a partner in an auditing firm. He's done the auditing work with the subsidiary for the past five years."
"Okay, you already have three people that you want to learn from. When will it be?"
"Coach, I will meet with them within the next two weeks. After that I'll share the results with you. Then we can work out a more detailed plan to prepare me to get successfully on-board in the subsidiary."
Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under TheCoach brand. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page: https://www.facebook.com/TheCoachinth.
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