BRIDGING THE GAP
'Coach Kriengsak, I've been a CEO for a year now but I'm not satisfied with my performance so far," Visit tells me. "The majority of my direct reports have not delivered up to my expectations. They're too slow."
"Khun Visit, what do you mean by slow?" I ask him.
"They haven't acted up to my speed. When I probed further, most of them said their people were not ready. They needed time to coach and develop them. Instead of admitting that they were incompetent, they blamed their subordinates."
"Khun Visit, you said that your performance was not good because of the incompetence of your direct reports. Then, you found out that they blamed the problem on the incompetence of their direct reports. What's going on here?"
"I need you to coach my direct reports."
"Do you really think they're willing to be coached?"
"What would be their reaction if you asked?"
"They probably want you to coach their subordinates."
"And if I were to ask their subordinates, what would happen?"
"Perhaps those people two levels down from me will ask to organise training for their subordinates," replies Visit. He's silent for a moment and then exclaims, "Ah! Perhaps I'm the problem. I've created this culture of passing the buck. What do you think?"
"I don't know, Khun Visit. But for a CEO to admit that he might be part of the people problem in his organisation takes a lot of courage. Let' assume that your perception is correct. What would you do next?"
"Coach, perhaps I should change first."
"In what aspect?"
"I don't know, what do you think?"
"Khun Visit, you started today's conversation about the slowness of your team. Slow is a relative term. What do you benchmark your team with?"
"I said that because two reasons. First, I compare them to my previous team in another company. I started that company from scratch and recruited all of my key members. Second, If I were them, I would do things much faster."
"What if you asked them, what would their response be?"
"I think they definitely would say that the pace we operate at is already too fast for them. I've changed the organisational structure and work processes. There are new management systems in place. What I have not successfully changed is the culture. Our company culture is still slow."
"Khun Visit, what's on your mind?" I ask.
"I think I have the answer. I've used my own experience and standards to measure people. They are already speeding up to follow me. But the real issue is our culture."
"So, what is the real question now?"
"Coach, the question is: how do I change our culture from slow to fast?"
"I have to push more."
"What makes you say that?"
"Because over the past 12 months I have dictated that people change. And they're trying very hard but they couldn't meet my expectations. I think if I push them harder they might speed up to my expectations."
"Khun Visit, I have a concern."
"Because humans are not machines. What you said is probably applicable with machines. But people are more complex and sensitive than that. If your people are still energised and passionate your approach might work. But if your team is already fatigued, it might have reached the breaking point. Where are they now?"
"You're right coach. My team was too fatigued. I've pushed them too hard for the last six months. If I push them further, they might burn out. It's already showing in the high turnover rate in the past few months. In exit interviews people remark on this aspect."
"Khun Visit, how do you change the organisational culture?"
"Coach, perhaps this is not the right question."
"What would the right one be then?"
"How do WE change the organisational culture? Not how do I change it. The reason I said this because I have to engage people more now. For the first 12 months it made sense for me to be the one to lead, to dominate, in order to change the hard aspects _ structure, process and system. But changing people is the 'soft' side of management and needs a different approach. I cannot change them. I have to help them see the need to change. Then, they and I, working as 'We', will change the culture together."
"That seems to be a good idea."
"Coach, I admit I'm impatient. As someone with an engineering background, I was always great at fixing machines. Speed is my strength. But now I realise that engineering people is different."
"Good point, Khun Visit. We could all profit by remembering what Stephen Covey once said: ' [With people] if you want to save time, don't be efficient. With people, slow is fast and fast is slow."'
Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. 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. Previous articles are archived at http://thecoach.in.th