BRIDGING THE GAP
'Khun Kriengsak, how do I coach my team to have more initiative?" Peera asks me.
"Why do you ask, Khun Peera?"
"My team is stuck with the status quo," he says. "We've just finished doing our strategic planning for the next year. Most of my team came up with similar ideas and activities that we have done for the past three years. They just modified the numbers."
"What would you like to see from them?"
"I'd like them to come up with more new initiatives, new ideas, thinking-out-of-the-box kind of things _ you know."
"Did you tell them that?"
"I've been the CEO for three years now. The first year was new to me _ I didn't say anything. But in the second year I noticed a lot of repetition from the plan I'd been shown the year before. So, I told them that I wanted to see more initiative. I asked them to redo it."
"What happened after that?"
"They went back to make some small adjustments and resubmitted it to me. I was upset. But due to the time constraints, I was the one who came up with all the major initiatives for them."
"What will happen this year?"
"I will do the same as last year. That makes me even more frustrated."
"Why are you frustrated?"
"Because they don't do their jobs properly and I have to do the work for them."
"Khun Peera, I want to ask you a difficult question. But first I want to make sure you're on the conscious level. Are you in the 'present moment' state?"
"What do you mean?"
"Right now it sounds as if you're living in the past. You're frustrated about a situation that happened in the past. Where are we now?"
"Coach, we are here _ discussing how to coach my team to take more initiative. ... Okay, I get it." He smiles.
"Good, Khun Peera. From what you've told me, you want your team to come up with ideas. You've already told them your expectations more than once. They didn't do much for the past two years. How do you see yourself as part of this problem?"
He reflects for a moment. He exclaims with insight. "Ah! I was the one who encouraged this behaviour. Last year when they didn't add any good ideas to their plan, I did it for them. This year, they did the same. And I will help them again."
"What do you want to do?"
"I must send it back to them and ask them to do it again."
"What would you do to ensure that they come up with some good initiatives?"
"I don't know. Tell me, Coach."
"Khun Peera, as we agreed in previous sessions, I'm good as a sounding board. My great strength is asking questions. I'm not a guru who is capable of telling you how to be a great CEO. Let me try another question: Suppose you know the solution, what would it be?"
He thinks. "I still don't know."
"Khun Peera, let me reframe the question: You want your team to go back to do their plan that shows more initiative. What options could you use to ensure they come up with some good ideas?"
"I can think of a few:
- I can tell them to check with their counterparts in other countries.
- I can explain to them how I come up with initiatives.
- I can give them a book to read.
- I can ask them to brainstorm with their teams."
"Which option do you think is workable?"
"It depends. Each person has a different way of thinking and coming up with ideas. I think I will tailor-make each approach that suits the learning style of each individual."
"How well do you know each individual's style?"
"Among my six direct reports, I probably know just two of them well as they're the ones I've engaged quite often. But for the rest, I'm not sure."
"How would you do it, then?"
"I think I will tell the other four executives about my options. Then I can ask them individually which option is the most suitable for them."
"That's great. How do you feel now?"
"Coach, I feel much better now. But I still have a concern."
"What if they come up with ideas that are not so great?"
"All of them?"
"No, I anticipate probably half of the team will come up with much better ideas after they follow one of the four options above."
"Khun Peera, even if half of them come up with not-so-good ideas, your workload is still reduced by half, right?"
"You're right. I'll need to do more follow-up with the rest. I shouldn't let any repeat of past situations happen again. I will coach them during the next six months. Hopefully, by the time we do our strategic planning next year, they'll be ready."
Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at email@example.com. His columns are available at www.thaicoach.com
About the author
- Writer: Kriengsak Niratpattanasai