Demand for coaching by executives who want to stay on top of their game.

"If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we aren't really living." - Gail Sheehy

Few athletes can get to the elite ranks without the help of a good coach, someone to help devise training programmes, monitor diet and scout the opposition.

So why should a chief executive officer be any different?

Executive coaching is a specialty of Kriengsak Niratpattanasai, the founder of TheCoach, a business that has grown out of his 24 years of experience in marketing, sales and management with multinational and Thai-foreign ventures including Citibank, DBS Thai Danu, DHL, Ericsson and Kepner-Tregoe Inc. The aim is to offer one-on-one business coaching to help an executive achieve his or her goals or resolve ongoing problems and challenges in the workplace. Mr Kriengsak, 45, began to realise the existence of demand for executive coaching after seeing the feedback to his popular weekly column ``Bridging the Gap'' each Monday in the Business section of the Bangkok Post.

The columns, offering real-life advice to both employers and employees, Thais and expats, have given rise to a book that was one of the top 10 sellers at Asia Books last year. After receiving a number of calls from executives asking for advice on solving problems and tensions arising at work, Mr Kriengsak began developing the concept of his business. ``People tend to think that top management does not need training or coaching, which is wrong.

Even Tiger Woods has professional trainers, so why not a CEO?'' he said. In the three years since its founding, TheCoach has attracted a healthy number of clients, mainly large local or multinational companies including Amway, Big C, Colgate Palmolive (Thailand), Diethelm, GE Capital, Siam Commercial Bank, Siam Gypsum, Syngenta Thailand, and the United Nations.

Most of the clients are Europeans and Americans, with only a few Thai and Asian participants. ``That's because Europeans and Americans are likely to take the issue more seriously than Asians who are usually less sensitive,'' says Mr Kriengsak. Major problems faced by most executives include the inability to adjust to new roles after being promoted or given increased responsibility, and interpersonal or communication breakdowns rooted in cross-cultural misunderstandings.

Mr Kriengsak can cite many cases in which executives who are foreigners do not realise the difference between Thai culture and theirs, which lead to communication failure and frustration. ``There are many cases in which executives don't realise they're having problems until the volume of employee turnover starts rising.'' In today's business climate, with the impact of globalisation, free trade and competition growing steadily, turnover in the executive suite has become more frequent. It's become clear, in Mr Kriengsak's view, that executives need more skills to manage all of the challenges they face, if they are to lead their organisations to achieve the desired goals.

In nearly a quarter-century in the business world, he has also become keenly attuned to the differences between Thais and foreign nationals in the way they handle conflicts and problems. While foreigners, especially Europeans and Americans, usually choose to solve conflicts by speaking out or directly confronting the other party, Thais tend to play down differences and remain silent, believing silence is the best way out. There are pluses and minuses in each approach, but executive coaching can help focus a person on what he or she needs to do to steer the business and its people smoothly.

The process starts with a personal meeting with the executive, who will sit down for a psychometric test to create self-awareness and discover hidden strengths and weaknesses. The counselling may also include interviews with executives' bosses and subordinates, focus group interviews or workshops. Once the basic information is gathered, one-on-one sessions will begin. These normally take place once a week and last from three to six months. Fees range between 60,000 and 100,000 baht a day.

The business has been successful to date, with 80% of the clients repeat customers. Today, TheCoach has six professionals available to provide counselling. Mr Kriengsak plans to expand the number of staff in line with the rising demand for the service. He also aims to expand the network through co-ordination with companies from abroad, and to diversify the services in the form of multimedia and e-learning sessions. He believes demand in the market will continue to expand as long as most people tend not to see the problems they face or are unable to solve them on their own.

As well, he says, challenges in the workplace will only grow in line with the global trend toward mergers and acquisitions, and intensifying competition, notably driven by the ascendancy of China in this part of the world. ``Most organisations are not designed for tougher competition or rapid changes,'' he says. ``As well, mergers and acquisitions never include the merger of different cultures.''

( Source: Bangkok Post January 24, 2005.Story by Sriwipa Siripunyawit )

Warwick John Fahy is a professional speech coach and expert in presentation skills, public speaking and communication skills. You can contact him for more information.

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