Customer Service in Medical Care

Photo by Daan Stevens on Unsplash

I have just come back from spending 2 nights at a hospital in Bangkok and the most interesting thing about my stay there was that I was not a patient. My partner was admitted and given a private room in which there was a couch on which I slept so I could be with her while she was there. It was not the perfect bed, but the nurses brought a pillow and a blanket and tried to make me as comfortable as they could.

Contrast this with several weeks last year, when my mother was in hospital in Cape Town – a very expensive private hospital. That difficult time was made so much more terrible by the rules of the hospital and the attitude of the staff that visitors are a burden to prevented at all costs. Apart from strict visiting hours allowing about 2-3 hours of contact every day at their convenience, and a restriction on the number of people allowed in at any given time, it always felt like we had to fight for every single minute we wanted to spend with our sick family member.

Beyond the very clear research that links interpersonal contact with improved health results, it made me think about customer focus, and who each of these hospitals was actually trying to serve. In my own experience of both those situations, I automatically felt like the Thai hospital was trying to cater not only to my partners needs, but my own as a family member. Visiting the South African hospital, I was made to feel like an inconvenience in the technical process of medical care.

While this is not a reflection on any individual at these hospitals, as even in South Africa, many staff were friendly and helpful, it made me rather sad for all the people in the many countries like South Africa who, during the most traumatic and difficult moments of their lives are not even treated like the paying customers they are. 

I know that this is just one perspective based on my personal experience and I would really love to hear from others, especially those in the medical profession, as I am sure I do not have to whole picture.

Does Success Inevitably Breed Arrogance and should Founders Prepare Better for Leadership?

“leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” Simon Senek.

There has been a lot of social media criticising the high-handed and dismissive tone taken by the Uber CEO in a recent video that went viral, and there have been some interesting articles that look beyond Mr Kalanick’s attitude in that exchange, to the very real issue of driver compensation and Uber’s business model. I would like to take a look somewhere in between, and consider what it is that allows someone like Mr Kalanick to intuitively feel like he has the right to behave like that with another human being.

“Founders have a disproportionate impact on company culture”

While Travis Kalanick is an extreme example of the culture, he is merely the sharp end of a rather unpleasant trend that seems prevalent in many of the founders and tech leaders in silicon valley and elsewhere. I am in two minds about the ultimate responsibility for organisational culture. I believe that employees who point blame upwards for bad behaviour are like soldiers who say “I was just following orders”, BUT the leader, and especially the founder of an organisation, does have a disproportionate impact on how things work in a company.

“the extreme competition in the start-up world pushes leaders to be aggressively confident”

In an environment where you have to be exceptional to succeed, and you have just over a 1% chance of becoming a unicorn (, if you’re not truly confident of what you have to offer, you are very likely to be buried amidst the hundreds of other companies that never make it beyond start-up stage.

The problem is when this confidence in your product or service bleeds into your character and becomes a feeling of being personally special, better than others, more deserving, and therefore arrogant. The ease with which this happens may be due to a variety of factors. You may very well be intellectually, or technically gifted, which is what got you to where you are in the first place. However this does not give you the right to be any thing more than good at what you do, and many great intellects and inventors manage to be completely humbly and down to earth. Think Richard Branson or Warren Buffet.

“founders should prepare themselves more effectively for leadership”

From a mitigation perspective, it is important to see the context in which this sort of behaviour develops. Successful start-up founders are by definition really good at what they do, which is usually based on creativity, the ability to innovate, and technical expertise. This is all very useful when you are starting off and have a small group of like-minded people all focused on one thing and with similar mindsets. However once your company has grown beyond that initial core group and is now made up of several hundred or thousand staff, and potentially several million customers, the technical skills that got you to this point will not have not prepared you for what it means to be a leader at this level.

Mr Kalanick has promised to seek some guidance on his leadership style. As the founder of a start-up hoping to grow into the next Uber, it is probably better to prepare yourself for leadership more effectively than he did, so you do not get caught out the way he has, and end up affecting not only your own reputation, and that of your company. After all, who wants to give money to an A*****, either as an investor or as a customer.

In my work with start-up founders and entrepreneurs as well as senior corporate executives, some of the key behavioural traits I focus on are empathy and humility. While you can learn the former behaviourally and to some extent act it, the latter quality has to come from within, and it is only through a process of self reflection, that one can achieve it.

Executive Coaching for Leadership Transitions

“40% of new executive transitions are declared failures after 18 months” 

While our executive coaching engagements help leaders deal with a variety of challenges, our core focus is supporting leaders going through leadership transitions.  Ram Charam, Steve Drotter and Jim Noel’s book, “The Leadership Pipeline” (2001) comprehensively describe the different skills and approaches that leaders need at various stages or levels of the organisation. Over a decade and half on, the model they created based on their experience in over 100 companies, is still relevant in many situations. Having use this approach within companies ourselves, we have seen firsthand the benefits to both leaders and organisations, of considering the differences in the way that time is applied at various levels of the organisation, and how the values drive the leaders decision-making must change from one stage to the next in order to sustain success.

“Leaders cannot think in the same way at different levels of the organisation and expect consistent success” 

However the research shows that significant numbers of leaders struggle to successfully make the transition from one level to the next.  In fact, of the thousands of managers that get promoted internally, or are appointed into roles, McKinsey reports that “40% of new executive transitions are declared failures after 18 months” (McKinsey, 2013). The hit to productivity, and the ineffective use of organisational resources, that these failures cause, is immense, even leading to a rippling out of poor performance, from the leader to their reports.  Even where several weeks are allocated upfront for executives to orient themselves and come up to speed, success rates are not much higher. Few leaders, no matter how skilled or experienced at their current level, have the capacity to single-handedly shift their thinking, their approach, and their decision-making values to engage with their new context effectively.

“a structured transition process can significantly increase success”

Our experience in our own work, as well as in partnership with Accelerance ( , has shown that a structured transition process including the use of an executive coach over a period of 6 – 12 month, can significantly increase the probability of a leaders success in the long-term.  Whilst such a process can be beneficial at all levels of an organisation, our coaching solutions address two specific types of transitions:

1. in medium to large organisations, the transition from functional leader to general management (Process to People), and

2. in start ups, the transition of the founder’s role as they move from managing a small team, and contributing significant technical expertise, to becoming the leader of more than a few dozen people (Maker to Leader)

In both instances our approach Focus is not only on building capacity in specific areas such as strategic thinking, but also on engaging with the leader’s core values and building self-awareness,  allowing them to learn and adapt effectively for the long-term.

Our approach to coaching is based on the psychological background of our lead coach combined with his significant corporate and entrepreneurial experience.

Our colleague at Accelerance, Mike Maffucci has written a great article on the need for managed executive transitions:

For a free consultation, get in touch by clicking here.

Finding the Right Coach for You

As the use of executive coaching grows in Thailand, there are many executives who, having seen how coaches have helped other executives in similar positions achieve great success, and are considering engaging one for themselves. However, while they are making this decision, most are probably unsure about how to select a coach for themselves.

“is choosing a coach like choosing a doctor?”

Could this be like selecting a doctor? You go to the hospital and if you have something mild, the General Practitioner gives you a prescription and off you go to get better. If its something more serious, you get sent to a specialist based on what the problem is and they can hopefully fix it for you.. The difficulty with this approach when it comes to coaching is you don’t want to be spending time going from coach to coach until you find the right one.

Is it more like choosing a car? You decide on the brand based on its reputation and feedback from other people you trust, and make your choice? In a way, this is how people choose consulting firms. The problem with approach, is that unless you are choosing based on an individual’s reputation, you may end up suffering the old “bait and switch” trick where you choose a company because of the good standing of its top person or, on occasion, people, but in fact, you end up with someone who just happens to available at the time. You may be lucky, you may not. And in the coaching world, membership with one of the bigger self-proclaimed “accreditation” organisations is no guarantee of actual quality.

“is google the best way to find the right coach?”

Choosing a coach to work with probably has similarities to many selection processes that we go through in our lives, and different people may use different techniques. However, because the choice of a coach can often have a significant impact on your career and potentially your life generally, it is an important decision and needs to be made carefully.

So what does an executive who is in the market for a coach do? Does he put out an advert in the Bangkok Post and wait for the best fitting coach to come to him? Does she just google coaches in his area and make a random selection? Any executive who is successful enough to be in a position to get a coach is unlikely to be so irrational. He could just ask his friends who are in the same position as he is about their experiences and ask for referrals, or he could ask his HR people to suggest someone. While both of these latter options have merit, the relatively small selection of coaches available in Thailand, and the even smaller group who live here and understand the culture while also having an international perspective, makes it more of a challenge than it might be in other parts of the world.


“it is essential to look carefully at a coach’s experience and background”

Whatever the method used, it is essential that the executive has a clear set of criteria that he can use to help him decide which coach to engage with. Having been on both sides of the fence, as an external coach now, and previously being responsible for the selection and contracting of coaches into a very large corporation, I have found that there are some basic fundamentals that an executive needs to ensure are present in any selection that he or she makes:

1. Business Experience – Coaching as a formal profession is very young, and at this point there is no formal global or even national agency that manages the quality of coaches in the market in same way that there are legal qualification boards in almost every country for medical doctors, or actuaries, or accountants. There is really no quick way to check the level of expertise a coach has merely by checking a title or membership of an coaching association.

Also, because coaches come from so many different professional backgrounds, such as psychology, business, sales and in some instances nothing more than a 2 month coaching course, it is essential to look deeper into the person’s background to ensure that they have the right background and experience to work with you professionally and effectively. While a coach, unlike a mentor, does not need to understand the technicalities of your business at the level of an expert, it is very helpful if he or she has had some type of business experience, having worked in corporates or other types of companies.

“avoid someone who is easy to be with because they don’t challenge you”

The coach may come from a similar functional background or something completely different, but as they not working with you on technical issues but rather on helping you more strategic and interpersonal challenges, they mainly just need to understand corporate dynamic and how they can affect your performance so they can guide you through them more effectively. For example coaches who come from an entrepreneurial or start-up background may focus on helping young entrepreneurs as they kick-off their business but may not be as effective with CEOs of large multinationals.

2. Methodology – It is important that the coach understand the process of coaching and can articulate it clearly. This is not about giving a step by step account of what will happen in the coaching, as this will be influenced by the client and the challenges being faced, but the coach should be able to communicate and share the framework that they use, the timeframes that they generally work within, the type of work and challenges that they have experience in dealing with, and the broad framework of the process. This is to ensure that you are being taken on an actual, measurable, goal-focused journey, rather than a meandering personal conversation with no clear objectives.

3. Fit -this does not mean that you need to like the coach, and in fact, it is expected that a coach can challenge you and move you you from your comfort zone (albeit in a respectful and humane way), otherwise they would not be doing their job, but it is important that you believe that this a person that you can work with and that you can comfortably and securely share confidences with and be completely open to. If you cannot, the coaching process will at best be slowed down and at worst completely ineffective.

4. Flexibility – different problems require different approaches but there are many coaches who will focus only on one technique or approach because that is all they know. While expertise in specific tools and approaches is very important, it is just as essential that the coach will be able to work with you in a way that best suits you and the challenge you are currently facing. The old saying that the person with a hammer sees every problem as a nail is apropos.

5. Gravitas – The coach should come across as credible, both in their experiences and background, and in person. They should be seen to take their role as a senior sounding board seriously.

Psychological Awareness – While coaches should not be expected to be psychologists, and they should never be doing therapy with clients, a strong foundational understanding of psychological theory and its practical use is essential to achieve everything from building rapport to influencing the coachee within ethical bounds.

There are many other things that may be important in your own selection of a coach, but don’t let that stop you from finding one soon and focusing on taking your performance to the next level!

For a free consultation with no expectations, please get in touch. If we do not have the right coach for you, we will gladly help you find them.