CEO Coaching...Why it's worth the investment
You’re the CEO so why do you need a coach? CEOs simply have more to gain from coaching than any other person on the org chart. Given the nature of the position along with the numerous studies that have been authored which provide ample data affirming the extraordinary results that can be achieved by utilizing a CEO coach, I’m always amazed at the number of CEOs who don’t yet have a coach on retainer. In the text that follows I’ll examine the reasons why I believe all (yes I said all) CEOs should have a coach or advisor.
As bright, talented, experienced, motivated and savvy as most CEOs are, they are only one person…Moreover CEOs are the individual in the company most likely to be operating in a vacuum. The only thing CEOs can count on is that their performance is constantly being evaluated by virtually everyone in the value chain. Combine that with the fact the performance standards and expectations are constantly being raised and it is no wonder that CEOs often feel overwhelmed. All satire and office humor aside, there is no more difficult job than that of the CEO. This is largely because the proverbial buck stops with the CEO as he or she is expected to have all the answers and make all the tough decisions.
Executives who rise to the C-suite do so largely based upon their ability to consistently make sound decisions. However while it may take years of solid decision making to reach the boardroom it often times only takes one bad decision to fall from the ivory tower. The reality is that in today’s competitive business world an executive is only as good as his/her last decision, or their ability to stay ahead of contemporaries and competitors.
As the CEO the reality is that you have no true peers within the business, so where do you turn for advice and counsel? If you’re like many CEOs you turn to your subordinates…This is not where you should seek unbiased information as it is unlikely that your subordinates will tell you the hard truths or provide you with open candid criticism of your actions. They are certainly not in a position to hold you accountable or most times even provide you with intellectually challenging input.
Most successful CEOs make heavy investments in building their skill sets, knowledge base and subject matter expertise early in their careers only to make minimal investments in their professional development when they reach the C-suite. It is however at the C-suite level that an executive must be on top of his/her game as they have the broadest sphere of influence, the largest ability to impact a business and they also now have the most at risk…It is at this place that the CEO should make the heaviest investment in refining their game because it is at the chief executive level that increased performance will pay the biggest dividends.
Wouldn’t it be nice to seek counsel from an objective third party who has walked in your shoes and is not caught-up in office politics therefore having no axe to grind or turf to protect…someone who has an extensive network outside your business and is a true intellectual and experiential peer of yours? The right CEO coach can afford all these benefits and more…
In addition to my other duties at N2growth I also maintain an active personal advisory practice where I provide counsel to a select group of CEOs, entrepreneurs and politicians. For most of these professionals the decision to retain my services was driven by one of two distinct motivations. Some of my clients had a defensive motive in that they wanted to protect what they had worked so hard to achieve while others had an offensive motive in that they were looking to take their companies or careers to the next level…Regardless of which camp they fell into these were already very successful people who recognized that its lonely at the top and that they could not afford to keep operating in a vacuum. I actually have a few clients where I am just one member of a coaching team that is on call to deliver real time advice and assistance when the need arises.
I don’t actually like the term coach as a descriptor for what I do as that particular label can tend to give the wrong impression. Sure, in some cases I coach or mentor, but most of my clients simply view me as their closest personal advisor. As their advisor my role is to serve them in the manner that will be of greatest value whether it be behind the scenes or in plain view. Over the years I have played the role of ambassador, emissary, influencer, facilitator, expediter, personal brand manager, lobbyist, buffer/shield, crisis manager, negotiator, publicist, strategist, tactician, collaborative thinker and a variety of other roles as needed. I am on call 24/7/365 and have been know to fly around the globe at a moments notice if an event merits such action or attention on my part. Bottom line…I make things happen and I get things done at the behest of my clients for the purpose of enhancing or protecting their personal and professional brand or enabling the accomplishment of anything ranging from a single task to a lifelong goal. These are the traits you want to look for in a coach and if you desire the best results I urge you not to settle for anything less than the best advisor available.
The question is not whether coaching will provide results…It is rather can you find the right coach? While my personal practice is somewhat limited in terms of the type and number of clients I work with we have other coaches that can assist you or I can provide you with referrals to other professionals outside of our firm. Regardless of how you find your advisor you should consider asking the following representative questions when evaluating a potential coach:
1. Who’s paying the coach? It is my recommendation that you personally retain the coach or use company funds that are under your discretionary control. You want someone whom you can trust implicitly and whose loyalty is pledged to you and you alone. If the coach is being paid for by the board of directors or its investors then while you will likely still receive good advice, the coach’s loyalty will reside with someone other than you.
2. Is your coach qualified? Remember that the coaching industry is full of practitioners that paid a few hundred dollars for a professional designation, but yet have little or no real experience. Make sure that your coach not only possesses a track record, but that their skill sets and competencies are relevant to your needs.
3. Does your coach have references? The best indicator of a coach’s ability to help you will be based on how he has helped others…No successful clients’ equals a coach that should be avoided.
4. What does the coach charge for his/her services? Remember, you get what you pay for…If your coach is only charging a few hundred dollars a month then that is likely representative of the caliber of advice you’ll receive. If your total annual compensation is well into the six figures then you can afford, actually you can’t not afford to retain the services of a tier-one coach.
In closing, I’ll issue an open challenge to any CEO reading this article: I can come-up with a virtually endless amount of legitimate reasons and benefits for why you should have a coach and I’ll bet you can’t come-up with a single valid reason (excuses are not reasons and don’t count) why you shouldn’t…Best wishes for continued success…