Whether you’re new to the CEO seat or you’ve been there for a while, the complexity of managing the business strategy, dealing with critical operational issues, and providing a positive working environment can be daunting on any given day.
As a CEO, the buck ultimately stops with you, and that’s a great responsibility for anyone to take on. On a good day, the job is exciting and rewarding. And on a tough day, it can be simply exhausting and demoralizing.
So, how do you maintain the right mindset on those days that threaten to overwhelm you? Good coaching can provide you with the coping skills to overcome adversity and maintain a steady keel for you personally and for the organization. Here’s how coaching can complement your skills and expertise.
The pace of work has changed dramatically over the last 2 decades, with technology providing 24/7 access to people, and the pull to respond to every issue right away. When you add to that the expectations we put on ourselves as the captain helming the ship, it’s easy to slip into a mindset of being central to every task, project, and crisis. This can make it difficult to remove yourself from situations and allow others to manage them, or to recognize that your opinion isn’t actually required in every situation, even sometimes on the big ones.
When you allow yourself to fall into the habit of being so hands-on, you not only miss the opportunity to allow your senior leaders to take their rightful responsibilities, but you also thwart the development of leadership skills in your entry- and mid-level managers. Perhaps even more critically, however, you position yourself to be unable to ever step away for your family or your own outside interests. As a CEO, you should be able to feel comfortable leaving your senior executives in charge while you travel to a remote location out of cell phone range. If you can’t do that comfortably, then your work style, your senior leadership, or both, need to be closely examined and addressed. CEO coaching is ideal for working through those types of issues and putting your organization on a path of maximum effectiveness.
Additionally, an executive coach can help you make incremental changes to your work and life, allowing you to regularly leave the office on time, attend family events that are important to you, and turn your phone off so you can be “in the moment” with your loved ones. These behaviors have been shown to increase productivity and improve attitudes, and by modeling this for your team and allowing them to make the same choices, you will likely see those benefits in your team members as well as greater staff retention and fewer sick days taken.
For many CEOs, the most valuable aspect of a coaching engagement is the outside perspective offered from someone who has similar experiences. Even if you have top-notch senior leaders who have fantastic insights and amazing business acumen, they, like you, are influenced by their immersion in the organization. They may see things through a subjective lens, have difficulty objectively evaluating the behaviors and performance of the team members involved, and be unable to come up with creative solutions outside of what the company has always done. CEO Mentor Tom Brewer makes it a point to tell his coaching clients that he is neither “a stakeholder or paymaster,” which frees him up to be truthful and authentic. He uses his global business experience to provide innovative ideas to his clients.
An executive-level coach can provide direction born of experience. They can bring in lessons about what has worked in other industries and larger or smaller organizations, and they can highlight where you are in danger of missing critical considerations. They can help you see where you should leave issues to your senior leaders and where (and how!) you need to step in. Their insights can provide you a “safety net” of sorts, offering different ideas and approaches born of hard-won experience.
There’s a reason coaches work. As a CEO, you have a great deal of power, which, hopefully, means that your team trusts your leadership and your direction and willingly executes on your vision. The danger of that, however, is that they may not always question your thinking, and you might be missing the opportunity to explain or even defend your ideas. While certainly not a productive way to spend every day, being required to go into that level of detail means you will likely uncover things you hadn’t thought of before. Engaging in this process with your coach can help you anticipate difficulties and create contingency plans to deal with them. They can poke holes in your approach, help you understand how it might be perceived by others, and create action plans to mitigate risks and maximize results.
Part of an executive coach’s job is to ask tough questions and challenge you to thoroughly examine not just your thinking but your motives. They will ask not just “Why?” but “Why not?”. In the coaching engagement, you give them permission to identify and help you see your own faults and to call them like they see them. This level of trust enables them to be kindly but brutally honest and to help you overcome your challenges. They will also point out where you shine and help you capitalize on those abilities to best lead your team.
CEOs rely heavily on their senior executives, and they might not always have the most accurate read of those team members. Whether they “inherited” those leaders or “grew up” in the organization with them, they sometimes have a fondness or connection to those people that keeps them from seeing flaws or more often prevents them from understanding the impact those flaws have on the organization. CEO coaching enables you to objectively evaluate the talents and performance of your senior executives. This process helps you figure out not only if you have someone in the role who you shouldn’t but also if there are those whose abilities are currently underutilized. It can help you determine where leadership development is needed and get your team to a place where everyone is working to potential and fulfillment. You can see how Tarbell Management Group applied these principles to make strategic leadership shifts and improve the quality of life not just for the CEO but also for the team.
Whether you’re facing tough decisions or don’t know what the next step is, our CEO Mentor Team is here to help you lead your organization in the best way possible. Visit our CEO Mentor page to meet our mentors and find out how they can help you build a positive and lasting legacy as a CEO.