It is often assumed that once you reach the top of an executive position, you have reached your ultimate career milestone. However, the typical business leader will face immense pressure and scrutiny, and be challenged by constant decision-making and many priorities of high importance.
So why is it essential for any top business leader to have a coach or mentor as part of their role as a senior executive?
Whether you’re a CEO, Director, Manager, Executive, Business Owner, or Entrepreneur of a small, medium or large organisation, the reality is that the pressure to make the right decisions and to perform at your best is always an imminent reality and a common thread. In rapidly changing markets and shifting global trends, the margin for error is diminishing.
The business leader is typically the decision-maker, the pioneer, the risk taker, the problem solver, the person people go to for answers, as well as the person people blame if things go wrong within the organisation.
If we turn our attention specifically to CEO’s, there is a growing epidemic within the Australian corporate marketplace of underperforming CEO’s. Studies have shown that 40% of people within this role are likely to walk away from their high paid jobs within an 18 month period. This may be caused by excess pressure, volatility, scrutiny, distrust, eagerness to please, passive resistance, perfectionism, eccentricity, aloofness, and overall poor performance.
CEO’s are often plagued by excess ego, self-confidence, hubris, and the inability to effectively communicate their objectives to their team, their employees, and stakeholders, for the common good for all those involved.
So when the going gets tough, who does the CEO turn to for objective advice, guidance, mentoring, and unbiased support ? The answer may lie in an executive coach.
The Relationship between the CEO and Coach
As a business leader and executive coach, I know that being at the top can often be a very lonely experience. This feeling is commonly shared by the CEO’s I assist day to day, where they confide to me their fears, challenges, vulnerabilities, and indecisiveness when it comes to every work life at the top.
A trusted coach may be the ultimate sounding board for a CEO. A good analogy for the relationship between a CEO and his or her Coach would be for the CEO to not remove his crown, but to temporarily surrender his position in a humble manner to his coach for objective advice and help.
When this happens, the opportunity and potential for the CEO to acquire new skills, develop an insight on how to better tackle a problem at hand, and polish up their leadership style grows exponentially.
Why CEO’s Fail
Many serial entrepreneurs, TV celebrities, politicians, champion sportspeople, and other high profile individuals have a coach or mentor, so why should a CEO feel that they can do without one ?
If we also think about history, and turn our attention to great explorers or leaders like Alexander the Great, we soon uncover that Alexander himself could not have achieved his success and long term goals without the help and guidance of his close mentor – Aristotle.
Unfortunately, the demise or failure of CEO’s in today’s environment often hinges on ego and self gratification. In contrast, an organisation requires a business leader that can demonstrate character traits which are quite the opposite. This includes humility, transparency, openness to seek help, and a desire to empower others to achieve success within their roles at work. A good genuine leader is one who puts his or her people first, and will acknowledge and reward their efforts before seeking acknowledgement for their own ‘hard work’.
Another common issue is the failure of veteran or old-school CEO’s to embrace the modern day ‘millennial generation’. This emerging generation is the future of our workforce, and requires a ‘handle with care’ approach. Essentially, ‘millennials’ need leaders who respect their values, encourage innovation, embrace change, new technologies and social media, and are willing to endorse a flexible lifestyle or code of conduct within the organisation itself.
Googleis a perfect example where employees are allowed to foster and nurture their entrepreneurial ideas as ‘intrapreneurs’, as well as make ‘mistakes’ when exploring new commercially viable concepts. This in turn allows new innovative products to flourish, and for the relationship between the employee and manager to strengthen, and for the organisation to benefit overall.
The Relationship between a Coach and CEO
The success of a coach to assist a CEO hinges around a relationship built on trust, transparency, authenticity, and objectivity. It is also important for the Coach to understand the type of leadership style needed for the CEO to perform at his or best within the specific organisation or role. These leadership styles may vary from:
- Leading from the heart versus leading from the head;
- Interpersonal distance versus personal closeness;
- Approachability versus tough mindedness;
- Pragmatic and logical versus passionate and visionary;
- Empowering and entrusting versus directive and assertive;
- Pride and self-confidence versus humility and unpretentiousness;
- Personal visibility and transparency versus private persona;
- Entrepreneurially spirited versus conservative and risk averse;
The Ultimate Value of a Coach
So, even if you’re at the top of the food chain within your organisation, or you have 30 or more years of business leadership experience, the value of a Coach is undeniably essential and highly crucial for the success of any business leader.
An experienced Coach will help identify or eliminate the CEO’s blind-spots; transform their mindset to perform like a star-performer or true business ‘master’; to better handle the multi-faceted and demanding role; to see possibilities whilst others see limitations, etc. During tough times, a Coach will be there to provide an oasis of tranquillity and a platform where the CEO can voice his or her concerns and feel supported with objective and constructive criticism.