Coaching the CEO (II)

A small detail that everyone in organizations tends to ignore is that there isn’t a harder job than the one of the CEO. The explanation is pretty simple: he/she is the first person in line responsible for the whole organization and from this position everybody expects to receive all the answers. Moreover, in most cases they’re the only ones who can make the hardest decisions. Therefore – the need of a special kind of coaching for the CEO.

From my coaching experience in Romania, the managers who go up the corporate ladder go up thanks to their ability of making the right decisions. And this ability is used every day. Nevertheless, the risk is high: most of the times it takes only one wrong decision to fall from the ivory tower. The reality of the business context says that a leader of a company is perceived as being ‘good’ as long as he doesn’t make one or more bad decisions. But as I know it, this couldn’t be more untrue.

Being the CEO of a company, you don’t have partners on the same level as you, not inside the business. So, where can you go for help and support? The simplest – and oddest! – thing is to place yourself in the position of asking for feedback from people reporting directly to you. Almost every CEO I’ve coached had this issue: to evolve from this double position. Because talking to your managers will only bring you subjective and biased information. Mostly in cases in which you need to confront your blind spots and the areas in which you have to add new learnings. To make it clear: your team is not in the position of keeping you responsible for your professional and personal development. Moreover, they don’t even give you real intelectual challenges!

Some CEOs make major investments in building a wide base of knowledge and a significant set of management skills until they get to this position. I’ve seen them and am still seeing them struggling to keep on learning, to get better, more efficient, more well-prepared. The paradox of this very abrupt development curve is that when they actually become directors and/or members in the management board the investment severely drops. Just as if, by getting to this level, you’ve learnt everything that there was to learn, developed and became the best version of you, for life. In this position you have to be the best than you have ever been. It’s here where you will handle the greatest influence, the biggest impact in business and, of course, confront the biggest risks.

The obvious conclusion of these two texts is that in this position you need the best coaching you can get. And this will result in increasing your performances as a CEO. The connection between you and your company’s annual figures will be obvious for everybody, for sure.

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