By Dr. Corrie Block
It's lonely at the top, says By Dr Corrie Block, which is why executive coaching is a non-negotiable requirement for CEOs, even more so in the 21st century.
I’ve worked with more than a hundred CEOs in my career, and one of their biggest weaknesses is not knowing what they don’t know, and not having anyone around them to help them see it. Their executive staff are reporting to them constantly, providing information that the CEO may or may not be able to quality control, and they are kept accountable at best on a 12 week cycle by a Board of Directors that often have only a single KPI: share value. So who is mentoring the CEO? Who is developing them? Who is pushing them to be sharper, faster, and to balance their power with commensurate humility. To be clear, it’s absolute hubris to think any CEO can be at their best without an Executive coach these days. Chairmen… CFOs… that goes for you too.
Think about it, every top football player has a coach. Every top politician has a coach, and more than half of Fortune 500 companies utilize Executive coaching to drive business growth. MetrixGlobal reported a 529% return on investment in Executive coaching in a Fortune 500 firm, and Manchester Inc. surveyed 100 top executives and reported an average ROI of 6 times from Executive coaching. Why does it work?
A part of the CEO’s role is to guard the alignment of the activities of the community to its values and vision. A set of values that sits on the wall but isn’t authoritative in decision making is just art. It only becomes meaningful when a leader in the community, often its CEO, holds the practices of the businesses to the fire of the corporate values and vision.
And each CEO also has to balance their decision making not only with the community standards, but also with their own. Each CEO as a person, has a personal vison for their life and a personal set of values that they cannot, and should not, waver from. It is because of those value that they rose to their position in the first place. An Executive coach helps the CEO to ensure that they are aligning their business decision making in the direction of a legacy of performance that will reveal their personal values long after they’ve left their role as CEO.
CEOs are overwhelmed with pressure. On top of their role requirements and the thousand or so uninvited interruptions they get every day, they are supposed to read 52 books a year, follow 10 weekly blogs, have at least 5 daily news sources, and read a dozen industry reports in order to stay sharp. And they still often have a family to care for, relationships to manage, and need to find time for proper rest, reflection, exercise, healthy eating, mindfulness, health care, and if there’s time at the end of all of that… fun. With only 24 hours in a day, it’s an impossible challenge. Most CEOs make devastating compromises that either injure themselves personally, or the corporate community due to lack of balance. Executive coaches are there to help achieve the right work-life balance for each CEO, and each one is different. Keeping a CEO focused on the right things in the right way is a primary task of a good Coach.
CEOs often have a 12-week accountability cycle, and 2 KPIs: Net Profit and Gross Margin. Effective CEOs develop for themselves a set of smaller, repetitive, meaningful behaviours that lead to both personal and corporate success. Warren Buffet is said to spend about 80% of his workday reading. But he also exercises, and plays the ukulele. He played a duet with Jon Bon Jovi once, for charity. And he sleeps 8 hours a night. Balance can be achieved for every CEO, and often the catalyst for this is a good Executive coach that helps to distill goals and vision into a set of strategic disciplines the lead to success. An Executive coach helps not only to define those disciplines, but also to hold the CEO accountable to them in terms of their own growth and quality of life goals.
CEOs often hire Executive coaches in order to solve current challenges, to stay sharp in their roles, or to develop a more focused career path. You can find all of your own reasons for hiring an Executive coach, and wanting to improve the quality of your work-life. The fact is, your work is taking up a third of every day of your life right now, maybe more, and you deserve the best resources around you in order to maximize your potential.
The additional benefits you are likely to experience will include productivity, quality of thought and focus, improved relationships with the board and your team members, higher job satisfaction, higher organizational commitment, and a deeper sense of purpose in your life.
If you’re the chairman of the board, you should be requiring Executive coaching for both yourself and your CEO. Having that key role in top condition will benefit the bottom line.
For these reasons I include Executive coaching in my list of strategic disciplines for high performing organizations. When you perform at your best, and you can lead your team to do the same, that’s meaningful management.
So ask yourself next time: What makes management meaningful to you in your corporate community?
Dr. Corrie Block is CEO of Paragon Consulting, providing companies innovation in leadership, strategy, corporate governance and restructuring. He is professor of Strategic Management at Monarch Business School, Switzerland, holds a masters degree in global leadership, a PhD in business administration, and arab and islamic studies, and is a certified NLP business practitioner and executive coach. He has previously also advised on restructuring family-owned firms in MENA, and provided consultancy for the World Bank and Council of Europe. He is also offering a free executive coaching session to the CEO that contacts him with the best response to the question in his article.