CEOs: To be Coached or not to be Coached, That is the Question

Beth Miller |

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In a survey by Right Management, 35 percent of organizations provide coaching to their CEOs. Many of these CEOs, however, are unwilling to let others know that they are being coached because there is still a stigma attached to having a coach. But whom does a CEO have to talk with that doesn’t have some sort of bias? Her direct reports will always be erring on the positive and brighter side of feedback they share with her. And for a CEO to share any uncertainties with her board can be very risky and potentially job limiting.

Yet when CEOs do admit that they have used a coach they are specific in describing the benefits their coach provided them. The top five ways CEOs benefit from coaching according to a CEO Magazine article July/August 2010 are: Development, Accountability, Credibility, Honest Feedback, and Outside Perspective. 

Development is often overlooked for CEOs. Often, they didn’t get to the top because they were standing still and not learning and growing as a professional. Just like any high achiever, CEOs want to be challenged and stretched.

Accountability is something a coach can do easier than a direct report. Coaches work with a CEO to develop a specific plan with goals and identify action steps for improvement.  Just like a teacher, they can hold a CEO accountable for specific actions and outcomes. A CEO has no one internally that can act as his or her accountability partner.

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Credibility is all about perceptions by others and often the CEO is the last person to know how she is perceived. A coach can uncover perceptions through 360 assessments and individual interviews of employees to get at the heart of employee perceptions and then develop a plan that will help change perceptions of the CEO. 

Honest Feedback is not easy to get as a CEO. A coach is a trusted advisor for a CEO and can speak the truth. When a CEO gets the full, unvarnished truth, she has the information she needs to make more informed choices and decisions about her actions and behaviors. And a coach can provide the positive feedback needed to motivate the CEO. A CEO is in the unique position of not having the support that all other employees of a company have.

Outside Perspective can be a huge advantage that a coach can provide a CEO. A CEO got to his or her position because most, if not everything they did was a success in the past.  But what worked for them then may not work for them as a CEO, as discussed in Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got you Here, Won’t Get you There. A good coach can challenge the past, question current behaviors and be a great spring board for the future. 

So if you’re a CEO/President of a company, many of these benefits probably ring true to you.  It is highly likely that a number of the benefits described above would benefit you as well. If you want to be the best you can be, take the next step and seek out a coach.  Look for my next article on how you can find one that will meet your specific needs and bring you the benefits you want and need.

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Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

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