As the CEO, everybody looks to you for the answer to the big questions. But what happens when you need a sounding board; when you need a trusted confidant to bounce ideas off of and shine a light on potential blind spots? Where do you turn?
Your board of directors is an obvious source of advice, but you can’t truly open up to them because of potential conflicts of interest and differing roles and responsibilities.
You C-suite can help on many issues, but some decisions require an unbiased, third-party who can shoot it to you straight without fear of repercussions.
In my three decades of being an entrepreneur and CEO, my board and C-suite have shared priceless advice. But in those crucible moments when you need a trusted confidant, someone who won’t back down, someone who only has your best interests in mind, you may want to turn to one of the following for advice.
1. Other CEOs.
No one knows the unique challenges a CEO faces better than other CEOs. They know the pressure, the loneliness, and the opportunities that come with sitting in the big chair. That’s one reason why business leaders have become more willing to open up about how they do business, whether that means speaking at conferences, writing books, or talking shop on podcasts.
Any CEO who isn’t taking advantage of these resources is missing out on valuable learning. But the best CEOs also build personal relationships with other CEOs. Professional organizations like YPO and EO, which I’ve been actively involved in for many years, can be a great resource for that, but so is picking up the phone and inviting a leader you’ve cultivated a relationship with out for a cup of coffee.
Heck, one of my friends and YPO forum mates, Mohnish Pabrai, spent $650,000 to win one lunch with Warren Buffett! You don’t have to go to that extreme, but a $20 café bill could be a priceless investment in a relationship that you’ll be able to lean on when you need another executive perspective.
2. Your spouse.
Your job is hard. It’s also hard on your spouse. The long hours, the emergency weekend phone calls, the exhaustion, and the stress you don’t quite manage to unpack before you walk in the front door aren’t lost on the person closest to you.
Your spouse might not be able to tackle a cash-flow crisis as well as your CFO, but your CFO doesn’t know the full physical and emotional toll that the job can have on you. Don’t discount how important that personal perspective can be.
In many marriages, the CEO’s spouse is better equipped to judge when it’s time to unplug than the CEO is. Your spouse can also be a true lodestar when your company’s values are tested, a BS detector when you’re letting your power go to your head, and a supportive voice of reason when you just need someone to talk to.
3. A CEO Coach.
It’s common sense that having someone to whom you are accountable usually leads to better performance. But as the CEO, who holds you accountable?
If you own the company, you may have a board that you nominally report to, but for the most part, nobody’s holding your feet to the fire. This “freedom” might feel good, but it can also be destructive. Why? Because this freedom from accountability can make you blind to the truth—a truth that you brush aside until it’s too late.
A trusted advisor like a CEO coach will call you out when you’re avoiding the tough decisions. A trusted advisor will point out blind spots that you’re conveniently ignoring. A trusted advisor will be blunt with you about your leadership style while those around you cower in fear.
According to the Wall Street Journal, 71% of executives who work with a CEO coach believe that coaching improved the performance of their companies; 69% believed that coaching had improved their decision-making. And I wouldn’t be charging into my second decade as the CEO of a coaching firm if my own experience didn’t back up those numbers.
Earlier in my career as a CEO, I knew I needed an outside coach. But I didn’t just want a business coach. I wanted to work with another CEO. I wanted to learn from someone who had been in my shoes and could now look from the outside in and tell it to me straight. I needed someone to tell me when I was spouting nonsense, someone who would push me to reach my best.
The transformative impact that working with another CEO had on me and my businesses is what inspired me to found CEO Coaching International back in 2008. I’ve been a successful CEO in other businesses, but I’ve never felt the sense of purpose I feel when I wake up today. It’s not just that we’ve helped our clients’ companies grow five times faster than the national average, it’s the difference that effective coaching can make at every level of the business, and in the CEO’s life.
That’s because a coaching relationship isn’t just about improving a CEO’s performance or career. It’s about a coach and CEO working together to improve the business.
We hold our clients accountable when the company slips behind schedule on the targets they need to hit to achieve annual goals. We spend time on the ground floor so that we understand what kind of culture the CEO is growing and how it can be improved. We celebrate successes, learn from mistakes, and shine light on significant blind spots. And we help CEOs find the essential work-life integration that’s critical to sustained success.
Whom Will You Call?
As the CEO, you have to keep raising your game because as executive coach Marshall Goldsmith said, “What got you here won’t get you there.” You will have to make decisions on issues you’ve never faced before. And you’ll face challenges that everybody turns to you to solve.
To make BIG happen, you can go it alone and be the rugged individualist. You can be the tough guy or gal and think you have the answers. Or, you can reach out to that trusted confidant, that CEO coach who’s been there in the trenches where you are.
In my experience, the most successful CEOs are the ones who looked outside and found that trusted resource. They made the call. Will you?
About Mark Moses
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make Big Happen. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with the world’s top entrepreneurs, CEOs, and companies to dramatically grow their business, develop their people, and elevate their overall performance. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 500 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 25 countries. Every coach at CEO Coaching International is a former CEO or President that has made big happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $1 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight and nine figure exits. CEOs and entrepreneurs working with CEO Coaching International for three years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 66.4% during their time as a client, more than five times the national average. For more information, please visit: https://www.