Over my nearly 3 decades of leadership coaching I have had the privilege of coaching and interacting with many incredible leaders. From CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to leaders of massive non-profits making a huge difference, I’ve seen some amazing top-level leaders!
As I think back on the hundreds of hours I have spent working with CEOs, I have seen a pattern that I thought would be valuable to put down on paper and share with you. This pattern seems to present itself regardless of the size of the organization that is being led, and I see it consistently enough that my curiosity has propelled me to identify what I’ve observed.
"THE LEADER'S ABILITY TO RECEIVE DIRECTION IS OFTEN IN THE INVERSE PROPORTION TO HIS/HER ABILITY TO GIVE DIRECTION."
Now, this may not be a mind-blowing statement to you, especially if you spend much time interacting with people at the helm of your organization, but I have noticed that when I have the chance to speak with and coach CEOs, they are often the most reluctant to receive feedback, truly hear correction and accept the suggestions of others.
On the other hand, those at the top of the organization are some of the quickest to take action and set agendas for achieving goals. A quick survey of the DiSC assessment sheds some light on the typical mindset of the CEO: the “D” personality is decisive, dominant and they prefer to direct their environment. So, it is not surprising that quick-thinking, quick-acting CEOs might be hesitant to receiving instruction or direction from others, especially those who may be outside of their organization or area of expertise.
For me, this is where the “secret sauce” of the Master Coach Model really finds its home. The beauty and power of our model is that by pulling, and not pushing, the coach begins with the coachee, in this case the CEO, in the seat of the expert. They are not only closer to any specific problem that needs solving, but they are also the most likely to discover new solutions in the coaching process. When the coach has this mindset, most CEOs will feel empowered, not threatened, and can be freed up to dream and think and create the next great solution as they settle into their preferred mode of setting directions and determining outcomes.
While the title of this article is “The CEO Dilemma”, and in many cases it can describe a problematic obstacle for CEOs as they attempt to grow and develop, when I coach CEOs my goal is to leverage this mentality instead. By crafting the best questions that I can, I get to see these direction-setters move from “reluctant to receive coaching” to actually coaching themselves! In this way, I continue to be convinced that our Master Coach Model, as simple and streamlined as it is, is truly powerful in the way it frames dilemmas and problems as opportunities and chances for new solutions, even from CEOs who are hesitant to take direction.
Have you experienced this in your organization?
What have you done that works well?
What have you not tried yet that you think is worth giving a chance in the future?
One of the most frequent discussions that I have had with leaders is how to strategically develop and work on set goals. The next step, after setting some developmental goals for one’s improvement and growth is to find ways to keep the goals. The keeping of the goals, much like Jerry Seinfeld’s famous episode of “keeping a reservation”, is the hard part. To paraphrase Jerry's dilemma in our goal-setting context, "anyone can make a goal, but the keeping of the goal is the whole point of having the goal in the first place". A frequent suggestion I make is to find some intentional rhythm and accountability by the concept of FIRSTS.
FIRST OF THE DAY
Ideally, a leader would review his or her own goals in the FIRST part of the morning. Before the onslaught of meetings, phone calls, and the tyranny of the urgent overtake the calendar and divert one's attention, consider carving out a few minutes at the beginning of each day to review goals. If they are top of mind at the top of the day, there is a better chance steps will be taken to move the needle towards achieving them.
FIRST OF THE WEEK
Since this practice can be hard to do consistently for most of us, the next strategy is to review one’s goals on the FIRST day of the week, Monday. This seems far more doable and for me will forever be the day that I will most likely reach for the goals (written or electronic) and do a specific review of them. Much like the first part of the morning, dedicating time for goals on Monday can help to dictate what happens in a given week, and will make goal completion more likely.
FIRST OF THE MONTH
The next strategy is the FIRST days of the month. The days with low numbers….1st, 2nd, 3rd, … these are the key days for goal review. I have also found that these are good days for tackling the more routine aspects of life like changing filters, checking due dates and managing other calendar type reminders to keep life running smoothly. This way the filters are not neglected in the home or office for months, and the goals stay a priority even after significant time has passed.
FIRST OF THE YEAR
Finally, on should focus on the FIRST months of the Year. January and February are the best times for annual planning, reviewing previous goals and updating or creating new ones. Take some time...some significant time...to do annual plans, to mark the calendar for off days, vacation days, travel days and other key days that must be noted and planned out early for the best strategic approach. Many have found that to block out family graduations, birthdays and anniversaries is also helpful to get all “locked and loaded” early on so that family disappointments are minimized and if possible avoided altogether. The first part of the year is typically when goals are set, and thus is an ideal time to build as much structure and support around those goals as possible.
Chances are that not all of the FIRST’s will be remembered or observed, so take advantage of the ones that work for you. For me, when those low numbered days that pop up, they grab my attention and remind me to stop, take out the calendar or the phone to walk through the month. The gift that comes with this strategy is that you can be sure that life is being lived forward, well planned and intentional. The Wisdom of Firsts results in finding purposeful and joyful results and memories made, rather than a life of regret.