The CEO Dilemma
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?
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"The LSI Letter" is written by Dr. Jim Smith and the Coaching Team at Leadership Systems, Inc.