The no.1 problem facing most CEOs is the inability to spot their own behavioural blind-spots. By definition a blind-spot cannot be seen by yourself yet they are glaring obvious to everyone else. How often have you heard someone say “surely they must be able to see what’s going on”?
Yet CEOs have a plethora of ‘advice givers’, from consultants, board members, strategists, the senior leadership team and even family members.
However, in my view there is a distinct shortage of ‘listeners’ and ‘truth tellers’ acting as a trusted confidante with the rare ability to listen without bias, challenge with mind opening questions and help overcome fears without fear of reprisal.
Surveys indicate most of the largest companies now use coaches. However, what is little known is that the content of what CEOs and executives most often talk about in coaching sessions isn’t business strategy, but themselves.
In a survey of coaches employed by Korn Ferry, an executive search and advisory firm, self-awareness was the no. 1 topic coaches worked on with CEOs. The no.2 was interpersonal relationships, listening skills and empathy.
Many executives rise through the ranks on the strength of their technical skills, intellect, and ambition. However, once they reach the top of the organisation, they need a new set of skills to persuade and influence. Working with a trusted coach to identify blind-spots and build new capabilities is the best way to achieve this. While 360 degree and personal feedback can provide information, what’s needed is transformation and this is best achieved with an ongoing ‘safe’ coaching relationship over time.
A coaching engagement usually starts with assessment period to understand the CEOs strengths and weaknesses. The coach will often interview co-workers, and even the executive’s spouse if possible, to gather feedback.
After developing a plan to strengthen weaknesses, the coach and executive will meet once a month for several hours, ideally away from the office and its distractions.
Many CEOs and leaders I work with are under intense stress and pressure to lift performance and often also going through personal relationship issues. They often become overly reactive with employees when stressed, and react defensively when presented with challenges or feedback. Many are in danger of burnout with low energy levels. As a result, there inner circle withdraw and avoid. Its a lonely place to be. Sound familiar?
Given the complexity of human relationships, and large organisations, the ROI of a CEO with higher EQ is difficult to measure. However, the intangible benefit of a CEO who is less stressed, more approachable, receives timely feedback, creates open honest discussions, encourages innovation and retains talent is immeasurable and priceless.