This is the next blog in my Igniting Growth Series where I capture and share some of the insights I’ve gained over my 30 years in CEO/President positions and pass on the knowledge gained from the CEOs I’ve worked with more recently in an advisory capacity. My goal is to provide simple, easy-to-implement insights/ideas to ignite success in your business.
When I initially started to work with local CEO’s, I must admit to having some concern as to how best approach the coaching & advisory world. While I had been a CEO of several companies, I did not (and do not) like the idea of focusing on coaching the CEO in isolation. In many cases, I felt I could learn as much from my client as they could learn from me, especially as it related to their specific business. I quickly realized that the key to mutual success was providing an independent and objective set of eyes and ears; creating a challenge voice into the entire management team. I discovered that to be most impactful the opportunity was in Group Coaching.
To be most helpful, I realized I needed to become actively engaged in the business, without being too intrusive. My engagement could not be a once a month interaction and could not be focused on the CEO alone. The best way I found was to engage in the executive management meeting, that was typically 2 to 3 hours each week. During these meetings, I listen…and then where appropriate make suggestions, and even push back on areas I believe can use it. At the end of each meeting, I spend time with the CEO sharing thoughts and discussing how I can help him/her achieve the best performance from his/her team. Trust is built up over time and makes the relationship with the CEO, executive team and organization stronger. It often leads to informal early morning coffees with the individual managers, getting to know one another and building a deeper trust and understanding. It’s these interactions with the managers that help me understand their viewpoint and is something I can use to help shape their relationship with the CEO. This relationship management piece has to be handled sensitively, in a manner that respects confidentiality, but also allows core messaging to be delivered to help drive better interactions and decision-making going forward. A good sense of humour is always helpful in these interactions too!
I recently read the book The Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle that captures this approach, but at a much greater magnitude. The book is about former football coach, Bill Campbell, who worked with the CEO’s of Google, Apple and others, influencing them and helping them with their management teams. The book explores the idea of building a community within the company that enjoys working with each other and challenges themselves. Captured in this book is Bill’s instrumental role to making this happen. Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, who initially pushed back on the need for a CEO Coach, sings the praises of Bill and his approach to sitting in on every executive meeting and then ‘chatting’ with the executives. Bill helped bridge differences and looked for the win-win. His clients enjoyed his somewhat irreverent but very positive style. More importantly over time, they grew as a team and of course the results of these organizations and individuals speak for themselves.
So my approach to CEO support & advisory is really all about Group Coaching. It’s all about getting the team aligned and excited to execute on organizational initiatives and recognizing that independent support to the CEO can help make this happen.