Why CEO’s really want to get coached (and Boards…

“It’s lonely at the top” appears to be truer than ever. A 2013 study conducted by the Center for Leadership Development and Research at Stanford Graduate School of Business demonstrated that nearly two-thirds of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches (dito for almost half of senior executives).

Interesting is that nearly 100% of CEOs in the survey responded that they actually enjoy the process of receiving coaching and leadership advice.

To me it’s eerie to see that CxO’s are left in the dark when it comes to uncovering their own blind spots. How can they ensure they deliver a continuous top-notch performance, time and again?

Some key findings from the survey include:

  • Shortage of advice at the top. Nearly 66% of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, while 100% of them stated that they are receptive to making changes based on feedback. Nearly 80% of directors said that their CEO is receptive to coaching. (side note for European readers: “directors” are “board members”)
  • CEOs are the ones looking to be coached. When asked “Whose decision was it for you to receive coaching?” 78% of CEOs said it was their own idea. Twenty-one (21) percent said that coaching was the board chairman’s idea. This highlights that we are moving away from coaching being perceived as ‘remedial’ to where it should be: something that improves performance, similar to how elite athletes use a coach.
  • Coaching “progress” is largely kept private. More than 60% of CEOs responded that the progress they are making in their coaching sessions is kept between themselves and their coach; only a third said that this information is shared with the board of directors. Although much of the coaching discussion should be treated confidentially keeping the board informed of progress can improve CEO/board relations.
  • How to handle conflict ranks as highest area of concern for CEOs. When asked which is the biggest area for their own personal development, nearly 43% of CEOs rated “conflict management skills” the highest. Managing effectively through conflict is clearly one of the top priorities for CEOs. After all, when you are in the CEO role, most things that come to your desk only get there because there is a difficult decision to be made — which often has some level of conflict associated with it.
  • Boards are eager for CEOs to improve talent development. The top two areas board directors say their CEOs need to work on are “mentoring skills/developing internal talent” and “sharing leadership/delegation skills.” The high ranking of these areas among board respondents shows a real recognition of the importance of the talent pool. Today, boards are placing a keener focus on succession planning and people development, and are challenging their CEOs to keep this front and center.

Top areas that CEOs use coaching to improve. Sharing leadership and delegation, conflict management, team building, and mentoring. Bottom of the list: motivational skills, compassion/empathy, and persuasion skills. A lot of people steer away from coaching some of the less tangible skills because they are uncomfortable with touching on these areas or really don’t have the capability to do it. These skills are more nuanced and actually more difficult to coach because many people are more sensitive about these areas. However, when combined with the ‘harder’ skills, improving a CEO’s ability to motivate and inspire can really make a difference in his or her overall effectiveness. This is also where co-active coaching makes a real difference: action orientation from a grounded perspective.

The full report can be viewed here

Curious to find out to what extent co-active coaching can bring to your company? Give it a try, call for a free consultation! I’ll be having your back.