In my National Post articles, Top Dogs are Lonely,The Second Fastest Growing Profession and The Seven Deadly Habits of CEOs, I outlined what is now common practice for CEOs--hiring a personal executive coach--and how that helps them perform better.

In executive coach John Agno's blog article, Why Every CEO Needs a Coach, he argues that "every CEO is 'on the stage' for the majority of his or her work life but needs pre-performance quiet and confidential time to be creative, bounce their ideas off someone in a same environment and explore the unintended consequences of future actions."

Agno goes on to quote Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google, who said that his best advice to new CEOs was "have a coach." Schmidt goes on to say "once I realized I coud trust him (the coach) and that he could help me with perspective, I decided this was a great idea..."

Mike Myatt says in his article, The Benefits of a Top CEO Coach, "Executives who rise to the C-suite do so largely based upon their ability to consistently make sound decisions. However while it may take years of solid decision making to reach the boardroom it often times only takes one bad decision to fall from the ivory tower. The reality is that in today’s competitive business world an executive is only as good as his/her last decision, or their ability to stay ahead of contemporaries and competitors." Today’s president or CEO faces more pressures than ever. Business leaders are dealing with rapidly changing markets, technologies and workforces, increased financial and legal scrutiny . . . and more. Top executives who feel that they can handle it all by themselves are more likely to burn out, make poor decisions or make no decisions – potentially resulting in significant loss of opportunities, human resources and financial resources.

The best CEO coaches offer more than mere crisis counseling, functioning instead like a personal trainer in a gym. Their principle mission is to keep CEO clients healthy, alert, positive and operating at the top of their game. But it's not a role that just anyone can play. Though directors can help with specific situation-based advice and may even be personally capable of coaching, it is really not their role to get personally involved in the details of a CEO' s job. If they did, they could not maintain objectivity when considering company performance issues.

When a board decides to move ahead and bring a CEO coach in, how should it proceed? Should a board hire such a coach or should it get its CEO to do the hiring? While CEO coaches are retained in various ways, the most effective way is for the board to tell its CEO they'd like him to search out a coach for himself. They should discuss with the CEO why they think coaching would be valuable and then talk through characteristics they would like the coach to have. Beyond that, the CEO should be turned loose and allowed to choose their own coach, and it's typical practice for the CEO coach's services to be built in to the CEO's compensation agreement.

CEO or executive coaches are now commonplace in organizations because CEOs recognize the demands and stress of the job require it. Smart CEOs understand their longevity and success may depend on a dynamic and productive partnership with a coach.


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