How to Coach Star CEOs
NEW YORK, Nov. 28, 2012
NEW YORK, Nov. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --"When you look at the top players in
any field – whether it's the NFL or politics, tennis or business – even the
'best of the best' can dramatically improve his or her performance with
coaching," says Stephen Miles, an advisor to chief executive officers of top
global corporations and founder and CEO of The Miles Group.
"For CEOs, there is no off-season," says Mr. Miles. "They need to constantly
quarterback multiple constituencies as well as communicate effectively with
their boards, and these interactions can challenge even the most talented
corporate chiefs. A CEO may be a brilliant creative mind or strategic thinker
– but may need coaching to improve their board relations or boost their
effectiveness as a corporate leader."
Mr. Miles, who is brought in by boards to help refine leadership styles of
sitting CEOs or assist in onboarding new chief executives, explains that
feedback at the top can be elusive. "When you reach a certain level, there are
many fewer people giving you advice – especially inside the company. But even
the most talented CEOs have their blind spots, and can use constructive
feedback to leverage an already-gifted mind."
Having worked with some of the world's top business leaders, Mr. Miles has
advice for those surrounding CEOs – including their boards – on how to best
navigate the delicate path of coaching high-performers.
5 Tips for Coaching Star CEOs (Plus One Work-Around)
1.Establish credibility. "Genius leaders don't want to work with just
anyone, and they will balk at a cookie-cutter approach to coaching. To
influence this person, you have to have content credibility that is
established through your experiences and track record. You can't waste
their time by getting up to speed on their time, so you must go into the
situation knowing the circumstances and context. Once you are 'in' with
the CEO, and become one of his or her trusted advisors, the impact of your
work together multiplies geometrically."
2.Understand what you can change – and what you can't. "One of the first
things I hear when I am in the boardroom discussing a potential CEO
coaching engagement is that 'the CEO is not really that coachable.' And
the fact is, I am not going to change someone's foundational leadership
style. What we can change is to add range to their style that they can
apply to different situations. For example, a CEO may require a more
facilitative approach when he or she is leading a brainstorming session
with a team, but a more directive approach in a situation where a decision
has been made and the focus is on the 'how,' not the 'what.' CEOs need a
broad range of styles at their disposal so that they can increase their
overall effectiveness tremendously."
3.Focus on improving performance vs. fixing what is broken. "There is often
an education process that starts when approaching the coachee – that this
is high-performance coaching, not remediation. This is not the time to put
up the mirror and describe in gory detail all the things that are wrong
with them. Like Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison, most geniuses have extreme
behaviors, many of which may have contributed to their business success.
So coaching these leaders requires focusing on the one or two areas that
really will make a difference in improving their leadership
4.Pay homage. "Let's face it, CEOs are human, and every human being has an
ego. Even a brilliant CEO – or maybe especially a brilliant CEO – needs
you to understand what they are good at. By affirming who they are and
understanding their specific situation in detail, you can begin to gain
their trust and influence their behavior."
5.Be gradual. "While some CEOs might be a bit resistant to change, an
equally problematic issue may be the type-A CEO who wants to change too
quickly. He or she may want to be the 2.0 version the very next day, and
this can be a catastrophic error. If CEOs try to implement their new
'style' before they are ready and have a bad experience, they will never
try it again and often will retrench even further into their old form. The
key is to practice adding range to their style, first through role play
and then gradually in safe environments, while over time adding to their
skill level and adding to the degree of difficulty. As they reinforce the
new behaviors in increasingly difficult environments, they build their own
confidence with the approach and eventually it becomes part of their
The work-around: bring in the CEO's "right hand man." "For leaders who are
truly uncoachable, you have to improvise. There are individuals like Steve
Jobs who are genius but are highly unlikely to be changed through any type of
coaching. In these situations, we can use organizational design and
complementary leaders to enhance the overall genius. Apple installed the Chief
Operating Officer role and recruited Tim Cook to come into the company and
complement their genius founder and CEO, which he did remarkably well. This
allowed Steve to focus on what he liked to do and Tim did everything else,
allowing the entire system to function at a much higher and more effective
"When the CEO starts to 'get it,' the coaching process can have significant
returns for the company and tremendously help the CEO himself or herself,"
says Mr. Miles. "We can see a CEO's relationship with his or her board
absolutely transform. As UCLA coach John Wooden said, 'it is what you learn
after you know it all that counts.'"
Named by Bloomberg Businessweek as "the rising star of CEO consulting,"
Stephen A. Miles is the founder and CEO of The Miles Group, which develops
talent strategies for organizations, cultivates high-performing individuals
and teams, and ensures effective leadership transitions through readiness
coaching and succession.
To speak with Stephen Miles, please contact Suzanne Oaks or Davia Temin of
Temin and Company at 212-588-8788 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOURCE The Miles Group
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