The leadership of an organization lays the foundation for its future trajectory. Through their verbal and non-verbal actions, leaders anchor and build the culture of an organization. Great companies therefore place a strong focus on the development of their executive leadership to constantly improve and stay ahead of the curve.
The demands of the job are undoubtedly high. A leader needs to be technically competent, emotionally resilient and have a strong presence to create an impact in even the 5 minutes he gets with an employee. It is a role of contrasting abilities, requiring the leader to juggle multiple priorities simultaneously, be harsh and caring at the same time, demanding yet forgiving – extremes that a CXO is faced with daily. Couple this with volatile markets and there is a perfect storm waiting to happen.
Many a times the effects of the storm are not visible till it is too late. High stress levels lead to early burn-out, fatigue and a drop in mental alertness, potentially leading to market share loss, hampered innovation and productivity loss. Some of the changes are irreversible, making an organization lose its competitive edge in the long run. The demanding nature of the role thus creates the need for a trusted advisor that a CXO may leverage to stay sharp and grow with challenges, rather than succumbing to them. This is where a CXO coaching can help.
Coaching is a time-bound engagement between a coach and a student to help achieve a specific goal. CXO coaching is targeted exclusively at the executive leadership of an organization. It also includes expanding the potential CXO pool in an organization by working with employees at a junior level, allowing for better succession planning versus the need to hire external candidates. A typical coaching assignment is a one on one interaction lasting between 90 to 120 minutes, held once every two weeks to once every month.
A CXO coach works with the CXO to help them realize a particular goal. This may be building a specific skill such as executive presence, emotional stability, increased ownership or a business goal such as improving sales, closing a critical project etc. In some cases, a coach acts as a sounding board for the leader to distil thoughts to, focus on the most essential component of a problem and then work towards that. This allows a CXO to re-look at things from multiple perspectives in a trusted way and create impact from thereon.
Several companies use a CXO coach for helping their leaders walk through a 360-degree assessment and define actionable steps. 360-degree is a powerful feedback tool that an organization uses to help leadership listen to the organization and improve. But the exercise becomes futile if the leader overlooks critical elements, rationalizes or dismisses elements of the feedback. With time, the feedback is all but forgotten. A coach works with a CXO to walk through all elements of a feedback, ensuring the feedback is accepted as it is given and then creating an action plan. This drives a visible change in the leader and the organization sees a positive overhaul top-down, building and boosting the right organizational culture.
A coach for a CXO assignment must be unique. While there are several factors that make a good coach, there are a few distinct traits to consider for hiring a CXO coach. An obvious metric would be to look at a coach who has been a CXO in the past. While this is not a necessity and a good coach will be able to deliver results just as effective, the trust between a coach and trainee is built sooner if they happen to share similar backgrounds.
Coaching also should be set up in the right manner for it to succeed. The idea that coaching is for winners needs to be perpetuated. Some of the most impactful people use coaches. This includes sports people, business and global leaders. Having a coach should be looked upon at something of a privilege.
A good coaching intervention must also have a return on investment factor built into it. Do work the success factors at the end of the coaching and ensure there is a buy-in both from the CXO and the coach.
With this, I do hope you start a CXO coaching program in your organization the right way and reap its benefits.
Vivek Slaria is a CXO coach with Greenlatte. He works with executive leadership to help them create high impact organizations. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org