Coaching at the top

Man On Mountain TopI was recently at a talk organized by Cambridge Network where Louise Makin was presenting her 4 years at BTG and the great transformation she managed to undertake in this company.  The first part of the presentation was factual: the company was financially in a very bad shape when she was first offered the position of CEO and she managed to lead a deep transformation in the culture and running of the company itself. A heterogeneous group of different business models and modus operandi that was carrying over £30M of losses in 2004 became a successful money making organization in 2008 when the company managed to acquire Protherics and it is now in a very strong position with £60M in the bank.  While the presentation continued into the more human aspects of running the company Ms Makin explained the continuous difficulty of running a public company where every decision has to be communicated to the market that ultimately will take decisions about buying or selling shares in the company.  She also made a great analogy in choosing the right team between the day to day running of a company with the aim to succeed and being part of an endurance sailing and running race.

She described how at the beginning decisions were tough:  redundancies were unavoidable and causing low morale. As the strategic plan proceeded it was obvious that the strong management team she put together had the right attitude and determination to succeed.  I found interesting her definition for these people is of being great givers: people that were and are truly interested in giving to the company energy, skills and full dedication without necessarily measuring their personal return.

Several times she mentioned her loneliness in running a large organization and the difficulty of sharing her doubts and insights in an environment where uncertainty can surely cause panic and instability to the market.

In my experience, once you make it to the top of an organization, you tend to share similar feelings and experiences, a great analogy to when you climb a mountain on your own.  You get to the top and, as you look around, you realise you are alone.  Many people, particularly those that report directly to you tend to assume you have something extra and they expect that extra from you, all the time.  You do not or cannot share with them your doubts and uncertainties and the pressure on you keeps growing.

In a situation like the one described above an Executive Coach can help a CEO or a top executive in their decision process, acting as a sounding board, a trusted person that can truly facilitate the decision process of the executive being coached while maintaining total confidentiality.  The main task for the coach is to ask questions, powerful open ended questions, without offering any input, suggestion or advice.  Coaching can make a big difference in the way you as the executive are running your business: best results are achieved when the coach manages to stay out of the content, that is the day to day drama, the decisions, the workload and source of stress and concentrates on the process, the coaching process of getting you toward your business goals.

Does it sound too abstract? Try it to believe it.

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This post was written by massimo on 10 March 2009

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