Reaching Peak Performance as a CEO: Part One

Mention executive coaching and some CEOs metaphorically run from the room, or switch to hearing “blah, blah, blah”….

Yet a growing number are recognising the advantages.

True executive coaching is not mentoring, consulting or training – all of which may have a place in a CEO’s support network.

It is certainly not therapy, life coaching, or “new age” – there are excellent business reasons for a CEO to utilise executive coaching for themselves and their management team.

The chairman of Virgin Active and a former CEO of Alliance Boots, Richard Baker, says: “One of the best things that happened to me was to get a coach. I think it’s been massively helpful. When the waves were breaking over me, I got a coach. As a CEO the idea you can do it on your own is extraordinarily arrogant.” (The New Secrets of CEOs, Tappin & Cave)

International studies show more than 60% of ASX 200 companies and 55% of FTSE 100 CEOs use coaching, with an even higher number recommending it to their teams.

Creating People Advantage 2010 (BCG) rated coaching more effective than internal executive development programs, mentoring, cross functional assignments and tailored career tracks.

At its essence, executive coaching facilitates or enables change through self-directed learning and the achievement of insight.

The best executive coaching is highly structured, professionally delivered and provides tangible, solution-focused results while providing the support needed to stretch the participant to reach higher goals within their business and career.

It has elements drawn from the study of change, positive psychology, systems and learning theory together with more recent neuroscience research.

Coaching is not about under-performance

In the early days, there was the misconception that coaching should be categorised as a support service to be relegated to the lower management levels or underperformers – this is no longer the case.

Nor is it only of benefit to large, global organisations.

I would see it as enabling high achievers to reach peak performance at CEO level.

When you are operating in a highly competitive environment requiring exceptional leadership, academic achievement and operational success, this may now be the competitive difference between yourself and the CEO standing next to you.

Providing coaching support to executives to facilitate change is often embedded into our performance improvement and turnaround engagements – it facilitates sustainable change.

For example in high stress business situations, like turnaround, coaching can be utilised to support the “soft skills” the CEO will need to guide his or her team; or in business transformation where sustainable change is required.

Another area in which our clients utilise coaching is where business owners are transitioning from CEO roles to board appointments.

In my next post, I’ll outline the key benefits of executive coaching and talk about how to find the best coach to suit your individual needs.

Feel free to share with us your experiences with executive coaching, in the comments section below.

Michael Fingland, Executive Director of national business transformation and turnaround firm Vantage Performance, was awarded Australasian Turnaround Professional of the Year 2011 by the Turnaround Management Association, for his work with fast growth and troubled companies.

Susan Morgan is a former Director of Vantage Performance and specialises in executive decision support including strategic planning, facilitation, transition and coaching.

This blog is adapted from a column by Michael Fingland that first appeared in The CEO Magazine September 2012 edition.

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