Strategic CEO Coaching for Busy Executives: 6 Excuses to Avoid

By Cathy McCullough

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If you believe the adage, ‘time is money,’ then you’re saying that the concept of time (and the elapse  ceo coaching or executive coachingof that time) costs you and your company money. Therefore, maximizing that time and using it in the right way matters. Most executives don’t need to work on their literal area of business expertise (although continuous learning is important), but what many fail to recognize is that leadership, too, is a skill. The minute you became a leader, everything shifted. At that moment, you didn’t just have to do the tasks you’ve always done; now you had to also lead people to do what they do best, every single day.

If you believe that ‘time is money,’ then leadership should be taken seriously. If you think about some of the ridiculous ways you spend your time as a leader, you’ll quickly see how time is indeed passing right by you—and costing the company money. For instance: Running from one meeting to another, dealing with workplace drama, observing lackadaisical performance, watching customer satisfaction scores tank, and more…all while trying desperately to cram one more thing on your calendar.

The list could go on, but if any (or all) of the above apply to you and/or your company, then you don’t have an employee problem. You don’t even have a quality problem or a customer service problem. What you have is a leadership problem.

I admit that Executive Coaching isn’t for everyone. It’s not a road for the faint of heart. But if you’re wondering about it, then here are six reasons why you might have never allowed the thought of having an Executive Coach enter your mind.

1. You tell yourself: “I work hard; I mean really I don’t need an Executive Coach.”

(Translation: You have a really [really] strong work ethic. You work…a lot.)

No one is more productive than you—right? Time is money, and you’re definitely earning yours! And your hectic schedule shows just how hard you’re working to earn all those dollars. If this is you, then it may be time to realize that you’re mistaking your ‘busy-ness’ for productivity. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re busy doing the right things. A better question to ask is: What (and Who) is not getting your attention because you’re so…very…busy?

Great athletes work hard, too…but not all by themselves. They maximize their time by having a Coach who can expedite their progress. If you look at most athletes that have excelled, you’ll see that they’ve always had outside coaches that work alongside them to achieve higher level results. Executive Coaches are no different. They help increase your focus, your leadership stamina, and your leadership influence in a shorter time than if you try to do it alone. You just get to the finish line quicker.

Executive Coaching Reflective Questions:

  • If I could control my calendar vs. it controlling me, what difference might that make to me and to those around me?
  • How might this help me be more efficient? (And the higher-level leadership question here is, How might it help me be more effective?)
  • What might a stronger sense of discipline teach me, and what difference might that make relative to desired outcomes for the company?
  • How might I focus my words, my thoughts, and my facilitation of meetings?

2. You tell yourself: “I’m doing just fine.”

(As one recent CEO Coachee shared with me as we began working together, “I do think highly of myself and all I’m doing. I think I’m already a really good leader; I just thought a Coach might have some good insights for me because I believe in personal growth.”)

While it always helps to work with an executive that believes in personal growth, this Coachee has uncovered areas of severe pain that he’s causing for those around him. In reality, your influence may not be what you think although your intent is positive. You may not actually be living your intent. You may feel like you are accomplishing everything you’ve set out to do; your goals are crystal clear…in your own mind.

Executive Coaching Reflective Questions:

  • Might I be ‘successful’ in my own mind because I’m setting the bar too low?
  • What am I afraid of finding out if I work with an Executive Coach?
  • In what ways might testing my own personal resolve make me a more effective leader for this company?
  • What questions do I need to ask myself that I’m not asking?
  • What’s the truth about my leadership influence?
  • What does the truth tell me about my strengths?
  • Where does leadership challenge me, and what actions might I take to improve how I go about my work?
  • In what way might it be beneficial for me to challenge my own thinking?

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3. You tell yourself: “Me?...Hire an Executive Coach? Not happening.”

(Translation: You quietly tell yourself that having a Coach is a sign of weakness.)

Greatness in anything, whether in sport or music or in leadership, rarely comes because someone is born a genius. To be great at something requires a deep passion to, first of all, be ‘great,’ and second of all to be strong, to be resilient, to be steadfast. As Marshall Goldsmith notes, what got you where you currently are won’t get you where you want to go. Having a personal recognition of Goldsmith’s insight is the first sign of strength.

Executive Coaching Reflective Questions:

  • What is my leadership teaching the people around me?
  • When might I be pointing my finger at something or someone else, vs. myself?
  • What formal attention have I ever given to developing the skill of leadership?
  • Have I ever really tested my own leadership effectiveness?

4. You tell yourself: “If so-and-so would just cut the drama maybe her team would do better work!”

... or “If his team could just gel more and work cross-functionally, we wouldn’t have this problem!” or “It’s the downturn in the economy; that’s why things aren’t running so smoothly here.”

(Translation: You are, in essence, pointing the finger at someone or something other than yourself.)

Indeed, Executive Coaching is not for the faint of heart. As Jack Nicholson’s character so emphatically states in the movie, A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth!” His point: There are just times in life when we simply need the personal resolve to handle the truth. It may hurt, it may be ugly, it may bruise the ego, it might not be fair…but it’s the truth. Executive Coaching is all about helping you focus on your strengths and finding ways for you to better utilize your strengths in all that you do.

Coaching is also about helping you uncover your blind spots and helping you move past them as avenues for increasing your effectiveness. It’s about calling you out when you make a misstep; it’s about the truth around direct observations; it’s about keen insights and alternative perspectives. Instead of pointing the finger, sometimes it’s just healthy to turn your finger around and point it toward yourself, as your blind spots might be playing a role in why others aren’t getting the results you want them to get.

Executive Coaching Reflective Questions:

  • What about the frustrating people situations around me might I be playing a role in creating?
  • What, specifically, might I do to minimize workplace drama and silo mentality?
  • What truths do I think I know, and what might I not know?
  • How might I best test my own thinking around difficult business situations or circumstances?
  • What blind spots might I have, and how can I best uncover them so I can course-correct?
  • What about this company isn’t working well, and what can I/we do about it?

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5. You tell yourself: “If I’m doing something that bugs people, they’ll just tell me.”

(Translation: I’m approachable! I’m a nice person! I’m not going to bite anyone’s head off.)

Do you really think that everyone around you is going to readily walk up to you and tell you a few things you may need to hear? Really? Once again, your intent is probably good here; however, your intent isn’t what makes you a stronger business leader. The actions you take to live your intent are what make you a stronger business leader.

Executive Coaching Reflective Questions:

  • What might I be doing that intimidates people? What key factors about my presence in meetings, for instance, matter?
  • Is my intent to truly empower people, and am I really doing that?
  • What am I doing, specifically, that makes me think people will tell me when I do something obnoxious?
  • How many times in the past month has someone walked up to me and told me something I really didn’t want to hear about my actions, conduct, or behavior?
  • How often do people challenge me by telling me “no?”
  • How do I tend to react when things get tough or when someone pushes one of my psychological buttons?

6. You tell yourself: “I’d get a Coach, but it just costs too much.”

(Translation: You make excuses, whether money or time or “I’m not the problem…”, etc., for why you will not work with a Coach. To talk yourself out of it, you make your case by using all kinds of negative stories around the ROI of the Coaching process.)

As noted, time is money. But your crazy-busy schedule isn’t making money for the company either; nor is your lack of approachability (to play off of some of the prior points in this blog). The better question is: How much money might you be losing the company because you just won’t reach out, take a risk, and hire a Coach to help you do what you do…better? What opportunities may have been missed?

You’ve probably seen a saying floating around on social media that goes something like, “What if we invest a bunch of money into training our people and they leave?” and the response that follows is, “What if we don’t, and they stay?” Pity the company that has a boatload of executives that refuse to have an Executive Coach on their sidelines.

Your company sets prices for products and services, and there’s a lot of thought about what goes into your pricing formula(s). You set a fair price for the raw materials, the skill, the expertise, the time, the service, the knowledge and intellect, the design, and a litany of other considerations—and your price is what it is. Why should an Executive Coach be any different? If you get the logic about working with a Coach, then you will recognize that, “A Coach just costs too much” is nothing but an excuse.

Executive Coaching Reflective Questions:

  • What might I learn from a Coach?
  • To what strategic outcomes might having an Executive Coach hold me accountable?
  • How have I tested my leadership impact so far? How do I know what I might not know?
  • How can having an Executive Coach help me navigate through the maze of business and people quicker, faster, smarter?

So, all in all, Executive Coaching is…

  • …a waste of money if you’re not willing to change or if your ego loves the title, position, and the power of being a leader.
  • …about change. The Coaching process will take you into uncomfortable territory that will require you to modify some of your approaches, behaviors, etc. It will require you to read and think from different vantage points between sessions. It’s about action because simply put: Knowledge isn’t power; applied knowledge is power.
  • …not the same as therapy. Taking deep dives into your past to understand why you are who you are isn’t the focus. The focus is to create a Leadership Path of Progress for yourself that will allow you to achieve your future goals sooner vs later.
  • …about challenging your assumptions and how you think.
  • …about increasing your own personal power (in the right way) to solve deep-seeded business issues and challenges that are under your influence.
  • …providing yourself an enriched opportunity to learn and grow in areas that affect overall business performance (decision-making, innovation, team performance, negotiation, leading change, setting standards, strategic focus and clarity, etc.).

In short, Executive Coaching is about bottom-line business results.

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Enjoy additional blog articles about leadership development.

Additional business coaching and leadership development blog articles.
How CEOs Grow Accountable Leaders & Teams [Video]
A Leader's Template: 6 Questions to Ask in Your Next One-on-One Meeting
Employee KPI Examples: How to Measure What You Want to Move
The Five C's of Team Accountability
Strategic vs. Tactical Leaders: Which Are You? [Video]
Classic BHAG Examples
4 Easy Steps to Fix Your Weekly Staff Meetings [Video]Effective Leadership Development [Infographic]

 Photo credits: iStock by Getty Images

Cathy McCullough


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images