8 Coaching Skills Every CEO Should Master

Great CEOs are great coaches. Whether they run big corporate beasts or smart small companies, CEOs only deliver by growing the mindsets, capabilities and ambitions of the people around them. 

CEOs alone are nothing. By coaching those around them to be winners, they become game changers. So, what are the coaching skills that every CEO should master?

1. Big goals are only achieved through everyday actions

The CEO may set the lofty vision – the big, hairy, audacious goal (BHAG) – but it will only be achieved by focussing the people around them on the everyday actions which are needed to get there. We are daunted when we look at the mountain top.  Whether it’s a change in culture or a shift in strategy, you’ll only move towards it through many small steps. Focus your coaching on encouraging others to form new habits. By consistently taking action you will advance towards the big goals in your business. 

2. Coach, don’t tell

Coaching is all about helping people to discover what they need to do in order to move towards the big goal. This is far more effective than commanding someone to do something. Encouraging self-discovery makes coaching powerful and differentiates it from mentoring. Remember, if you give someone a fish, you feed them for a day. If you coach someone to fish, you feed them for a lifetime. 

3. True meaning is in the subconscious

Most people aren’t aware of what they are doing, never mind why they are doing it. So many are living their professional and personal lives in the 10% of their conscious awareness. They are blissfully unaware of many things, including their impact on others. Highly skilled CEO coaching means diving below the tip of the iceberg to help colleagues understand what’s really going on. This is key to unlocking improved performance and to discovering the behaviours which are blocking advancement. Asking critical questions and going deeper with the answers is at the heart of the effective CEO coach. 

4. We are all products of our past

In corporate life, we often shy away from the personal with our colleagues. But the truth is, the way people behave in professional life, especially in stressful situations, is hugely conditioned by our past. Our life experience, especially in our much younger days, holds the key to who we are today and how we respond when challenged. The effective CEO coach needs to uncover the past to discover how people can advance in the present. 

5. There is a rationale for every human act

But it is often not what we see immediately on the surface. As a CEO coach, consider what’s really going on. Don’t be seduced by what you see at first. Deploy lashings of fair-minded scepticism.  

6. Recognise differences

Don’t coach people by comparing them to what you would have done in that same situation. Coaching is NOT about you. Recognise differences in your coaching. Understand that others may have different, but equally powerful, values. It is these differences which prevent groupthink and often provide game-changing innovation and smart solutions to intractable problems.

7. All data is evidence

Some of the smallest things which our colleagues do can often be powerful evidence and data which can unlock the way to self-development. Watch closely from body language to small social interactions to gain greater insight.

8. Be kind

See the whole person in front of you. Our private lives and our professional lives are one and the same thing. The pandemic taught us that. We are not two people. We are the one person intertwining home and work. As a coach, the CEO must set an example in helping colleagues confront wellbeing, mental and physical health, work-life balance and the many other things which help us live a balanced and fulfilled existence. The CEO coach is a critical and supportive Sherpa in life. Kindness and compassion are gold dust in engagement, motivation and inspiration.

At Black Isle Group we use coaching to challenge ourselves as well as to help our clients. Through that process we have come to what may be a rather surprising conclusion – much of the money big corporations spend on people-development is wasted. That’s because we believe that, so often, we just leave the learning in the room or when the coaching session ends. We don’t turn it into the everyday actions which deliver the changed behaviours which, in turn, deliver the big goals.

Our focus is now on how to help CEOs and their teams win every day. To do that we work with teams in ten-week sprints combining coaching with our innovative Nudge technology. This methodology is delivering remarkable results for individuals and for teams – creating new habits and rapidly accelerating businesses towards their big, hairy, audacious goals. 

We believe this approach marks a crucial difference in how CEOs should deploy powerful coaching in their business. It also creates that ironclad link between coaching and clear business objectives, helping the growth of people in tandem with the goals of the company.

The challenges across the corporate landscape are pretty breath-taking wherever you look.  Burning platforms fill the horizon. This next period provides an unprecedented time for coaching to not only prove its value but to prove it’s essential to the success of businesses and those who lead within them.

CEOs who master the skills of coaching in a way that focuses their colleagues on everyday actions will be the game changers.

About the author: Jeremy Campbell is a people and business transformation expert, and CEO of Black Isle Group.

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