Why Bill Gates and Steve Jobs Had Executive Coaches

by Mark Stagen December, 11, 2019 Leadership and Management, Personal Development

Why Bill Gates and Steve Jobs Had Executive Coaches

Organizations put a lot of emphasis on growth and development when it comes to employees. There are plenty of reasons why investing in people is a good business decision, chief among them being improved performance and less turnover. Companies that help their employees learn new skills and build core competencies that enable them to be more effective in their current and future roles generally find their bottom line improving as a result. It’s hardly surprising, then, that US businesses spent almost $90 billion on training and development in 2018.All too often, however, that focus doesn’t extend to the top of the organizational chart. Whether it’s a venture-backed startup run by a young, dynamic entrepreneur or an experienced executive brought in by a corporate board to oversee an established business, CEOs are often viewed as finished products who already know everything they need to know about running a company and managing their teams.

Learning Doesn’t Stop at the Top

Most CEOs have already demonstrated an impressive array of skills and abilities in getting to where they are. However, even the most accomplished executives should always be on the lookout for areas where they can improve. The skills needed to get a new company off the ground, for instance, may not be quite as useful when it comes to building the processes and culture to carry it into the future. Change comes quickly in today’s disruptive economy, and CEOs who cling too tightly to the strategies that served them well in the past may quickly find that they’re no longer as effective.

That’s why executive coaching is a valuable tool for organizations that want to give their CEOs all the tools necessary to succeed. With a combination of coaching mentors and support through CEO peer groups, companies can help make their leading executives more adaptable, resourceful, and resilient in the face of adversity.

Setting the Tone

As the leader of an organization, a CEO plays a pivotal role in establishing culture and modeling behavior for employees. Over time, it’s not uncommon for an entire company to take on the personality of its CEO, with their attitudes and characteristics filtering down through the management structure to impact every employee. When a CEO is an effective communicator, finds ways to build consensus, and inspires people to excel, this can be a tremendous benefit.

In some cases, however, CEOs may lose sight of the influence they have over morale and engagement in their company. They become so focused on certain areas of the business that they neglect other important responsibilities like building trust and facilitating collaboration throughout the company. A CEO who thinks they already know everything they need to know is probably overlooking a key area they haven’t taken the time to develop.

The Value of Coaching

Programs that help CEOs develop their soft skills and leadership strategies have been shown to deliver substantial benefits to an organization. A global survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Association Resource Center found that the mean ROI for companies investing in leadership coaching was seven times the initial investment. 

Marc Roudebush, CEO of Inspiring Workplace, was hardly surprised by such results because of the outsized impact CEOs have on their companies: "When they are able to walk their talk, people listen and are likely to follow suit, improving the levels of enthusiasm, trust, and team effectiveness throughout a team or organization."

To get the most out of coaching, it’s important to match a CEO with someone they respect and want to learn from. These coaches or mentors should not only have a firm grasp of the relevant best practices and details of the CEO’s industry, but also be able to provide unbiased, objective feedback on the CEO’s decision-making and interactions with others.

Effective coaches can work with CEOs to establish a combination of external and internal measures to track how much progress they’re making toward their goals. Some external metrics could include finding ways to increase revenue or improve employee feedback, while internal measurements could include improving self-scoring assessments and increasing self-awareness to enhance relationships throughout the organization.

Coaching and CEO Peer Groups

One of the best ways for an executive to find a capable and willing mentor is by joining a CEO peer group. These groups expose them to a variety of veteran leaders across multiple industries who have spent time in the trenches and bring a unique combination of credibility and knowledge into a coaching relationship. Everyone there has a proven track record of success, which lends them instant credibility.

Working with a mentor within a peer group context makes it easier for CEOs to let their guard down and share their most difficult challenges in a confidential environment. Executive leadership can be a very isolating experience, so being able to interact with someone who understands what they’re going through makes it easier to build a strong relationship with a mentor or coach. 

There’s Always Room to Improve (Even at the Top)

As organizations continue to invest heavily in training and development to retain their most talented employees, they need to keep in mind that even the most experienced and well-established leaders can benefit from continuous learning. Executive coaching can not only help CEOs to remain sharply attuned to the ways their actions impact their companies, but also show them where opportunities for future growth exist. By becoming better leaders, they can find new ways to drive innovation, boost engagement, and push their organizations forward.

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