Coaching for CEOs

A sounding board is a person who brings in different perspectives and taps into the full potential of a CEO.

Leadership coaching is already a well established practice internationally. CEO coachers have an impressive list of clients that includes former GE CEO. Many companies have made coaching a core part of executive development. For instance in the US, IBM has 60 certified coaches on its role.

Now this trend seems to be catching on in India, with a number of senior corporate executives taking up CEO coaching as a profession. Many former executives are opting for global courses in coaching and certification, like the International Coach Federation, Executive Coaching Network.

Take for instance Piramal Enterprises’ group president quit (HR, IT, quality) and set up Reflexion, a CEO coaching company. For him it seemed like the most natural thing to do after his 30 year stint with major corporate companies like Marico, Asian Paints, besides the Piramals.

Head of RPG’s specialty business is undergoing training in London to be a CEO coach. In fact, RPG is funding his training. However, one usually doesn’t come to know who is coaching which CEO because of confidentiality agreements.

Part of the reason is the nature of a CEO’s job. The CEO has a very lonely job. The higher you go in the hierarchy, the greater the responsibility, greater the uncertainty, and lesser the peerage. A coach can help uncover the blind spots and tap the full potential and stay vested in the success of the individual.

Coaching is perhaps the only sound business investment that can also be positioned as a corporate perk for senior leaders. Here a CEO gets an open forum to explore challenging issues, be asked intelligent questions and throw new light on old problems.

Here are other very strong organizational reasons too. The economic Big Bang in India is forcing organizations to think differently, effectively manage change and fight competition of a very unpredictable nature. Companies across sectors are either expanding or diversifying. There is a need to accelerate results. In this frenzy, CEO tends to get misled. They may look upon their juniors / peers for support, but finally, the buck stops at the CEO. A coach assists the leader in making the right choices.

The beauty of having a coach lies in the fact that he understands enough about a client’s situation to probe essential questions, yet remains distant enough to not get enveloped within the client’s thinking. Given senior leader magnetism, this balance is often difficult to find, within people that work closely with them.

Coaches help CEOs tackle not just hardcore business themes of organizational strategy and direction, but also soft issues like gaining commitment, forging strong relationships and communicating effectively.