Late in 2019 a prominent Chief Executive Officer (CEO) called my office to discuss leadership coaching, the call if I recall went something like this. .
Nick, can you and I meet to discuss my leadership – would you be willing to meet?
Yes, came my initial response. I would love to meet.
Over the course of 4 months we spent many hours together discussing his life, career, family, values and future wishes. He had a deep healthy appreciation and view of the very essence of leading and to complement that he understood what triggered his buttons and what made him unique. He acknowledged many wonderful things in his career so far but when I asked him why did he want to engage me his response was extremely revelling of many seasoned leaders – he felt he was as he put it ‘ plateaued out’. He was starting to lose a bit of his purpose!
For context he had risen up through the ranks of a few established organisation, he had hired many good people who had over time gone onto bigger and better things, he had been mentored and coached by some exceptional leaders throughout his career, his children where heading off into ‘the real world’ and he was sitting their after a pretty successful year – energised by 2020 and the opportunities that lie ahead.
But he still had a nagging question around himself
Am I the best leader I can be?
Is my approach relevant to today
Can I carry on being a leader or
Is it time to step to one side and allow others to come through.
At the ripe young age of 54 he wanted an external coach (me) to work with him. So we set to work, our aim was simple – break down every aspect of my leadership and rebuild it……………
For those of us who have ever contemplated or stepped forward and joined a gym or fitness class, one of the very first things that the coach will do with you is to sit with you and do a number of critical assessments. The coach will run a number of tests and see what stands before him/her ‘today’, they will want to understand your previous fitness regime, you and your family health issues, your current diet along with your motivation/goals. This can be a similar experience when engaging a certified coach, I call it our foundation work.
A few years ago when training for Ironman New Zealand I got the opportunity to be a ‘guinee pig’ for the Millennium Sports Centre here in New Zealand, famous for its pedigree of athlete and coaches (a mecca for learning). A lady was writing her dissertation and she was looking into oxygen levels thought endurance sport athletes. It was mid Jan and I had recently just come off a very heavy training block (32hours + weeks) so I thought I was in pretty good shape, my body was feeling really good, my focus was on the race coming up in March and me being me thought this would be very interesting. So I agreed to meet her in her training chamber ( a room full of gadgets and screens) up in Albany on Auckland North Shore where I would be put through my paces over a few hours!
Every so often she would let me know what speed and power to ride at for the next 20mins and then stick a needle into my earlobe (and I had agreed to this….)
One thing I have developed and worked hard on as an executive coach is how you ‘give feedback’. When coaching executives, leaders and future leaders we run a number of leadership assessments as part of our foundation work. Let’s just say everyone who has ever given feedback be it through an assessment – a one-on-one meeting – to staff members annual appraise will respect and all have our special way of conducting those feedback sessions and their is nothing right or wrong but since my experience with the scientist it is important to remember how you made the person receiving this feedback ‘feel’! Let me share more……
Picture the scene if you can, We sat on a chair after my few hours of ‘HELL’ and out spat a number of pieces of papers, heaps of lines, graphs and % signs – I was ready for my feedback, all be it a tad out of breath – the wonderful lady who I was helping in her dissertation looked over very briefly the 12 or so pages, smiled – looked at me and said,
Nick you have a very small engine that is driving a very large car,
She turned away and headed out the door!!!!!
That and there was it…….. My feedback had been given to me there and then……….how do you think I was feeling?
4 years of training, early starts, late finishes – missed family events – weekend’s out for 6+ hours rides…………OMG I was nearly in tears. Those words still haunt me today, Nick you have a very small engine that is driving a very large car………just for the record I went onto race the fastest I had ever raced 🙂 Large Car My Arse!!
The reason for sharing that painful story with you relates back to the engagement with the CEO – at the very beginning we agreed that nothing would be left of the table, no stone unturned – no question or thought worked through.
The CEO could have just cruised for a few more years – collected his large pay check and huge bonus and just be happy. My experience shows me that only the real leaders take regular stock of his/her situation and is willing to do what ever it takes to continue to improve.
Like all my coaching engagements you get to know each other at a much deeper level – not just a transactional level (an important part of my values to coaching – it has to work both ways!!) When I got to understand my CEO client I said to him – have you ever done any assessments? Have you ever had constructive feedback from people who work for you and your leadership team? Have you ever really looked at these assessments and put a plan in place?
Well the short answer was No he hadn’t.
He said that in all the years of leading organisations he was mostly doing assessments on his people and not on himself but was always interested to understand more. So we discussed how my leadership assessments could be a healthy starting place. Just like joining a gym its important to get up to date and relevant assessments on you today.
Fast forwards a few months and he had undertaken 2 globally accredited leadership assessments that I use – The MLEI, CPI260 both of these online assessments gave him clarity in himself as a leader – how he felt he was as a leader. The STLI360 assessments involved 9 of his key stakeholders and coupled with his MLEI and CPI260 we were able to put a plan together. Our debrief sessions were fun, lots of emotions and a great deal of reflection – then action. What a transformation of an experienced CEO who just wanted to elevate onwards!
So what have been some of the results since our work, how is my CEO client progressing. I spoke with him recently and these were a few things he shared with me
at piece with myself (I love that…..)
It’s testament to his personal desire to look at himself – to understand what his key leadership strengths are and areas to develop. The 360 feedback was more confronting for him – he allowed himself to be open to others – good / bad. He demonstrated remarkable leadership by bringing others closer to him – much closer than anyone he said had been to him before and the rewards (more than words can say)
If you are leading a business, running a team and want to get a better handle on ‘you’ then reach out to me and lets discuss and see ways to elevate yourself.
Look after yourself and each other,
Nick Roud – Coach
‘Unleash Your Most Authentic-Self’
About Nick Roud
Nick is a Master Certified Executive Coach and is one of the Top 3 executive coaches in the world on Intelligent Leadership Executive Coaching. Nick partners professionals in their leadership and careers. More information on working with Nick can be found here