It can be lonely at the top. As a CEO or firm executive, your shoulders are burdened by huge responsibilities. This impacts your personal life, your sleep, and your feeling of accomplishment. There is risk everywhere.
Your employees have each other for collaboration, brainstorming and feedback. Do you have an honest, tell-you-what-you-need-to-know resource? Have you ever had a decision blow-up that you considered avoidable? Has this contributed to your holding back on other decisions?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had readily available resources who could answer all your questions, test all your ideas and prevent you from making decisions you regret? You would sleep like a baby, have more time to spend with your family, perfect your favorite hobby, and your accomplishment list would be “on fire”. Life would be grand.
There is a solution and I am going to share it with you. First, please allow me to share a true story of one CEO’s experience.
The Slowly Opening Gate Valve Let Loose a Deluge
The CEO, Palmer, was charismatic and a good businessman. The company had grown from 25 to 150 over five years by diversifying services to architectural and MEP. As the company grew, it needed to add higher skilled corporate positions. For instance, no longer could the senior administrative assistant cut it as an HR Manager.
Palmer hired a 30-something Harvard grad, Kenny, as our first HR director. I sat near the Palmer’s office and it seemed like Kenny was always in there. When Kenny emerged, it was not unusual for Palmer to announce to the nearest person, “Isn’t Kenny great!”
The problem was that Kenny was not great to anyone else. The talk of the office was how Kenny never seemed to have time to talk to anyone. Trying to get a benefits question answered took persistence and he was always short. For managers who needed to add staff, Kenny acted like advertising new positions was his last priority.
Yet, at every management meeting, Palmer glowed about Kenny. All he got back from his team were smiles.
Six months later, Palmer decided to convene a meeting to check the pulse of the company. He invited a cross section of employees. I was included as a younger generation representative (29 years old), and thus, I was a witness to the big surprise.
During that meeting, Palmer glowed about Kenny. He asked the group if they concurred. The person to his right, agreed, but sounded half-hearted. Same with the next two persons. When it got to the 4th person, the comment was, “He is okay but he has not always been responsive”.
It was like a slowly opening gate valve that held back the water above the Hoover Dam. Each person opened the truth valve a little more, emboldened by the prior revelation. The comments became more and more negative, until they were downright scathing. Palmer was embarrassed. He had been fooled by a “brownnoser”.
On the way to my desk I saw Palmer bring Kenny into his office. The next thing I knew, Kenny had boxed up his possessions and left. He had been fired.
Seek Input From Those Outside Your Sphere
This was all avoidable. The moral of this story is that even though the firm was growing due to the technical and sales skills of the management team, the management team and CEO were not prepared to support change to sustain growth.
The solution is so simple, yet it is underutilized. In a Harvard Business Review survey, over 80% of CEOs say they would benefit by having one or more paid advisers. Yet, only 30% do.
Why? Is it ego? Are they afraid to invest? Are they too involved in the weeds of company management and don’t see the big picture?
There is research that measured the impact advisers have on a senior leader. Assembling Your Personal Board of Advisers, an HBR article by Yan Shen, Richard D. Cotton and Kathy E. Kram, highlights that CEO’s can’t go it alone AND succeed in today’s business environment. The researchers provide an in-depth look at how to identify needs, pull together a personal board of advisers and what to do when all your needs aren’t met.
We all get advice from many sources– friends, family, books, webinars, and the media. Rarely is this tailored to you. Discussion groups abound but only safe topics get discussed and that group themselves might not have the time nor expertise to recognize and resolve your issue. Wouldn’t you benefit from a personal advocate to look out for your interests and boost your leadership impact?
Envision Your Career with an Advocate
To fully grasp what this will look and feel like, click here and I will provide you with a summary of effective approaches that you can use to boost your impact.
Don’t find yourself in Palmer’s shoes. He didn’t deserve it, and neither do you.