In the corporate food chain the higher up one climbs the more lonely it becomes. At the very top life can be very lonely. “Lonely” not so much in the sense of not being around people. Indeed, the CEO, President and Chairman will find themselves constantly around people. Everybody wants to communicate to them. Access to Number One is a peak experience for the average person, a badge of honor, something about which to brag.
Life at the top and near the top is lonely in the sense that there are no peers. When a person of power has no equal they have become isolated from anyone to be real with day in and day out. In the corporate world and in the organization world this means that all the interactions with people become roles to play. Oftentimes these roles are forced upon top management and often enough are not even accurate.
“The Boss” can include the roles of public relations stance, chief spokesperson, the one who encourages everyone else, chief negotiator, master strategist, leader of the Board, security blanket for members or stockholders, the face of the company to the public, the peacemaker, the visionary, and so on with nearly any function others insist upon. For example, the press can simply state that a CEO is the spokesperson when reporting words from the CEO. Workers can simply decide that the upper management executives are the ones responsible for the company’s policy whether they are or not. The workers will then relate to upper management as policymakers, holding them accountable for policies even when they did not make the policies or in fact might be opposed to the policies.
When top echelon management executives are reduced to role playing they dare not be real with one another for lack of trust. The politics of the situation dictate the roles: work as part of the team but keep one’s thoughts to one’s self. Just focus on assigned tasks and responsibilities. Be careful not to furnish ammunition for someone who might be after your job. When the CEO wants to know from a VP whether it would be wise for the company to market a newly developed product the reply may be influenced by considerations of who gets blamed if the product flops.
When a company’s top executive or executive management team begin to match the description of being isolated and low on trust the company is in trouble. It might take a long time for the management to get to such a state but once the isolation sets in and trust breaks down the descent into disaster will follow much more quickly that it took to create the conditions for disaster. Therein lies a reason for executive coaching. Executive coaching can be quick, to the point and timely. When a key executive needs to talk out loud and nobody in the company is “safe” then enter the executive coach. If, as a result of thinking out loud with an executive coach, that one executive can get the situation figured out and provide the leadership needed to turn things around, the executive coach has done a great service.
The coach is the “backyard fence” that characterized American neighborhoods not so long ago. When people talked over the backyard fence they were on equal footing. They talked and they listened. Experience was shared and at least some wisdom was gleaned. The backyard fence provided a way for people to recompose themselves, get some perspective, talk it out without needing to worry that their words would be used to get them fired or passed over for promotion.
The executives of America have precious few backyard fences left. There used to be taverns at which folks talked things over. Taverns were for visiting more so than for drinking, reflected in the TV series, Cheers. Then there was also the bowling alley. Hardly anyone has time for bowling alleys and bowling leagues any more, especially not executives. And there was the after-church socializing for the rest of the day. And there were neighborhood ballgames for adults. Now there are no neighborhoods and the adults come as spectators to watch children play. Once upon a time children came to watch adults play.
Executives must lead, no matter whether they want to or not. With 23 million businesses in the United States it is safe to assume that quite a large number of executives would appreciate more support and assistance in learning how to lead. That, in a nutshell, is the case for executive coaching and executive leadership training seminars: opportunities designed for persons who must lead but have only little time to learn and grow into their roles and responsibilities.
Losoncy is a licensed therapist, an executive coach and president of three corporations. To learn more about his services and availability please go to http://www.mvpseminars.com
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