Stanford Survey Reveals That CEOS Want Executive Coaching

“It’s lonely at the top” appears to be truer than ever, according to a new study conducted by the Center for Leadership Development and Research at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance, and The Miles Group. Nearly two-thirds of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside coaches, yet what’s interesting is that nearly 100% of the CEOs in the survey responded that they actually enjoy process of coaching, and want it. 

CEOs recognize that it is vitally important to get the best possible counsel, independent of their board, in order to build a healthy and sustainable company.  It’s concerning to me that many of them are “going it alone,” especially since many CEOs and executives have blind spots and can dramatically improve their performance and impact with an outside perspective giving them an objective perspective.

More than 200 CEOs, board directors, and senior executives of North American public and private companies were polled in the2013 Executive Coaching Survey that Stanford University and The Miles Group conducted this spring. Additional key findings are:

·         CEOs are the ones looking to be coached – When asked “Whose decision was it for you to receive coaching?” 78% of CEOs said it was their own idea. Twenty-one percent said that coaching was the board chairman’s idea.  This means we are moving away from coaching being seen as something remedial, and it is now viewed as an opportunity to refine and improve performance, like how an elite athlete uses a coach.

·         Coaching “progress” is largely kept private – More than 60% of CEOs responded that the progress they are making in their coaching sessions is kept between themselves and their coach; only a third said that this information is shared with the board of directors. From my experience, keeping the Board updated on progress can greatly improve CEO / Board relations and send the message that the CEO “walks the talk” with ongoing development.

·         How to handle conflict ranks as highest area of concern for CEOs – When asked which is the biggest area for their own personal development, nearly 43% of CEOs rated “conflict management skills” the highest. “How to manage effectively through conflict is clearly one of the top priorities for CEOs, as they are juggling multiple constituencies every day,” says Mr. Miles. “When you are in the CEO role, most things that come to your desk only get there because there is a difficult decision to be made — which often has some level of conflict associated with it. ‘Stakeholder overload’ is a real burden for today’s CEO, who must deftly learn how to negotiate often conflicting agendas.”