Don’t Be a Lonely Loner!

Accountability Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: Our commitment to continuous self-learning is fundamental to the depth and progress of our personal development. But self-learning is not just an individual process. We all can accelerate our personal learning from intentionally embracing others as coaches and teachers. Even the biggest CEOs, by most measures at the top of a career ladder, can benefit from coaching. In fact the very best ones I know are relentless at trying to “get better” by relying on feedback and guidance from others. See the following:

“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 (CLDR) at the 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 consultants or coaches, and almost half of senior executives are not receiving any either, the survey reveals.

“What’s interesting is that nearly 100 percent of CEOs in the survey responded that they actually enjoy the process of receiving coaching and leadership advice, so there is real opportunity for companies to fill in that gap,” says David F. Larcker, who led the research team and is James Irvin Miller Professor of Accounting and Morgan Stanley Director of CLDR at Stanford GSB.

“Given how vitally important it is for the CEO to be getting the best possible counsel, independent of their board, in order to maintain the health of the corporation, it’s concerning that so many of them are ‘going it alone,’” says Stephen Miles, CEO of The Miles Group. “Even the best-of-the-best CEOs have their blind spots and can dramatically improve their performance with an outside perspective weighing in.”

Wow! 2/3 of CEOs do NOT get coaching and 1/2 of senior executives don’t either. This resonates with my experience and I can attest that most so called company “performance management “processes are weak, bureaucratic, and often demotivating systems. It is not only lonely at the top. People at ALL levels are often “lonely” for meaningful feedback and coaching. What can we do about it?

Character Moves:

  1. Do not wait or depend on the normal top down coaching from your boss. If you have a great leader that deeply cares about you and has the skills to coach you on both competence (job skill) and behavioral (emotional/social) levels, enjoy the ride. The next boss may not measure up. So commit to building and adding your own personal development system to supplement the on going organization experience. Do you have a coaching system to help you? Or are you going it alone?
  2. Consider the following or some combination there of: A. Find three or four diverse people you really want to learn from and invest in them so they will invest in you. This doesn’t have to be a big formal process but it needs to be intentional. Ask lots of key questions and really listen to their insights. (Keep a journal if you can build the habit). B. If you can afford it, invest in a life/career personal coach. The best are certified and have great references. If you can invest in a personal fitness trainer you might do the same for your personal development. As an example, check out Trent Pearce. C. Try the simple feed forward process the renowned CEO coach, Marshall Goldsmith, espouses: Ask three or four respected colleagues to help you identify just one or two things you might do to improve. Pick one challenge and get progress feedback. As an example, I know one leader who, after applying a similar process, is going to really work at asking more questions in meetings before weighing in with opinions. Focusing and working at that one small but important thing will make her much more effective as a listener and leader.

Not alone in the Triangle,