CEO Coaching — Firing a Client

Big Red Car here. The summer has settled in and it is a nice hot one, y’all. I took a nice ride yesterday and it was steamy. I just got a new set of tires and I was cruising.

So The Boss was talking to me about the CEO coaching business. He gets a lot of calls and he has had some clients for almost three years now.

Not long ago, he fired a client. What? Firing a client?

A victim of success

This particular client was a very smart and brilliant CEO. His performance was extraordinary — spectacular — as measured by his sales. He was also a good guy. Great guy.

At first, he was attentive and diligent in his coaching sessions. He and The Boss would visit via Skype religiously. He made great progress and you could map it and see his personal development. He invested a lot of energy in building his company. You could see his progress and feel his confidence growing.

The Boss takes notes of every session and with this particular client often used to follow up with a written memo to expand on what they had spoken about.

After some outstanding success, the solution of some substantial issues, the re-orientation of the company, the alignment of the management, and some real progress — the CEO became a bit busy and hard to make contact with.

The time between sessions began to expand and the CEO seemed overwhelmed with the expanded duties of his office. He complained constantly of not having enough time. He was really working his ass off.

In many ways, this was the logical outgrowth of his success. His company was substantially bigger and more challenging than when he began the relationship. The CEO also had some spectacular personal developments on the home front. All good things.

When it was clear the CEO was unable to fit the relationship into his newly ordered priorities, The Boss terminated the relationship.

Investing your energy

A good coaching relationship requires an investment of time and energy. The value of any relationship is based on the invested energy. It is a two way street.

CEO coaching is not a pill that makes your problems go away; it is a professional endeavor that allows you to plan, organize, educate, execute, and get honest feedback.

When you are working with someone who has 33 years experience as a CEO you will get some useful advice but mostly your CEO coach is going to assist you in finding the right place within yourself wherein the solution already exists. It is a journey of self-discovery.

That begs the question just a little because an experienced CEO can shortcut many of your problems and in the instance of The Boss you can probably get him to share an exemplar or ten about some subject which will save you a lot of time and expense. He’s got a lot of exemplars and shares them freely.

This particular CEO re-aligned the efforts of his management team by reviewing his Vision, Mission, Strategy, Tactics, Objectives, Values and Culture and then conducting a series of off site meetings to ensure his team was aligned around these mission critical planning tools. He did the work but the work was organized in a manner that it was easy and effective for him to do it. He did a brilliant job and astounded even himself at how easy the process was. The results made him very happy which is to say that he got a big return on his own hard work. He made it happen.

That’s the thing about CEO coaching. It is easy and, if done properly, it works.


It this CEO had any problem at all it was that he had a blind spot on delegation and some uncertainty in hiring that top tier of management which would allow him to effectively delegate. In some ways, it was immaturity but he clearly knew it. This guy was good but he was struggling to pull the trigger. His answer was to just try to work harder. Noble but not smart.

All CEOs of growing companies have a problem hiring that first level of top notch management right below the founder layer. Everybody struggles with this.

A big mistake that CEOs often make is that they have such personal performance standards that they struggle with delegating. Nobody can do it as well as they can. The problem is this is often true but that attitude gets in the way of effective delegation.

[Pro tip: Most of the money made in business is made by folks who are 80% right but done on time.]

Here’s the rub — if you can effectively delegate, even if the result is an 80% performance level of what the CEO personally could do, you can expand the umbrella of your leadership and management.

If you want to scale any business, then you have to be able to delegate and let go. Make firm objectives, keep score, grade hard, pay attention but be prepared to deal with it.

Do not make PERFECT the enemy of GOOD. Never works. Will drive you crazy. Cannot scale a business with that attitude.


When The Boss saw this situation developing, he fired the CEO. It came as a little bit of a shock since the CEO was paying The Boss for the service even when he missed or postponed or failed to schedule sessions.

The Boss is all about helping CEOs who need and want help.

He likes to think: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

He also thinks: If the student is not ready, the teacher should disappear.

That’s what he did.

There was no angst and The Boss has a warm and pleasant feeling toward that CEO. It was not a bad thing.

How much is enough?

CEO coaching can be a long term asset to a CEO who can use honest, experienced advice. The CEO can develop a confidential relationship which serves a different need than that of a Boardmember (who has a fiduciary duty to all shareholders and will fire a CEO) or an investor (who is looking out for his investment and will fire a CEO).

[Pro tip: Do not confide your problems in people who can fire you. This is an important difference. A CEO coach cannot fire you. Remember this.]

But it has to be the right fit and the right time.

Never hesitate to seek help but never hesitate to evolve or terminate the relationship. This is not a permanent thing. It can be, if that is the right thing but it does not have to be.

Again, if your needs change, change the relationship.

And, that’s why The Boss fired the client. In this instance.

If YOU need a CEO coach. Call The Boss at 512-656-1383 or email him at [email protected] No strings.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.




4 thoughts on “CEO Coaching — Firing a Client

  1. The CEO will be back after he has digested all you taught him. Let’s hope he realizes why things are going well. But this situation strikes me as the norm though.

  2. To your point about delegation. In the 1980s I worked for computer graphics pioneer Dave Evans of Evans & Sutherland. One time he looked at me seriously, and said, “There’s two ways to do things. My way. And the Wrong way.” and then paused, and got a twinkle in his eye, and said “And if you want to get anything done you have to let people do things the wrong way”.

    Great post.

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