CEO Coaching — Sounding Board

Big Red Car here.  Brrr, cold here in the ATX this morning early at 43F.  However, Old Sport, it will be 65F before the day is over.

So we’re still on the subject of what constitutes good CEO coaching.  A good CEO coach provides a CEO with a sounding board upon which to bounce off ideas and to do a bit of brainstorming.

Previously we’ve discussed the following subjects.  May be worthwhile to review them here.

CEO Coaching — Experience

CEO Coaching — Chemistry

CEO Coaching — Relationship

Be your own best friend, CEOs

One admonition the Big Red Car always provides to CEOs is to ensure that you unburden yourself, bounce ideas off and brainstorm with someone who cannot use that information to fire you or otherwise terminate your employment.

CEOs, you are entitled to this space — a Zone of Safety (we’ll discuss this notion later) — and it is necessary for you to be able to plan and plot your future and the future of your product and company.  It is an essential part of the process of being an effective CEO.

Go to a Board member, VC or investor and say:

“I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed and depressed maybe.  I’m not sure that I can do this right now.”

A thought that every CEO in the history of the world has had, my friend.  This is perfectly normal and if you have not yet experienced that loneliness at the top, stay tuned.  It will happen.  You will overcome it.  Promise.

The next thing a recipient of that musing is going to be doing is to call those similarly situated (other Board members, VCs or investors) and then  a head hunter.

Your CEO coach provides the space to be able to vent, discuss ideas and brainstorm safely.  Safely.

Sounding board

Every CEO has ideas which have begun to take root in their wicked smart minds about their company and how to build that company to create, finance, market and operate that idea.  This is what CEOs do.  This is why it is necessary to have a CEO — to take the enterprise to a place they would never get left to their own devices.  It’s called leadership and leadership is what CEOs do.

A sounding board, in this instance a competent CEO coach, is a place where that idea can go to be weighed and measured and evaluated.  The competent CEO coach coaxes the ideas from the CEO and then helps him perfect them and convert them into an action plan to implement them.

In almost every instance, if you have an experienced CEO — The Boss has been a CEO for over 33 years — they will have an applicable experience that will allow the problem to marinate in that experience as the discussion develops.

The work of using a sounding board is the work of the CEO.  A good CEO coach does not say:

“Here’s your solution, CEO.”

Rather, he says:

“Well, I’ve seen it done successfully like this before.  Let’s chat about it a bit.”

And, then the coach translates his experience into useful data for the CEO to use in her own decision making process.

A sounding board does not have to be a place where decisions are made but rather a place where they are examined.  The CEO and the CEO coach do not have to agree on anything.  The CEO can walk away thinking:

“Well, this has been useful.  I have been able to articulate my idea in a non-judgmental environment.  Let me go think about this a bit more.”


Brainstorming is a bit different than a sounding board.  The difference is that typically when the CEO uses the coach as a sounding board there is an idea in search of a definitive action plan or a problem in search of a solution.

Brainstorming is a blank slate looking for some ideas to evaluate, develop into action plans and ultimately implement.

We spoke of brainstorming earlier here:

Brainstorming For The Startup or Small Company

Brainstorming Graphic

Brainstorming As A Problem Solving Technique

These earlier discussions focus on brainstorming as done by the company but they are an orderly way for a CEO to compose her thoughts as it relates to brainstorming with a CEO coach.  CEOs should engage in regular brainstorming sessions with themselves and, when applicable, a CEO coach.

So there you have it, Old Sport.  Think about it and see if it fits your situation.  Onward to achieving your Vision for your company.

If you need a hand with this call The Boss at 512-656-1383 or [email protected]

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know?  I’m just a Big Red Car.  Be good to yourself for the rest of the year whether you’ve been naughty or nice.  You deserve it.






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  1. Pingback: CEO Coaching --- Zone of Safety - The Musings of the Big Red Car

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