I have a former client — full disclosure he is one of two clients I have ever fired. I fired him because he was not diligent in keeping our appointments.
He paid well. He was always apologetic. He always had an excuse. He was and is a very good CEO, the kind you enjoy working with because he does the work and he was a nice person. Hard worker.
A couple of years later, he wrote me a lovely letter apologizing for his behavior that I promised him I would burn.
Recently, he calls me and asks, “Can you give me some help? I’m trying to hire a CEO coach.”
I look at the phone, stifle a laugh, and say, “Absolutely.”
We discuss a number of persons he has visited with and he decides it comes down to two different alternatives.
Alternative No 1 is a small firm of ten persons who are into deeply “enhancing executive performance.” Their website says something about taking their clients to “the next level.” I go to their website and study the people. I am unimpressed because there are no former-CEOs. They are accountants, motivational speakers, and lawyers.
[Allow me to digress. “Taking persons to the next level” is the most trite cliche I have ever heard. I get it that it is a recognizable meme. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Sorry.]
Alternative No 2 is a man (no website that I could find) who has been a CEO for almost as long as I had been. I also know him and didn’t know he had hung his shingle out. I would have hired him if he was him and I was me back in the day — do you get the time travel implications?
Alt No 1 has a ton of forms, questionnaires, and process. Nice website in an SEO, “we got this” sort of way. Lots of good dentistry — miles of smiles. They are very logical.
Alt No 2 has 27 years of experience and has been to the pay window twice, lives in a big house, and responds to his emails, calls, and texts in a timely manner. He likes to fly fish. His children are grown and they are entrepreneurs in their own right. [This children being entrepreneurs resonates with me.]
So, I say to my former client, “What do you like about each of them?”
“I like Alt No 1 because they are very logical, rational. Lots of process. I like Alt No 2 because he reminds me of you — very experienced and pragmatic. I can get to him when I need him.”
“OK,” says I, “let’s run a little logic exercise. Go along with me.”
All cats die.
Socrates is dead.
Socrates, therefore, is a cat.
He laughs and says, “I knew you were going to say something like that. So, you like Alt No 2’s experience.”
“I like Alt No 2’s real world experience. I like his accessibility. I think you are already a very good CEO. All you really need is some one-on-one bespoke coaching, a sounding board. You’re Tiger Woods looking for a swing coach, not some kid learning to play golf.”
“Would you take me back?” he asks.
“No. You got most of what I had to teach you. You were a superb learner when you paid attention. We ended things on a high note. You need to work with someone who doesn’t have that baggage with you.”
A week later, he hires Alt No 2.
All of this takes place a couple of years ago. I get an email from the CEO. He is now a former CEO as he has sold the company. It is a life changing type sale. The kind of transaction that you whisper when you tell your parents, buy your siblings houses, put a roof on a church.
I knew something good had happened because he sent me a very nice case of wine. Very nice. The kind of wine you would only drink on your birthday or anniversary.
The note said: “I’ll call you. Big news.”
He tells me he is coming to see me. We have never met in person. All of our work was done on Skype.
I am looking forward to seeing him.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Have a great week. If you need it, get some CEO coaching.
Face toward the pay window and start walking. When you are ready, break into a jog. If you feel like it, sprint. You got this.