Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Does your CEO really want speaker coaching or media training?

Communications pros are great at behind-the-scenes advising of their CEOs, but there's one communications gap between them that I see again and again. It has to do with arranging speaker coaching or media training for the CEO.

The communicators are often right to be sensitive on the topic. I've seen university presidents, hospital CEOs, and even government agency heads kick their communications or public affairs director out of the room before training begins, despite my recommendation to have them there in "fly on the wall" mode. Some CEOs give off clear signals that suggesting training means that you think they have some character flaw, and so the topic never comes up. Sometimes you can smell the top-level expert's fear of failure, and that feels like enough reason to drop the idea of training, no matter how much it's needed.

Now comes new research to suggest we should all stop tip-toeing around the CEO's training needs, because they welcome the help. Harvard Business Review's What CEOs Really Want From Coaching presents results from a study of more than 200 CEOs, board directors and senior executives about seeking and using leadership advice. The conundrum? While two-thirds of the CEOs reported they do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, and half of the senior executives also are going without advice, nearly 100 percent of the CEOs said they enjoyed the process of getting outside perspective and coaching.

When it comes to seeking coaching, 78 percent of the CEOs don't have it thrust upon them, but seek it out themselves. This correlates with other studies that suggest that the higher the level of expertise, the more the trainee welcomes negative feedback as a means of improvement. Your CEO may also find useful these questions to get into the mindset needed to participate in effective coaching.

If I were in your shoes, I'd use this data to start a conversation with your CEO. What does she want in terms of training? Which skills does she feel she's mastered, and which need work or make her uncomfortable? In my workshops for communications pros on working better with experts, I find again and again that the communicators haven't asked the experts or CEOs what they want to accomplish--something that's critical to gaining their acceptance and participation. You also can make training more welcome by ensuring your CEO has one-on-one training rather than a group training that includes subordinates. My exception to that rule is the communications director, who can always sit in on my trainings at no extra cost--but I draw the line at observers there.

You can see a summary of the study's results here. Now, I'll ask you again: Does your CEO really want speaker coaching or media training? If so, email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz so we can come up with a coaching solution that works for your CEO.

I've got two smart workshops for communicators this fall, and you get good discounts if you register this month for Be an Expert on Working with Experts on October 8, or The Keys to Confident Public Speaking on October 17. Join us and register today!

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