16 Aug Coaching for CEOs and Leaders
Coaching on Dealing with Conflict as a CEO or Leader
Working with a CEO is always stimulating. Again and again I see the same themes come up, whether it’s a large multi-national or small, growing business. These themes tend to centre around a juxtaposition of two opposing directions, with the CEO often stuck in the middle wondering which path to follow.
Here I’ll offer a glimpse into some of the compelling problems that are currently keeping our business leaders up at night.
Risk versus Safety
As captain of the ship, people are looking to you to keep business safe, look after their pensions and jobs, and do as much as possible to ensure steady sailing. In fact, unless you were the founder, you may well have got where you are precisely because of those calm and steadying hands. At the same time, organisations themselves need change and take risks in order to grow and avoid retreating backwards. As a CEO my clients are often faced with this conflict: the dichotomy between what is good for the business and what people perceive as being good for them, and it’s a vital one to explore. A new CEO especially needs experience of sailing between these two ideals in order to grow in confidence and experience.
Small Steps versus Sweeping Statements
A new CEO often wants to make an impression, after all , we often feel that is for what we have been hired. However, it makes sense to investigate motives (are we doing this to make it “ours”), calculate stakeholders’ reactions and not put aside what’s been done in the past just for the sake of the new. How to make things happen from this new vantage point is an unknown, so translating strategy into manageable steps is incredibly helpful not just for CEO, but those around them.
Ideas versus Implementation
Every business has its own life cycle, which includes a time for creativity and new ideas and a time for just plain old hard work. Knowing where the organisation is on the cycle, and what’s called for next, will help a CEO put the right systems into place, whether they are to brainstorm and get others buzzing with creativity, or translate a strategy into practical activities with relevant benchmarks.
This idea of conflict never goes away. As soon as something is resolved, there is often another crisis eagerly clamouring to take its place. What is dangerous, however, are the many personal conflicts of personality and position that can impact and camouflage the above situational conflicts, leading to anxiety about petty politics and stagnation. Separating these superficial, mundane politics from the key issues underneath is a hallmark of responsible leadership and one that my clients often cite as a key long-term goal.