“It’s lonely at the top” appears to resonate more than ever with top executives, according to the results of the Stanford University 2013 Executive Coaching Survey. And while nearly two-thirds of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, nearly all of them would like to.
“What’s interesting is that nearly 100 percent of CEOs in the survey responded that they actually enjoy the process of receiving coaching and leadership advice, so there is real opportunity for companies to fill in that gap,” says David F. Larcker, who led the research team and is the James Irvin Miller Professor of Accounting and Morgan Stanley director of the Center for Leadership Development and Research at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
“Given how vitally important it is for the CEO to be getting the best possible counsel, independent of their board, in order to maintain the health of the corporation, it’s concerning that so many of them are ‘going it alone,’” adds Stephen Miles, CEO of The Miles Group. “Even the best-of-the-best CEOs have their blind spots and can dramatically improve their performance with an outside perspective weighing in.”
More than 200 CEOs, board directors and senior executives of North American public and private companies were polled in the 2013 Executive Coaching Survey conducted by Stanford University and The Miles Group. The research studied what kind of leadership advice CEOs and their top executives are — and aren’t — receiving as well as the skills that are being targeted for improvement.
Key findings from the survey include:
— Shortage of advice at the top. Nearly 66 percent of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, while 100 percent of them stated that they are receptive to making changes based on feedback. Nearly 80 percent of directors said that their CEO is receptive to coaching. “If CEOs are willing to be coached and make changes based on coaching, it stands to reason that companies and boards should make this happen,” says Larcker.
— CEOs are actively looking to be coached. When asked “Whose decision was it for you to receive coaching?,” 78 percent of CEOs said it was their own idea. Twenty-one percent said that coaching was the board chairman’s idea. Miles sees this as a positive trend. “Becoming CEO doesn’t mean that you suddenly have all the answers, and these top executives realize that there is room for growth for everyone. We are moving away from coaching being perceived as ‘remedial’ to where it should be: something that improves performance, similar to how elite athletes use a coach.”