Coaching 40 CEOs in 2 Days – What They Asked and How We Responded

Can you imagine laser-coaching 40 successful CEOS in 2 days? This spring we had the opportunity to provide 30-minute, highly focused coaching sessions for thought leaders and CEOs attending the Small Giants Community Summit in Detroit, MI. This extraordinary conference attracts both seasoned and emerging business leaders who are making a big impact on their industries while keeping their eyes focused on their own people – valuing authenticity and courage over revenues and profits.


With coaching expertise in the CliftonStrengths® and Builder Profile 10® assessments, our focus in these quick conversations was to provide fast talent explanations with a tangible takeaway. What we didn’t expect was such consistency amongst our CEO clients.


Nearly every CEO we coached asked the same 3 questions in their coaching sessions.


They Asked: What weakness do I need to fix?

We Answered: None. You need to build on your strengths.


As a society, we tend to lean towards “weakness-fixing” rather than capitalizing on what we do best. In that regard, these CEOs were no different than their employees. Instead of asking about what they do well, our conference clients immediately focused on what they could improve upon; specifically, what weaknesses did they have within their strengths that would cause obstacles for their companies.


Even focusing on the strengths of these CEOs was a challenge. “But what’s wrong with my strengths? They are holding me back in some way, right?” In truth, they could be, yes. Identifying that basement level of our talents is important so that we might recognize when we are holding ourselves back. But don’t stay in that space. Be intentional about finding opportunities to use your talents more regularly and purposefully. This keeps you from setting up camp in a disengaged place, and instead allows you to build more successfully.


They Asked: How do I develop Strengths that I don’t possess?

We Answered: You can’t. Instead, hire people gifted in those areas.


When reviewing results from assessments such as CliftonStrengths® or Builder Profile 10®, it’s difficult to keep your eyes focused on the top – where you naturally excel. We look to the bottom of our lists and think, “Surely I can develop these as areas of strength?”


It’s time to stop putting energy into talents that you don’t have but instead, direct that effort into furthering the impact of your strengths. It’s natural for CEOs to feel responsible for the output of multiple, if not all, areas of their purview. But if visualizing the future is a lesser talent for you, don’t spend countless hours trying to force it. That’s like trying to teach a rabbit to swim. You’ll work twice as long and achieve mediocrity at best. Hire someone with visionary talent – a partner or employee who can fill that gap for you, naturally seeing what could be possible for the organization. Then, take your talents and build off their futuristic strength. Focusing on your weaknesses will only ever allow you to reach a level of skill, not strength.


They Asked: How can I become a better leader by knowing my natural talents?

We Answered: Get a coach.


Action items – pen to paper takeaways – seem to always be that missing piece in personal and professional development. Our CEO clients didn’t want to stay in that theoretical space. They wanted to move; they wanted to know how to immediately implement what they learned about themselves. After all, what’s the point of revolutionary realizations without implementation?


Everyone needs a coach. Everyone! Serena Williams has a coach. LeBron James has a coach. They both possess natural talent in their fields, but continue to reach for near perfection. They know a coach can provide an objective point of view to zero-in on those finite areas of additional development, improving performance. Our mental strengths work in the same way – you need a coach to get you there.


In summary, CEOs want to improve performance – their own and their organization’s. And the best of them want to do so in an effort to continue moving forward to what’s next. There’s a restlessness amongst this group that is inspirational and encouraging, and we could all benefit from a similar focus – learn about what you do best, and then put it to work. Immediately.