The role of Chief Executive can be a lonely one. You are in a unique position surrounded by high expectations from everyone – the Board, shareholders, customers, staff, the city and the public.

As CEO you are  on stage and everything you say and do is magnified. You no longer have peers or others alongside you. You have a Board to manage, a team to lead and an organisation to direct. 

Trusted advisor for long-term success! On and Offline.

However, two-thirds of CEOs don’t use a coach but close to 100% would be receptive to using a CEO Coach. 


Leaders use CEO coaches for a variety of reasons. I’ve been used as a CEO coach for many purposes: a sounding board, a trusted confidant, a sanity check or even a marriage counselor.

Once a CEO told me:
“You’re equal parts mentor, peer and listener .”

Many CEOs use a CEO coach over the course of their career. It shouldn’t surprise you – do athletes accomplish success without great coaches? No athlete would be embarrassed they use a coach, yet many CEOs believe they don’t need a coach of their own.

All CEOs make promises and set goals. They make promises to their investors, team, customers, and family. They set goals to help deliver on those promises.

The best CEO coaches help CEOs keep their promises and meet their goals. Promises and goals are different for everyone. The steps required to take a company public are very different from the steps needed to transition the business to a family member or rapidly scale the business.

Any good CEO coach will help the CEO (and others in the business – more on that in a moment) around the results of the business.

First, CEO Coaches need to build a solid foundation.

The only way to be an effective CEO or executive coach is by developing trust with the CEO. Without it, results suffer.Many CEO coaches will simply start a relationship with the CEO (some without even meeting the CEO – they do everything via video calls or phone calls). However, I’ve found that to build the trust, context is important.

That’s why I talk to  key stakeholders of a business before I spend any meaningful time with the CEO. I’ve found the ideas and solutions to keep the promises and meet the goals of the business are almost always within the business already. It’s the leadership’s job to unlock that potential. It’s my job as the CEO Coach to help the leadership unlock that potential within themselves and within the business.

After talking to  key stakeholders/board, I spend  two  days with the CEO –outside his office. I let him or her see their people, their leadership style, and their company through my eyes. It’s an intense time with a ton of questions, pressure-testing, and thinking.

During the time together, the CEO and I agree on a handful of issues (2-3, not 100) that are standing in the way of them keeping their promises and meeting their goals. These issues are typically strategic and are either being under-invested in or are getting in the way of success. We spend time creating the commitment and actionable plan needed to drive results and get the desired outcomes.

Successful CEO coaching

At the end of our time together, it’s clear. You either change your goals, or you implement the plan we developed together. It’s that simple. And that complex.

This intense, but liberating, session becomes the 4-6 Month plan for CEO coaching. This brings me to the next key point.

There are 4 main areas I focus on when coaching a CEO: Developing a World-Class CEO, People + Culture, and being a Canary in the  Mine. Let me explain .

Developing a World-Class CEO

This is the most obvious area of coaching. The main goal is to ensure the CEO is ready to Scale. Tactically, this all depends on the CEO and their strengths and weaknesses. The quickest way to ensure the CEO is ready to scale is to complete a CEO Competency Mapping Assesment. This simply evaluates the CEO against their job description (which usually isn’t clear). We then develop a plan to help fill in the gaps – either through self-development or other ways.

People + Culture

While People + Culture can sound soft, this area of coaching is all about ensuring the business has a high-performance culture. Coaching CEOs in this area typically involves some level of assessment and creating a baseline of current talent and thinking through current and future needs.

We’ll also conduct periodic  position competency mapping on key leaders, providing personalized coaching, where needed.

One of the biggest areas we focus on is designing the right org chart. While it sounds strange, Org structure drives behavior. It’s crucial to the success of any business.

Ensure the strategy

Once you’ve found product-market fit, your biggest risk is execution at scale. I  help design systems in processes to ensure the strategy is translated into execution /or a bad strategy is corrected quick enough. I've developed the Growth CEO Toolkit  to help companies .

Canary In the Coal Mine

 It’s one of the most valuable aspects of working with a CEO Coach. When I coach a CEO, I’m one of the few people talking to other people across the org and with the board. That helps me to be a Canary in the Coal Mine – predicting issues before they show up in the results.

A CEO Coach can easily and often unintentionally be shoved into the “therapist” role for the CEO. However, this leads to insufficient accountability. The CEO Coach will or (should )be judged on results. Simply listening doesn’t drive results.

That’s why I’m very focused  about setting not only the 4-6 -month goals for the relationship, but I also have my CEOs fill out a Growth Feedback before every coaching session.

Before every meeting ,I ask the CEO to provide me a quick update on what has happened since our last meeting , the 1-2 things they want to discuss and the desired outcomes from the coaching call. Paired with our 4-6 -month goals, this provides us with an intense level of focus for our time together. We’re able to accomplish a lot in a minimal amount of time. I typically talk to the CEOs I’m working with 1-2 times a month on a formal, planned basis and many informal interactions phone calls, texts, emails, chat,etc).

Without the Growth Feddback , the potential for distraction is high. Accountability is low. Progress is typically stalled.

Every 4-6 months, I have every CEO review me and our working relationship. I ask them if they accomplished what they thought we should accomplish and if they would hire me all over again, knowing what they know now. If the CEO wants to, we then dive into what the next months look like.

I think more CEOs don’t use coaches because they don’t fully understand how to utilize a coach. CEOs read headlines about other CEOs getting coaches, so they think, “If so-and-so has a coach, so should I….”

There’s even a scene in Silicon Valley where the main character is criticized for his leadership ability. He says, “Well, the Twitter CEO got a CEO Coach, I’ll just get a CEO Coach to fix it.”

That attitude is like going to the gym and telling a trainer you want to train. That’s not helpful. What do you want to train for? Running a marathon? Or being a bodybuilder? Those are both very different training programs.

CEOs are notoriously guilty of having the CEO Coach only talk to the CEO. To use the trainer analogy again, that’s like hiring a personal trainer that doesn’t know how well or bad you are eating or sleeping. It’s an important part of the puzzle.

Typically, insight from other employees will be key to coaching a CEO and the business. Other employees see the CEO’s blind spots daily. It’s also key to the growth of the business.

I am a CEO coach,I make reasearch,in this topic, I’m really the coach of the business. The business is a legal person,it has its own tax number and all. Most of the time, no one is looking out for the business as if it were a person.

The business is like a growing kid or an aging parent, depending upon the business.

That means I’ve had to disagree with the CEO for the sake of the business. I’ve had to coach CEOs out of their role because it wasn’t right for the business.So the business is my client.

If the business isn’t successful, the people in the business won’t be successful. This includes the CEO.

Lets talk!

You can either call or email me. I’m happy to talk on the telephone about any concerns or questions you may have about the process.


Susan Bálint (LCC,FTBE,GLM)

Global leadership & business developer, executive coach, communication trainer, CEO peer advisory