The Extraordinary Relationship Between Chairman and CEO


The relationship between a Chairman and a CEO is special. Great Chairs often act as a confidant, mentor, adviser, sounding board and interpreter for the CEO.

Recently I had the privilege of coaching a Chairman who fulfills this role with distinction in his organisation.

In some other organisations, I get to play the role that this Chairman fulfills with his CEO by coaching the CEO directly, but in this case the CEO has such confidence and trust in the Chairman that I don’t need to do that.

However, I do coach this Chairman. Why? Because the Chairman has a deep commitment to his CEO ‘s success and he knows first hand the benefits of having continuing coaching.

He meets with me regularly and together we design the important conversations he will have with his CEO. He gets me to road test his thinking, perception and ideas before he meets the CEO, as a demonstration of his desire to ensure that these special conversations land well.

We’ve been having coaching conversations together now for two years. The results are reflected in the emerging culture of the organisation: deeper respect, greater respectful honesty, increased performance and efficiency and some impressive innovations at several levels.

A typical coaching session will find what is going on at present, how that fits with the Chairman’ intentions, the impact of that on the values and principles of the organisation, the impacts on relationships and how information is shared and freed up and the effects on strategy and structures.

From that point on we get a clear design of what the Chairman will say and how and when to have the conversation so that it has maximum benefit for the CEO. I also usually get him to reflect, so that he continues to extract learning and insight.

Successful, functional leaders of organisations, in my experience, have coaches just like others at the peak of their performance: musicians, sportspeople, actors, government ministers.

I believe I have one of the best jobs in Australia: coaching Chairs, CEOS and their teams for peak performance and efficiency.

By Ian Sampson: Ian is a Cause & Effective Associate. Please contact him if you would like to explore how to create a coaching relationship like this one.

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

2 Responses

  1. nfpaustralia

    You are so right Ian, yet regrettably we see very few examples of the perfect relationship between Chairs and CEO’s. Not to suggest they are toxic relationships; just that they fail to achieve their fullest potential. I also have been involved as a mentor to a number of CEO’s and have been on nfp boards where I have been invited to engage in a mentoring role with the CEO (with approval of the Chair). I have witnessed first hand the very real benefits of this form of mentoring. Part of the solution might be in how we frame the Chairperson’s role and responsibilities. We rarely see ‘mentoring’ framed in the responsibilities.

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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