Lonely at the Top: Why Leaders Need an Outside Sounding Board (Part Five)

This is the final post of a series that addresses the notion of why it’s lonely at the top for most senior leaders. Additionally, this series explains how a trusted advisor can help and what a typical engagement with my clients looks like. Once we’ve clearly defined the client’s vision of success, we’re ready to begin the next phase – brainstorming, digging in, and setting goals.

A few of the processes I use to achieve the leader’s goals include:

  • Defining their vision for the organization and documenting it
  • Documenting the steps needed to achieve the objectives
  • Outlining a plan to ensure execution and accountability
  • Documenting and scheduling specific next steps

Once we have a general visualization, we gain a better understanding of where we’re going. This is huge! From here, there will be tons of questions around what that looks like, such as organizational structure, people (coming and going), resources, sales, processes, board relations, acquisitions, kids’ soccer games attended, hours worked, and on and on. We go through and identify the highlights and write it down. We have to know where we’re going if we’re going to get there.

Often, we write these items on a whiteboard in order to begin uncovering themes. I search for what pops up repeatedly that’s really more of a symptom than the root issue. I get excited when we can dig in and identify the root issue. Once we know this, we continue digging, keeping in mind that we want to narrow it down to the top three things that need to be addressed in the coming year. Sometimes, we’ll have bigger list of priorities, possibly up to seven. The number of priorities depends on whether or not the current leadership team has goals and, if they do, the alignment and sophistication of their goals with the leader’s external needs. These goals are always unique, and once achieved, they help the leader, in turn moving the entire organization forward.

Once we’ve listed everything and narrowed it down as much as possible to the true root cause, we typically create four separate lists:

  • A “parking lot” of issues, opportunities, and challenges listed that won’t be addressed right away. My intention with this is to document these items in order to let them go so we can focus on what’s more urgent and important in the moment.
  • A simplified list of what will be achieved in the next 12 months. These will be written as SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
  • Based on these goals, we’ll break them down into SMART Quarterly Objectives to be tackled in the next 90 days. Often, these are further broken down into more specific objectives with detailed timeframes for completion.
  • Finally, we’ll create a One & Done List of specific items that are important, simple, and can be easily marked as completed.

This is where we start. 

When we get together in future sessions, we’ll typically touch base on these lists through a quick review and check-in. If challenges or opportunities have come up since our last session, we’ll list them and if it’s highest and best use of our time, we’ll tackle them – one at a time. Knowing that all these items are being stored somewhere and then checking in on them has a positive impact. These check-ins also serve as friendly taps on the shoulder – reminders of what need to be addressed – resulting in a much higher completion rate of objectives.

More often than not, we meet, check in, and then dive into a new, specific opportunity or challenge that needs to be addressed. 

From here, we’re off to the races!

I’m available (outside of my sessions with others) for email, texts, or phone calls. On occasion, I may participate in meetings as an observer or help with interviews of key personnel – it really boils down to what’s needed.

I believe helping senior leaders obtain everything they’ve ever wanted is the reason I’ve been put on this planet. It’s my privilege to help empower others to become the best leaders possible. I truly enjoy empowering leaders to lead with confidence and to tackle whatever may come – all while knowing they may be on the island themselves. But now, they push forward knowing someone has their back.

If you’re a business owner, CEO, president, or chairman of the board, and you’d like to see if we may be a fit, I’d be humbled to have the opportunity to speak with you and to provide you with an hour of time to explore where we could go.

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