The Problem

It’s often said, and usually true, that CEOs are alone at the top.  CEOs confront both business and personnel problems and have few confidants with whom they can speak about the emotional matters within their firm.  These emotional issues tend to fall into at least four categories: matters of performance (or lack of performance) by top management, matters of rerationships with Boards of Directors, and matters that pertain to the personal life of the CEO.

Many people, even CEOs, prefer to avoid interpersonal conflict.  But when they do, business suffers, and they do too.

Clients come to me with:

  • Concerns about top management who clearly are not functioning well but with whom the CEO has a complicated relationship and fears either the confronting them with their dysfunction or the need to actually let them go.
  • Guilt feelings in the second generation about “replacing’ Mom or Dad, despite their parents’ blessing in their new role as well as worries about the new G2 CEO to assume the responsibilities that previously were assumed by their parents.
  • Concerns about conflict with a board when some of the directors are acting in irrational ways.
  • Assorted situations where CEOs’ personal issues conflict with the best performance of the firm.


The Solution

I help CEOs engage in that which is most difficult.

  • I help established CEOs, confronted by personnel difficulties identify the core problem areas created by the poorly performing top level manager and help them come to solutions. Sometimes even after engaging with the dysfunctional manager, nothing happens. In this situation it eventually becomes clear that the poorly functioning manager cannot be rehabilitated and, for the benefit of the business, the manager has to be let go – a difficult experience for many CEOs.  I help the CEO identify their personal struggle in letting the dysfunctional manager go and enable them to move forward with the difficult action.
  • For the new CEO taking over from “Mom/Dad,” I identify the many difficult feelings they experience that sit at the heart of their discomfort. As we unpack and explore these feelings, I help them become more comfortable with their “next step” in their process of “growing up.”  This private emotional process exists for everyone but for the new CEO this is not a completely private matter.  It’s complicated by the visibility of the metaphoric stage created by the business. Another related matter in the personal life of a new second generation CEO takes many forms but emerges from the common experience of younger sons and daughters of a founder, even with lots of experience in the business, when they take the “reins of business” over from Dad.

In my work with the CEO heir, I help them with their feelings of uncertainty, shaky confidence, and guilt for having “pushed Dad aside.”  All these need to be addressed so that new CEOs can comfortably grow into their new positions and fit more comfortably into their own new shoes.

  • In conflicts with irrational boards, I help the CEO take a “step back” so we can parse the irrational issues in the complex process that is unfolding.  In doing this I help the CEOs retain their emotional balance so they can clearly see the Director’s irrationality and not experience it as something personal, when that is not the issue
  • Regarding CEOs’ personal issues, I help them explore the multiple layers of their struggle and work with them to create a solution.