CEO Sounding Board: Accessing Your Moral Compass

man reflecting

What a bizarre time for new business development in SO many industries.  Is it appropriate to share opportunities to do business with your organization at a time when you know so many of your potential customers are struggling?

This question has plagued me since March 13th.  My empathy score on Emotional Intelligence assessments is frankly at a level so high, that any responsible guidance counsellor would have told me long ago: ”Stay away from the “helping professions, Sue, you will care far too much about how everyone is doing.”

Yup, it’s my life’s work as a leadership coach to strike the right balance of commitment, to partner fully with clients while not being TOO attached to their outcomes.  At least, that’s what our Coach training  would have us look at closely.

Along comes a global pandemic, and clients have understandably hunkered down.  In many cases, I respectfully pulled back.  I checked in on the wellbeing of several former clients, but it seemed entirely inappropriate to raise the topic of potentially working together again.

I haven’t reached out to potential new contacts either, thinking that when organizations are struggling, it’s the last time you should be suggesting they invest in additional services.

And yet, when I stand back and listen to the voices of long-standing clients, they tell me otherwise.  They remind me of the inordinate value of having a professional sounding board, in particular, a CEO sounding board.  A rare place to explore the big questions.

What more critical time than now to have a safe place to discuss moral dilemmas?  The welfare of employees, questions of guarding life itself, or providing livelihood.

In the early weeks of the pandemic, I had the honour of being alongside clients as they wrestled with these questions, amid their own very real fears for themselves and their families, not to mention their employees.

One client said he literally never had to access his “moral compass” as frequently in his entire career as during the onset of the pandemic.  He clearly valued having a place to access this moral compass in our dialogues.

And as things have unfolded over the past few months, and issues of racial strife have come to the fore, where is the safe place for a CEO to have a sounding board for questions like, ”Are our practices racist in their impact if not their intent?”, “How am I seen among my employees when it comes to anti-racism?”,  “I know I believe in equality, but where do I even stand with respect to anti-racism? What does it even mean for me?”.  These are questions that many clients don’t even discuss in their most intimate circles.

A professional coaching relationship should provide that safe place – that CEO Sounding Board.  The place where you can be raw, to flounder a bit and not feel judged if the terms aren’t quite right, or you may sound out-of-step.

As an executive coach, I’m certainly nobody’s North Star, but my clients remind me that I can help you access your OWN moral compass, and that this is sacred work.  Some people have an exceptional friend, or spouse, or colleague that fills this role inordinately well, which is awesome.  And for those CEO’s who are wrestling with big questions and finding themselves wanting support in accessing their own moral compass, I welcome the conversations.

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