CN Executive Coaching Corner

Hoping Your CEO Brings Out The Best in You?

BrainScanAre you waiting for your C-Suite leadership to spark your personal best?

During my tenure of more than three decades of tumultuous change at ONE company in the energy industry, I worked under a total of nine different CEOs. The company was passed around among F-500 energy leaders, went through three mergers/sales, and for a few of those years there literally was no CEO.

Though these days no one will experience tenure of that length with one company (though different F-500s), my experience is consistent with what Yahoo Finance reported, “…the average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is 4.6 years – about the length of a presidential term. And, the average tenure of all CEOs according to published reports is 8.1 years.”

The reason I survived nine CEOs (well, eight of the nine anyway) and three mergers was a level of neutrality toward each of the leaders.  I didn’t wait for a CEO to “spark my human potential” or “reach in and pull something out” of me.  Some of them were flat out incapable of it, a couple didn’t know me from the lunchroom sandwich machine, and most of them weren’t looking to develop anybody. They looked for the ready talent, instant on, the sharpest arrows in the corporate quiver, and used them mercilessly until their average of 4.6 years was up. They all got big fat severance checks and moved on to the next 4.6 year ride.

Here’s my coaching tip for today.

Most people are simply not the engine of the organization, not even the C-Suite. Most of us are the oil.  The folk at the top of the pyramid in the C-Suite are the spark plugs, and the company either earns or burns based on their performance (the perfect gap). If you doubt that, give Jeff Bezos a call this month. The rest of the folks, generally speaking, are the lubricant, keeping the parts operating smoothly, keeping it as frictionless and cool as it can be kept. When the engine starts running a little rough, its time to change the oil, and that’s when most workers realize they’re not the engine at all as they’re poured out into the streets. And when the corporation needs a tune up, the spark plugs in the C-Suite get pulled and changed, about every 4.6 years.

The most valuable employees are the ones who couldn’t care less who the CEO is, or who is warming the chairs in the C-Suite. Their absolute best comes from within, not from upstairs. They bring it every day, and when their turn comes to move on, they take it with them and put it to work in their next career move.

Motivation is for people who really don’t want to do what you expect of them. If you need a “leader” to motivate you to do your best, you need to find a another career path that generates your own spark. Start looking now.

Copyright © 2014 Robert D. Jones – All Rights Reserved

Learn more about neutrality and the CultureNeutral® Framework for coaching here at

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