When The Dog Catches The Car, What Does He Do? Executive Coaching for the New CEO

A successful entrepreneur whom I advised sold his company to another firm. He focused on running and growing his business for many years and then had a brief, intense period of working through the sales process.

Because he’s a bright guy, the new firm wants him around in a senior role. He wants it to succeed, so he agreed. After working through the merger activities, it hit him that he was about to lose his previous identity and needed to quickly shift his mind to what success would look like in his new role in a new company.

He has considerable flexibility in his new role, so I suggested he ponder the following three questions with his new partners:

1. What are the most important levers in our business, and how can I best focus on them?

2. How can I best leverage my strengths and improve or minimize my weaknesses?

3. What is it that only I can do that will bring value to the organization?

This wasn’t the first time I pulled these three questions out of the bag; in my executive coaching practice, I’ve helped other CEOs and senior executives in transitions. But the first time I used them was on myself.

An investment group had hired me to turn around a failing company. It was my first stint as a CEO. The first couple of weeks were all about firefighting — some brush fires and a couple of major forest fires! However, a few weeks in, I sat down and thought, exactly what is it that I’m supposed to do here every day?!

I’d run a large division with 7,000 people, but this was different. It was not just about execution; it was about the ideas that had to be executed, the team that had to do it and my specific role.

The three questions above helped me focus for the near term, and we successfully righted the ship. Strategy (where do we play and how do we win) would have to wait a couple of months until the fires were out. …


The title of this blog is also the title of a chapter in my soon-to-be-released book, “Never Kick a Cow Chip on a Hot Day — Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want to Be.”  I hope you’ll pick it up when it’s available.

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