Turning Your Employees Into Owners
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Get by With a Little Help from Your Friends

They say it’s lonely at the top and they are all too often right. You come up through the ranks, you have the support of your friends and colleagues, the guidance of your professional mentors, but then you make it to the top and suddenly everyone vanishes. You’re not one of the guys anymore. You can’t go to your supervisor for advice because you don’t have one.

But even CEOs need mentors and friends in the field. How else can you keep growing as a leader and as a person? How else can you stay relevant in today’s ever-changing business world? You might not be able to find as much support inside your company anymore, but you do have a couple of other options.

Get to Know Someone

To find a good mentor, you, as a CEO, could approach current or former CEOs of other companies. Some people develop excellent working relationships that way. Most folks are happy to offer their expertise and flattered to be asked. But finding the right person can be difficult if you don’t have an established friendship already—not everyone has the time or energy to spare, and you won’t “click” with everyone.

Work with a Consultant

You can also hire an outside firm (like Ardent) to help you improve your leadership skills. While it might seem odd to hire someone for support and feedback, it isn’t so different from the kind of mentorship you might have found back in school—you were paying tuition, after all. This way, instead of you going to school, you hire the school to come to you. The big advantage of working with a consultant is that there is no question that the person will have the time and energy and interest to mentor you. For a consultant, working with you doesn’t require time off from work. The consultant’s whole job is to help you.

Join a Group of Your Peers

You can also join an organization for CEOs, like Vistage. At monthly chapter meetings, Vistage members learn new information and skills from outside speakers and also discuss with each other issues that arise within their own companies. It is almost like being like members of each other’s boards.

I’ve actually been a member of Vistage for over ten years. You get that constant flow of information. You never know when you’re going to use that information, when you’re going to need it. You build your repertoire of skills over time so you’re equipped for whatever comes up.

To Sum Up

An individual coach or mentor in your specific area, whether that’s marketing, construction, transition, or whatever else, is a great option. And either an individual or a consultant can adapt to your specific situation and help you with what’s going on in your company today. Peer group organizations, on the other hand, give you a wide range of more generalized information and provide a context with which you can both give and receive support.

However you do it, the point is to find someone who really has no agenda apart from being there for you. You need someone who will be in the trenches with you, no matter what.