December 13, 2011
Many of the leaders I coach are in high level roles and often will rely on me, as their coach, to be a sounding board for them. They don’t have a lot of people in their work environment whom they can vent to or bounce things off of…. Sort of speaks to the saying, “It’s lonely at the top.” I am honored that my clients feel confident enough and safe enough with me to be their sounding board and, I typically encourage them to also develop a network of colleagues who they can use as sounding boards. It’s not only vital to their growth and development as senior leaders but also helps keep them sane!
One of my CEO clients is new to his role and told me that since he took on this role, his sounding board is the echo of his own voice. He doesn’t feel comfortable using anyone inside his organization in this capacity because, being new to the role, he is still gaining his footing and is concerned about how “venting” to others will be perceived. I understand his perspective and am not only encouraging him to seek out colleagues external to his company (other CEOs or senior level leaders) but also, perhaps, to find one trusted partner internal to his company who he can confide in. It is sometimes beneficial to have someone who knows your organizational culture as well as someone who can relate to the pressures you are under as a senior level leader.
A great example of this comes from another senior leader I coach who has, what she calls, her “advisory board”. This is a group of five women whom she has worked with in different companies throughout her 20-year career. They get together face-to-face once a quarter and in between that time, they are consistently emailing each other or calling each other to share experiences, share stories, gather advice and counsel, and use as sounding boards. She is very open about the fact that her advisory board is a huge reason she has continued to advance to higher-level positions in her career and is now, next in line for the COO role in her company. They have provided her with fresh perspectives, kept her from making irrational choices, and provided friendship and support during both good and bad times in her career. Most importantly, she has never once suffered from the sound of her own voice being her only sounding board, and, she knows she never will.
Who do you have as a sounding board in your work environment? Coaches are always good options but even better is having a coach along with a trusted colleague, or a group of trusted advisors.