Is There a Difference Between a CEO and a Therapist

Leadership and Synergy Concept Illustration : A number of Swans flying against a deep blue sky background lead by a big dark leader swan

After listening to Josh — the CEO of a small business in Maryland — lament about an employee who, “has all the credentials, but doesn’t act like it,” I asked what the problem was. Josh replied, “He needs to ‘man up,’ show up on time, comb his hair, and tuck his shirt,” and this was his short list! Josh was clearly aggravated at his own lack of influence on this employee.

 

So I asked him if he knew the future aspirations of this employee. Josh wasn’t sure why he should care about such information when the employee wasn’t even doing his job. As far as Josh was concerned, being a CEO was about running the company, not asking unruly employees about their future aspirations. After some back and forth with me, Josh asked, “What’s the difference between being the CEO and a therapist?”

 

What a great question! In response, I asked him a similar question, one I’m often asked: “Is there a difference between leading and parenting?”

 

“No, there’s really no difference between leading and parenting,” Josh said, “I lead my family at home, and this company is my family too.”

 

Interesting! So good parenting is similar to good leadership. In both instances, you empower the people you are responsible for to overcome their own obstacles, and do your best to let them learn their own lessons. Naturally, you hope like heck they make good decisions, but you also trust them to learn as they go.

 

While Josh’s employee might look like an ugly baby, he presents Josh with a great opportunity to influence greatness on his team. Sometimes that means letting them learn their own lessons, and other times it means understanding their motivational triggers by asking them the right questions.

 

Why? Because getting the results a leader wants from employees requires the leader to align those results with the outcomes that matter to employees.

 

As a CEO (or leader), do you understand the hopes, desires, and future aspirations of the people you are leading? If their behaviors don’t support their goals, help them bridge the gap. By helping them reach their goals, you wont have to waste time motivating them to do their job.

 

So is taking the time to listen to your employees’ goals and dreams the same as being their therapist? No, but they do have one very strong commonality: great questions.

 

When CEOs are armed with clarity of their employees’ goals, guiding those employees to decisions and behaviors that will help them all reach success is simple. Trying to get them to do what you think they should is manipulation, and will only lead to frustration (just like it does in parenting).

 

Join The Conversation: So, what do you think – do CEO’s and therapists have some things in common?

 

Want to LISTEN instead?

 

Thanks to Dexter Britain and Gillycuddy for their music contribution and LN Lurie for being the producer on this podcast.

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