Life, Liberty, & Happiness

Mentoring; Advising the CEO


dvising CEOs sounds like a dream job. The executive office is viewed as the center of power, home to some of the most charismatic men and women in business.

But, over the past decade of helping CEOs, I’ve come to realize that coaching a CEO can be as perplexing as it is rewarding.

The role of a CEO adviser is unique because the role of the CEO is unique. MOST advisers have complimentary relationships with their clients, breathing the same air, grappling with the same challenges. In business, no air is as rarefied, and no challenges are as complex, as at the top. I watch CEOs becoming increasingly beleaguered under pressure from boards, investors, special interest groups, the press, and politicians. For many, the job is all consuming.

Consider these distinctions of the job:

  • No one else in the organization is so starved for unbiased information. While CEOs understand in principle that everyone who seeks their attention has an agenda, they don’t always know a bias when they see one.
  • No one else so needs to hear hard truths. Yet in the CEO’s presence, people are guarded, unwilling to raise difficult topics.
  • No one else is such a lightning rod for criticism of the business, with all the anger, frustration, and occasionally outright humiliation that such a role entails.
  • No one else is the final arbiter in so many vital business decisions and, consequently, so vulnerable to self-doubt.
  • No one else is the subject of so many statements beginning “No one else.” Within the company, the CEO has no true peers, no colleagues in whom s/he can unreservedly confide.
  • The job often brings intense and profound loneliness.

Even the best-of-the-best CEOs have their blind spots and can dramatically improve their performance with an outside perspective weighing in.  Just remember that if you find yourself in the role of advising a CEO - never forget the extreme pressure and issues they carry.  It’s best to have walked a mile in those shoes before you offer opinions with no real insight.

About Dr. Michael Burcham

Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.

“I built and sold a $40M company with Dr. Burcham as my mentor. This is the thing: if you EVER get the opportunity to learn from this man, from that moment forward, you’ll list him as one of the most influential people in your life, even if you live to be 90. And, you’ll know how lucky you were to have that opportunity and you’ll immediately say YES to any chance to be in his presence again—his wisdom is that impactful.”

Sherry Stewart Deutschmann

Former CEO, Letter Logic

“If you are looking for a trusted mentor and coach for yourself or your leadership team, I highly recommend Michael Burcham. He has worked with me as my executive coach for well over a decade now. Our conversations and his feedback have helped me sharpen my critical thinking skills. He’s a trusted advisor that I can confidentially speak with about any issue—and I know I’ll get valued feedback. I highly recommend him.”

Ryan McGrath

CEO, Asset Living

“Dr. Burcham’s depth and breadth of experience makes even the most ADD entrepreneurial leader sit up and take notes! His coaching skills bring out the ‘best you’ possible. He selflessly shares the good, the bad, and the ugly—leaving you with an authentic and moving experience sure to spur action and professional growth!”

Julie Lenzer

Director, U.S. Department of Commerce


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