In the words of Bill Gates, “Everyone needs a coach”. This sounds like a slightly flippant answer. Let me expand on it with my own experience.
I am proud of my work in all the roles that I had as a start-up and scale-up CTO.
But I learned how to be a CTO the expensive way.
By this I mean that, for most of my career as a CTO, I learned by making mistakes again and again and slowly improving over time. These mistakes were paid for by the companies that I worked in. These were also paid for by my teams and I in the impact that they had on both their and my wellbeing.
As a start-up or scale-up CTO we constantly face new challenges and need to learn new skills.
Making mistakes is inevitable when we are learning. But we can learn faster. And we can reduce the costs of our mistakes and our learning for the companies we work for and for ourselves and our teams.
Much later in my career I started working with a professional coach.
I continued to make mistakes. But my coach supported me to reduce the negative impact of these mistakes by avoiding some common pitfalls and by identifying when things were going wrong sooner. They helped me to accelerate my development by enabling me to learn faster from my experiences. They enabled me to make better decisions by better understanding myself and the situations I was in. They supported me to build better relationships with my teams and peers. They also helped me feel calmer, more in control and less alone when I was finding my role very stressful.
These benefits were cumulative. The value of the improvements in my performance as a CTO vastly outweighed the costs of coaching for the company I worked for.
I also benefited personally, in both the development of my skills and in my awareness and acceptance of myself and of those around me.
If I was able to go back in time to the point when I first became a CTO and offer myself one piece of advice, it would be to get the support of a CTO Coach.
A CTO needs a CTO coach if they want to improve their performance. If they want to serve their teams better. If they want to learn faster.
This is part of a series of articles about Engineering Leadership. I offer coaching and mentoring to engineering leaders if you are interested in further developing your leadership skills.
CTO Coaching from me
I work with start-up and scale-up CTOs who want to successfully navigate the changes in their roles as their team and company evolves
How to get the most out of coaching
George Sudarkoff provides valuable guidance on getting the most from your coaching
Coaching helps you create different, better, decisions
Flora Devlins's explanation of the benefits of coaching is spot on
Everyone Needs A Coach - Barry O'Reilly
Barry O'Reilly and Kate Leto explain what coaching is and how you might benefit from it.
How to find (and choose) a coach
Ed Batista offers practical advice on finding and choosing a coach