The Value of Business Culture and Candor: Advice from CEO Coach Larry Kihlstadius

September 21, 2021 Kevin Campbell

The Syniti Podcast Series brings together leaders from some of the world’s biggest and most influential companies to explore the current and future role of data in a rapidly changing business climate.

 

In this CEO to CEO episode of the podcast, host Kevin Campbell sat down with Larry Kihlstadius, Vistage Chair and accomplished CEO coach, to learn why business culture and candor are invaluable in today’s C-suite.

 

 

Every Journey Starts with a Single Step

 

Larry believes anyone can be a CEO coach, but unless you have been in a CEO’s shoes, it’s hard to have an eye-to-eye understanding of the people you coach. Larry has worn a lot of “shoes” during his career, and each of those experiences shaped his passion for helping other CEOs succeed. 

 

Similar to many other accomplished business leaders, Larry’s career path was anything but a straight line. From completely reengineering a company early in his career to growing another from $100 million to $1 billion in five years, Larry has accomplished a lot, but along the way he has learned even more. 

 

The first step in Larry’s journey to coaching business’s elite came when the chief human resources officer at Vistage called and asked Larry to join the company, knowing he would love the business culture. 

 

As the world’s largest peer-to-peer CEO advisory organization, Vistage helps business leaders become better communicators, make better decisions, and grow both themselves and their companies.

 

Larry had worked for Vistage corporate for five years and been a member for three when he received the call that changed his path once again.

 

The Vistage Chair in Atlanta was ready to retire, so he reached out to Larry to ask if he would like to take over his practice. Larry did, and he still counts this decision as one of the best things he’s ever done.

 

Today, Larry coaches 48 CEOs and 23 senior executives through his pro bono group, his individual practice, and his work with Vistage—and he loves every minute of it. 

 

“Without hesitation and without reservation, this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever done in my life. It is a privilege to coach the few who influence the many.”

 

 

The Power of Peer Coaching, Candor, and Cultural Sea Change

“Very few CEOs get radical candor. They don’t get a lot of perspective, and they don’t get a lot of pushback,” Larry told Kevin during the podcast. 

 

Peer-to-peer coaching and peer advisory groups provide a place executives can go once a month to hear the truth and accept reality as it is. This radical candor is effective, as after a year of coaching, Larry regularly receives feedback from CEOs along these lines: “I listen better, I look for perspective more, and I actually lean into getting people to tell me the truth.”

 

Larry credits this success to building familiarity among people who have the same pain points. 

 

“Meeting in a group with your peers, you get comfortable with each other, you understand each other’s business, and you build a personal side. Then you get the radical candor, because nobody’s afraid to say anything.”

 

Larry has helped dozens of CEOs alter the trajectory of their companies by giving them the tools to create cultural sea change. Citing the example of a CEO who did a complete business culture reset after coaching, Larry emphasizes the power of attitude in guiding this change.

 

“Leaders are always exuding micromessaging,” Larry said. “How you show up—your executive presence, your positivity—makes so much difference.”

 

This CEO changed her whole persona and stepped fully into the business culture shift. As a result, the company went from one in which “no one makes mistakes” to one of radical candor, in which admitting mistakes is normalized and everyone is allowed to be vulnerable.

 

 

 

Foster Talent with the Help of Your Peers

As a former peer advisory group member and now a Vistage chair, Larry is passionate about the power of peer-to-peer coaching for CEOs and other high-level executives. “When you hire a coach, you're going to eventually wring out their knowledge. But when you're in a group of 15, 16, 17 other CEOs, and your only agenda is to help each other, you never ‘wring’ that out. It is the efficacy of the peer group that makes it work.”

 

Contact Larry through LinkedIn to learn more about his peer-to-peer coaching strategies or find out how to join a Vistage peer advisory group. 

 

If you would like to hear more interviews with global business leaders and innovators, subscribe to the Syniti Podcast Series today.

 

Subscribe to Syniti's Podcast Series

About the Author

Kevin Campbell

CEO, Syniti

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