Diary - The learner

There is room for improvement in staff at every level of a company - not least the bosses at the top

The role of chief executive can be lonely. You are responsible for business strategy. Making the right calls. You are responsible for managing the implementation of that strategy. Picking the right people, motivating and monitoring their performance. You drive through the change. You are responsible for the leadership of the business. You are a role model. All staff watch your behaviour, you can't afford to exhibit any behaviour that is inconsistent with the message you are selling.

As a newly appointed CEO of a loss-making business, desperately in need of change, who can you talk to? There is a need for you to be consultative, the team must feel free to challenge and, yes, you can change your mind. But you must not exhibit doubt or an inability to make the right decision. Likewise you don't want the team to feel you don't have total confidence in them. So you are on your own.

So who can you talk to? A coach. I am charged £675 per session (two and a half hours). He normally charges £2,500 per session for the serious captains of industry. I can't afford that, so I have struck a deal whereby, if I achieve my financial targets in 12 months, I will pay him a one-off fee of £15,000. I reasoned that if he didn't buy into this deal, he wasn't the coach for me.

What do we do? I talk, he listens, he challenges, I counter, sometimes squirm, he sets me homework. We always work away from my normal office. We review the strategy and explore the options. He checks out how my behaviour is perceived by others by using anonymous feedback from the team. Have my messages landed?

We discuss how I might get leverage on the business, given that there is a finite number of hours a chief executive can work in a day. We talk about putting together a management team and how we ensure I pick the right people and we function effectively as a team.

He makes me "draw pictures" in portraying to the staff where we are today. I must point out why it's unpleasant and the need to change. I draw pictures of where we going, and benefits we will all accrue on arrival. I outline the journey. We define the key components of my job: leadership, team development, business development, thought leadership in the industry and managing our investors. We review how I spend my time. Does that reflect the priorities? He sets my homework for our next session.

Why am I doing this? Because I need someone to share my thoughts. I know I can improve my performance and that of my team members. Anyway, in 12 months' time, I will know whether or not it's money well spent.

Michael Moran is chief executive of Fairplace, an HR consultancy specialising in talent, career and change management

Are you being skilled?

Sharon - Resourcing consultant "My employer did provide me with training. I have just been made redundant, so getting extra skills is an especially important concern for me at the moment."

Aga - Cafe supervisor "There are customer services courses and others, but I don't take part."

Guy - Nursery school deputy manager "I am sent on courses, and get to choose which I go on. There's no need for me to improve my skills outside of work, as the company provides everything I might need."

Tim - Learning support teacher "I wouldn't consider extra training outside of work because I'm not going to be in the business long enough for it to be worthwhile."

Derek - Civil servant "Training includes personal, IT and managerial skills. I've done a degree to improve my qualifications on top of my job. It took six years, but I got a First in history, which is great."

Shane - Registered nurse "There is training, but it's hard to come by. I studied at a postgrad university to improve my qualifications."

Tanya - Waitress "I don't get any training at work, and because I work day and night, I have no time to do any off my own back."

John - Electrician "My company gets us qualified enough for what we need to do. I'm far too busy to take on extra training - unless the rewards came quickly. If it helped get more money, then maybe."

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