Some years ago, I met this particular client for the first time, as I usually do, I asked; "So what do you want from coaching?" She replied, "It's lonely at the top." Initially, I was surprised at her phrase "It's lonely at the top" because she was the CEO of a complex business employing several thousand people. So of course, the thought went through my head "How is it she is lonely?" She went on to say "I want someone who'll listen to me as I explore various ideas and vision for the business. I don't need you to advise me or tell me this is a great idea or that is a dumb idea. I need a sounding board and someone who'll ask me questions to challenge my thinking and create a broader perspective. Is that something you do?"
It transpired she was the only woman on the Board of Directors and the lone woman in the C-Suite and felt she was exposed and didn't have anyone neutral to whom she could talk and explore her thoughts, vision and strategy. We had stimulating coaching relationship for several years, which was fascinating for me, and she had her sounding board. Over the course of our coaching relationship, she developed a valuable connection with her team, the board's respect and appreciation and ploughed her successful furrow.
I don't know where the phrase "Lonely at the Top" originated. I believe it came from the 1972 song by Randy Newman. However, it was probably coined earlier than that. No matter, whoever coined the phrase, there is no doubt what it means. When you are in a leadership position, you won't and can't have the friends you used to have.
However, my client above is just one example, and you don't need to be at the tippy top or a woman to experience a sense of isolation. People in leadership positions managers, supervisors even if you are leading a team of two, also experience it. When you move position, up, sideways or even down, temporary or not, relationships change, even if you feel they shouldn't. Just as when you retire and think your work friendships will stay the same, they don't, because you have left the world of your colleagues and moved to a different planet.
Managers and leaders have to make decisions, and their people won't always be happy. For instance, suppose your manager tells your team they have to work for the coming weekend due to an unforeseen event or in the current uncertain climate they need to take a 20% pay cut. How popular will either of those decisions be for the team? Of course, it depends on each individual because each person responds in their way, taking into account their commitments and expectations?
It's probable; not everyone will enjoy or be satisfied with the decisions you must make. Hopefully, they will respect them. Of course, that depends on how you present those decisions. If you are not firm, transparent and decisive, people may read this as being weak, or they'll feel confused, don't know what to do, and will not perform. Once that occurs, you will have a difficult time recovering from that perception. So be firm and don't waiver. Recognise, making a decision is vital; nothing is worse than no decision.
Ideally, when you are in a leadership position, your mindset is one of knowing yourself, you are performing well or not. With this mindset, feedback is just feedback, and you decide whether or not to take it on board depending on your criteria. If feedback is something you rely on to know how you are performing and be motivated, you may find senior leadership positions challenging.
Some leaders make rash decisions. Not recognising what precise information is needed, thus creating poor results. The reports affected by these decisions may get irritated, and you could lose credibility as a leader. Once that happens, you need to start clearly communicating more than you think you need to, so you begin regaining their trust.
One of the challenges is; there's always more information which is how you could start procrastinating. So you have to know where and when to draw a line in the sand and decide.
You are going to make mistakes; after all, you are merely human. When you believe you have all the necessary information, new facts may emerge to throw the original concept out of whack. There isn't much you can do about it, except accepting the landscape has changed, make alternative decisions, communicate and take action. Your confidence will be critical for your credibility when this occurs. However, when you exude confidence, your team will give you the respect you deserve and appreciate the pivot.
When you accept a leadership role, relish the responsibility that goes along with it. Appreciate people aren't going to like every choice you make and not every decision will be 'right'. Nonetheless, you are the one who is in charge of decision making. Make them with informed, well-founded confidence even if it is lonely at the top.
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I'm not sure that quote is one hundred percent accurate because I suspect, if you are reading this blog, change is something you are open to or curious about. Whether the amount of change, upheaval and uncertainty all-around at the moment is challenging or not, is - as they say - another kettle of fish.
Most people are not fond of change, but, whether you like it or not, it happens all the time. The seasons come and go, day changes into night and then back again, you get older with each passing year, along with emerging wrinkles and grey hair - or maybe I'm only talking about myself! Thank heavens for hair colouring.
Of course, there are other life changes, job, promotion, redundancy, start a business, buy a house, move house, a death in the family, a new baby. Change is constant, and yet it is frequently challenging, and uncomfortable, and we try to resist it even though this is futile.
Here are some suggestions on ways to deal with life transitions. I'm not saying they will make the change easy but maybe one or two will resonate, cause you to pause and tweak your perspective.
When the changes that happen are totally outside your control, there is absolutely nothing you can do. Therefore, it's best to accept them and stop resisting. Now, this is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. But, when you learn to let go of the desire to be in control of something that you can't control, you may find it much more comfortable when those changes do occur. Of course, some changes are going to be less challenging than others, be grateful when you notice this is the case.
Don't Live with Regrets
You can't change the past, at least not yet. Until someone discovers a way to do that, don't worry about what you've done in the past. Besides, if you let that get you down, you risk alienating others because you'll always be in a foul mood. Don't live with regrets. It's a colossal waste of energy.
Remember you have more knowledge and experience now than you did in the past, cut that younger you some slack. If that younger you was someone you really cared for and loved what advice might you offer to support them and help move past the old regret.
Remember You Are Not Alone
No matter what stage of life you are in, many people have been there before or are here right alongside you. Seek out these people and talk to them, learn from them and their experience. This doesn't mean you'll do the same as they did, but it could prompt you to think of alternatives for you. Furthermore, you'll meet new friends or deepen friendships in the process, and you'll discover that the world is not as lonely as you might have thought.
Have Some Alone Time
I know this sounds a bit contradictory after the previous paragraph. So I'm not suggesting you go it alone, however, having some time for yourself is a good thing. This is the time you take to clear your head or think things through without the input of others, no matter how well-meaning. Whatever you want to do, it is up to you to decide.
Enjoy Life No Matter What
Everyone deals with tragedy at some point in their lives. You will grieve the loss of loved ones, and you may have adverse situations that you'll have to deal with. As much as possible, choose to enjoy your life no matter what type of position you find yourself in. If you believe you only get one life, you want to live this life to its fullest.
Understand Your Purpose
You are here on this earth for a reason. You do things differently to everyone else. Even if you think you do some things the same others, you are unique and so you have your angle or spin because you are you. If you are stuck on something that doesn't fit for you, you'll probably feel discontented. Determine what it si you are meant to do and just do it.
Get Help When You Feel Overwhelmed
There are going to be situations where life - your life - seems unbearable and tough to deal with. If you ever get to that point, and you don't need to wait until it is too complicated, do look for help and support. You can start with friends and family. Consider this, sometimes friends and family have a vested interest in the status quo, so for challenging situations, consider professional help.
P.S. If you found this useful be sure and share it with you friends, family and colleagues
I guess you like many people at the moment are facing some challenges as a result of Covid-19. Whether it is concern about loved ones, supporting your children’s learning, getting enough exercise, feeling stressed or even confused and indecisive, just know you are not alone. I know that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier.
It can be hard to remember that it’s natural to have obstacles crop up from time to time, and yes, this is a somewhat more significant obstacle than normal (whatever normal is). Everyone has setbacks, disappointments, and tough times. But going through a rough patch doesn’t have to spoil your life.
The key to thriving in the face of adversity is how you respond to the obstacles in your path. So you allow yourself to learn from this event, as they say, it would be a shame to waste a crisis.
Here are 4 suggestions to help you ride through and come out on top.
1. Decide to welcome the obstacle
If you’re having a tough time, it can be easy to feel helpless, even that you’re a victim.
So it is your choice to rise to the challenge and decide that you won’t be overwhelmed. The first step in overcoming any obsctacle, is choosing to identify, take control and embrace your challenge. I know the idea of embracing Covid-19 sounds weird, but that is not really the challenge. The problem is your response to that thing - Covid-19 - outside you. This is were ‘identify’ comes from, what are you feeling: fear, confusion, uncertainty, sadness or something else, only you know. Once you identify your feeling, your response, then you can look your obstacle square in the face and resolve to meet it.
2. Be okay with discomfort
The proof that you’re embracing your obstacle is acknowledging it doesn’t feel good. It can feel uncomfortable, heavy, even painful. There are lots of life experiences that hurt at the time but end up being for your best and highest good. From marathon training to going to the dentist to public speaking, even facing your debtors, you feel so much better once you’ve encountered the worst. Remember it won’t last forever. Don’t shrink from the bad feelings, learn from them and build your resilience. You can ride them out!
3. Make sure you have a support team
You don’t have to face your obstacles alone, and this means you ask for help, support or an ear to listen to you. It can make all the difference to have people around you who are supportive, who’ll stick by you and cheer you on when you want to give up.
If you have a cheer squad, you’ll find that extra level of energy to help get you through. And when you reciprocate and are there for your family, friends and colleagues when they’re facing their challenges, you’ll feel so good about yourself. Once you’re part of a team who have each other’s backs, none of you will have to face life’s ups and downs alone. You’ll fight together and celebrate success together.
4. Be grateful for your obstacles
Feeling gratitude for the challenges in life might sound counter-intuitive. But think about it. Accepting the challenge, resolving to meet it head-on, and overcoming it makes you a better, stronger person. Think of how good it feels to deal with a problem and solve it. To face fear and overcome it or simply let it go.
Without obstacles in your life, you would not grow and learn and become even more of who you are. Obstacles, even this current one, are a natural, regular (well hopefully irregular) part of living your authentic learning life.
A question for you
Which one of these suggestions is most useful for you?
During this pandemic with 24-hour news bombarding our senses and concern for ourselves, family, friends and colleagues, we are bound to feel stressed and a sense of loss of control. So the critical question is; what habits can you develop to support yourself and increase your resilience through this challenging time?
Even if you are the most mindful and resilient person, the low-level hum of stress may mean you have days when you don't feel your best and overreact emotionally. It is all a part of being human and your emotional responses at play which are currently more tightly wound. As an emotional being, you're programmed to feel, and it is essential information. But there are also times when situations can get the better of you, and instead of empowering you, they make you feel limited and powerless. When this happens, and you feel emotionally trapped in the moment, you may make decisions that could be unhelpful to the situation. And remember any decision is the best decision you can make at that moment in time with the information you have available to you. It is only in retrospect you can judge it, even if it is only a minute later. So if you find you have barked at your partner, for no good reason, take a step back, breathe and reorient yourself.
Being able to be resilient becomes all the more useful during these times. It is during emotionally-charged situations that your character often gets tested. While it's not only about character, your emotional strength and maturity to handle these situations is also at play.
One thing is for sure, emotional resilience is key to success. It helps you make sense of situations and enables you to choose the best decisions without being limited or feeling trapped. Overall, it is vital to maintaining a sense of balance in life. Being emotionally resilient empowers everyone and helps preserve a sense of hopefulness and positivity no matter the situation.
Why not experiment by modelling emotionally resilient people who have these 5 similar Resilient Mindset Habits in common.
1. They Pause Instead of Acting Impulsively
The value of the "pause" becomes even more pronounced amidst stress and adversity. It's during high pressure and emotionally charged times that character often shines through. During these passing moments of suffering, emotionally resilient people turn to the pause, not out of fear but wisdom – knowing that making a hasty decision influenced by what they're currently feeling and experiencing right now, could turn the scenario for the worst. This capacity for impulse control empowers them to make better decisions when they're in a better place and state of mind.
2. They Can Work Through Discomfort
The patience and the wisdom to willingly work through emotional discomfort is not for the faint of heart. And yet, this is one of the classic traits of emotionally resilient people. It's an inner strength that is admirable and worthy of being modelled.
Not everyone can sit through a storm peacefully and with wisdom, without potentially turning to a bottle of alcohol or another form of unhealthy vice. A lot of people wreck themselves momentarily in trying to cope. Resilient people's strength empowers them to gain a sense of perspective out of a difficult situation.
3. They Practice Self-Care
Emotionally resilient people momentarily cope with difficulty by turning to self-care. This self-soothing is a very positive and proactive form of coping, rather than drowning their sorrows or indulging in a 'pity party'. By giving themselves the tender loving care their inner self needs in the moment, they create even more strength. It's a wonderful opportunity to come out of a challenging situation more enlightened and refreshed.
Sometimes, the most productive solutions come out of these instances. A physically healthy person who establishes a more flexible mindset has more edge over a difficult situation. Whether it's enough sleep, exercise, going outdoors or enjoying playtime with a pet, emotionally resilient people master self-care, making it their weapon of choice amidst tough times.
4. They Know How to Turn to Humor
Apart from self-care, emotionally resilient people deal with life and the realities that come along with it with a bit of humor. The ability to laugh may be a form of survival. Some people manage to reframe their mindset from a situation at hand by telling jokes and getting their giggles on. They know even choosing consciously to smile fully can influence how they feel. Humor goes a long way and can be a great form of distraction in the meantime. Share it with people around you, and it also helps create positive bonds while fostering better relationships.
5. They Accept the Present
Contrary to what some people might think acceptance doesn't mean complacence. Instead, it is the flexibility to allow the wind to temporarily take a person's sails where they may not have originally planned to go. While it's good to plan and prepare for life at all times, nothing is ever certain.
A sense of calm and composure enable you deal with changes and situations beyond your control. Emotionally resilient people allow temporary situations and even suffering to pass without letting it break them. While they allow themselves to feel emotions, they don't let the circumstances overwhelm them.
Three Questions for You?
Are you noticing things (I'm not mentioning them, there is enough out there) are quite challenging at the moment due to all the uncertainty? In these times stress levels go up, and everyone's pinch point gets that bit more easily activated, causing friction in relationships. But you can decide to focus on being kind to ease the stress and soothe relationships. Being kinder is not about making sacrifices or denying your own needs. When you treat people kindly, it isn't an imposition or another task on your checklist, it is a way to be.
Here are some scientifically proven tips for engineering kindness into your brain.
Actively choose to be kind
It's the outward demonstration of living positively. Kindness is all about mindset, and you can train your brain to make kindness almost automatic. Ever notice that being kind to someone makes you feel good too? It's because altruism promotes a chemical reaction in your brain, releasing serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. These chemicals not only make you feel good but also work to reinforce positive social behaviour. By laying down new neural pathways, you set yourself up for living a positive, kinder life.
In choosing to be kind, you are consciously resetting your mindset to treat people with compassion and empathy. Notice the effect of your kindness on others. When you smile, people's natural reaction is to smile back. You set up a kindness loop that keeps on paying itself forward!
Choosing to be kind, regardless of your mood, can even turn a cranky day into a happier one. Your brain receives the message that all is well, and before you know it, you'll be feeling more cheerful.
Do more random acts of kindness
Here in the west, we associate the mind with the brain, whereas in eastern traditions, the mind is associated with the heart. When you think of it in that way, it is easier to tap into the kindness mindset, isn't it?
Studies have shown that carrying out five random acts of kindness every week is the single most effective way of increasing your happiness. Anything from buying a pay it forwards coffee, to letting another driver into the traffic, or even helping your elderly neighbour with shopping will make you and the other person feel good.
Be kind to yourself.
Self-kindness starts with noticing your self-talk. Are you encouraging or judging? Do you start from a position of 'yes I can' or 'I'll never do it'? Pay attention to that voice in your head, and change the script to really being kind and gentle with yourself. Be your own cheerleader, just like you would with your best friend.
Build little acts of self-care into your day. Reward successes, big and small. Take time to do the things that make you feel good. Make sure you get enough sleep, stay hydrated and have a nutritious diet.
Make it a daily practice to count your blessings. Research has shown that people are happier when they notice the good things in their lives and practice gratitude. The outcome is so marked that it changes your brain structure! Brain scans have shown the positive effects of both mindfulness and gratitude. What happens is the parts of the brain associated with stress shrink, while the regions associated with self-awareness and compassion grow. And that is what you want, I suspect.
Stress is a component in many major diseases, as is being shown in more and more studies. If you don't handle your stress effectively, it can also cause problems in your business.
It’s important to realise everyone has stress at some level, and if you're not careful, it can hurt you. Stress comes from 4 sources also called stressors.
Here are some coping behaviours to help you handle stress:
That's all for now til next time this is Julie Silfverberg with Success Partners - working with you to create your success mindset.
I’m curious how do you offset your stress…if you have any! Do share in the comments below, we would all benefit.
Time Management? The funny thing is, it is not really managing time is it? It’s managing yourself within the constraints of the time available. As they say: “Time and tide wait for no man”
Managing yourself within the time available to you is critical to the achievement of any of your goals. Actually, if you can't master yourself here,
Sometimes there can be a mindset of "Well I've set my goal so now all I have to do is wait for it to happen." And yes, setting the goal is vital, and to guarantee its achievement you need to do stuff (technical term :)). To know what to do and when planning is the difference that makes the difference.
What are your tips for planning the steps of your goal?
When you feel angry or frustrated at work, home or even socially being able to manage your emotion in a way that allows you to communicate effectively and create the outcome you desire is a useful skill. Have a look at the video for a few tips.
Julie Silfverberg has worked in the field of personal and professional development for more than 20 years. She works with a diverse and exciting group of people. Each with their own unique talents and potential.