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
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?
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.
If you find yourself getting distracted and losing focus it is probably happening without you knowing how it is happening. If you don't know the process, it is challenging to do anything about it. Discover how you do it.
If you find yourself getting distracted and losing focus take the time to write down what you are thinking that takes you away from the moment (the now). The process of doing this helps you step outside yourself and observe what is really going on. It may be a worry, stress, fear or the situation.
Whatever is disrupting your thoughts or actions needs to be written down because when you write it down, it requires that you label it, by labelling it you make it more specific which can reduce the distracting thoughts power to return again and again. You can then work out how to deal with them so that those thoughts no longer affect you.
Three suggestions for you to experiment with:
Now you may be thinking to yourself that this process just magnifies the problem, but if you do nothing, nothing will shift and you will continue as before. So go on, give it a go.
If you want to create the habit of eating mindfully, it is first useful to recognise the benefits of habits. Habits are fantastic. Your habits require very little energy. They increase your efficiency leaving space in your brain for the parts of your day that require you engage your brain and think carefully and purposefully. A habit is something that you do automatically a bit like the Nike slogan you “Just do it”.
So just think for a moment; it is the morning and you leave the house, jump into your car and drive away without thinking. Instead you think about your day ahead, you do a bit of planning and maybe even plan the dinner. How much are you thinking about changing gears, indicating or anything else. Do you need to think about driving? No! Now say it with me - you just do it.
As you can guess, creating the habit of mindfulness requires practice - just like you did when you learned to drive a car - so you get into the ‘just do it’ habit of it.
Now you may be thinking to yourself; sure, but how can you remember to practice in your already hectic life. Well one method is to choose to eat mindfully. The reason this is so useful is because it is something you do every day, more than once a day and so you get multiple opportunities to practice. Even if you don’t remember every time in the beginning, you can always decide to let that go and decide you’ll eat mindfully the next time.
Each time you go to eat, take a breath in and let it all the way out. Now stop, look at your food, its colour, shape, arrangement and all the little details that you normally overlook. Now breathe in the aroma and become aware there is more than one and they are complex. Be like a wine connoisseur identifying as many different scents as you can and describe them to yourself.
Now you are ready to take your first bite, notice the texture and the different areas of your mouth where the flavours develop. Take your time chewing slowly while you eat, become aware how you move the food in you mouth with your tongue and the resistance between your teeth. You will discover you enjoy your food more. You’ll experience the full taste of what you are eating. This also helps you eat less because your brain will have the opportunity to register when you are full.
Eating mindfully give you a little oasis of calm two or three times a day. It helps you slow down and gives your body the chance to relax before the next thing and as you know well there is always a next thing.
Are you ready to experiment with eating mindfully? Let me know how you get on.
Some people assume mindfulness is something you do away from work, in your spare time. But have you ever considered what working mindfully could do for your working day? Working mindfully means paying full attention to the task at hand, whether it is writing an email, attending a meeting, strategy planning or any one of the other myriad tasks that comprise your working day.
Multi-tasking is a fallacy:
What is multi-tasking? It is jumping from this to that without really paying attention to any of those shiny attractive tasks. It is a huge time waster because each time you switch tasks your brain has a lot to do to re-orient itself, it requires effort, you may not be aware of it, but it drains your mental energy ultimately reducing your productivity.
So instead of trying to do more than one thing at a time in order to feel productive, focus purely on one task. This not only helps increase productivity but it also ensures that you are focused on what you are doing at that moment. You’ll be able to apply all your senses to what you are doing, heightening the experience and putting yourself in the moment. You may find it useful to set a time limit for each task allowing you to move on. Something to experiment with?
Give yourself a break:
Spend at least 5 minutes every day doing absolutely nothing. This will help you clear your mind and relax. You can do this anywhere. Simply stop doing whatever you are involved in and do nothing. Clear your mind and focus on what is happening at that moment. Use all of your senses to experience it:
You might even find it beneficial to take a 1 or 2 minute break between tasks to really let go the last task and bring your whole self and focus to the next one. Why not give it a go?
If you would like to know more you might find this book of value:
Mindfulness at Work: How to Avoid Stress, Achieve More and Enjoy Life!
Or this TedTalk may give you some ideas for your work.
How do you plan to work mindfully? Let me know in the comments.
Mindfulness is a useful tool for reducing levels of stress and anxiety. By reducing levels of stress and anxiety you can help yourself create a more fulfilling life. While sitting meditation forms a significant part of it there are other things you can do to develop the skill of mindfulness and harness its power in your everyday life.
If you ant to discover more about mindfulness you might find this a useful book to read:
Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World
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.