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.
Reading time: 3 minutes 30 seconds
Written by Julie Silfverberg
Thinking is like a bit like writing; it is a process. A lot depends on the order in which you do things either on the page or in your head. So if you were to write, “The dog bit the man” I suspect you would expect your reader to have a different experience, than if you wrote, “The man bit the dog” even though you have used the same words and only lightly changed the order. So as you can see the order and sequence is important.
Also if you were to add colour to your to writing by using adverbs and adjectives – you do remember those, don’t you – by saying “The big black dog charged the man and grabbed him by the arm…?” now you have even more of a response from the reader, possibly even a slight quickening of the heart rate (an unconscious physiological response) and a more detailed picture in the mind’s eye.
In your mind you can also adjust the quality of your thinking by adding or removing colour or other details. Now that may strike you as a bit odd. But just think about it for a minute – let’s pretend you have decided to buy a new barbeque and you want to get a gas barbeque but definitely not a charcoal one because you think they are slow, smoky and often don’t deliver a great result. As you think about it now, notice the pictures you are making inside your head....I suspect the picture of the food from the gas barbeque looks bright, big and maybe even a movie, in other words attractive, while the food from the charcoal one looks less appetising. Or think about ordering food in a restaurant, you possibly have a picture in mind of what the food will look and taste like. Now of course if the served food does not match your imagined picture - depending on the qualities of your reference pictures - you will be either disappointed or delighted. Of course this may be just my mind’s eye talking.
You might be thinking, so what? Just think about it, as you discover you can change the picture qualities in your mind’s eye you can learn how to change your motivation, make your goals more compelling and generally make it easier for yourself and others to achieve their goals and ambitions. So as you think about a future event now and if you discover you are feeling a bit unsure about it, just ask yourself are you seeing it completing the way you want it i.e. successfully? If not change your outcome picture until you are seeing the best result for you and notice how it feels. You might find any anxiety you had been experiencing simply dissolves and you have positive anticipation now.
Experiment Alert :-)
As you choose to begin noticing your anticipatory pictures more I would love to hear what you discover, so do comment below.
By Julie Silfverberg
You started your business, it has been growing and where are you now? You may find now you are very busy fulfilling all the roles in the company. In fact you might have no free time. You are working all the hours that God gives and it still doesn’t seem to be enough. Maybe business has plateaued and even beginning to slip backwards. Maybe you want to step up a gear but can’t find the time or the resources to make the gear shift. You know you are working in your business with no time at all to be able to step back and make decisions for the next stage of business development – to be able to work on the business.
Some questions to ask yourself for the future:
Written by Julie SilfverbergWhat is going on inside?
There was a time when the scientific community thought the brain was hard wired. They believed once connections were made inside, that was it and there was no going back or changing. In fact they had surmised that over time the connectivity deteriorated.
Happily for us in the last 10 to 15 years there has been a revolution in the thinking about the brain, akin to the discovery that the world is round and not flat! Through new imaging techniques it has been discovered the brain is highly plastic.
What does this mean to you and me? Well it means that change need not be arduous or slow, it can in
Written by Julie Silfverberg
“But I don’t think I’m a bully”
Put downs hurt
Your review could reflect the level of stress you are under. For some people when they are stressed they may treat members of staff (without meaning to or being aware of it) in ways in which they may be treating themselves internally – by being highly critical, judgemental and harsh and with unrealistic expectations. Or if the behaviour has been long standing, this may be your style which may have worked in the past or been overlooked.
Written by Julie Silfverberg
Olympic rings London
The Olympics is a festival of excellence, achievement, focus, a lot of work, pride and frequently overcoming adversity. That's why so many people watch them.
With any kind of racing there is always the preparation phase just before the off, where the athlete gets ready, steadies and then with a burst of pent up energy goes.
At the end of the race there is of course the result you know where you came first, second, third or..... . What
Written by Julie Silfverberg
Where is your focus?
Do you want to start working on your business?
Is all you time taken up each day running your business?
Are you playing all the roles in the organisation from cleaner, mailman, facilities manager, sales and marketing person to CEO?
Do you ever take the time to step back from your business look into the future and really plan your direction, make decisions and take actions based on those decisions that will lead you
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.