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
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.
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.
You want to improve your performance at work but you start noticing your energy or motivation is slipping and its getting in the way of your high performance. When you drive your car there is a fuel gauge that lets you know how much fuel you have left in the tank. How about you, what lets you know it is time to stop?
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.