By Gary Lockwood
You've heard the phrase, "It's lonely at the top". What does that really
mean? One aspect of business life that top executives rarely discuss
is their isolation.
When you are the Chief Executive Officer of the company, whether it's
a start-up or a multi-million dollar enterprise, who do you talk to about
really important issues? If you're like most CEOs, there are just some
things you can't share with employees, friends or even partners.
Think about a sensitive strategic issue you've had to face in the past
year. Maybe you were (or still are) thinking about:
Most likely, you won't share these types of issues with employees.
They have so much at stake they'll not give you good, objective
feedback. You might even cause an unnecessary panic or at least
a lively rumor mill. Even if you could discuss these kinds of issues
with key employees, they don't have the perspective you have on
the company and your vision for the company.
Discussing these sensitive decisions with friends or family might
make you feel good, but what's the possibility that you will receive
solid, unbiased feedback on your ideas? They probably don't know
your company or your industry well enough to give you advice. Many
of these well-meaning people may not have been in a CEO position
and therefore don't understand your perspective on the issues at
hand. And some of them may just tell you what you want to hear in
order to make you feel better. Don't count on the people closest to
you for help with true change - especially in the beginning.
Your advisors - attorneys, CPAs and consultants - usually have an
agenda of their own. Can you blame them if they slant their input
just a little to put them in position for keeping or expanding their
engagement with your company?
If your decision is concerning your partner(s), you obviously can't
openly and objectively explore the issue with her/him.
So, what do you do? Most CEOs just keep it to themselves. You
probably spend a lot of time - and more than a few sleepless
nights - pondering the pros and cons of these significant issues.
If it's a "bet-the-farm" decision, the stress of going it alone can be
Many top executives describe this as feeling "totally alone" or "me
against the world". Lonely at the top? You bet it is! The toll is often
health-damaging stress, strained personal relationships, lack of
focus on the rest of your business responsibilities, and perhaps
a decision that costs you the enterprise.
What's the solution? You have a few practical possibilities that can
provide you a knowledgeable sounding board, agenda-free advice,
timely response and probing questions that truly challenge your thinking.
One possibility is to join a peer-level board-of-advisors group. These
are groups of CEOs who, like you, have the ultimate responsibility for
decisions in their enterprise. Like you, they know what it's like when
you must make payroll every week.
When you can gather 12-15 CEOs together where there are no
competitors, customers or suppliers, and where each person is
pledged to confidentiality, you have the opportunity to get substantive
feedback unlike any you'll ever hear. This works especially well when
you have a professional facilitator to keep the discussion moving
forward and on track.
Imagine what it would be like for you to have such a group of peers
where you could bring your issue to the table. How would you
describe to them your current dilemma? What would you ask them?
Chances are that at least a few of these experienced CEOs have
been down the path you are traveling. Some of them already have
the battle scars and can help steer you away from disaster. Perhaps
the pointed questions from this group could help you clarify your
thinking or even disclose that the issue you are pursuing is not even
the real issue. If you can handle the deep, probing questions, you'll
sharpen your thinking. It's like Tough Love for CEOs.
Another solution for CEO isolation is a business coach. Many
people have a personal trainer for their body. Why not have a coach
for your mind? Using a coach is the latest way for people to get
ahead in today's crazy business world.
People at all stages of professional development need coaches
to help them. Chief executives frequently use coaches to bounce
ideas around; entrepreneurs use their coach to help them think
strategically about the business, and coaches help others sort out
career decisions. Emerson once said, “we all need someone who
can help us to do what we already can.”
People use coaches for two basic reasons:
A Coach can be your sounding board, support system, “devils
advocate", cheerleader and teammate all rolled into one. Bottom
line; the task of a coach is helping you realize your full potential.
Good business coaches usually have special training in listening
and questioning skills. They can hold a mirror up to your decisions,
actions and your thinking so you can see the impact and all the
facets of implications.
Whether you join a peer advisor group or hire a business coach,
take action to relieve the isolation. Running an enterprise should
be challenging, exciting, rewarding and fun. It doesn't have to be
lonely at the top.
The world has become a complicated
place in which to live. A personal strategic plan can help you get
clarity and focus on your own preferred future. This article shows
you how to create your Personal Strategic Plan.
6 Steps to Living Your Dreams
What are dreams? Dreams are soul food. Dreams are things that give us hope. And when they come true, they often give us joy and happiness. Dreams are important for us to hold onto, and to follow.
5 Small Steps That Lead to Great
Shifting Your Vision into Reality
How can you make the most of this year so that you can end it feeling just as high as at the
start? Get out paper and a pen, check out the tips below, and create your blue print for a year to remember.