Is loneliness the price you pay for success?

Few people on the leadership ladder realise quite how lonely it can be at the top and how failure to address feelings of isolation can hold them and their business back.

As leadership coaches, we’re trusted advisors to many CEOs and senior leaders. We know that loneliness doesn’t just affect the person feeling it, it has a ripple effect on their peers and teams.  

In this blog, we share seven ways to conquer loneliness for once and for all.

1. Face the facts

In order to achieve their goals, businesses need employees at all levels to be:

  • Productive
  • Engaged
  • Motivated
  • Fit and well

Unfortunately, loneliness:

  • Reduces productivity
  • Causes a loss of enjoyment
  • Generates tension
  • Reduces tolerance and empathy
  • Results in poor health

In a survey for the Mental Health Foundation in the early days of the first lockdown, 24% of UK adults said they felt lonely in the previous two weeks.

If a quarter of ‘everyday’ people can feel lonely, how much more prevalent an issue is it for leaders who are burdened by unique, even scary, responsibilities?

According to the Harvard Business Review, half of CEOs report feeling lonely in their role and, of this group, 61% feel that it hinders their performance. If we look at the CEOs as a workforce, over 30% would have a performance issue as a result of loneliness.

It therefore makes sense to tackle loneliness as we would any other performance issue. Admitting that there is a problem is the first step.

How authority changes everything

‘First-time CEOs are particularly susceptible to isolation. Nearly 70 percent of first-time CEOs who experience loneliness report that the feelings negatively affect their performance. These feelings are not limited to CEOs. In fact, loneliness and its repercussions can affect any individual with newfound authority. Leaders owe it to themselves — and more importantly, their organizations — to make sure this isolation does not impact their effectiveness.’

Thomas J. Saporito, Harvard Business Review

2. Build a trusted support network

We all need someone safe to unload onto, to bounce ideas off and who we can rely on to give us their honest feedback. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be someone that you work with on a day-to-day basis. As Amy Gallo wrote in the Harvard Business Review, ‘The higher up in the organization you get, the less likely you’ll receive constructive feedback on your ideas, performance, or strategy.’

So, if you can’t rely on your colleagues, who can you turn to?

We recommend asking a past CEO, a trusted board member and/or a spouse to provide the support you need.

3. Make connections

You can grow relationships with employees by finding new ways to interact with them, such as weekly group coffee breaks on Zoom, ‘ask me anything’ sessions or having 1:2:1s with employees from different departments. As well as reducing your loneliness, this could help generate new ideas for the business, strengthen employee relationships and grow your employer brand.

Although it can be harder to connect with other CEOs than with your own employees, following them on social media gives you the opportunity to learn from their leadership experiences. Leaders who are open about the challenges they face and the lessons they have learned include:

4. Make progress

It can feel as though your ability to progress is hampered by the constant need to make hundreds of small decisions. Developing and empowering your teams to take some of the burden will allow you to free up the time to achieve more meaningful goals. It will also give them a sense of autonomy and grow their self-worth.

5. A rounded life

There’s little point encouraging your team to have a work/life balance if you model the opposite behaviour. Don’t just be a leader, spend time outside work being a friend, relative, supporter or mentor. However busy you are, you still need some downtime, whether that be exercising, doing some manual work or gaining some much-needed perspective through journaling.

6. Develop your company culture

Creating a loneliness-resistant culture whose values support wellbeing, collaboration and development will benefit employees across the business. It also supports achievement of the business’s goals by increasing employee motivation and engagement. This can have a positive effect on employee productivity and retention.

David Chamberlain, one of our Co-Founders, comments, “Your strategy and culture should be linked. Strategy defines the rules of the game, culture defines how you decide to play. A collaborative culture fosters teamwork and reduces loneliness. A competitive culture has the opposite effect.”

7. Work with an Executive Coach

As coaches, we can act as external sounding board, allowing you to share frustrations, talk through challenges and find solutions in a supportive and confidential environment. By acting as a ‘critical friend’, we’ll help you work out how to navigate the challenges of leadership, such as loneliness, and improve your self-awareness and adaptability.

Summary

Loneliness doesn’t have to be the price you pay for success. If you’re ready to boost your performance by tackling loneliness head-on, please contact us today. 

Six ways to help your business thrive

Businesses which achieve the best return on investment in people pay equal attention to how they attract, recruit, retain and deliver. In this blog, we explore ways of strengthening your performance, so your business becomes more successful, profitable and resilient.

Finding the leaders that you need to take your business forward

The cost of hiring the wrong leader can be huge. As well as the financial cost, estimated for a manager to be over three times their salary (Recruitment & Employment Confederation), it has an unquantifiable cost on productivity, culture and morale.

Our Executive Recruitment service is designed to eliminate many of the frustrations, blockers and mistakes which dog senior level recruitment, such as recruiting like-for-like replacements, CV overload, failure to qualify candidates properly and overlooking incompatible values. Instead, we’ll challenge you to ensure that the job and person specification is exactly right before approaching and assessing a small pool of potential candidates to test their potential fit.

Only when we’re satisfied that they are worth your time, will we make introductions.

The real cost of poor decision making

“We calculate that a poor hire at middle-management level at a salary of £42,000 could end up costing a business £132,015 in total to resolve.”

Kevin Green, Chief Executive, Recruitment & Employment Confederation

Developing your leaders, teams and culture

The one thing that’s going to be certain in a post-pandemic world is uncertainty. Over the last few years, we have all become used to some change, such as operating on an increasingly public stage, but now we are expected to accept, implement and embrace change at a remarkable rate.

Although traditional business skills such as decision making and communication will always be valued, your leaders and teams will need to develop softer skills such as adaptability, curiosity and humility in order to survive and thrive.

Our People & Culture Development service will bring together coaches, mentors, trainers, D&I experts and wellbeing specialists in a personalised programme to give your people the support they need.  

Laying the foundations for continued growth

Your business may have evolved naturally so far but taking a more proactive and objective approach to its design will make it easier to achieve your strategy, increase efficiencies and nurture innovation.

David Chamberlain, one of our Co-Founders, comments, “Taking a step back and looking at the roles needed to fulfil your business’s objectives, rather than the people you have available, is incredibly powerful. It helps you avoid one of the common mistakes smaller organisations make – shaping their structure to suit loyal employees’ skills and needs.”

Our Organisation Design service will help you take an objective view of the structure your business needs to be more successful and help you get the right people in the right place at the right time.

Ensuring your key people can evolve with your business

No matter what steps you take to minimise loss, it’s impossible to retain exactly the same leadership team year in, year out. As well as roles becoming available due to ill-health, retirement or resignation, business growth will also open up new management vacancies. Regardless of the reasons, having a pool of potential leaders ready to step into a more critical or key position will help safeguard your business’s productivity and profitability.

Our Succession Planning service will help you identify your strongest talents, nurture their leadership skills and ensure they are committed to your future.

Keeping it in the family…or not

Family-run businesses can avoid succession planning in order not to rock the boat. In PwC’s UK Family Business Survey, while 69% of family-run businesses had succession plans, only 18% described them as formal. If you’re a family business, we can help you take an objective view of what you need to do to protect your business’s future whilst protecting family relationships.  

Saving time and money by fine-tuning your processes

Recruitment will always be a business need. Streamlining and optimising your processes now will pay for itself time and time again. With the average length of the job interview process at 27.5 days (Glassdoor), shaving even a few days off will give you a competitive advantage and free up valuable internal resource.

Optimising your processes can also help get relationships with candidates off to a strong start, turning even unsuccessful applicants into advocates.

Our Recruitment Process Optimisation experts have the knowledge and experience needed to help you develop processes which will attract more suitable candidates, reduce administrative burden, turn new hires into loyal employees and grow your employer brand.

Becoming the employer of choice in your industry or area

Your employer brand is how you differentiate yourself in the work market. Get it right, and it’s easier to attract, recruit, retain and engage the right people. Even if you haven’t purposefully set out to develop an employer brand, your employees, ex-employees and previous recruitment activities will have generated one for you.

Strengthening your employer brand will help you attract candidates who have the right skills to take your business forward and who are a good cultural fit.

Conversely, a poor employer brand, or one which is mismatched with reality, can hold your business back.

Our Employer Branding services will identify why your employees love coming to work, benchmark you against your competition and help you develop a brand which is unique, honest and compelling.

The importance of employer branding

“An employer brand isn’t just a PR stunt to generate job applications. There’s nothing worse for a candidate, especially a senior hire, than starting a new job and feeling like they have been misled. It erodes trust between the employee and employer. We help businesses create an employer brand that’s true to the business and which fits with their strategy and public brand. This helps new hires to feel settled and reassured that they’ve made the right decision.”
Sarah Knight, Co-Founder at Tribus.

Summary

Addressing any people-related areas of weakness will enable you to take your business to the next level, but there’s no simple ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.

Our unique data-driven approach will help you develop an objective view of your business’s strengths and weaknesses. We’ll then work in partnership to develop a customised package of services that will meet your unique needs.  To find out more, contact us today.