by Nina Donovan
There is a reason why people say it is “lonely at the top”-because it is.
These uncertain times have exacerbated this isolation, both physically and figuratively. Not only have leaders had to continue to manage and direct their businesses, they have also had to take on a much more human relations role, as they have needed to consider the well-being of their people on, quite literally, a more human level.
Leaders have had to really think about how mental health and connection impacts their employees’ ability to deliver and perform, and then support them in ways they have rarely had to consider before.
But who then looks out for the leaders at the top? During this difficult and strange time, those in leadership positions have been looked to as the Oracle, the source of wisdom and answers, to support and guide their organization and teams through the uncertainty. The problem is that no-one has the answers; no-one knows how long we will have to work from home, no-one knows when we can travel again, and no-one knows when, or if, normal life will return.
Rethinking Executive Coaching in 2021
At its peak, when the pressure from uncertainty grew, companies started making difficult cost saving decisions, which compounded employee anxiety. Again, it fell on leaders’ shoulders to look after their people and support those who remained, trying to reassure them, and maintain a sense of stability and forward movement. Even at those firms that have appeared to survive, or even thrive, if you speak to their senior management and really listen to them, they may tell you that they are “OK” and were able to remain calm, that things at work are fairly normal - but when they start talking about their insomnia or other anxiety related symptoms, that can be a pretty clear signal that things are not OK.
Leaders are expected to lead, to look after everyone and to have all the answers, but who can they really turn to for support? If leaders are not also taking the time to look after themselves and manage their own anxieties during these hugely difficult times, how can they be expected to effectively lead others?
Working with an Executive Coach isn’t always about improving poor performance or problem solving – although of course it can certainly help. Coaching can also provide leaders with important sounding boards, as well as simply creating a space for them to think and explore new ideas during times of change. Importantly, in these challenging times a coach can provide leaders with effective support by really listening to them and helping the leader see new perspectives on their realities, in addition to managing and processing their anxieties.