It’s lonely at the top, or so it seems so many times in the corner office. The executive burden is getting heavier, and a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity & ambiguity) world is not helping. While it’s safe to say each must find their own portion to deal with it, here are a few thoughts to get you going.
EXPECTATIONS: One of the behavioural traits executives pick up on the way to the top is being their own best critic and having a very high expectation of oneself. It’s good if it is met. However, if not, it can quickly become a burden, especially if they fail themselves a few times. The last nail is when the executive loses faith in turning around and that releases an array of emotions. While self-expectation in good measure is very critical for success, executives need to take a step back and take an unbiased view of the expectation to see if it is even realistic. One must realise not everything is in their own hands. In fact, very less is. Therefore, toning down the goal, or at least being flexible about the ways to achieve the same goal, becomes the key. Executives aside, in many a situation, employees have been worried sick with imagined expectations that bosses never had of them — it’s always good to check with stakeholders to be on the same page.
FIGHT OR FLIGHT: Sometimes it is good to stop fighting and take flight. Move away from the situation and, if possible, create a physical distance. Often when you get back after a while, the problem suddenly looks more manageable than earlier. This is simply because your mind gets its required processing time sub-consciously in the absence of the negative environmental factors.
THE BODY: We may be good listeners for others, but we might not be listening to our own body. The small aches & headaches that you drown with a coffee are all trying to tell its own views. Psychosomatic disorders will be the order of the day. Many entrepreneurs unwittingly make their health the limiting factor in the pursuit of lofty goals. Imagine how much a continuously stressed body and runaway hormones can interfere with rational decision-making. Sound body is turning out more important than ever in managing tough days.
ACCEPTANCE: Sometimes it eventually does boil over. Sometimes there is simply no solution or there is none yet that you can see. We can’t win them all. Accepting the reality or a loss is very important because it then releases us to move on with a new journey. We forget that as heads of businesses, we are still playing a role and perhaps see no difference between the role we play and the being that we are. The role and the being should have different identities. Allow yourself to fail in a role, as a being you will never fail.
REALITY VS REALITY: It’s uncanny to think one’s sworn reality may not be the reality. It is just one’s best interpretation of the reality. One CEO’s gloomy reality of his company may well look like opportunity of a lifetime to another CEO who walks in next. While one having to sell the family’s silver could be a reality, however, all future gloomy pictures could be more an imagination than reality. So, before you take an irrational decision based on your perceived reality, get a reality check.
PROFESSIONAL HELP: When you are at your wits’ end or earlier, visiting a counsellor or a psychologist is a great idea. These are professionals who know the working of the mind and, with conversations over a coffee, can enable you to sort your mind, irrespective of the complex business you think you run. Just like anything else in life, there’s always someone with a right method to fix things — just the same for untying the knots in your mind.
SPIRITUALITY: To many, it might be awkward to read it in a business column. But when everything else fails, you could simply surrender and look up to your creator to bail you out if you believe in one. Sometimes, letting go of control and humbling oneself is all it takes. Miracles, do happen.
EMPATHY: You are lucky if you don’t have to use any of this. However, you could help someone who does. While many of the suggestions will work depending on situations, what will always work is the empathy of a good friend or a loved one. Being heard and understood without being judged might be one of the best things you can do to a stressed out executive or, for that matter, to another being.
The writer is managing director, Kelly Services India