This week I wanted to offer up a personal story that has been reinforced a number of times whilst speaking to different leaders over the last three years.
There are many unspoken costs of being a business leader.
- The sleepless nights
- The restless weekends
- The fight that no one sees, the fight inside the board room to protect your team and the team members who have worked their tales off
- The constant exhaustion you feel
- The continued burden of another politically fuelled discussion taking more time away from completing your actual work
- The fight to find five minutes to yourself to get your thoughts together
- The way you may struggle with relationships outside of the work
- The fear and paranoia you feel around the business and your role
- The feeling of being alone in your role and not having someone to really have your back
- The number of days you eat badly because you are in a rush and then the days you rely on caffeine-based drinks to get you through
- And lastly: The three days it takes to relax while you are on holiday/vacation and then the day of dread worrying about what has happened, even if you check emails and slacks.
Many execs feel these daily, many ignore the warning signals until it is too late.
Many believe they have hustled a little too hard or made a few too many shortcuts.
Versus understanding these are all triggers and they require breaking down and understanding all of these things are happening regularly and impacting us and the only way to address these is by creating a dedicated plan to address these.
Even the world’s best CEO’s have their moment’s, the majority have exec coaches and therapists helping them. As in leaders letter 48, Steve Jobs, Tim Cook and the Executive leadership team at Google all had Bill Campbell aka the trillion-dollar coach (read Bill Campbell’s 12 lessons).
In my fixing the broken world of work podcast with coach Sharon Aneja, we open up about the challenges of being a leader, the impact it can have on company culture and led me to suggest (like I did with CBT), that every leader should have therapy.
Here are two of my main reasons:
(1) To open up and speak about their experiences, speak about their time and how much the relentless pace takes it out of you
(2) To observe and learn how therapists change their sessions, they listen, they ask very deliberate questions and how they lean in and nudge you towards discussing the hard things you might not want to open up about and discuss.
Something that has helped many leaders is sharing their thoughts and feelings on external podcasts and interviews, this shows EQ, their emotional strength and importantly their vulnerabilities, this will also apply to our recent recommendation of creating an internal podcast.
Another recommendation is to reconsider how your leadership team is set up and supports each other, the management pod is a useful reframing and recommendation – this support network becomes invaluable, particularly around building trust and a psychological safety network.
Whatever your ‘level’, if you found yourself nodding along or are feeling any of these unspoken costs to your mental or physical health, please make it a priority to speak to someone and arrange a session.
Your company often will have a partner to support you, speak to HR or review your emails or the company wiki on the provider.
There are also many new mental health apps that are aimed at business leaders, armed with great specialists to help you.
Best of luck fighting the unspoken costs of being a leader.
This is the most important item you should place on your to-do list.
Thanks and be well,
Sharon wrote leaders letter 59, it’s well worth the read.