How prepared are you for the isolation and exposure?

2020 was a very different year for most of us. It brought many new challenges, and leaders needed to respond to them all. Some failed, some struggled, and yet others thrived. 

Here in the UK, as we move towards a more accessible society and marketplace, other challenges will emerge, though one remains constant for my CEO clients. 

The sense of isolation and exposure 

Highlighted during my regular conversations with CEOs throughout the lockdown has been their shared sense of isolation and exposure. 

Just today, Thursday 29th April, a client commented with her heartfelt appreciation on the value of our relationship because, at times, she feels so lonely in her role. That is not so uncommon as you might think, and many organisational responses to the pandemic have exacerbated those feelings.  

Sadly, moving to a more relaxed position on freedom of movement and opportunities in the marketplace will not remove that. It will magnify those feelings, as even more demands and challenges appear as a consequence. 

Are you prepared for the noise, the volatility, the exposure, and the loneliness?  

Do you think of yourself as tuned-in? Did anyone prepare you for the volume of noise, the interruptions, the disruption, or the demands and expectations? 

If my leadership experience and experience as a coach for nearly twenty years tell me anything, then the answer will be a resounding NO.  

For example, on my first day as the newly-appointed Head of Youth Service in 1996, I encountered widely varying experiences and opportunities. Bewildering, intoxicating, confusing, excitingmy thoughts and emotions ran amok!  

On reflection, what amazed me most was the instant visibility to a large group of stakeholders, most notably leading politicians and senior managers, both within and without the Council. If anything had the word ‘Youth’ in the title, that matter found its way to my door. From everywhere or, so it seemed, everyone sought to have their interests at the top of my agenda 

Understanding the scope and significance of every challenge from that very first day was immense, let alone dealing with the speed at which each new challenge arrived. And I was it! Me! On my own! Or so it seemed at first.  

Twenty-five years on! 

Twenty-five years onthe world is even more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Is this also your role? Trying to lead in that environment, build trust across complex relationships, manage multiple decisions and work within highly pressurised timescales, often with reducing resources and mainly on your own, and caught between competing tensions and a volatile working environment. Is there little wonder if, at times, you feel pretty exposed and alone 

Some advice if this is how you feel? 

My advice – do not doubt your decision-making; learn to better delegate; and, most importantly, if you do not already know, learn to say NO 

Keep learning ‘on-the-job’ and give yourself some priority in this respect. I spent way too much time over many years as a leader, helping others grow and develop while forgetting myself.  Your team will count on you, pretty much all the time, and if you are not growing and evolving too, how effective will you be? 

Most of all, take time to reflect on how you are doing and seek feedback from those around you regularly. Otherwise, how will you know if you are leading well, despite all the circumstances? That takes some courage, but it is always well worth the effort. 

In addition to my thoughts, here are six other ways to tackle leadership isolation.  

If you are approaching your first leadership role, take some tips from this helpful article on getting ready for a leadership role. 

So how prepared or in need of help are you? 

As a coach and mentor, I would naturally suggest that there are numerous reasons why some external coaching support would helpespecially from someone who has experienced your world.  

If you need a deeper rationale about making a support case, try this helpful article, or I’d be happy to listen, and I’m always ready to help.  

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