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The adage is true, lifes lonely at the top. Image credit: unsplash.com

Boohoo, you make a six figure salary: but the disdain which the media and public shows for members of the exclusive c-suite is not the only thing that can make life rough for CEOs.

RHR International found that half of the CEOs they surveyed reported experiencing feelings of loneliness in their roles. 61% of the lonely-hearts-club believe isolation hinders their performance.

Jeff Booth’s experience as an executive has taught him that fear and ego are two of the main causes of the isolation felt in the c-suite.

“On the one hand, there’s fear of appearing inadequate and the concern that asking for help could make others doubt your judgment,” says Jeff. “After all, CEOs are supposed to have all the answers—the buck stops with you.

Meanwhile, your ego is telling you that you really don’t need others to help make big decisions; who knows your business better than you do?”

In his opinion, this cocktail is what prevents “highly capable CEOs” from getting help.

In his article for Fast Company, Jeff shares the tips which helped him as CEO when the s#@t hit the fan.

SUPPORT GROUPS AREN’T FOR SCHMUCKS

When the going got tough Jeff turned to his peers in the Young Presidents’ Organisation (YPO) for help. The YPO is a group of global CEO’s. In this forum for top decision makers, Jeff confided the troubles he was experiencing in 2009. His business, BuildDirect was close to the edge – Jeff confessed that he would be unable to make payroll.

This frank admission to his peers, though daunting, assisted him to find a solution to his and his company’s woes.
The revelation that finding a support group – even outside your organisation – will help you not only in overcoming your professional problems but especially, to get guidance from people who have experienced circumstances similar to your predicament.

BEING VULNERABLE DOESN’T MAKE YOU VULNERABLE

This step isn’t for sissies. Being vulnerable takes great courage. It “is all about inviting others into your world, making it a natural antidote to loneliness,” Jeff says. “Confiding in people from the get-go […] can dramatically improve ties with your team.”

Howard Schultz, CEO of coffee-store giant Starbucks has spoken in the past about the importance of vulnerability and transparency and the role they played when the company struggled in 2008.

Admitting to his employees the trouble they were in, Schultz helped them comprehend the challenges they faced and empowered them to become part of the solution.
Instead of letting a kabala of execs map-out a strategy for salvation, transparency encourages everyone in the team to own up and tackle the problem together.

YES, GRATITUDE IS A THING – AND IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

In fact, a 2007 study found that it directly led to “higher levels of perceived social support, and lowers levels of stress and depression” – go figure.

But how is one grateful? It’s all about the things you do and Jeff Booth articulates this as being, “like a muscle: something you have to consciously exercise or else you risk losing it.”

For him it’s maintaining the perspective that the challenges you face are always momentary. When you are in the thick of it, you can easily forget that there are other things in your life beside work and the transience of the immediate problems you are challenged with. Remember this, and your family and friends, and keep a schedule where you spend time with them, doing the things you love to do; leave work at the office like you do the strippers in Vegas.

Mr Booth concludes his article by ruminating on the difference between those executives who succeed and those who don’t.

“Great CEOs know – and always try to remind themselves, especially when it’s hardest—that it’s never about them,” he says. “It’s about the impact that their businesses have on others. They build relationships and teams that pass credit for success onto other people. They stand in when mistakes are made, shielding their teams so that experimenting and learning can continue.”

Jeff Booth is cofounder and CEO of BuildDirect.

Follow him on Twitter at @JeffBooth.