You’re sat in the boardroom, surrounded by familiar faces. Your board members are your colleagues, and some are even your friends. You work alongside them day in, day out. You know their talents, their quirks, and their bugbears. Yet why, sat here amongst these people, do you feel quite so lonely?
The boardroom can be an isolating place at the best of times. With big personalities around the table, it’s often hard to maintain order while important issues are thrashed out. Key messages are left unsaid, and sometimes only a select few have their opinion heard. As you fight against this feeling, other areas of your life become affected too – resulting in a pervading sense of loneliness that is difficult to shake.
The loneliness of the boardroom
The story is a familiar one. The date for the board meeting comes around. The agenda is set, and you have plenty ready to contribute. Armed with facts and figures, you have important ideas to raise and welcome an open, considered debate on the matters at hand. But step inside that boardroom, and after ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, hopeful intentions begin to slip away.
In the boardroom, loneliness can be an overwhelming feeling. You may be fighting a one-man battle. No-one is listening, and no-one is offering the advice and support you need. But you are not alone. According to the RHR International CEO Snapshot Survey, 50% of CEOs experience a feeling of loneliness: a startling statistic indeed. CEO’s and business leaders almost always appear to be strong and assured. Yet all too often they are internalising problems that result in isolation.
…and other lonely places
If you feel this way, it’s likely not restricted to the boardroom. You may feel lonely at home too: the stress of work life restricting your ability to get involved in family matters. You may be more withdrawn and up-tight, with less time to simply laugh with your other half or your children. Socially, your friendships may be taking a beating too. You’re working overtime, and have cancelled on your closest friends one too many times. But this should not be the price of success.
Safeguarding against loneliness
According to leadership coach Kristi Hedges, loneliness has ramifications on the entire business. Writing in an article for Forbes, she says it can cause ‘poor decision-making, negativity, fatigue and frustration’. In short, it’s worth making an effort to safeguard against this feeling – for your own good and for the sake of your business.
Thankfully there are plenty of ways to protect yourself from loneliness as a CEO. You may find yourself a mentor: a person who will listen and advise even when your boardroom fails to help. You could join a peer support group: a collection of professionals who can offer mutual support and understanding. Or perhaps you establish an informal advisory group; meeting in a neutral, relaxed environment to discuss mutual challenges. Whichever option you prefer, the only way to safeguard against loneliness is to do something about it.