MDs Insights: We’re all human and we all have a breaking point
Stepping up to lead in uncertain times is tough. Usually in business, when we face a new challenge or problem, our previous experience gives us some clue as to how to solve the issue we’re facing, or how long the problem might persist.
But this time it’s different. We’re dealing with something completely out of our control, where so many variables are affecting the outcome of the days, months and weeks that we usually take comfort in planning for. We’re facing questions from our children, our families and our colleagues that, at the moment, we’re unable to answer with certainty.
My ability to think straight has had some rigorous testing
As a leader in business, this is extremely tough. We’re expected to carry on performing, carry on leading and carry on making money, all while not knowing the answer (or even having the confidence that what we think is the answer is probably right). It leaves us feeling uncomfortable, inadequate and, quite frankly, overwhelmed.
Over the last few weeks, this is how I’ve felt on quite a few occasions. My sleeping pattern has been turned on its head, and I’ve noticed that a knot has taken up near permanent residency in my chest. My usually (relatively) healthy diet has been replaced by constant cravings for sweet treats and a need for copious amounts of coffee, and I’ve felt that if an Adele track was to play in ear shot, I could just well-up. My usual ability to think straight, problem solve and lead my team with confidence has been put through some extremely rigorous testing and at times, it’s been exhausting.
One morning last week, I switched on my laptop and just stared at my inbox. Fuzzy-headed and heavy-eyed, I found it genuinely difficult to know where to start; the previous few weeks had really taken their toll. For me, this was as a warning that I’d reached my tipping point and I needed to do something about it. I owed it to my business, my team and most of all, myself, to ask for some guidance.
I was able to breathe and feel a bit more like me
That morning, I did something I’ve never done before. I contacted a business coach and mentor that I’m connected with on Linkedin. I’d never met her in ‘real life’, but we’d shared a few ‘comments’ and ‘likes’ online, and it just felt like the right time for me to speak to her. So, I got in touch and engaged in one hour of coaching / mentoring / counselling; whatever you want to call it.
To me, the way the support is labelled is insignificant, but the difference it’s made has been more than noticeable. Dare I say I even enjoyed it? Just a few hours after the session, my mind felt so much lighter, with less confusion and more clarity. I was able to breathe and feel a bit more like me, safe in the knowledge that everything I’d discussed would remain confidential. It was a relief to be able to offload thoughts and feelings that had been clouding my mind, while receiving the validation from someone completely impartial that what I – and no doubt countless other business leaders – are thinking and feeling right now, is completely okay.
“We’re all human and we all have a breaking point”
After the session, I posted on Linkedin to share my thoughts. I was surprised at the number of open and honest responses I received from business leaders who are in the same position. “A very honest reflection of how many of us are feeling now”, said one. “We’re all human and we all have a breaking point”, said another, and “we all need to invest in ourselves”, added a third.
And we do need to invest in ourselves. As leaders, pandemic or no pandemic, we all need to ensure we make time for us. One of the comments on my post stood out to me; “Clients sharing their worries naturally takes its toll on the adviser, too.” It does, and we owe it to ourselves to ease the burden in whatever way works best for us.
As my dad often remarks, “sometimes, when you’re up to your backside in alligators, you forget why you got in the swamp in the first place.” Seeking some support helped me refocus and get back on track a bit. Maybe I am only human after all, despite what I like to tell myself.