Leadership can be lonely at the top. But it doesn’t have to be.
As a leader, it is your job to know the way forward and to support your team as they work together to achieve the goals and to deliver value.
Leading during COVID-19 can feel even more isolating.
Ironically, even though most organizations are leaning into more frequent meetings and touch-points, it doesn’t make the job easier. Zoom or virtual-meeting fatigue is a real thing. I hear it from 100% of the executives I work with.
Like you, Leslie is discovering that working from home means less travel but now, her time and resources are being allocated in different ways. Leslie is a COO at a global organization with her team spread over four different time zones. Leslie is working longer hours, taking fewer breaks, and dealing with the additional layer of demands from home. She has a spouse with a full-time career plus two kids (ages 8 and 10) that need homeschooling. And let’s not forget the need to figure out meals and “who’s on first?” It is a lot for Leslie. I think you get it. It would be a lot for all of us.
Frankly, most days she has trouble remembering what happened in the morning because her brain is so foggy and exhausted by 3 pm. Her days often bleed into evening hours with barely a break. Wednesdays feel like Fridays which feel like Sundays. Pandemic work weeks seem to blur the line between home life and work life.
Despite this, during sleepless moments in the middle of the night, Leslie’s mind goes back to pre-COVID times where she reflects on her future goal of growth within the organization.
Before the world was hit with WFH (working from home), Leslie was energized and figuring out how to earn the position as a number one pick for a global role with more scope, more responsibility, and ultimately, to make more of an impact on the stakeholders they serve.
In her current role, she is a conscientious leader who wants to continue to lead important initiatives and pay attention to connecting with her team. She cares about optimizing engagement with her direct reports and ensuring they are aligned and motivated.
We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Everything is uncertain. Everything is changing. How the heck is Leslie supposed to take care of her people and also herself? How can she still pursue her goals when time seems to be slipping away as she fights fires, manages crises, and tends to her team?
Who do you trust as a private thinking partner? Who is that person you can share your ideas with, banter questions with, and explore the situations and challenges you grabble with? That person who listens without bias, with no judgment, and only cares about your success and fulfillment?
Some leaders are fortunate to have a mentor, colleague, or advocate at work – who are happy to offer advice and to be supportive. But from my experience, that is more the exception than the rule. For most leaders, they follow the mantra “if it is to be, it is up to me”. That is a lot of pressure.
Leslie did have her former boss, and unofficial mentor, Sachin. Sachin used to do her role before she was promoted. When she took the time to reach out to him, he was happy to offer advice. However, he is exceptionally busy with his own team so those conversations have been infrequent at best. With the pandemic and WFH, she knows that there is already a lot on his plate.
The CEO, Ricki, is generally supportive of Leslie but is more of a hands-off style of leader. Her communication preference was based on ‘only let me know if there is a problem”. She knew Leslie was a competent leader and didn’t need Ricki to frequently check-in. Ricki was relieved to focus on other issues.
Introducing the Executive Coach
Just like an elite athlete who hires a coach, gifted executives know that engaging an executive coach can be a game-changer. Especially critical during a pandemic.
What if you could partner with someone who offers an unbiased desire to support you and the achievement of your goals? Someone who truly cares about your fulfillment, your success, and ultimately, your happiness? A person who will balance support with challenging you to stretch into your best self?
Leslie has an advocate in Tom, her VP of Human Resources. He knew that Leslie was a well-regarded leader with the potential to grow and to make a broader impact. Tom had seen the tangible impact of executive coaching and introduced Leslie to a coach. She was relieved to know that virtual coaching was readily available.
The coach took time to better understand Leslie, her goals, and her challenges. The coach also made a point of meeting with Leslie, Ricki, and Tom at the same time, in order to have an open dialogue about Leslie’s goals and what the organization expected.
Leslie and her coach met every 2-3 weeks. The coach gave Leslie the rare gift of one hour to step back from the craziness of work, to pause and to reflect. Leslie found this time to be energizing in a different way.
Her coach was a thinking partner who asked deeper and different questions that really got Leslie to reframe and get crystal clear on her goals. The fog lifted on where she wanted to focus and where she was actually spending her time.
Practical Actions & Momentum
Leslie realized that she didn’t have to choose between managing through the pandemic OR continuing to grow as a leader. She could do both.
With the support and challenge of her coach, Leslie crafted a practical action plan. She leveraged her executive assistant to proactively manage her calendar differently. She built out her stakeholder map and got clear on who, when, and how to be more deliberate about how she could add tangible value.
Leslie gained new insights, more clarity, and was able to design a practical action plan that she put into play in real-time. Her coach was a thinking partner, someone who challenged her when she felt stuck, who empowered her with reinvigorated views of her strengths and how to lean into her goals – without losing her sense of priorities.
Ultimately Leslie learned new ways of working that relieved some stress, created more energy, and gave her hope for what she could create for her future. Isn’t that what we all hope for?
Right now is the perfect time to partner with a trusted, expert Executive Coach to help you navigate the rapid changes we’re seeing during the pandemic. Having a valuable partner in your corner as a sounding board, guiding your thinking process, and streamlining your leadership skills is a powerful asset for every leader. You can learn more about Churchill’s Executive Coaching programs here:
Executive Coaching as a Managed Service
Executive Coaching 1 on 1 as Needed
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