Help for the Overwhelmed Executive

The role of the executive is undoubtedly a demanding, and concurrently stressful, position. From an outside perspective, it is often difficult to perceive the heavy and intricate workload with which executives must contend. Both in and out of the office, those in high-level executive positions are frequently expected to devote the majority of their time, attention, and efforts to the company. While most executives possess the drive and knowledge to solve the issues faced by most organizations, the intensity of the position itself, can inevitably take its toll over time.

Tired or stressed businessman sitting at workplace in office

 

As befits the situation, there has been a plethora of research and psychological studies devoted to the issues faced by the leaders of industry; and rightfully so, considering that a high-profile company can hardly be expected to function at optimal levels if its top leadership is suffering. Unfortunately, one of the most common drawbacks to the type of individual most suited to the demands of executive positions is a concurrent isolationism.  This sometimes results in a staunch refusal to show (or even acknowledge) any measure or degree of weakness, genuine or perceived. Indeed, it is often the mere perception of weakness that disturbs corporate leaders, perhaps more than any other demonstrated issues.

As a result, many executives have a tendency to bury and ignore their troubles until they reach a boiling point and simply cannot maintain the facade any longer. We’ll take a look at a few primary (and underlying) causes and behaviors that can lead to this type of drastic situation, in the hopes that by understanding, they may be caught and recognized early.

Two Main Issues

Isolation:

  • An executive at the top of his or her game has very few opportunities to interact with others on an equal plane or to experience the benefits of having community at work. Most often, when an executive meets with others at a similar station, the scenario is one of competition, and the resulting dynamic is rarely one of security or affable companionship. Nevertheless, who else should an executive to look toward to understand their unique pressures and expectations placed upon them? Being at the top equals leadership, and competent leaders are not known for expressing their doubts, real concerns, and personal issues to their subordinates. In fact, it can be quite lonely at the top.

Facade:

  • This issue is rather multifaceted. It is not to say that an executive is a wholly artificial person, but the demands of their position are reflected by the image they are expected to maintain and present; both internally and externally to the company. With this in mind, there is very little opportunity for an individual working upwards of 80 hours per week to find much space for genuine engagement and honest expression of their core values; which can be an especially tricky subject, considering many executives often find their personal values at direct contrast with the role they must fulfill.

Solution Oriented

The following are some basic, yet effective highlights, to help combat the fatigue and distress that such a demanding position inevitably confers upon an individual.

  • Develop intentional mindfulness. The value of working mindfully cannot be overstated to guard against seemingly stray or unwanted thoughts which may generate a negative spiral toward doubt and self-condemnation.
  • Give strong attention to your work/life balance.  Of course, you are driven, but remember that moderation and balance in all things is the key to happiness and ultimate success.
  • Seek support. We’ve already discussed how isolating your position can be, so one of the most effective actions you can take for yourself (and your company) is to find that which all human beings need: community. There are multiple outlets for this, both professional and recreational, but we recommend seeking out executive-level conferences and seminars that are specifically geared toward this goal.

 

Stress Management

The astute executive always looks ahead, and in this instance, the greater part of foresight is taking good care of your own well-being.

 

Fred Coon, CEO

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