Feeling all alone is a serious ailment. It’s not fatal. Not necessarily. But it can be if you don’t get unstuck from it.
Leaders too often get stuck in loneliness because the team isn’t a team any more. Maybe they never were. Not as much as they should be. They may have once been but lost their way.
You could be you once had a culture that you thought would last forever. Everybody was high energy. Everybody was an integral part. That was then. This is now. Now, people are going their own way. Most of all. You are.
The alone feeling is crushing. You want to find a way to get it back together. To get everybody in the same boat, rowing in the same direction.
You’re sick of this “everybody makes up their own rules” mentality. There are some great individual performers. Sure, some of them likely need to go, but you’ve lived with them so long you never thought they were as toxic as you now know they were. All along.
This isn’t like herding cats. That’s child’s play.
This is like pushing water uphill. It feels impossible.
And you’re feeling as bad as you’ve ever felt. Sales might be good. Profits, too. But those don’t help you feel better. Because you’re smart enough to know that the numbers won’t always go in a positive direction. Not with things rolling this way. You need to figure this out. You need to fix this.
Tendency One – the wrong one
Command and control. You’re so tired of people doing their own thing you decide to clamp down. With all the panache of a tyrannical dictator, you impose your will on everybody around you. “It’s high time I took control,” is your overriding thought. So you do – take control.
You replace loneliness with something perhaps even worse. Higher stress of thinking you have to touch and handle every single thing. It’s impossible. Logically you know you can’t do this. Worse yet, you don’t even want to do this. Not really. You want to get things on track. Right motivation, wrong strategy.
Stop yourself. Curb your enthusiasm for control. Free yourself and think about the loneliness. Lean into not isolating yourself even more and elevating your paranoia – something every dictator does! It goes with the turf.
Tendency Two – the right one
Review my 5 C’s: Compassion, Connection, Communication, Collaboration, Culture.
First, look at your talent. To right the ship and remedy your own isolation…you need the right people. Be vulnerable enough to realize you may not have the right people.
Circle the wagons with the most talented, trusted team members. If that’s just one or five, huddle with the team you trust most. The objective isn’t to form groupthink where everybody agrees with you – or with each other. The objective is to surround yourself with people for whom you can openly display compassion and with whom you can most easily connect. It’s the only way you’ll have deep enough – clear enough – communication to get out of this mess.
Foster debate among this group. Assign a contrarian in each conversation if you must. You need people able to push back and challenge so you can craft the best strategy.
Second, get really clear on the values. It’s soul searching time. You have to lead the ways with your values. But you also have to be considerate of your trusted team members (those talented ones who can help you move forward) and listen to them. Everybody needs to be able to buy into common values. This has to feel right to everybody! It also has to be natural to everybody. This is going to provide the answer in one simple phrase: “This is how we do things around here.”
Third, all communication is congruent with the values. This isn’t like America where we enjoy freedom of speech. This is your company. You have to control the communication, making sure it’s in keeping with the values. That doesn’t mean you don’t allow dissenters, but you only allow it when it’s appropriate and respectful. When it comes to building a high-performing culture you’re in control. You tell the story the way you need to tell it. Period.
Four, value the truth. Team members can’t whitewash or beat around the bush. Plain speak is the antidote needed. Truthfulness. Evidence-based dialogue. This is best done when you lead the way. Stand in front of your team and be candidly honest.
Five, manage the politics…which simply means managing the conflict. People get into disagreements over positions (relationship) and over the work (the actual tasks that happen). Conflict isn’t necessarily bad, but it can become very corrupt. Keep it honest and above board. Shut down bad behavior. Shut down selfish behavior. You’re all in this. Behave like it and make sure everybody else behaves like it.
Six, praise and encouragement. Reward what you want. Punish what you don’t. Focus on rewards though. Focus less on punitive actions. Cheer on great behavior and great performances. It works. You only doubt it if you’ve never tried it.
Alone isn’t permanent. Don’t live with it any longer. Fix it now. Otherwise, you’ll grow increasingly accustomed to it, convincing yourself that it’s just the way it is. No, it’s not the way it is – not if you want to grow great!
Be well. Do good. Grow great!