Five Ways to Cope with Manager Loneliness

Five Ways to Cope with Manager Loneliness | Alison Nail-Malone

Did you notice yourself feeling lonelier once you started managing people or people who were your peers? The price of leadership can feel lonely but is also a universal human response to taking on the responsibility of others and new business objectives.

Think about it. When you first step into a new management role, you’ve drastically multiplied the number of people you need to make happy. The higher you climb up the ladder, the harder you have to focus on proving to your team and clients to be loyal to you and the company. You are judged more severely. Your metrics of success increases. Your words, moods, and actions also have a serious impact on the mental state of your team. And the success of your leadership style typically rests solely influenced by what each team member thinks good management is; and as a leader, you often have fewer work people (or work friends) to “hang” with than you did before.

I bet this may leave you, at times, longing for more simpler times.

Sound familiar?

There is no one right way to avoid these feelings, but throughout my own career and as I coach corporate leaders, I have discovered five effective ways you can dodge the isolation trap.

Accept reality.  Simply acknowledging feelings of loneliness or isolation can be a relief in itself. Constantly denying these emotions in exchange for a false sense of self-assurance is exhausting. Leaders should take a moment each day to process and accept how complex their responsibilities can be. The more accepting a leader is of their reality, the easier it will be to seek and accept support in dealing with it.

Don’t fall into the pitfall of expecting gratitude. This is a common trap for managers who believe they need to go above and beyond in order to help their team through their personal issues. Leaders sometimes get their feelings hurt after overextending themselves for their direct reports, particularly when they receive no gratitude or recognition in return.

Find that one person to offload on. Sounds easy but it is not. Spouses, romantic partners and the like are not exactly whom I am talking about. They have the best intentions; however, they may not always be the most objective. Find a coach, a counselor, a mentor or someone in your trusted network to meet with monthly. They must possess impartiality and practice active listening.

Establish a peer group or a “personal board of advisors”. While this may take some time up front to build, this will make a positive difference. Your personal board of advisors are people who are most likely to understand the pressures that your title (CEO, VP, Director, Sr. Manager, etc.) experiences. They may possess the same titles or titles similar to yours. Spend time with other leaders from different walks of life. Meet with them at least once a quarter if not monthly. Collaboratively discuss the challenges, brainstorm new ideas, and celebrate the wins.

Pick one challenge or low hanging fruit that you can easily accomplish and take action. Being in a leadership role can often be daunting with the day-to-day responsibilities you need to accomplish and supervising a team. Choose one challenge, or a low-hanging opportunity, a month or even quarterly. Managers are tasked with big project and goals. Having a win that can be achieved quickly will help build confidence and strengthen your sense of accomplishment; particularly in those times, you may feel alone as a manager.

Anyone who has stepped into a leadership role knows that the less-than-positive feelings that come with authority are often unexpected. Leaders tend to go to great lengths to maintain a façade of valiant confidence to conceal insecurities. In today’s time of high-stakes business, leaders cannot afford to ignore and not deal with doubts.

Manager loneliness needn’t be a taboo subject. Like related issues of stress and anxiety, being open and proactively dealing with it will lessen the hidden toll it takes. And that will be a good thing for leaders and a good thing for businesses, too.

Author | Consultant | Alison Nail-Malone

Alison Nail-Malone is an Executive Coach, speaker, and corporate leadership consultant; and runs Malone Consultants Group. Get her free leadership article by clicking here.

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