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3 Strategies to Consider for Combating 'Executive Isolation'

Why is this? For starters, sometimes simply not getting the information contributes to this feeling. CEOs have intense schedules that require delegation. Day-to-day tasks may be handled by other team members. Thus, executives may feel disconnected by simply not knowing. The oblivion in this case scenario is unintentional; however, executives may also be isolated from employees forgoing sharing information in fear the information will not be received well. The third comes from within. CEOs reported holding emotions in, contributing to isolation, to project a strong image. 

So where to from here? The introduction alluded to the fact there are solutions to combating this isolation. Here are three strategies to consider.

1. Culture of Vulnerability May Help Everyone At Riverbank, we start each meeting with check-ins. These are designed to be genuine barometers of how everyone’s day is going. Sometimes these are happy stories: a child’s milestone or fun story about someone’s dog. Other times, these are more vulnerable: a death in the family or current personal struggle. This helps everyone feel less isolated. Similarly, Howard Schultz, then Chairman of Starbucks, was facing a crisis in 2008. Schultz spoke to how opening up to employees reduced the pressure he felt in dealing with the crisis. His willingness to share his stressors with employees enabled the employees themselves to feel they could be apart of the solution. Offering employees ways to give honest feedback can bolster communication channels and decrease the feelings of isolation. Sometimes this can simply be within. Saporito suggests executives simply acknowledge their feelings of isolation instead of pushing them away. 

2. Seek Support Have you ever had something go wrong and phoned a friend, and then found yourself feeling better after talking? When we feel isolated, sometimes using friends and family as a sounding board can help. Seeking support from other executives in the same position, or from outside consultants and/or coaches can both alleviate feelings of isolation and provide helpful perspective. 

3. Finding Community Beyond the Office Engaging in “serious leisure” was one of the main findings of Emilia Bunea’s research to negating feelings of executive isolation. Dedicating time to run, paint, play hockey for example reduces feelings of isolation by “offering ” and expanding personal support networks. For me personally, I find running to be a pseudo-panacea in times where I may feel isolated or stressed. Executive isolation is real, but unlikely to disappear during this tumultuous time. Understanding it’s the triggers and antidotes of isolation is in the best interests of all executives facing these issues.  This applies to many of us – not just executives. Hopefully, these steps can help to alleviate feelings of isolation when and if they occur. 


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