Five Antidotes to the Top Challenges of Being the Chief

It can be really lonely at the top. In the words of a client “there really is no one you can turn to when you need mentoring or advice. Your board is not there to discuss your problems, you are expected to bring them solutions.”

Here we’ve garnered some fixes to help keep you focused on delivering your best at all times.

Challenge 1: Lack of support

Unlike in your previous roles, you have less peers and advisory. As the boss, you are positioned in the minds of your business to challenge others and make final decisions, rather than be challenged yourself. Even if you are not surrounded by yes-people, your team will come to you to help them resolve their challenges rather than be in a position to help you with yours, as an equal. The dangers are blind spots in judgement, poor decision-making and high stress.

Antidote: Look Externally for Your Peers

It’s a common misbelief to expect to be superhuman and capable of having everything figured out yourself and often people will treat you as if you are. This puts an incredible amount of pressure on yourself and limits your ability to broaden your scope to find the solutions you really need.

Get out of your social comfort zone. Explore joining business networks and groups, either already established or take the initiative to organise your own casual meets with your professional contacts you’ve met at conferences.

Challenge 2: Lack of Accountability

You are great at holding everyone else in the business accountable, holding yourself accountable is a different thing all together, especially when you are tired, stress and depleted. How often do you do what you say you will do? Do you frequently set yourself unrealistic expectations only to self-criticise when you fail to meet them? This is a leading cause of stress for senior leaders and business owners.

Antidote: Be Honest with Yourself and Set Up Accountability Structures

The first step is recognising where you are slipping and accept that it’s natural to do so. Take a look at your strengths and research accountability methods that suit your way of working. There’s plenty of apps that can support you like Boomerang, Trello and Productive. Alternatively, consider a hiring a coach or mentor that will hold you accountable, you will be surprised with how much more you get done once you have someone to report back to.

Challenge 3: All Work and Not Enough Play

When constant professional obligations and personal commitments culminate in you feeling under pressure without reprieve you are at risk of burn-out. We are made to deal with stress in short bursts, rather than long term. When you are at a high level with high pressure for too long, you need to take a closer look at how you are responding to stress and managing your professional duties.

Antidote: Get Balanced

We get stressed when we are in situations where we are out of balance for so long that we struggle to cope. Different situations stress different people. Pay attention to what helps you recharge and what energises you, then build in that time so you are interspersing draining activities with re-energising ones. Practice different activities to help you build resilience and realise you are role modelling health and wealth to your wider teams, friends and family.

Each of us has an optimum point of productivity. Practice tuning in to recognise yours and take action quickly when you find yourself sliding into unproductive bad habits that send you further into stress like spending too much time on Facebook rather than meditating or exercising.

Challenge 4: Managing Conflict Effectively

Leadership is not a popularity contest. Unhealthy conflict is uncomfortable. It can be very tricky to resolve disagreements between your team members so it is much easier to push it back on them to sort out or ignore it and hope it goes away. However, it escalates absorbing even more unnecessary time and attention.

Antidote: Deal with It

Accept that conflict is part of a strong and happy work life. By understanding the nature of conflict, you can learn to implement rules so your teams are able to enjoy healthy conflict that ultimately strengthens decisions.

With healthy conflict, all parties are focused on the goal. It’s an objective challenge to problem-solving, a questioning of strategy and it leads to better decision-making. When conflict is personal it becomes harmful. Subjective opinions about individuals, characters and behaviours breed toxicity and politics.

Create a culture that does not tolerate unhealthy conflict. Always role model the behaviour you want to see and always remain impartial but fair. If you find this a challenge, then hire a coach to work through your personal emotional drivers that are causing you to lose control of your own behaviour.

Challenge 5: High Performance, All the Time

You are expected to deliver your revenue targets, year on year delivering an increase in profitability and productivity. The pressure of continuous high performance means you can never take your eye off the ball. While you aim to delegate and give autonomy to your time, ultimately you are responsible for everyone’s performance. The impact of this pressure results in stress.

Antidote: Focus on effectiveness

What gets measured, get improved. Use technology to establish your own and your teams’ goals and help you assess and track performance. There’s a plethora of collaboration software available to enable you to have sight and input when you are constantly travelling and on the go. Challenge your teams to review their processes and look into building automation into their work methods. With a little bit of research and set-up, these are quick-wins to instantly reduce repetitive workload and administrative tasks. Free yourself and your team to focus on improving commerciality.