When talking to prospective clients one of the things I try to do is delve a little into their personalities and their wishes for their work. I ask questions such as ‘what makes you happy at work’, ‘what would you ideally like to accomplish’, ‘what do you think is your biggest challenge’, ‘how do you feel now’.
Some of the common words that have been cropping up recently in answer to the last question; ‘how do you feel now’ has surprised me. “Lonely”, “Isolated”, “Alone”. Why would this be? Most companies I deal with still have offices teeming with people, many working in teams on various projects so how is it possible to feel isolated and alone?
Leadership loneliness and being isolated at work
Exploring a little deeper I am finding that quite a few of the leaders have the idea that they cannot show any vulnerability as that will be seen as a sign of weakness. They feel that they have to tread a lonely path so that they will be respected, be seen as the authority figure and have their orders obeyed. I would suggest that idea of what a leader should be like is a misnomer.
When talking to team members it appears that many are using these words in terms of their tasks. Some work from home the majority of the time and are feeling less connected with the rest of their team and office. Some are given their task and then expected to go off and just get on with it with very little, if any, support. This leads to a sense of being isolated from the rest of the team.
As a solopreneur I am quite used to working on my own, it suits my personality. However, I know that there is a danger of becoming isolated, separate from other people. To stop this happening I make a point of arranging and going out to physically attend meetings. My work, of course, means I am constantly meeting and mixing with new people and with new connections I encourage 1-2-1 coffee meetings so I can get to know them as people. I would say I have a 50/50 balance between working alone and being with and around other people.
I can see that the newer, faster paced world of work requires people to concentrate on their job in hand and doing so alone negates unnecessary distractions, however, are we not in danger of forgetting a core essential for any high performing productive team? Is it healthy for people to feel isolated?
Feeling isolated is contrary to our DNA
Social interaction is one of our basic human needs. It is within our DNA and has been since the beginning of Homo Sapiens roaming the earth. Whilst striving for more productivity we need to ensure that this fundamental need is catered for. We need to be more genuine, authentic and open so that other people can relate, listen to and talk to us. We should encourage and facilitate areas, events or times when people can get together and have a good old chin wag and we need to get better at asking others questions as to how they are feeling.
Everyone needs someone to lean on occasionally whether they are the very top executive, somewhere in the middle or on the front line. Feeling isolated is not a necessary part of leadership or 21st century working, People are, first and foremost, people after all.