We’ve heard it before, ‘it’s lonely at the top’. Those ‘at the top’ or rising to it, can attest to the fact that this couldn’t be more apt.
As you rise up the pyramid, there are fewer and fewer people in whom you can confide. The ability to discuss ideas with colleagues and process thinking becomes less viable as the decision-making elevates. Finally, as the head of an organisation, you find yourself in rarefied air with the chance to share your thinking and clarify ideas restricted to few, if any, knowledgeable colleagues.
This is a stressful situation, handled better by some, and not as well by others. Add a world of uncertainty brought on by Covid-19, and the pressures mount, for some, unbearably.
Having the ability to talk to others and share thinking, is a significant relief valve. The CEO Institute is one such facility that allows business leaders to connect, share, vent, postulate, and relieve the stress. During Covid-19 shut-down in WA, the CEO Institute moved to on-line meetings. This provided the connections and companionship that are the hallmarks of membership to continue, but, limited to the capability of on-line formats. As soon as face-to-face meetings again became possible, the meetings were the best attended in a long period.
One CEO spoke, during the Covid-19 lock-down, that she was considering not renewing the office lease, as the team had operated so well working from home. At the face-to-face meeting her comment was that she had arranged a lease on excellent terms for the office. When asked about moving to working from home conditions, she remarked that it had become clear to her that people need to connect with each other on a level beyond a weekly Zoom call. The discussion focused then on how teams are built, and, it was confirmed that being able to interact on a level beyond the technical, is essential.
In order to engender teamwork and build strong teams, the essential ingredient is trust. David Maister, in his book published in 2000, ‘The Trusted Advisor’, proposed the Trust Equation. This postulates that you add Intimacy, Credibility, and Reliability, then divide by Self-Interest. Intimacy is the degree to which you know a person. There is no trust with someone you meet for the first time. It needs to be built and this is difficult during an electronic meeting.
Credibility amounts to whether you tell the truth, or, lie. Interesting here, one lie can unravel a thousand truths. Reliability is whether you do what you say you’re going to do. Why divide by Self-Interest? Simple, if one feels that a person is behaving as they are, to further their own interests, the trust drops. If one feels that a person has your betterment as a core to how they treat you, it changes your opinion. Of course, the equation changes for every person interacting with every other. It is individual.
So, the depth of trust developed by members of the CEO Institute, grows as they meet over time. There is minimal self-interest, as no one from competing industries are ever in the same syndicate. As they meet, they know each other better and they tell the truth. This gives the members the opportunity to talk about the issues that ‘keep them awake at night’. They receive a range of ideas and thoughts that they can’t get from anywhere else in this depth. This is not consultants telling you how to run your business, it is peer development and holds that power. You end up with friends operating businesses you may never have otherwise met.
Knowing that others are dealing with similar problems to you, is like having a weight lifted from you.
In tough times, in good times, Covid-19, or other challenges, having trusted friends to help you navigate the way smooths the rough patches and helps you steer through.