You know, you are very lonely at the top – said one executive during a coaching session (I am publishing this post with his permission).
This is because the more complex stuff you do, the fewer people you can share it with – he continued. – There are many strategic insights I can’t share with my team because I am afraid that they would lose their motivation to work.
There are many events I can’t tell my wife about because she works in a different industry and, thus, wouldn’t understand what I am talking about. And even more facts I cannot share with my friends or within networking groups for reasons of confidentiality.
– I hear what you’re going through – I replied – How do you feel in this situation?
– Well, lonely, sad and angry at myself that I don’t know what to do. I have a mass of thoughts in my mind, and I don’t know how to unload them without talking to someone.
This was a real challenge, so we continued and worked with these emotions during our session.
At the end of the session, I asked him how he felt.
– Much better – he said – Lighter, relieved, understood, relaxed.
– But look, you haven’t told me any specific facts about your business situation yet! – I replied.
That was the point, and one of those big AHA moments for which I love my coaching work so much.
At that moment, my client discovered three things:
- Sharing emotions with someone trusted, who knows how to handle them, may bring relief, and decrease the level of loneliness felt
- When sharing emotions, we don’t need to disclose any specific facts to feel understood, accepted and relieved
- When we share emotions in search of acceptance, companionship and understanding, not solutions, we connect as humans. Fear is fear. Anger is anger. Everyone can relate to such emotions and show compassion without going into specific details.
His discovery led us to work further on emotions in business – how to identify them, name them, observe them, understand their messages, share them with others and let them go.
After a while, he became so proficient in this subject that he started regular conversations about emotions with his direct reports during his one-to-one meetings. That made him not only understand and support his people on a much deeper level, but also identify and mitigate many business problems earlier than before.
I can bet that no matter what job you do, you also frequently experience many difficult emotions, especially during waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How would you feel at work if you could discuss your difficult emotions with your boss?