#33 The loneliness of leading

There’s a degree of separation from your team members when you lead a team – and this sometimes can lead to feeling separated, and even lonely. Who should we rely on to get us through it? Pilar and Tim discuss this over coffee.

2.00 mins. Does some of this loneliness come from feeling like we can’t share as much with our team members as we’d like, and also they don’t share as much with you as they might if you were a team member? Tim remembers the line “Complaints always go up, they never go down”, from Saving Private Ryan.

4.27 mins. Is the recognition of the fact that we need to have boundaries with team members a good starting point? Then we can look for different ways of getting the support we need. Individuals might confide in you, and this responsibility is a privilege.

6.05 mins. The difficulty can come when the organisational support is not there – and then we need to invest in relationships outside the team to ensure we are supported and that we can talk to people in similar positions who can empathise with us. This takes a while to build up though…

8.50 mins. Pilar has relied a lot on her friends for support when she’s had to talk through concerns with team members. However, sometimes this might increase the sense of loneliness, because you’re going outside the cohesiveness of the team to find support. This reminds Tim of the feeling you get when you are in a sports team.

11.05 mins. Even when the team is cohesive, there will be specific moments when you do feel lonely, for example, moments when the responsibility lies very clearly with you. When nobody can “lighten the load” for you, that’s when loneliness strikes.

13.50 mins. Tim realises the mistake he’s made in “offloading” to one of his team members, realising now it might have been unfair to do that, just because of the organisational power imbalance. On the other hand, Pilar thinks that there are some individuals who you can rely on, because they can put hierarchy to one side to support you. In any case, a lot of thought needs to be put into who we confide in.

16.50 mins. Your team needs to know that you will respect their confidentiality and in a way, protect them from conflict and drama – so if you go to an individual with your problems, you might be breaking that trust.

We are curious about you, dear listener? Do you feel separate from your team members in this way? Do you actively avoid the loneliness that can come from being in charge? We’d love to hear from you.

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