Being a leader is difficult. When you are the one everyone looks to, the one everyone relies on, it can take a mental toll. I often find myself feeling alone, with the weight of the livelihood of my staff on my shoulders. Don’t get me wrong, I have assembled an amazing team — the best in the business — and I wouldn’t rather have any other people by my side. But still, I am the one everyone relies on. It is a mental battle that all leaders must fight through on a daily basis. But in my years as CEO of a NYC-based public relations firm called HeraldPR (and now Emerald.Digital in New Orleans), I have learned that there are methods and strategies that a leader can utilize to help them manage this stress and workload. I tapped a close friend and advisor that I have worked with extensively in the past for some of his tips on how leaders can manage their stress and run their business more effectively.
I reached out to Joe Cohen, a trusted advisor, mentor and friend who has always been a coach to me from the sidelines. Joe is an Executive Coach and founder of 40 Pillars a Talent Management Consulting agency. Joe has been advising C-level executives for over a decade and his leadership advice has been heard by leaders in many global industries.
Delegate — The first tip I have for all high-level leaders is to delegate more — list out your priorities and delegate more. Many leaders have trouble with this and it is something that causes them immense stress. One of my clients is a C-Suite executive who was in a constant chronic crisis mode. I began by having him lay our what his role in the company is and what his level is in the organization. The key reason for his stress was that he tried to solve the problems on his own instead of making plans for his direct reports and holding them accountable. Once he started doing that, he began to see himself as the conductor of a symphony instead of a musician trying to play all the instruments at once. Through this, he gained over an hour each day, was less stressed, was seen in a different light by bosses and considered for promotion.
Name It To Tame It — Stressed leaders need to figure out exactly what is really stressing them and verbalize it — sometimes they are stressed just because they are unhappy with life and it is important to identify that. You weaken it by naming it. There is a term — Alexithymia — which isn’t a clinical diagnosis, but something millions of people deal with every day. It is a condition where people have trouble labeling their emotions. If you don’t verbalize and express emotions you will experience it physically. I help my clients identify what the purpose is of their emotions, and identify what they are feeling and label it. This helps to focus in on what those feelings are telling us and what’s buried underneath those feelings of guilt or frustration or sadness of depression
I had another high-level executive client who was feeling guilt because he was traveling a lot for business and being a bad dad and husband. I helped him identify the feeling of guilt, because initially he didn’t even know what he was feeling. Was it loneliness or boredom or sadness? Once it was named we dug into seeing how that feeling of guilt could be useful.
Guilt can help us set priorities and be useful – we don’t feel guilty over things we don’t care about. This helped him to recognize and prioritize the things that mattered most to him, and through that he was able to address those issues and alleviate his constant sense of guilt.
Prioritize — You can dramatically reduce the stress of your growing business if you just take the time out to articulate a clear business model and a specific definition for success. A lot of times business owners are doing millions of different things and it creates a constant overwhelming feeling. Instead of moving in a million different directions, they need to be strategic and to think themselves out of their own problems.
Another client I had ran his own company and was the definition of an opportunity seeker. He was going around collecting tactics, marketing strategies and trying to get a piece of every new shiny object he encountered, rather than being strategic with his time and playing to his top priorities and strengths. I encouraged him to focus and identify what success looks like to him, and then set a plan for that success and stick to it. This helped to hone his focus and give him tangible milestones and results that he could judge himself off of.