For the sake of my argument, picture this structure as a triangle. The bottom part is large, and as we progress to higher tiers, the numbers decrease until the person on the top (the CEO) is alone. It is this structure that leads organisations to a culture of employees asking questions and management answering them. When there is an issue, employees escalate it to a higher tier for resolution and guidance. This process of escalation continues until the problem reaches a tier which has the necessary level of authority to address it. This implies that the CEO would probably face the hardest challenges and the most complex of problems. I mention here the term CEO, but other nomenclatures like COO, CFO, Director, Leader, Commissioner, President and so on share a similar fate.
What do you do when you are faced with such important decisions and you do not have someone to talk to? Although people in these positions are presumably technically competent and qualified to lead and manage, they remain human beings, equally subject to errors or stress. I presume that in most organistructures these leaders would benefit from the consultation of other technically competent colleagues and they do well to widen their pool of consultants within the organisation to receive the best possible guidance to resolve the issues. I love it when I see senior management consult employees about their work. I find that to have important effects on the overall performance of the company and the benefits are more than simply getting this decision right. But once again, this topic would require me to right another blog on the subject!
My argument here is that despite the group of consultants, this may do very little to address the sense of loneliness that may befall persons in such positions. I had a conversation once with a CEO and I was beset by the wry feeling of sadness that I noticed. This person, although brilliant in his ideas, was so alone. I do not think he needed someone to discuss matters relating to his operations. I think he needed someone to talk to about himself. He needed a confidant that could listen to his stories about the problems he has at home because of the long hours he stays at work. He needed someone he could discuss with about the frustration he feels because his PA was worrying him. It would make his life a bit more humane if he had someone to have coffee with; someone of his choosing and someone he actually enjoyed the company of. Unfortunately, this position would lend the person in meetings with many people during the day. You may say that senior management tend to attend many business lunches, breakfasts, dinners and so on. But I see a difference between the fancy meeting, with a set agenda, and another occasion where you are free to be your authentic self.
Steve Libreri is a social worker and parent coach within Willingness. He offers parent coaching and social work sessions. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.