You're making your way to the top of the administrative ladder. And you realize that with every rung, you leave behind more business associates. Suddenly, there are fewer colleagues you can confide in, fewer people to talk to. You experience “totem pole syndrome”-- the higher you go, the lonelier it gets. Experts attribute these feelings to a number of real and imagined factors:
Power conceals good deeds. When you rise to a position of power, you begin to question the motivations behind the good deeds and favors of others. Are they doing it to be kind and helpful? Or do they have a hidden agenda? The reasons sometimes become blurred and foster distrust.
Power disconnects you. Like an organization chart, your lofty post boxes you in above your staff. Since you have the power to hire and fire, those below you may feel the need to keep a “corporate distance.” This disconnect can be isolating, keeping staffers away from your door, your phone and even your email.
Power displaces you. Many upper managers are often out of the office on business trips. Yes, there are electronic means to keep in touch, but junior staffers are often reluctant to disturb you when you’re away.
So while power does give you more control over what’s going on in your department, you still need experienced, unfiltered feedback on critically important issues from the people working for you. You can't survive on people simply telling you what you want to hear, when you want to hear it. What to do? Some suggestions:
Set up (or join) an Exec Support Group. People on this list can be those who share your title at other companies or even different departments in the same company. They should be people whom you trust and have similar goals and objectives. They can also be retired CEOs, CFOs or other veterans of successful businesses. Meet with your group regularly in person (emails can get tricky, as they can be accidentally or purposefully read by others not in the group). One place to find these seasoned execs is by attending seminars, conferences and similar corporate events.
Surveying for Success. Surveys can provide feedback and guidance on important issues. The key thing to remember about surveys is to carefully select your survey participants. The goal is to get information from the most informed people you can find. Let participants know in advance what you'll be surveying them about and how the information will be used. It's not a bad idea to have your survey sponsored by an educational institution or trade group. After the survey, follow up with a number of accomplished participants and "connect" with them on a professional level as mentors and advisors.
Keep lines of communication open. Conduct frequent meetings with and welcome their feedback via phone, email or simply a visit to your office.
Yes, it can get lonely at the top. But there are steps you can take to make your organization feel like a family. Try some of these tips and let us know how they work for you.