Being a CEO is a highly demanding job that comes with a lot of pressure and responsibility. CEOs are responsible for making critical decisions that can have a significant impact on their company’s success or failure, and thus impact the livelihood of their employees and vendors. This kind of pressure can take a toll on even the most resilient individuals, and it’s important to recognize that executives are not immune to mental health challenges. In this post, we’ll explore the mental health of executives, the unique challenges they face, and how to foster a healthy relationship to work.
The Loneliness of Leadership
One of the biggest challenges CEOs face is the isolation that comes with their job. All too often, CEOs make difficult decisions in a vacuum, shielding their executive team and employees from unpleasant realities that the business faces. Or they provide only some context and information to those around them—allowing their colleagues to shoulder some of the stress but not all. This behavior can result in an executive feeling like they don’t have anyone to turn to for advice or support, which leads to feelings of loneliness and isolation. This can be particularly challenging for CEOs who are new to the job and may not have developed a network of peers within their industry. While this kind of pressure and protection of their ego might make it difficult, we implore executives to embrace the team around them and communicate about the challenges they and the business are facing.
When executives fail to communicate and collaborate with their executive team, their judgment may be clouded and can impact the quality of their business decisions and strategy. Instead of worrying in isolation, executives should inform their team of the circumstances they’re facing and ask for advice and ideas. Salesforce research reports that 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. Having a team in place that CEOs trust and respect can be paramount to minimizing undue stress. Prime Chief of Staff advocates for building an executive team of professionals who possess a variety of strengths and experiences. A team with diverse competencies ensures that decisions and strategy are made with ample information and perspective, usually resulting in better work and culture, and ultimately reducing feelings of isolation common among CEOs.
The Pressure to Perform
CEOs are under constant pressure to perform and deliver results. They must answer to shareholders, board members, and employees, all of whom have high expectations for their performance. This kind of pressure can be overwhelming, and if a CEO is not careful, it can lead to burnout. CEOs must learn to manage their stress levels and find ways to shoulder some of their business’s many needs. Since 2014, Prime Chief of Staff has placed Executive Assistants, Chiefs of Staff, and other executive support personnel for over 160 clients. The result of these additional professionals results in executives having more time, less administrative tasks, and increased hands on deck to tend to the mundanities of office life. Chiefs of Staff and Executive Assistants help executives prepare for meetings, plan and execute projects, and stay on task to accomplish goals. This reduces the pressure CEOs face to do it all and do it all perfectly.
The Stigma of Mental Health
Despite the progress that has been made in recent years to reduce the stigma associated with mental health, there is still a significant amount of work to be done in reframing how professionals approach mental health care and burnout. CEOs often feel reluctant to seek help for mental health challenges for fear of being perceived as weak or not up to the job. This can lead to a vicious cycle where CEOs avoid seeking help, suffer in silence, and feel isolated, all which can exacerbate their mental health challenges.
Deloitte reports that one in three professionals are constantly struggling with fatigue and poor mental health. Simply having this statistic and increasing awareness of these realities can be helpful in reducing stigma and feelings of isolation. But Prime Chief of Staff calls on executives to make their work lives more easeful—for themselves and for their colleagues. Implementing regular and well-planned office closures offers professionals a chance to log off and tune out of their responsibilities. An office-wide closure is more than taking a personal day. Prime’s founder and CEO puts it best, “Being off when others are off allows for a deeper rest and a better break from work. No one wants to spend their day off with creeping anxieties that they’re missing important meetings and IMs.”
Office-wide closures don’t need to be week-long or even a full day. The impact of giving your staff the morning or afternoon off can do wonders for your team’s mental health. It also might have you feeling more refreshed and ready for work when you come back to your desk.
Executives face unique challenges when it comes to mental health, and it’s important to recognize that they are not immune to mental health challenges. The isolation of their job, the pressure to perform, and the stigma associated with mental health can all take a toll on CEOs and their team of co-executives and employees. It’s essential for CEOs to prioritize their mental health and seek help when they need it. By taking care of themselves, CEOs can be better equipped to lead their companies to success and model healthy behaviors for their employees. The result will be higher rates of company success and happier, healthier teams of professionals.
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