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It's lonely at the top!

It’s interesting, when you first start a job or create a new business you have all of the enthusiasm and ideas to develop and create something special. As things progress beyond launch or start date and you start to settle into your new venture you begin to realise how much there is to do and how much of these decisions you are actually responsible for.

Whilst with a good team around you and the right level of leadership skills you can delegate and bring in specialists to help, it always seems that the decisions, challenges and difficult things always come back to you - it is after all your business. This is when running a business can feel very lonely.

This is something that in my own career I have found motivating and challenging in equal measure. And in research for launch of BREAD I began asking other business owners about their own experiences and there seemed to be a consistent tension no matter how big a business was or indeed in which sector it operated:

I can't share with my team AND I don't want to take everything home with me - what do I do?

Sharing the burden with the team around you sounds like the right thing to do - ensuring that there is a shared goal and permission to get things done and delivered and delegating those challenges to relieve the pressure of being the sole person in charge. However, in practice this does not always work. The personal feeling that as a leader or owner of a business you have to take all of the responsibility still pulls on the owners that I have spoken to. Feeling that you cannot share everything or that you need to be seen as the one who has all the answers is in some way a natural urge that stops owners sharing.

Owning a business is a bit like parenting!

In a way it is a bit like parenting - I always tell my children that I know everything (inherited from my family), but as they have grown they are now trying to deliberately catch me out by asking stuff that I have no idea of knowing (like which writer had a 50p coin designed about them?) or indeed they find me frantically researching the answers whilst they are not looking. One moment that changed that perspective was when I was once asked to help choosing a business name by a friend of it and mine took my eldest daughter who had taken an interest in my scribble pad and began asking me questions. She was able to suggest a very simple idea, which was obvious to her, but I had overlooked, that led to the final answer. The one thing that I have learnt is that it is OK not know the answers, but having the right questions and a different perspective to help you get there is very important - but just don't tell my kids.

"I don't listen to my wife..." (not me I always do)

Alternatively most owners have a family or friends outside of work they could turn to for advice. But who wants to take work home? I know from one Managing Director I spoke to (remaining nameless for obvious reasons) that asking his wife for advice was not an option, as he did not listen to her at home anyway... Seriously, there is a real conscious effort that people take to separate work and home and getting the balance just right is hard, but worthwhile. Especially when running your own business can become all-consuming. Whether it is because it’s a work thing and your family and friends may not understand or the pressure (mostly driven from within) to be seen as infallible at home means that sharing with those around you is not always an option.

My personal experience is that you have to realise that there is great value to be had in discussing these challenges with someone else, as they* say, "a problem shared is a problem halved" is almost true in that it relieves the pressure of keeping it all to yourself, but then you need to find the solutions. One of my coaches reminded me once that no one will know me better than my wife and I should always seek counsel with her. Which I do - mostly! However, it also good to have someone to talk things through with, who has neither emotional attachment to my business or a dependency on me or what I do.

A good mentor or experienced coach can ask the right questions, challenge the current situation and stretch you as a leader or business owner in a safe and constructive way. It can be your own space and having somebody you can turn to just adds a little bit of comfort and guidance that might make a difference. One of my customers told me that she "loved being asked really hard questions that made her act". If nothing else, having someone else or just the time set aside to talk or think about the tough challenges, gives a business owner permission to not know everything and to take time to work out how to find the answers.

Don't be lonely - find someone who you can work with.

One of the key drivers behind BREAD was to be able to help others achieve more and in providing Coaching and Mentoring our aim is to focus time and energy with our customers to be able to work through challenges together and share the burden of being the only person at the top. It should never be a lonely place - so find someone to share with, acknowledge that finding the answers is sometimes better than knowing everything and of course tell your partner and kids - you never know where the next spark of genius will come from.

If you feel you could benefit from some time with someone not connected to your business feel free to call for a FREE chemistry consultation to see if BREAD can help...

*they - who are they? A subject I will come onto another time...

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