By the time this blog is published I will have presented at an event hosted by Santander on the subject of how loneliness is crippling businesses. Yes, that’s right, loneliness, you never see that on a Business survey do you? Ask a business owner what’s holding them back, they will usually say, lack of good people, marketing, poor cash flow etc. They will not usually identify their own state of mind as the real issue.
As I talk to people in business, I come across this a lot. We’ve all also heard the expression it’s lonely at the top. Well, imagine you’re at the top and there’s no one beneath you. Or the people that are there you feel you can’t confide in as you will be shown as an imposter! The imposter syndrome is a whole other subject for another post. A quick google on loneliness in business reveals many articles like this one, telling individual stories of loneliness.
So what’s the big problem I hear you ask? So what if I’m lonely, it’s a small price to pay as I grow this great business of mine. Putting aside the issue that I don’t think anyone would actually choose to be lonely, and the fact that those who are lonely usually die younger than those surrounded by loving and strong relationships, it’s actually bad for business.
Why is Loneliness bad for Business?
Loneliness has been proven by countless studies to severely impair our ability to make decisions, it also affects our morale and general demeanor. I’m going to focus on decision making here, as it’s an essential skill an entrepreneur needs to move their business forward.
One of my Co-Founders at Bite the Cherry is a Royal Marines officer. His perspective on the comparison between decision-making in business and in military environments is illuminating. Military tasks are set by a political agenda, often to unreal deadlines and within finite resource and stringent legal boundaries. Within that framework, in order to achieve the mission, commanders are trained to make rapid, binding decisions, on the basis of incomplete, changing and often deliberately misleading information. Delay is rarely an option, with both failure to act, and making the wrong choice, potentially costing additional loss of life. Even the right choice is rarely without risk to those taking part. In business, it can seem much the same, although hopefully without the risk of immediate loss of life! Thankfully, in business, the decision-making environment is free of almost all of the draconian constraints imposed on a military officer: you can set your own mission and deadlines, adjust the resources to meet the task, and gather sufficient sound information upon which to base your decision when the time is right. However, loss of the business, particularly in the early start-up or discovery phase is very possible, and while making those crucial, early decisions, you will never feel more alone.
In a state of loneliness, we are inclined to either not make decisions in the first place, kick the ball down the field as it were, or make poor ones. The latter is caused by a poor mental state, driving a negatively biased emotional decision. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t trust your emotions or instinct now and again, we all do, but when you do so in a state of loneliness, you do so at your peril. We need to make the best decision we can in the circumstances using both a positive emotional state and our logical brain.
Overcoming Loneliness in Business
If you have identified that you are lonely and possibly making no decisions or poor ones, there’re a few things you can do about it;
- Get Support – of course, I abdicate getting a coach, but not because I want that to me, but based on the evidence that a coach or mentor will be the support you need to overcome the loneliness, they will also help you make decisions and hold you to account for them. An alternative to is to get a co-founder. Think of many of the famous successful brands in recent years such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google, one thing they had in common was two co-founders, not one founder. In your early start-up phase, a co-founder is a great way to overcome loneliness and share decision making. You could also join a business group such as the Chamber of commerce or similar to get some peer to peer support.
- Look after yourself – Simple thing like eating a good diet, getting enough sleep and some exercise will help combat the effect of loneliness. Sleep actually removes waste that is accumulated during the day from our brains, helping decision making and other cognitive functions. Eating the right food will fuel us properly for the day. Exercise will release endorphins to help combat the effects of the loneliness also. Especially if done as part of a group or with a partner.
- Meditate – Meditation is a proven way to clear the mind in order to make better decisions as well as a host of other health benefits, and it’s now pretty mainstream. Try the Headspace App for 10 days free.
- Use Some Decision Making Tools – There are lots of tools out there to help us make better decisions. I particularly like the Z – Model, based on Myers-Briggs, which causes you to use your less preferred styles as well as your preferred ones to make a more balanced decision. This works alone or in a group.
I hope you found this article useful and if you are feeling lonely and need support, please do get in touch.
Founder, Yellow Brick Road and Co-Founder of Bite The Cherry Venture Coaching