I was recently with an old colleague and friend who also happens to be CEO of a substantial organisation. We were chatting over a rare coffee, only rare because, as we both admitted, we are very time poor and rarely ‘indulge’ ourselves catching up with friends during the working week. We got to the end of our time together having chatted about some of our present challenges, helping each other to look at them differently, offering alternative insights and all in a safe, trusted, non judgemental way – it was one of most useful 90 minutes for both of us in weeks.
My friend later emailed me saying how much he had got from our time and how much it had made him realise that it can be ‘lonely at the top’. He said that our conversation had made him think about 3 things that he needed to sort out, he wrote…
“1. Its lonely at the top because the higher you climb the less people there are around you that understand enough but are not personally invested in my situations. Its hard to know who you can really trust enough to be open and honest. Its tough because the higher you climb the greater the expectation is on you to have the answers so admitting you don’t can sometimes make you feel too vulnerable to be open. This means that I waste time turning things over in my mind rather than being able to explore them outside my own head – I need to do less of the former and more of the latter!
2.Its lonely at the top because the higher you climb the issues you face are more complex and challenging. This is when you need someone who can ask me the right questions not give me the answers they want to hear, I need a ‘navigator’ to my ‘driver’ who can unlock possibilities that I don’t always see and do it agenda free.
3. Its lonely at the top because the higher you climb the more time poor you become so taking personal reflection time feels indulgent and at times almost selfish. Its the old thing of doing rather than thinking – I remember us talking about the saying from Stephen Covey about being too busy driving to stop and get gas. I think I am ready to stop and get some more gas!
I have decided to make a commitment to myself and I’d like you to help me keep it, I would like to make time every couple of months, if you’re free too, to catch up over a coffee and do some more thinking – our time together together has made a massive difference and I need to do more of it”
So, if this resonates for you, find yourself a Thinking Facilitator. Someone who can create a confidential space to allow you to explore dilemmas, reflect, unpick, understand what occupies your mind in a judgement free way. Someone who can ask carefully crafted useful questions, who has the skills to ‘navigate’ while you ‘drive’, someone who understands enough about you and your world but is not emotionally entangled or invested in it, someone who is a sounding board and able to facilitate your thinking.
This person maybe a coach but this is definitely not coaching – there is no specific goal, there is no structure, no models, no ‘sessions’, and no pressure for either party to get to a result, although in my experience when given the space to think the results come thick and fast.