They say it’s lonely at the top, and plenty of CEOs would agree. Half, in fact, struggle with feelings of isolation, according to research by the Harvard Business Review. Of those, 61% feel it’s hurting their job performance.
The fact that we’re in an unprecedented era of social isolation doesn’t help. But whether you’re leading a team of hundreds or starting your first job, there are healthy, powerful ways to fight loneliness. Just ask these 10 founders and CEOs:
Find your peers
There is strength in numbers, says to Alice Default, CEO and cofounder of Double, which connects executives with assistants and time-saving tech. “I have a couple CEOs around me who I can be completely vulnerable with, are always positive, and are also looking for support,” she says. “We’ll call each other every few weeks to exchange war stories, ask each other hard questions, and keep ourselves in check.”
Benny Silberstein, cofounder of payment platform Payrix, says he also makes it a point to leave work out of the conversation sometimes. “Simple nonbusiness text messages and email notes go a long way to really remind leaders that they are not alone,” he says. “It also allows for an opportunity to stay connected on a personal level without having any business deal to close.”
Tell your story
“Journaling is my secret weapon to combat loneliness,” says Jordan Husney, cofounder and CEO of Parabol. “While it may seem counterintuitive to write to oneself to feel less alone, I find as a founder, I have a lot of unprocessed feelings.” Hunsey says keeping a regular log of his feelings can help give a better “sense of the scope of the journey” he’s on.
Ask for help
“The perception that talking to a therapist or coach is a sign of weakness is now an antiquated concept. Or at least, it should be,” says Edris Bemanian, CEO of Engage3, which uses data science to improve pricing performance. “My experiences meeting with a therapist and working with an executive coach have been game changers for me.”
Change up your work
“I love rolling up my sleeves, which helps combat the loneliness, even if that’s doing some work that is tedious or manual,” says Vishal Sunak, CEO and founder of LinkSquares, an AI-powered contract analytics and management. “It also helps me stay connected with the team that can benefit from these efforts.”
Edouard Gouin, cofounder of fine art shipper Convelio, says despite the lockdown, he’s doubled down on connecting with his team. There’s a daily virtual meeting where everyone talks, and asks for help if they need it. It’s proven to boost everyone’s spirits, including his. “You definitely feel less lonely when you know you have a call with a cool group of incredibly talented individuals every evening,” he says.
That approach has also worked wonders for Antonio Pellegrino, founder and CEO Mutable, a public edge cloud platform. He’s even started online game nights and movie screenings with his team. “We’re all feeling anxiety about the future and a sense of responsibility for those we employ in these difficult times,” he says. “Maybe it’s my Italian side talking, but this is when incorporating family dynamics into our line of work really makes a difference.”
Write a book
“One of the best things I’ve done is create a peak performance manual that I follow religiously,” says Greta McAnany, cofounder of Blue Fever, a personal text service that provides emotional support. She writes down the routine she needs to follow to be at her best physically, emotionally, and mentally. That includes built-in time for deep thinking and planning, as well as connecting and socializing.
“I also outline disruptors that trigger loneliness for me, so I can be aware of these signs, like working entire weekends,” she adds. “Being at peak performance mitigates loneliness for me and helps me find the right balance of self and social connection.”
Realize you’re not alone
“When you’re lonely, you have to remember that your uneasiness is probably more universal than you realize,” says Klye Jackson, CEO and cofounder of Talespin, which builds virtual reality for learning and training. “Ask others about how they feel,” he says. “While each person’s world is different, there is still emotional cohesion in the struggles we all face.”
“When people have one identity that matters to them—in this case, our identity as a founder—it is easy to feel isolated or lonely,” says Lisa Conn, cofounder and COO of Icebreaker, a platform designed to build connections through online group events. “My advice: Hold your multiple identities close,” she advises. “Maintain relationships with people that you connect with on different levels.”