According to news reports and social media, one of the worst effects of the coronavirus pandemic is the isolation felt by patients under treatment. According to the experts, it’s just too risky to allow family and friends to visit, even if the patient is on the brink of death. While pondering the ramifications of the various “lock down” and “stay-at-home orders” that have been put in place around the country, it occurs to us that social distancing has also led to social isolation.
While the rest of the world has become comfortable with the description of rugged individualism that has defined Americans almost since our founding as a country, such a lifestyle can be quite lonely. In fact, the phrase “lonely at the top” comes to mind when thinking of everyone from entrepreneurs to small business owners to C-suite executives.
Though it’s an obvious cliché, it also begs the question where the phrase came from, as well as whether or not it’s valid to describe team leaders and managers as lonely.
Working from home alone can certainly contribute to loneliness. Managing a virtual team via email and text messages can definitely create a sense of isolation. And yet… and yet…
Many of us now feel forced to isolate ourselves from team members and associates because our “leaders” have told us to stay at home – or else. (The “or else” has even begun to include potential arrest and fines in some jurisdictions.)
So, while the cliché may not have been 100% accurate in the past, loneliness and isolation have surely become one of the symptoms of the social distancing in response to this pandemic.
What’s Leadership Got to Do With It?
As explained above, the role of team leader can be a lonely one even in the best of times (which this is certainly not). And yet, researchers have found that feeling lonely is a poor description for what executives, entrepreneurs, and business owners experience in their leadership roles.
Rather, as explained in an article at Forbes.com, those who are “at the top” of the pyramid experience isolation; that is, an almost overwhelming feeling of being left out, of being disconnected from those around them.
In other words, feelings of loneliness are actually a symptom of the isolation that seems to be inherent to the role of leader.
It seems fairly obvious then that, when you are forced under penalty of law to isolate yourself from not only business associates but friends and family to the extent possible, feelings of alienation and detachment will grow.
For those of us who already spend most of our workdays in the virtual world of online communication, it would seem to be an easy transition. However, this may not be the case when such social restrictions are being imposed instead of being a conscious choice and/or preference.
Connect and Engage, Consciously and Frequently
As it turns out, literally every member of the YOMT Team are independent contractors working from home. This means that virtual relationships are the norm for us so we should be fine with the new restrictions we have to deal with, right?
Not exactly. You see, an important part of the description independent contractors for our team members is the word independent; as in, “free from external control and constraint” and “not controlled by outside forces”. (Word Web, a free dictionary)
In response to the need for increased distancing required by the pandemic, we’ve put in place a schedule of daily “Team Check-in” calls via Zoom. These meet-ups are strictly voluntary and are designed as an opportunity for social interaction with others who are in the same predicament. The times vary from day to day, there is no agenda, and we rarely speak about the business or our clients.
We simply share thoughts and feelings, and speak to each other as human beings who’ve become more isolated than ever before. It has been a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know each other in ways we’ve never been able to despite holding quarterly team meetings online. The lack of an agenda is somehow liberating, leading to a sense of freedom and engagement that we might otherwise not experience in the current crisis.
More than one expert has suggested increasing virtual interaction as a way to stay connected when feeling isolated. Based on our own experiences, we believe it’s almost a requirement at the moment. In fact, we cannot recommend strongly enough that you connect regularly in some sort of online application, especially if you lead a virtual team of associates.
As always, the YOMT Team are here to support you in any way we can, whether you are struggling with social isolation and social distancing or putting together a marketing strategy to implement following the pandemic. Whatever you need, feel free to… Get in touch with the YOMT Team today.