By Younas Chaudhary
Have I felt lonely at the top? Yes, I have, when facing a major crisis situation affecting my business or my home. For example, over a decade ago, one evening, I received a phone call from my production engineer that any oil producer would dread. One of our deep, high-pressure gas wells had a blowout. It was out of control and was creating extensive damages that would take at least two months for the well to be controlled, capped, and plugged.
I consulted my team and decided that we would take charge and solve this major open-ended problem. We ran into millions of dollars in losses until we controlled this well and my team was there to advise though I was alone at the top.
I had to make quick, independent decisions to maintain the stability of my business as every day I was losing thousands of dollars. Ultimately, we were able to control that gas well after two months of daily costly struggles.
Entrepreneurs feel lonely at the top during crisis situations. But, you can avoid loneliness by being more hands on in your business and through frequent interactions with your co-workers. Managers fail when they sit in their isolated ivory offices without seeking open broad-based communication with co-workers, consultants, and vendors in different walks of their work life.
Decisions made in isolation will make us feel lonely, especially if it is a losing and/or open-ended cause. I had a different strategy, and I was hands on right from the day I started my business. I would interact frequently with all co-workers, visit with field pumpers, and crews. I was open and curious to ask them questions and engage them in issues both small and big.
Over the years, I learned that when facing a crisis, it is prudent to pay attention, focus, lean in and learn from every situation. You must make certain required decisions that are thought through and that are yours as you are the one heading the enterprise. There are no easy answers as each situation is different. Through experience, I have learned to take a detached view of both success and failure in business. In defeat, it is true that we are lonelier than when we achieve success, though taking a detached view in both situations will help you in the long run.
I have watched managers blame co-workers when something bad happens, but they would be the first to take credit when something good happens to a project. When you feel lonely at the top and you are faced with a major crisis, an average person comes up with the usual statements: “He/She advised me to do this and look where we are now….,” and cast the blame on a certain co-worker or a group within a company! Not only will these kinds of actions make you feel lonely at the top, but they will alienate other co-workers as well.
Most of us have heard the concept of “servant leadership,” which encompasses empathy, humility, and treating co-workers as well as people in general just like how you would like to be treated. Despite high volatility in oil prices, I have tried to keep my staff telling them to lay low and be consistent as oil prices will go up and down with a passage of time.
So, what do you do when hit by a major crisis and the buck stops with you? I consult with my team on all options though I take the ultimate decision, and this is especially important when they are related to hard losses, gains, or when we have entered a bad deal. Once I make a decision, I stay with it and I do not blame my co-workers, or other situations that led to it.
Taking a detached view of both wins and losses in business is tough and it requires lots of practice, experience, and a hardening of the mind. You cannot learn this in any business school. It gives you the opportunity to maintain a mental equilibrium that can bring you a peace of mind.
I have a unique advantage as I often remember that I came to the West with just $30 in my pocket and whatever I have gained and earned here is a pure blessing of God. So, gains or losses are not going to have much long-term impact on me. I seldom feel lonely! Blessings.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.