Executives Global Network Singapore’s managing director Nick Jonsson ventures deep into the impacts of executive loneliness for C-suite executives and why building a supportive network is good for business.
It may sound like a cliché to say it’s lonely at the top, but in the case of senior executives, it appears to be true.
Half of the CEOs expressed feelings of loneliness, and 61% thought the issue affected their performance at work, according to a study carried out by Harvard Business Review. Due to the lack of peers that senior executives have in the region, the problem is particularly acute in Singapore.
As executives grapple with an increasingly diverse set of challenges, ranging from rising protectionism to the threats and opportunities created by digitisation, many find themselves with limited options on who they can turn to for advice.
While CEOs and Country Directors in Europe typically have other people at their level in different countries across the continent who they can consult for advice, regional directors are part of a significant proportion of people at a high level in Asia, meaning they do not have this option.
Executives’ loneliness in Singapore is further enhanced by the fact that they are often reporting to head offices in Europe or the US, meaning they have to work late to ensure there is an overlap in the two locations’ working days. Long hours like these leave little time for developing a strong network, which could go some way towards alleviating feelings of isolation.
If the situation only impacted executives as individuals, it may be tempting to ignore it, however, there is growing evidence that being part of an effective professional network has a significant positive impact on the businesses they head up, particularly if they are in a growth phase or are expanding into new markets.
Companies offering everything from executive coaching and mentoring services to help executives feel more supported have spawned a range of industries in order to address the issue of executive loneliness. From charging S$1,500 an hour to set up phone calls with experts when executives need specialist advice.
We encourage executives in Singapore to join a professional network to combat loneliness. Find online and offline groups with members between 30 to 35 people (any less and it will not have enough reach, any more and it will be too big to make a difference) who are at the same level of leadership. With ones for HR leaders, regional supply chain heads, regional marketing directors and regional finance heads to name a few. There are at least 9 different peer groups in Singapore.
“Get together. Everyone is busy, but it is achievable to make time to meet your local network group four to five times a year. Ideally, each meeting should be chaired by a professional facilitator to ensure the discussion stays on track, as the pressures on executives’ time mean the sessions need to be productive”.
Members can talk about and receive advice on issues ranging from how transfer pricing rules may impact their company when it opens a new office in a new country to whether they should accept a new job offer.
Chevron Oronite Director and GM of Finance and Planning APAC, Haider Manasawala shares his experience on the value of executive networks.
He says that executive networking is a good forum for exchanging thoughts and seeking reciprocal help in dealing with common challenges and opportunities. It’s a sounding board to bounce ideas off to gain fresh insights into problems and solutions that may not have been readily apparent and it is also a wide network of accomplished professionals that acts as a valuable resource.
Executive loneliness can be overcome. Birds of a feather flock together—only executives can truly understand the stress of being at the top of the corporate ladder. Executives have shown time and time again their willingness to assist their peers and provide solid advice to burning questions, despite busy schedules.
[Ed. Nick Jonsson is currently Managing Director of Executives’ Global Network Singapore and says he is fortunate to be in a position to provide business leaders access to a professional network where they can help each other face challenges and identify opportunities. Nick also serves as the Vice-Chairman of the Nordic Chamber of Commerce in Ho Chi Minh City and the Vice Chairman of the Direct Selling Committee Vietnam.]