Private loneliness

BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2021 - 12:00am

In the popular morning show “Market Watch,” I was interviewed by the always affable host Mimi Ong. She threw me a question: “What has been the most common issues raised by clients during the pandemic?” I could have blurted out an answer quickly, but I wanted to establish a context and a background for better understanding.

I explained that there was a time when most invitations to either speak or do training would have come from HR people. That is, of course, to be expected as I do leadership training and provide talks on leadership topics all over the place. But what amazed me the most during the pandemic is that there are now more invitations coming from marketing people. They have pivoted from on-ground activities to online and what I see is a common request for both inviters for me to deliver inspirational talks or training on “Wellness” (Mental, Emotional, Physical, Fiscal, Relational and Spiritual Wellness.) So, it would be easy to surmise that HR people want their people to be well, and marketing people know that “Wellness” is a topic their clients would not refuse.

My friend Dr. Ramesh Richards says: “The global contagion has unnerved the entire human race. It is as if the entire world carries a sign that says: “Temporarily Closed.” The lower we go, the slower we rise. Employment is at its historic lows, nothing is stable, nothing is substantive, and there is no deadline for COVID to depart. Plus, the fact that the family must put up with us.

The next question asked me was: “How can we stay motivated when things are so difficult and uncertain?”

My response is that “Motivation” is always popular and in season, but only when times are normal, and things are predictable. There are other inner voices that we need to pay attention to, especially in times of uncertainties. MOTIVATION may be a voice that inspires. We need to have INTERPRETATION, which is a trusted voice cultivated through the diligent study of day-to-day developments, understanding what is happening, and observing what others are doing. Then the third inner voice is CONVERSION, which translates or transforms the information into actions and decisions.

Apart from these three inner voices, we need to have two support. One which is FAITH, the eyes of optimism and hope that things would change for the better and then COURAGE, the ability to accept and face reality with the bravery to change things or to make things happen. You cannot operate by mere “motivation alone” because this would wear you down and, worse, might even lead you to false hopes.

It was a short but enjoyable interview. Mimi asks intelligent questions, and she sure can make the interviewee comfortable. I wish I could have more time, but I guess I talk too much. This is always the predicament of a seasoned speaker; the challenge is not to come up with things to say but to find a better way to say lesser things. I remember a speaker being introduced this way: “Our next speaker does not need a long introduction, just a short conclusion.” And I would not want to be known as such.

Had I been given more time; I would have talked about a very little-mentioned often times hidden predicament I call “Private Loneliness of Leaders.”

While we talk about the concerns of our people, the often-neglected fact is that leaders are not invincible, and they too have to struggle with issues their people are struggling with and not surprisingly on a bigger scale.

Why is that so? Because these are the challenges facing leaders:

1. They spend all their energy at work and have to deal with multiple issues.

2. They have to deal with problems that are not solvable by their people.

3. They are always fighting fires.

4. They may want some time for themselves or be alone and be away from their people, but they cannot.

5. They are on-call 24/7.

6. They have to make sure that their people are well-taken care of, but who in the organization has the responsibility of taking care of the leaders, I wonder?

7. They still have to be strong and appear strong for their people.

It can take its toll. Leaders can be lonely, and they have to bear it quietly. Leaders need a break too. They cannot run on overdrive all the time and expect to be efficient. People today should also be patient with their bosses and leaders. It would not hurt for people to encourage their leaders as well.

Oh, how I wish I had the time to say these things in the interview but thank God, I have this column where I can share my thoughts. Perhaps this interview with Mimi teaches me to stick to an outline so I just won’t say too much.

(Connect with Francis Kong at www.facebook.com/franciskong2. Or listen to “Business Matters” Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. over 98.7 DZFE-FM ‘The Master’s Touch’, the classical music station.)

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