It’s Lonely at the Top: 3 Simple Tips to More Confident Leadership

You set your keys down on your kitchen counter after a long, full day. Even though you’re trying to decompress with a relaxing cup of…tea (definitely just tea), your mind is still spinning with unmade decisions from your day. 

Did that interview with the candidate actually go well? Or are you just in a really desperate spot to hire? Did your assistant seem upset today? Back to the candidate: was that a red flag when she said she had a conflict with a former coworker? Or was it a good sign because she was being honest with you? 

If you’re an owner or a leader in your office, you may know this scene all too well. Leadership is fraught with complex decisions. More often than not, leadership is also lonely. Decisions you have to make may not be appropriate to discuss with anyone else at your office. And, in a small business, managers are often without a peer to bounce ideas off of. 

Basketball legend Michael Jordan famously said, “Earn your leadership every day.” On days when you’re pouring that extra cup of tea for yourself, you might be thinking, “Yes, some days I earn it and then some…” 

We know how hard our CEDR members work to keep their offices running, and how easy it is to feel run down when you’re earning that daily leadership. Here are a few bite-sized tips to make earning that leadership run a little smoother:
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1. Most decisions can wait (but not too long).

Managers can quickly succumb to “decision fatigue.” If you feel like you are being put on the spot all day, every day, you can start to miss opportunities to make better decisions. 

With the exception of a few safety and health considerations, most employee-related decisions can wait. A great skill for new managers to develop is to respond to employee questions and concerns in the moment, without making an on-the-spot decision. 

Next time you’re walking down the hallway and an employee says, “Hey, I have been meaning to ask if I can take off early tomorrow – my mom needs me to pick her up from an appointment,” take a moment and respond in a way that buys you a little more time.

Rather than saying, “OK, that’s fine,” and scrambling to figure it out later, you can say, “I want to look at the schedule but I’ll get back to you by the end of the day today.” Your employee knows when they will hear back, but they should understand that the answer is not “yes.” And, if there is a system or SOP they are supposed to follow that does not include lobbing requests at you in the hallway, ask them to make their request formal and follow the process.

Other ways to respond to just about any ‘on-the-spot’ questions are:

  • “I’ll put some thought into that and get back to you by the end of the week.”
  • “Please set a time for us to follow up on this next month.”
  • “We are not making any decisions on that today.”
  • And one of my favorites: “Thanks for bringing that to me. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts and solutions. Can you send them in an email for us to discuss soon?”

While there can be a need to discern what might be a more serious or urgent conversation to have with an employee, it can be incredibly empowering to add those options to your repertoire as a manager. 


2. Use your Core Values.

The truth is, you could write a set of policies for your employees that winds up being longer than a Dostoevsky novel and your staff would still think of questions that your policies do not cover. The beauty and curse of managing people is that there will always be a new situation you need to address or, in some cases, something positive you need to recognize.

Look to your Core Values to light the way during tough decisions. Ask yourself, “How does this fit in?” If one of your Core Values is integrity and your employee lied about the time they clocked out on Friday afternoon, that can give a clue into how seriously you need to address the issue. 

On the other hand, if an employee made a mistake in a treatment decision but ultimately brought the issue to you first and was honest about the mistake, the Core Value of integrity can also play into how you would address that as a manager.

Core Values are often a lighthouse in the storm of management as they give you an objective set of priorities to look to anytime you need to make a decision or recognize the good stuff that is constantly going on within your team. They also allow you to better understand and justify why you make the choices you make (to your employees, to your supervisors, and to yourself).
Download the free company culture playbook with exercises to help you build a cultures that works for you!

3. Get an Objective Opinion.

In a small business, you usually are not just a manager removed from the day-to-day operations of the business. More typically, you are a working manager, in the trenches beside your employees.

For this reason, you may have relationships with certain members of your staff that are easier than others – whether it’s because someone has more in common with you, because they’re more skilled, or they’re just easier to manage overall.

When you are involved with your employees every day, it’s easy to lose your objective view on any situation. Pulling in an objective third party to give a neutral perspective is incredibly valuable. Sometimes that is someone on your team and at others, as I alluded to earlier, you may not feel like you can open up and discuss an issue with anyone at work.

CEDR’s Solution Center Advisors are just that for our members. We listen to your summary of the situation and give our take on it. As employer-advocates, we are always thinking of both the immediate question, but also the overall implications for your business. While we are always listening and looking for compliance issues, we are also listening for and trying to help you get the best outcome possible.


Final Thoughts

We get it. The top of the workplace hierarchy can be a lonely place, not to mention stressful. But keep this in mind: It is important that you not only recognize the good in others, but you need to also recognize the good in you. We tend to be tough on ourselves or always focus on the “thing that is wrong”. But, truth be told, every day, most days, good things are going on around you and they are, in part, a result of your good management and leadership skills.

Having an objective and knowledgeable person you can turn to when you’re not sure what to do doesn’t hurt, either. And that’s actually one of the most valuable, though often unspoken, benefits of working with the Solution Center.

You know that CEDR’s HR experts are there to help you stay compliant when making HR decisions for your business. But what you may not realize is that, in addition to being compliance experts, we can also help you work through any tough HR decision that might come up. 

Not sure how to address a leave request when it comes in? Unclear if a behavioral issue warrants an informal conversation, formal corrective action, or termination? Need to strategize about how to have a tough conversation with someone? Give us a call. We’ll even take care of any of the paperwork you need so you don’t have to. 

And, not only are our Advisors experienced and knowledgeable about all things HR, they also have the benefit of insight from working with more than 2500 other businesses that have dealt with the very same issues you’re dealing with right now. We are not just HR experts. We have a backstage pass to every HR success and problem going on within more than 2500 businesses just like yours and we can bring that experience and knowledge to the floor to help you. 

We mean it when we say that “Better workplaces make better lives.” And we take our commitment to helping our members build stronger, more compliant businesses seriously. So, when you’re ready to start building a better business and a better life for yourself and your team, get in touch with our team here.

We’re excited to hear from you.
This post was authored by CEDR Solution Center Manager Grace Godlasky.
Download the free company culture playbook with exercises to help you build a cultures that works for you!

May 25, 2022

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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