Leroy (whose name has been changed for this article) was being interviewed by his son’s classmates for a presentation at school. As a top executive at his organization, the kids were asking him questions about how he managed to get where he is and his secrets for success. He had the job title. He had the salary. He had a good family. To an outsider, he seemed to have the life we all dreamed of.
But Leroy is miserable. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Leroy wakes up every morning to the alarm on his phone. He silences the alarm and immediately checks his email, Slack, and acknowledges his unread texts and voicemails. Falling behind in his day, he eventually gets up to get the coffee going and to take a shower.
Getting out of the shower, he has 7 new text messages and a dozen new emails. One of his VP’s is asking for guidance on a key project. His HR manager is asking him about a new policy impacting an employee and regulation that requires immediate action. His Director of Operations is asking for 10 minutes of his time as soon as he gets to work. It’s early in the day, but Leroy knows his day is off track from what he originally hoped for.
He opens his calendar and sees that not only is his day full, he has multiple conflicts during the day. He curses to himself wondering how that continues to happen. He texts his Director of Operations and offers to do a phone meeting during his drive to work.
Leroy goes through his day in a blur. He goes from fire to fire and is barely on time or present in his meetings. He’s trying to make the best decisions he can, but barely finding time to breathe. Driving home late, his wife calls and asks how his day was. Leroy tries to remember what he accomplished during the day and can’t think of a thing. He thinks about the frantic questions, the emails, the late meetings, and feeling like he is utterly failing his team on a daily basis.
Leroy has lost control and waded into what I call Executive Quicksand. The more he struggles, the deeper he sinks. His days are out of control. There isn’t enough of him to go around. He is surrounded by people but still feels lonely. He is tired and sometimes angry that others can’t just solve things without him. He is becoming resentful and bitter.
Working with top executives and business owners, this is the most prevalent issue I hear about and witness. Despite every effort, these executives cannot find a win or fully enjoy the lives they set out to experience. Who can we blame?
As tough as it is to admit, However, Leroy’s problem isn’t the people around him.
Leroy’s problem is Leroy.
The good news is that Leroy was able to get out of the quicksand – with the help of others. He trusted and empowered his team, got out of his and his team’s way, and co-found solutions that did not require solely his authority or expertise.
There are too many executives like Leroy out there. If you are stuck in the Quicksand, stop struggling and ask for help.