What’s Keeping Executives Awake at Night?

What’s Keeping Executives Awake at Night?

You may think that in this VUCA world, the answer to this question would include uncertainty regarding the situation in Iran, the threat of cyberattacks, decreasing shareholder value, the increased regulatory environment, or the rapid march of AI, but in fact, aside from the grave uncertainty surrounding the impact of Brexit in the UK, research suggests that many executives are more concerned with some of the following issues:

  • War For Talent
    According to PWC, 77% of CEOs are concerned about the intensifying War for Talent, which is exacerbated by Brexit in the UK and the loss of many of the Baby Boomer generation to retirement.  Many specialist roles lie vacant for months, putting increased pressure on managers and team members.  Without a skilled workforce, organizational growth may well be stunted.
  • Managing the Millennials
    As they are set to become the largest employee demographic, the needs and demands of the Millennials are encouraging executives, in particular within HR, to reprioritize agendas to include more initiatives on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, flexible and remote working, regular training and development, and access to state of the art technology. Retention of this group of workers is also a challenge, requiring creative methods to encourage top talent to stay.
  • Leading and Managing Change
    Despite the record high employment rate in the UK, companies are still restructuring, often with the need for redeployment.  Even the most seasoned executive will often find it hard to make the tough calls, which is where Career and Transition Coaching can be of valuable assistance.
  • Lack of Engagement
    With a reported third of the working population actively disengaged, working with HR, leaders and managers are always looking for more innovative ways to create a sense of belonging and community at work in an attempt to improve productivity.  For line managers there is always a balance between investing time to motivate an under-performing team member as opposed to formalizing a performance management process, in order to avoid a potential toxic culture.
  • Managing Global Sites and Teams
    Finding the right time to stop answering ‘phone calls and emails is a key challenge for any leader within a global organization. Working with clients in the US for the last few years, I am aware of the ‘California effect’ of the time difference and having to make a decision when to turn off the phone and laptop in the evenings to avoid working half the night.   Communication to manage expectations is the key here, but if an urgent issue arises in a remote office overnight, contingency plans need to be in place in order to avoid too many ‘white nights.’
  • Managing Corporate Travel
    Despite the advances in video-conferencing, there will always be a need for corporate travel.  Often on a red-eye flight or an early morning flight or train, my co-passengers will bemoan the fact that they were up at 3 or 4 am to catch that first flight/train in order to make a 9 am meeting or fit in a full days’ work, and that they slept badly for fear of missing the alarm (even setting two alarms sometimes doesn’t work!).  If an overnight stay is involved, this can often be in a chain hotel, where noise from other global travellers with unusual working hours can be an issue; it’s not uncommon to wake up and wonder which city you’re in (one early morning after a late night flight I was unsure if I was in Stockholm or Frankfurt!)  Aside from being incredibly organized, (and being likened to George Clooney in the film ‘Up in the Air’), another tip for corporate travel is to maximize the time to catch up on reading those reports or industry articles, which keep on accumulating on physical desk tops.  Managing jet lag is a whole other topic!
  • Managing Workplace Stress and Well-being
    According to the Health and Safety Executive, in 2017/18 work related stress accounted for 44% of work-related ill health.  Again, for managers and HR, there is a balance between managing absenteeism and maintaining an engaging work environment; for leaders who are keen to set a good example, it is important they are able to manage their own Stress and demonstrate Emotional Intelligence and Resilience.  Referrals to confidential EAP services can also be useful.
  • Managing a High Workload
    In particular since the demise of the middle manager post the economic crisis, many strategic leaders are also still required to be operational managers with teams reporting in to them and day to day BAU responsibilities.  Even after prioritizing the priorities many executives will find they are working 50, even up to 90 hour weeks.  After a long, packed day, often fuelled by caffeine, it’s even more difficult to have a decent nights’ sleep.
  • Trying to Create a Work/life Balance
    There are only a certain number of hours in each day, unless of course you are crossing time zones.  Even with exceptional organizational and time management skills, some urgent ‘fires’ still need to be put out, which may impact negatively on an executives’ attempt to see their son’s school play, their daughter’s sports day, or even make their own ‘date night’.  Making the right decision on what to prioritize can often lead to feelings of guilt and fear of negative impacts on work and career progression.
  • Presenting
    Addressing a large audience is still one of the most common fears, along with that of spiders!  Again, even some of the most seasoned public speakers may struggle to have a good nights’ sleep before they address their global teams, peers, shareholders, or external audiences, especially if the speech includes a negative message.

    In general, sleep deprivation is becoming a serious issue, with over 30% of the population surviving on less than six hours sleep, resulting in increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression.

    There are many tools and techniques we use in our Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Programmes to assist in addressing the above issues.


About Jill Maidment

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