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The Sales & Sales Leadership Loneliness Epidemic

· neuroscience

Loneliness has been “proven worse for health than smoking 15 cigarettes a day…”

January 2018: “The issue prompted (UK) Prime Minister Theresa May to appoint a minister for loneliness.”

Loneliness raises “levels of stress hormones and inflammation, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, dementia and even suicide attempts.”

“Socially isolated individuals had a 30 percent higher risk of dying in the next seven years, and that this effect was largest in middle age.”

Lonely individuals “experience decreased executive function” - having an impact on planning, decision making and abstract thinking.

I’ve been having a number of conversations with my clients’ sales leaders - to be a friend, to be a safe sounding board for sharing strategies, to provide encouragement and sometimes the “right words” to help them deliver difficult decisions.

I’m seeing it. I can feel it through the phone or video. I'd be lying if I wasn't feeling it a bit, too.

This was a broadly recognized epidemic before last month - which has kicked off a triple-whammy for sales leaders:

  • The role itself is inherently lonely: The original definition of “social distance” refers to rank & authority - where the greater the "social distance", the greater the level of isolation. While great, transformative leaders are able to make connections with their teams, they are still the boss. While those same leaders may have friendships at work with peers or others, their role as a leader lends itself to not having anyone to help you make decisions. And once you do, you’re the one who’s accountable for those decisions.
  • Economic downturns create distance between leaders and team members: As the economic climate shifts in a negative direction, that loneliness gets more pronounced. If subordinates have become friends, during a negative shift, a chasm builds, as perceptions of social connections are seen as clouding judgment.
  • The new "remote" work environment: Exacerbating this issue is the newly coined second definition of “social distance”, referring to the lack of human interaction required by our current circumstance. There are no pleasantries, no popping by each other’s desks, very little interacting with peers on a social level.

The same is true for salespeople. Sales, itself, is considered an “independent” role...where your results are primarily dependent on your own performance versus that of others. While you have peers to commiserate with, your performance will likely be different than theirs, right?

So here's the homework for sales leaders. I know this may sound cheesy: Find at least one person (not a family member) with whom you can talk to - about personal worries, issues, potential decisions and feelings. Once you do, seek ways to make sure that's happening in your teams. Do your team members have an individual outside work they can confide in.

I had drinks with my buds last night over Zoom. Face still hurts from laughing. However, we didn't talk about anything important. I have a mentor for that, and I'm doubling down on that relationship.

This doesn't have to be a "mentor" though...as a mentor is someone who typically has "more experience" and is your guide. It's ok to just have someone who's at any level. Just make sure you find someone.

Again, I know that may sound cheesy, but the alternative is lack of cognitive function which clouds performance - or considerably worse; physical illness, depression,…..

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