Everyone travels a rocky personal road -- and business owners are no exception. Keeping your head in the game during a trying time is already difficult. Running a company while under emotional stress only compounds that stress.
This is something Dhiraj Rajaram is all too familiar with. The founder and chairman of Mu Sigma, Rajaram went through a divorce during which his wife sold her stake of the company, leaving Rajaram in total control of a multinational big-data delivery business.
It was a difficult time, but Rajaram and his team rallied and the company has grown steadily every quarter since.
Even if your social life isn’t tied to your business life, personal troubles can still significantly affect your leadership abilities. As Rajaram learned, balancing the demands of your business with a personal crisis isn’t easy, but doing so successfully is vital to keeping your company moving forward.
Lightening a load while carrying a burden
Balancing the various responsibilities of business and personal life is nothing new. In fact, according to a Bensinger, DuPont & Associates’ study, 47 percent of people participating said that personal stressors affect their work performance. Many entrepreneurs may be specially equipped to deal with crises in business, but that same skill isn’t always as effective when coupled with a personal plight.
At work, there’s always more to do, and predicaments have definite answers. Work harder, make more calls and put in an extra hour each day -- these are all viable solutions to most business problems.
But, in your personal life, problems require the opposite: slowing down, listening and being patient and selfless. Toeing both sides of the line can be extremely challenging. The burden weighs even more heavily when you feel as though you’re on an island.
When my father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, I felt that I had no right to discuss it with my employees. They already had full-time responsibilities at work, as well as their own personal struggles. You may be like I was: You don't want to expose your vulnerability. More importantly, it may seem unfair to place your personal burden on the shoulders of your leadership team and employees.
Still, I got through it, as did my company and my team. What I learned is that personal tragedy doesn’t have to drag your business down, and maintaining your business doesn’t preclude you from tackling life’s problems. With the right team and the right game plan, this, too, shall pass -- and you’ll be better for it.
A remedy to rebound
Work-life balance is called that for a reason. When you’re pulled too far in one direction, the other end of the spectrum suffers. For entrepreneurs, the stress of maintaining this balance can be exponentially worse, which is why, according to surveys, 49 percent of them exhibit mental health issues and 30 percent report feelings of depression.
If those numbers describe you, here are four tips to keep you on an even keel during a personal rough patch:
1. Keep the door ajar.
An Interact/Harris Poll study stated that 91 percent of employees surveyed said a lack of good communication lessens an executive’s effectiveness. You shouldn’t burden or overload your team with the details of your situation, but be honest and acknowledge any personal challenge you're facing.
It’s important that colleagues understand why their leader seems tense and stressed. This will quell rumors surrounding your demeanor or worries among employees about the future of the company.
2. Create a support net.
Build and maintain a strong peer group of friends, family members and loved ones outside work. If necessary, include a counselor, coach or therapist who can help ensure you’re not just burying your grief and avoiding it.
Take veteran entrepreneur Jeff Hyman: He created the Startup Therapist to offer support specifically to startup entrepreneurs dealing with life's problems. A strong, supportive network of loved ones and peers helps you curb destructive behaviors and work through your grief.
3. Hand off work.
Virgin Group leader Richard Branson has called himself a big proponent of delegation. And that's a wise move: Handing off work to others is a good practice in general, but it’s especially important when you need time to wade through rough waters.
Otherwise, you’ll be forced to suppress your grief and carry on with "business as usual." So, be honest with your team, to make delegating easier. When the right team members are in place, they’ll be more than willing to pick up the slack while you tend to your personal affairs.
4. Return to the surface.
It’s tempting to avoid the pain and circumstances of personal tragedy by burying yourself in your work -- but don't. Ignoring a crisis doesn’t make it go away, and you’ll be more likely to experience a repeat, or something similar, in the future.
If you ignore the true meaning behind a divorce, you may be doomed to experience another: Tamped-down emotional turmoil can manifest as chronic health issues later.
Whatever your crisis is, be honest with your team about it. Delegate as much work as you can and lean on your out-of-work support system to overcome it. Otherwise, you may be forced to choose between keeping your business afloat and keeping your personal life in order. That’s not a decision anyone should have to make.