Monday, June 12, 2017

How do leaders prevent burnout? - part #2

The starting place to prevent burnout begins when one rediscovers their “Thinking Space”. As John Maxwell wrote in his book, How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, Center Street, 2009, “I’ve mastered the art of making myself unavailable when necessary and going off to my “thinking place” so that I can work without interruptions.”

I have come to the conclusion that I agree with John Maxwell. I can’t know everyone. I can’t do everything. I can’t go everywhere. I can’t be well-rounded. But, I can do a great deal of thinking and reflecting which can expand my perspective and generate new insights.

So, the first big question today is the following: Where is your thinking space? As Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW, wrote in her book, Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution, Spiegel & Grau, 2015, “We can’t be brave in the big world without at least one small safe space to work through our fears and falls.”

The second solution to preventing burnout is to invest in meaningful connections. People who do this can handle a lot of stress because they feel connected to those who they work with plus their own friends and families. They also can handle a lot of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty because they believe they belong to something important that is larger them themselves. Finally, they can still bring their authentic and imperfect selves to work and life do so, because they have people in their life who make it a safe and trustworthy place.

When I first started teaching back in the 80’s, I created and taught a workshop on stress management. In it, I told people the only way to cope effectively with a high degree of stress and burnout, is to have three people outside your family who you could call for support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The reason why they need to be outside your family is because your family may be the problem or your family may have heard it all already and can not offer you any fresh perspective. This network of “friends” offers perspective. They love you for your strengths and your struggles. Brene' Brown, in her book, Daring Greatly, called these people “stretch-mark friends”. As she explains, “our connection has been stretched and pulled so much that it’s become part of who we are, a second skin, and there are a few scars to prove it. We’re totally uncool with each other.”

The second big question for today is the following: Who are the three people on your list that you can call 24 hour/7day a week?

The third solution to preventing burn-out is to be more grateful for the ordinary moments. Right now, many of us are so “busy” trying to fix everything. We also are busy trying to control everything and everyone. We even get so busy trying to get it or keep it all under control that in the end, we just end up numb to it all. In short, we have lost our gratefulness for the ordinary moments 

From personal and professional experience, I have learned that on the days that our lives are spinning out of control, e.g. sickness, pain, divorce, loss, etc., we pray for miracles. We pray for it all to go back to “normal”. We pray for the ordinary, i.e. the chance to get up, eat breakfast and go to work. We want to just be without pain, without sorrow, or without fear or confusion.

Our challenge is not perfection as much as the intersection between happiness and meaning. As Dr. Marshall Goldsmith and Dr. Kelly Goldsmith wrote: “In determining a personal mission, you need to make sure that you take into account both happiness and meaning. By happiness we are referring to your personal enjoyment of the process itself, not just the results. In other words, at the high end of the scale, you love what you are doing. By meaning we are referring to the value that you attribute to the results of your work. At the high end of the scale, you deeply believe that the outcome of what you are doing is important.” As they continue, “Maximize the amount of time that you are experiencing simultaneous happiness and meaning.” 

The third big question for the day is the following: What are the activities in your life where happiness and meaning intersect?

During the next two weeks, I will be taking some time to reflect on these big questions and to just ponder life in general. I will be back here in touch with all of you on the morning of July 3.  Meanwhile, I encourage you to do the following:

- Be kind to one another. We are all doing the best we can with the tools we have.

- Don’t throw any one under the bus. It hurts everyone.

- Pay attention to the daily miracles in your life. Wake up and realize they are all around us.

Thanks for reading. See you all again in early July!

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

Monday, June 5, 2017

How do leaders prevent burnout? - part #1

It started during a lunch meeting when she shared with me that she was bored and starting to burn out from the endless stream of details in her job. As she explained it all to me, I realized she was suffering from decision fatigue. The result of which was that she was becoming anxious, worried and frustrated. “If this is it,” she explained, “then it sucks to be a leader.”

She then asked me, “Should I apply for a new job?”

My response was simple and direct, “Will a new job make you a better mother, daughter, sister, wife?”

She looked out the window of the restaurant and was silent for a bit.

I continued, “Once you have the “new” job, what will your whole life be like?”

Her description was scattered.

Many decades ago, I was a speaker at a large, multi-day conference. As I result, I got to attend all the other workshops for free. So, in the morning before I was to speak, I participated in a workshop about preparing for the future. Once seated, the presenter looked over those gathered and asked the following question: “What will your life be like when you turn 40? 50? 60?”

And in the blink of an eye, I realized that I couldn’t answer the question. The categories were work, family, and personal. In short, I needed a picture, an anchor in the future by which I could pull myself through years to come. 

I realized that day that I did not have a clear sense of purpose, picture, plan or clarity about my role in it all. I was just doing the doing and following the advice of Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you are going, you can get anywhere.” The challenge was that I did not want to get anywhere; I wanted to get somewhere.

As Jim collins pointed out in his writing: “Indeed, the great paradox of change is that the organizations that best adapt to a changing world first and foremost know what should not change; they have a fixed anchor of guiding principles around which they can more easily change everything else.” 

Since that eventful workshop, I have done this level of thinking for every major ten year period in my life. I cross another decade this year and I am beginning a period of deep introspection. What kind of life do I want ten years from now? It is such a big question for me. I have learned that my intent and focus play a big part of my dealing with burnout.

This week, I challenge you to envision your life ten years in the future. What is the picture you hold in your mind’s eye, the purpose you hold in your heart, and the plan to get there? Now is a good time to figure it out.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257