Dealing with Burnout

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I know a particular leader whose career I have been watching for a long time.

I have recently been hearing feedback from people the leader has either worked with in the past or is working with now. I have heard things like “best leader I have ever worked with,” “I would go in whatever direction this leader points me,” “This is the kind of leader and human being I aspire to be,” “A person of seemingly limitless energy,” “This leader doesn’t have time for drama or gossip,” and “People just want to be around this leader”.

I had the chance to spend some time with this leader recently and I can tell you that in the moments I did, the tank was empty.

The leader didn’t look the same. It was like a spark had been extinguished. The usual optimism seemed to have gone on vacation. The language had changed. “I am not sure how long I can do this.” “I am not sure if I want to do this.” “I am having trouble accessing me.” “We are doing the best we can with a fraction of the staff.” “I am spending a lot of time healing overworked staff who are not appreciated.” “I am not having fun in a career that I love.” “There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but I am not sure I want to make it to the end of the tunnel.”

For anyone who has had a long career it might be easy to think back to a time or place when you might have had similar feelings.

It is a lot easier to be the person looking back on burnout than it is to be the person experiencing it. When you are in it, the energy and the creativity needed to get out of it is often just not there. The simple solution that someone from the outside might offer might not be that simple at this time.

If great leaders can find themselves in this place, then we all can let go of judgment of the fact that we are experiencing it and appreciate it for what it is.

Perhaps we can see it as a message. Like a GPS system talking to us, perhaps it is time to re-calculate. When things are going well, we may not take the time to make sure they are going in the best direction for us.

For some people burnout happens when they get disconnected from their vision. If you lose sight of where you are going or why you are doing what you are doing, it can seem like your wheels are spinning but you are not going anywhere. When your efforts are connected to a clear vision or purpose then the hard work doesn’t seem so hard. When there is no connection then the easy work seems harder.

As coaches we help people identify their needs and then learn how to get them met. When people are getting their needs met they are attractive, dynamic, productive, energized, fun, funny and energized. They are showing up as the opposite of being burnt out. When you get clear on your needs and can set your environments up to get them met you can reduce the possibility of or effects from burnout.

Some people must deal with burnout because they do know they are allowed to, or don’t know how to set boundaries. Boundaries are the things we set up to keep people from violating our needs. They teach people what is acceptable to you and how to treat you. If you don’t teach people what is unacceptable, then don’t be surprised if they do the unacceptable.

Have you identified your values? Similar to identifying your needs we can help you to identify your values. When your needs are met you can be your best self. When what you are doing is in alignment with your values then everything is more effortless. If that alignment is not present, then we are setting up a situation where burnout is possible.

Although new factors, like pandemics, labor shortages, budget constraints, and changing rules and regulations may throw the way you used to manage your time out the window, it is still important to consider how you are using your time in a new situation. There may be some things that you used to say “yes” to that you need to say “no” to now.  There may be some things you used to say “no” to that you need to say “yes” to now. It is really a time to get clear on what is important. The leader described at the top has been saying “no” to the number one thing to be able to say “yes” to numbers 42 and 63. Please do your best, even in the toughest times to schedule time for the most important things.

It is very likely that during or before a time of burnout that we are very disconnected from our passions. The things we love in life fuel us. Burnout is a fuel shortage. What are the things that light you up and how can you find time for them? I remember a time in my career when due to some unforeseen circumstances I had to work 18 days in a row. When I got my first day off, my wife told me that the first thing she needed me to do was to go play golf and come back to the family energized. I eagerly fulfilled her request.

Burnout might have shown up to give you the message that you need to address one or more of the issues above. It also might be showing up to give you the message that you should be doing something else or be doing it somewhere else.

Whatever message it is sending you, I hope it supports you in getting back to your best soon!


Kevin MacDonald and Shelley MacDougall are the coaches for CMAA. To reach the for a complimentary coaching session call 1-866-822-3481 toll free.

Posted by Kate McDevitt at 07/28/2021 01:22:43 PM | 

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