As we wrote in a recent blog, “Tips for Healthy Leadership and Minimizing Burnout,” don’t dismiss any signs of burnout — in yourself or among your employees. It’s real and it can have a devastating impact. Previously, we wrote about how healthy leadership requires a healthy leader, and focused on ways to minimize and avoid burnout in yourself. Now, let’s focus on your team and your employees.
Recognizing Burnout in Your Team
Most of us have a common sense understanding of what burnout is. Generally, burnout is “… a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress (Psychology Today).” Burnout may reveal itself in many ways — weariness, physical and mental fatigue, pessimism and cynicism, impatience, anger, health issues such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and depression, and the temptation to turn to alcohol, drugs, and food for relief.
How has your team been performing recently? Review Arden Coaching’s blog, “How is Your Team performing? A 5 Point Check Up.” Are any or your employees or team members showing signs of burnout? Are you taking the time to notice, being as open and aware as possible? Beyond your team’s performance metrics, what is your team’s current mood? Have you asked them? Are you talking about these topics?
And keep your organization’s employee assistance program (EAP) in mind. Burnout is one thing — extreme burnout and employee mental health is another. It may be more appropriate to refer an employee to professionals in your HR department or EAP. As a leader, it is important to make sure these resources are available and accessible to your employees, and that you encourage people to take advantage of what EAP has to offer.
Leadership and Embracing Diversity
It may seem surprising to think about diversity when talking about burnout, but the pandemic has affected each of us in distinctive ways. There’s a meme circulating that resonates. It says that we are NOT all in the same boat — we are all in the same STORM. And some of us have rowboats and canoes, others have large ships and yachts, and some have rafts.
Recent data reveals that the pandemic experience, and the resulting stress and burnout, varies based on race, age, gender, educational and income levels, and other factors. For example, women have left jobs disproportionately to men in order to handle childcare and household tasks. And those women who continue to work handle more childcare and home tasks than their working husbands.
An executive with a spare room in their home is likely to have a very different at-home work experience than a project associate sharing a dining room table with a working spouse and/or child. The pandemic experience of an introverted 58-year old male empty-nester and an extroverted 35-year old woman with a third-grader has certainly been vastly different. How about someone who loves to recharge by going to a (now closed) gym, or theater?
As a leader, are you aware of the different experiences and circumstances of your employees and team members? A leader should always be sensitive to these dynamics. In general, it speaks to an awareness of diversity — that others have a different (and legitimate) experience and a different perspective than you. More inclusive leaders appreciate and understand these differences. For more about diversity, read “Leadership and Fostering Genuine Diversity.”
The Power of Compassionate Leadership
According to Greater Good Magazine at UC Berkeley, “Compassion is… the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.” Compassion is different from empathy — empathy is the capacity for us to understand the perspective of another person and feel their emotions. “Compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.”
As a servant-leader, are you nurturing your sense of compassion? How are you helping your employees and your team deal with their unique circumstances and experiences — while moving your organization forward?
Perhaps you can adapt and support different ways that your people get their work accomplished. Could you be more flexible with meeting schedules, deadlines, project deliverables, and work loads? Can you be an advocate for resources your team needs to thrive in remote or hybrid work settings? For more, read “How to Become a Compassionate Leader,” by executive coach Karen Delk and “3 Tips for Leading Your “Forever” Remote-Hybrid Team.”
Keep purpose and meaning front and center as well. It’s critically important for everyone on your team to feel invested in, and connected to, the “why” of their work. How can a compassionate approach contribute to everyone’s sense of purpose?
Open and Transparent Leadership
Leveraging healthy leadership to minimize burnout can only be accomplished in an environment that is open, transparent, and safe. If your employees feel that it is “risky” to share their concerns, admit their stress points, or discuss any aspect of burnout they may be feeling, they will keep their heads down and their mouths shut, and carry on as best they can — or leave you and your organization for a healthier situation. For more, read “Effective Organizations Require Psychological Safety.”
It needs to be OK to talk about these things. And as a leader, you need to take the lead. Create a culture where it is not only acceptable, but desirable to share and know where people are really at, and how they are really doing this week. Check out “I’m OK, You’re OK”… But Are We, Really?… And Is It OK Not To Be OK?” by coach Kathy Poehnert.
Achieve this sense of openness and safety, be aware of diversity among your team, act with compassion, and honest conversation will flow — and meaningful, team-based solutions to burnout will present themselves.
To learn more about healthy leadership and improving your leadership skills, contact the executive coaches at Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.