Are you a leader dealing with burnout?
Many years ago, I was the manager on a large medical unit and quickly realized that the majority of my employees were toxic. Seriously, they couldn’t keep managers for more than a year. Every day employees would rush into my office and share horrific stories about their co-workers. I would leave work feeling exhausted and felt as though I had NOTHING left to give my family.
I only lasted a year and a half, but during my time there a Rabbi would round on my unit almost every day. He would stop by my office and ask if I had any patients who needed his help. Knowing he would stop by, I kept a list of potential patients ready for him. One day he stopped in my office but he didn’t ask me for my list. He just took me by the shoulders and said, “Oh my dear. I think YOU’RE the one who needs me today.”
And I did.
I was completely burned out, but didn’t even realize it. Why? Because I was so focused on my STAFF; their happiness, their satisfaction, and their needs that it hadn’t occurred to me to focus on mine as well. I’m sure I’m not the only manager who feels burned out but is too busy taking care of their staff to notice.
So, what can we do about it? Get ahead of the problem! Don’t wait until you’re collapsing both mentally and physically to do something about it. Put the following strategies into practice now and you may be able to avoid leadership burnout all together.
Find a Mentor
What do Simon Sinek, Bill George, Seth Godin and Mark Zuckerberg all have in common? They all had great mentors! Coincidence? Definitely not. Finding someone you look up to, wholeheartedly trust and will actually listen to, goes a long way in keeping your sanity as a leader. Seeking out a good mentor early in your leadership career will give you an irreplaceable tool; guidance. As a new leader, it can be difficult to know how to handle every situation you come across, but a good mentor will often challenge your ideas and in the process, help lead you toward the best solution.
Take Care of Yourself
We’ve all heard the phrase “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” right? There’s no doubt this is a true statement, but as a leader there’s a bigger reason to take care of yourself. Tracey Cleantis states in her book An Invitation to Self-Care “The more we take care of ourselves, the less likely we are to tolerate bad behavior, abuse, and disrespect from others.” This is crucial when you’re in charge of other people because neglecting yourself could mean you’re not expecting the best from your staff. However, self-care shouldn’t be confused with treating yourself. An expensive outfit or yummy desserts are important indulgences to give yourself from time to time, but they won’t help you be a better leader, nor will they help prevent burnout. Exercise, meditation, eating well, and getting enough sleep are all examples of self-care and make no mistake; they matter!
Kindness isn’t just something we teach our children in hopes to help them ease through elementary school, it’s a tool that when used well and often has the power to change your whole world (including work). Make it a priority to thank a member of your staff every day, show grace whenever possible, and never be harsh or demanding simply to get your point across. Try this out for a week and I guarantee the environment surrounding you and your team is a lot less frosty, so get out there and start a kindness revolution!
There’s likely enough negativity in the workplace without you adding to it, so don’t. Try spreading positivity instead! Take time to celebrate when you reach a goal or one of your staff members has great success in a challenging situation. Make a habit of seeking out positive results and announcing them to your team without reservation. And when you hear negativity, shut it down by combating it with a hands-on solution to the problem. Positivity spreads just as quickly as negativity, but it’s up to you to decide what kind of wildfire you want raging in your office or unit.
Practicing these four strategies on a regular basis will go a long way in helping to prevent burnout, so use them!
I’m so glad the Rabbi recognized that I was the one who needed help. He encouraged me to take 15 minutes out of each day to sit quietly somewhere off the unit (hospital chapel, outside garden, etc.). At first I said that I didn’t have TIME, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Over time I realized that those breaks are what helped me survive as long as I did, and for that, I’m so grateful.
Burnout doesn’t only happen to bedside nurses – it can happen to leaders too.
Who do you think might need a visit and perhaps a reminder that as leaders, it’s important to care for ourselves so that we can continue caring for our flock? Go visit them and keep them on your list.
Oh, and make sure YOU’RE on your list too.
If you’re struggling with burnout I’d like to encourage you to read my book From Exhausted to Extraordinary for simple proven ways to give burnout the boot!
Thanks so much for reading!
Take care. Be kind. Stay connected.