This article was based on episode 147 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get the 20% off the Brave Leadership Course when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
I’ve heard the word “burnout” more during COVID than any other time in my life. I usually assume that someone is just exhausted from working too hard. But Kristen Knowles, thirteen times award-winning leadership expert, gave me a definition of burnout that I’d never considered. She translates burnout as a disconnection from purpose. Kristen is the CEO of Brave Leaders Group, a full-suite leadership firm that specializes in offering transformational leadership. Here, she runs through the four stages of burnout so that we can recognize and stop ourselves, and our colleagues, before we get too far in. She gives us tools to reconnect ourselves when we get lost in order to realign with our purpose, and how to pass on these lessons to our teams.
FOUR STAGES OF BURNOUT
Stage One: Honeymoon
The first phase of burnout actually begins as excitement. It’s when we’re excited about a new job or project. It often feels like a rush of energy compelling us to work. We usually go into overdrive at this point, filled with exhilaration.
Stage Two: Irritability
After working on overdrive for a while, we start to lose that momentum and energy. We begin to get tired, frustrated, frazzled, and irritable. Small things that we might otherwise ignore suddenly become annoying. Kristen points to the importance of this stage. She encourages us to really pay attention to these first signs of irritability. Although we tend to shrug off these signs, rationalizing that it’s just a bad meeting or a bad day, this is the ideal time to catch burnout before it reaches Stage Three.
Stage Three: Feeling Stuck
As that irritability and lack of energy mounts, worse symptoms start to show up. We feel stuck, overwhelmed, and lack focus. We may have trouble sleeping or oversleep.
Stage Four: Extreme
In the fourth stage of burnout, all of the symptoms of stage three show up tenfold. We have tremendous difficulty coping or getting our work done.
HOW TO STOP BURNOUT AND FIGURE OUT YOUR PURPOSE
Kristen explains that most people have the concept of purpose all wrong. It’s not about finding your perfect job or passion. It’s not even about achieving something in order to live out your purpose. Purpose is simply the “why” of your life, the overarching guidepost for how you want to live.
Kristen offers some examples from past clients of hers. One client wanted to “help the world be a healthier and safer place by helping people choose wellness in every aspect of their lives, while protecting the environment for my kids and their kids.” Another client wanted to be a “trusted leader that serves and empowers others, and works hard at whatever I do” while a third wanted to be a “bringer of joy to my community”. In every aspect of your life, from how you treat your kids to how you run a meeting, these types of overarching purposes can guide your thoughts and actions.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU FEEL BURNT OUT (COMING)
Kristen advises people to explore the root cause of the burnout. Pause for a moment and consider what aspects of your life are disconnected from your purpose. Even if you’re doing your passion, you may still experience burnout. This could be because you’re doing the work you love but neglecting other areas of your life that are essential to your greater purpose.
To shift away from burnout and back to health, Kristen suggests finding time and space in your schedule to do things you care about that are part of your greater purpose, like being with your kids. Additionally, you can create an action plan for how you want to show up better.
Kristen warns that in addition to aligning with our purpose, we also need to work in ways that fit with our working style, strengths, and personality. If you’re in a role that really doesn’t gel with how you best work, you may be able to hold on for six months without seeing or feeling the impact. After six months, research shows that burnout starts to take effect, with a dramatic decrease in satisfaction and performance.
HOW TO EMPOWER YOUR TEAM WITH PURPOSE
In order to make sure your team doesn’t experience burnout, you need to help align their individual purpose and work style to fit with their roles. Have a conversation with them about their purpose and their “80/20.” What are the 20% of things they are doing in their role that only they can do, that are best suited to their strengths? Brainstorm together about how the 80% of their other tasks can be eliminated, delegated, or managed. Then, give them the autonomy to figure out how to complete their tasks in the way that works best for them.
Living a purpose-driven life isn’t just a nice way to live. It’s actually also the most effective and efficient way. When we are aware of our greater life goals and purpose, we can align our actions in a way that creates a balanced, sustainable life. We learn how to show up in a way that energizes us, and how to spend our time in a way that allows for fulfillment and rejuvenation. It also informs managers and teams how to delegate responsibilities in the way that most suits everyone’s strengths. Burnout isn’t inevitable. When we know our “why”, we can stop and realign ourselves and our teams so that we can all do our best work.
KEEP UP WITH KRISTEN
Brave Leadership Course: https://mailchi.mp/98a9ae4346da/brave-leadership-program
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This article was based on episode 147 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.