...but about how you recharge and replenish.”
Over the last several weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to attend a global virtual coaching summit as well as attend and speak at another national virtual coaching summit. A common topic, among many others, in both summits was around self-care and focus to avoid the impact of burnout in the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) new reality we live and work in. In fact, the title quote of this article is from a speaker at the global summit, Dr. Jacinta Jimenez, author of, “The Burnout Fix”.
Dr. Jimenez spoke of burnout resulting from a mismatch between the nature of one’s work and one’s capacity as a human being. Taken to an organizational level, we’ve written previously about the importance of leaders understanding both the capabilities and capacities of their organizations. This naturally leads us to look at burnout at an organizational level versus an individual level.
In a December 2109 Harvard Business Review article, Christina Maslach, a social psychologist and Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley stated much the same thing. She is also the co-author of the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the gold standard for measuring burnout. According to Dr. Maslach, there are at least six aspects of organizational work that can fuel burnout. We will look at each one through the lens of what leaders can do to mitigate these causes:
- Workload or Overload: Here is where leaders can directly take stock of their capacity and capability of their organizations and teams. If the capacity and capability are not 100%, expecting 100% output and outcomes becomes a no-win proposition. Unlike machines which can be calibrated for continuous operations, humans require both physical and mental down time to refresh and recharge!
- Control or Autonomy: In a VUCA business environment, it may be a natural tendency for leaders to double-down on their direct control of work. However, in a predominantly knowledge economy, this ends up stifling the very advantage knowledge workers bring to the organizational strategy, the ability to think in the moment and control how work gets done. Leader must resist the urge to over-manage and trust the team to do the work you empowered them to do!
- Feedback: There is an ancient law of physics that nature abhors a vacuum because life cannot exist in that environment. A VUCA business environment is fluid by nature and thus requires leaders to be on top of their communications game. Leaders must not shirk from providing effective communications in all facets (speaking, listening, writing, non-verbal, etc.) to ensure their organizations and teams are clear on the leader’s expectations and priorities!
- Workplace Community: The new reality positioned leaders to now lead their organizations and teams in a hybrid work environment relying on technology and new communications skills and attitudes to maintain their culture and continuity. While leading remote teams is not new, it is certainly new to an entire generation of leaders across the globe and involves much more emotional intelligence than past situations may have required!
- Fairness: Fairness is about equity (not to be confused with equality) and is an integral part of leaders modelling an inclusive culture. Looking at Amy Edmondson’s work on psychological safety which we speak to directly in our most recent book, “Finding The Missing Piece”, the first layer of safety is inclusion. Without inclusion, there is no psychological safety so leader’s must re-think their own attitudes towards diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure they represent fairness in their own attitudes, words and actions. As the Verna Myers quote goes, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”!
- Value or Meaning: In our, “The Missing Piece” series of books we directly mention Frederick Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory of Motivation to illustrate what leadership actions really cause higher levels of job satisfaction. Many leaders default to pay, policies and quality of supervision. While important, they merely eliminate job dissatisfaction. When leaders focus on the meaning of the work, the recognition of effort and outcomes and personal growth, then the work has purpose to every member of the organization and team!
As we look at these six causes for burnout, we see they are all related to each other in some way or another. It is important that leaders acknowledge their role in creating organizational culture that either promotes and tolerates these issues or addresses and mitigates them to optimize their organization’s health and sustainable success!
How is your leadership helping your team stay resilient? If you don’t know, we can help!