Are you ignoring that exhaustion, telling yourself you’ll take some time off in a month or so? In the meantime how are you able to effectively lead if you’re too tired to process everything that’s going on around you?
If you don’t manage your energy, it doesn’t matter how you might manage your time as you are not processing what you need to nor are you mentally retaining what’s happening. Leadership is more than an organizational position; it’s leading your people in a way that they and the organization can move forward. If you’re exhausted, your mental capacity is diminished and you are not leading, you’re hanging on to the status quo hard enough so you don’t fall.
People are working longer and harder in an increasingly competitive world. Not only are the demands on them often unrealistic, but add in dynamics of multiple time zones for companies with offices around the globe, the increasing use of technology i.e. BlackBerry and other handhelds, cell phones and pagers, and staff end up working longer hours and more days. With their handhelds even when they’re not at work they’re at work, and people are burning out. Another part of the equation is those who are burning out are the high achievers who want to be in the middle of everything as it unfolds and don’t want to miss a trick. Those who are poor performers are out the door at exactly the end of the defined work day, don’t bother with their handhelds and therefore don’t burn out. Bottom line is, who is left holding the fort when the talent is off on sick leave?
You got it. It’s the ones you don’t want to be running the show.
There are many facets to energy; physical, mental and emotional. Each of them separately can deplete us. Two or more can seriously affect our health and well being. When we ignore the signs of fatigue and push ourselves, our health begins to break down. For those in positions of organizational leadership it’s paramount to be aware of energy vampires so you’re always on top of your game. Leaders need to set an example and keep a finger on the pulse of where their people are with respect to burn out rates and overall health. People are your most valuable asset.
When technology breaks down you fix it immediately. Why is it many organizations wait until a red flag goes up and needs ‘fixing’ when it comes to their people? Yes, people don’t just break and shut down. As a leader you have to be three steps ahead and recognise the telltale signs of burnout. Trends are showing burnout is at epidemic proportions.
There is a fundamental difference between stress and burnout. Stress is having too much to do, too many demands, too many people wanting a piece of you. Still when you’re stressed you still feel as if you have some control over the outcome and if you “get one or two things under control, things will be fine”. Burnout however is when you feel depleted of energy, choice, no longer care about anything and become lethargic, barely treading water and close to drowning.
When you’re at the point where you throw your hands up in the air and say “I don’t care any more” it’s time to stop, take stock of where you and ask yourself “Am I living a life I truly love or am I just trying to survive day after day?” If it’s the latter choose someone to be your reality checker; someone to help you reconfigure your priorities and a way to make them happen. Only when you feel you’re taking steps towards changing the status quo will you be able to get out of that funk, burnout or breakdown.
But do yourself a favor and don’t wait until you get to that point. Pick a reality checker now who will give you the feedback you need. No matter what your position in your organization you can’t function or be of any good to anyone. That applies to work and at home.
“We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have — for their usefulness.” – Thomas Merton
So before you move into auto-pilot mode and jump into everything, ask yourself “Am I in alignment with my intention?” If the answer is no, take a step back and move towards what is. If you do that, burnout won’t happen.