I had an awesome time speaking with my friend James about exhaustion in the workplace. Let’s find ways to minimize exhaustion by helping our leaders step more into a leadership role!
Through this crisis, many of us are feeling exhausted. Many of us were exhausted before all of the major changes in our worlds. It is time we fight back against exhaustion, whiles still driving the results that we hope to achieve. It is possible to achieve it all, without doing it all!
It starts with talking about exhaustion with our bosses. I spend a ton of time in executive coaching sessions helping people practice having these difficult conversations with their boss. Yes, it’s intimidating to have to say, “I need help to manage the role you think I’m doing. I’m not doing well. I’m struggling. I’m exhausted.” Those are not easy things to say out loud, particularly to our managers, but sometimes they need to be said. When a boss hears what you’re saying and is made aware of your feelings, they usually open up and try to help solve the problem.
This feels risky, and I won’t deny that the risk is real. But would you rather fail while struggling, or fail by asking for support? Bosses don’t want to see their direct reports struggle, and they certainly don’t want to see the projects struggle, either. So, when asked to help, more often than not, they’ll step in and step up.
I’ve coached a few individuals who’ve asked for that conversation and whose bosses effectively dismissed them with, “Just dig in and make it happen.” Nobody wants to work for a boss that isn’t going to support them, and usually within six months they end up leaving.
Others have a boss who understands the problem and help save their employee from exhaustion and eventual resignation.
There’s a theory that the increase in employee job-hopping has been trending because the recruiting market is so strong, and a recruiter can steal people away with just a little bit more money. I have a counter-theory: I think more folks are leaving their jobs because they’re not getting the support they need. Rather than initiating a hard conversation, it’s easier to just walk out the door—with a little increase in salary as the cherry on top. And the job-hopping continues as individuals find themselves in the Exhausted Hero trap again at the new company. The grass is not always greener!
I know what some executives are thinking as they read this: “Are they really exhausted?” Exactly! There is a difference between being tired and being exhausted. It is comparable to what athletes experience. A long-distance runner may get tired mid-race, so they walk through the water station to catch their breath—a short rest that gives them a new burst of energy to overcome being tired and keep running. Then there is the long-distance runner who leans to the side and struggles to lift one foot in front of the other. They are chronically exhausted and it will take a major intervention for the individual to recover.
Companies experience team member turnover when their employees are looking for more support, more balance, and more resources to aid them in doing their job. If companies focused on rescuing Exhausted Heros, they could save countless dollars in having to replace them.
“You have been a great individual contributor. Now you are a manager, so here are five direct reports—don’t screw them up.”
That is like telling a 16 year old, “you have been a passenger for 16 years, of course you know how to drive. Here are the keys!”
Manager’s need “driver’s ed” too so they can effectively drive their team forward
When I share this concept with leaders across Corporate America, they almost always smile and admit that this is the state of Leadership Development in more organizations.
If we are going to rescue Corporate Exhausted Heroes and save the culture of work in America from being about exhaustion, we need our good managers to be developed intentionally through coaching and education.. If we fail to prepare them to handle their new assignments, we can’t be surprised if they fall.
I am offering a Manager Playbook Workshop on Zoom to get managers the tools, tips, and templates they need to be successful. I am so passionate that managers need this training that I have discounted it through the rest of the year.
Stop suffering and get the training you need. Click here to learn more about the Manager Playbook Workshop!!
Click here to sign up:
One Day Workshop Includes:
- Define Managing
- Effective one-on-ones
- Clarity through clear expectations
- Delegate to achieve more
- Build a plan of execution that works
- Give effective feedback
- Receive important feedback
- Recognize and grow excellence
- Tools and Templates and Tools and Templates!!
- Highly interactive Zoom course with breakout sessions
- Online workbook with templates and tools
- Limited class size to drive engagement
I define a “Corporate Exhausted Hero” as a leader who is trying to do it all, and just feeling exhausted. This leader continues to be overwhelmed with individual contributor work, continues to try to manage and support their team, and spends their “spare time” setting the vision and influencing change. The Corporate Exhausted Hero is really a fire fighter instead of a fire chief.
I call on all Corporate Exhausted Heroes to use this time to hit the reset button. In a time when everyone is adjusting to working from home, working at a distance from their boss, and building new routines, it is a great time to build new procedures and expectations as a leader.
- Re-establish Goals: Clear goals provide your team with the big picture direction and empowers them to deliver successful results. Many Exhausted Heroes provide daily or weekly task lists to their teams. Be a Strategic Manager and build clear goals for the month, quarter, or year and ask them how they want to meet their goals.
- Rebuild One-on-Ones: Corporate Exhausted Heroes rely on reactive drive byes to get work down through their team. This is a great time to hit the reset button on consistent One-on-Ones by establishing a clear agenda, focus on forward looking projects, and using the time to think together vs. the manager directing tasks.
- Delegation: A leader needs to focus on what challenges are coming before they arrive. This enables leaders to mobilize their teams for big fires, instead of running into the fire. To focus on the future, you need to delegate the present. Take time to review your to do list and identify who can take on tasks or become the captain on a group of tasks or project.
- Take a Lunch: Yes, it is possible, and it is healthy to take a break in the middle of the day. Corporate Exhausted Heroes either eat at their desks or don’t eat at all. In this new world where you are working in seclusion, take a lunch break every day. Eat with your family, take the dog for a walk, or just sit on the back porch and eat.
Corporate Exhausted Heroes have a choice! The exhaustion doesn’t have to be the way of life. Take some time now to hit the reset button and aim to be a Strategic Manager focused on the future. And if you need assistance or suggestions, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. And look for my book, “Rescuing the Corporate Exhausted Hero” coming out later this year from Advantage/ForbesBooks.
Before an individual becomes an Exhausted Hero, they’re usually someone who’s excelled as a rock star. Their supervisor notices and gives them more responsibility. Then, at some point, as the responsibilities add up their team grows, and their personal growth stalls—due to lack of support or direction from leadership, lack of understanding on how to develop on their part, or both—and they’re unable to move on from being just a rock star. They’ll continue to do double-duty as manager and rock star, but it’s a struggle. And the struggle will continue. If they don’t develop into a strategic manager, then they risk burnout by functioning both as a rock star and as a manager.
We all know this individual. We may be an individual like this, struggling to balance it all. Always playing firefighter and never feeling like they have control of their work, this leader feels the pressure to be strategic, while feeling the pressure to deliver results, while feeling the guilt of the responsibility of being a people manager.
Symptoms include being the first person to work and the last one to leave. Gaining recognition for getting things accomplished—then rewarded with more projects. Running from meeting to meeting and never feeling like they are accomplishing anything. When they are in their office, they are quickly trying to manage their emails while dodging their employees who often stop by with questions. The reason they come in early and leave late is that is the only time they are not bothered and can get their work done. And they are the individuals that senior leaders trust with all the big projects so their workload continues to be over capacity. These individuals feel stuck and don’t feel there is a choice of another way…but there is another way.
If you are an Exhausted Hero, it isn’t too late. Hire an executive coach to assist you in improving key leadership behaviors like creating a vision, influencing change, or coaching. Or work with an executive coach to learn more ways to delegate effectively. Or if you are part of an organization that has an exhausted culture involving countless Exhausted Heros, let me know! I would love to come facilitate a workshop to assist in elevating the culture.
Delegation is Essential for Leadership!
A 2015 Gallup study of the entrepreneurial talents of 143 CEOs on the Inc. 500 list showed that companies run by executives who effectively delegate authority grow faster, generate more revenue, and create more jobs.
But why is delegation so important?
I call the role of being a leader and manager a Strategic Manager. With this role, it is critical to conduct the following behaviors:
- Create a Vision: Assist your team in seeing the path forward, the end goal.
- Influencing Change: Assisting others in awareness, understanding, and adoption of change. Using different skills and processes to gain buy in and alignment to change.
- Coaching Others: Providing guidance to others by helping them think through challenges and identifying a mutually agreed upon path forward to gain positive results.
These are three behaviors that should not be delegated. These are the key behaviors for the manager/leader. And these behaviors can’t be done in the leaders “spare time.” We all know that doesn’t work. We must be focused on the vision, the change, and coaching others to be successful.
Therefore, it is critical that leaders learn to delegate any and all tasks that can be handled by their direct reports or teams.
Take some time today to review your to-do list. What can be delegated to someone else? And what needs to be added to your to do list to help you drive a vision, influence change, and coach others?
According to John C. Maxwell, author of Developing the Leaders Around You, “If you want to do a few small things right, do them yourself. If you want to do great things and make a big impact, learn to delegate.”
Listen to More than Yourself
What is that you said? Listening is important? In today’s fast paced world filled with tons of communication through hours of meetings, 140 character tweets, social media, and a full inbox of emails, it is easy to not hear what is going on around you.
As an executive coach, the number one topic I help executives with is listening. Some leaders are technical experts and immediately rush to internal listening, listening to their own response to the question being asked. Some leaders are so busy that they aren’t listening for the signs that their team is exhausted, unaligned, or disengaged. Other leaders are just so busy that they are avoiding any interaction with other human beings and therefore not listening to those around them.
The Co-Active Training Institute, where I received some of my executive coaching training, in their book “Co-Active Coaching”, breaks down listening into three different levels of listening:
Level 1: Internal Listening – the awareness is on ourselves. We listen to the words of the other person, but our attention goes to what it means to us personally. This is when you start to think about what you think about the situation, what you feel, and how it impacts you.
Level 2: Focused Listening – a sharp focus on the other person. We listen to how it is impacting them, what they think, and what they feel. This is when you lean in, you reflect on what they are saying, and you truly listen to their words
Level 3: Global Listening – this includes everything you observe around you as you listen. It is body language, the environment around you, it is the mood of the room. It is when a difficult thing is said, and you feel the “air leave the room”.
To be an effective leader, you need to use all three levels of listening. Many of us are really good at Level 1.
This week, take some time to practice Level 2 and Level 3 listening. Focus on turning off your internal listening.
Listening builds trust, collaboration, engagement, and often better thought through solutions to challenging issues.
Are you listening?
Coaching for All Levels!
Executive coaching is not just for the top level anymore. Middle managers and other rising executives are also engaging with executive coaches to elevate their leadership skills and proactively prepare for bigger roles within the organization,
I know what you are thinking … I can’t get budget approval for that. Here are some ideas that will make coaching more economical for your boss and budget, but still gain great coaching that will provide you with an experience to achieve higher leadership results.
- Don’t 360, just 180. For a c suite executive, it is critical to conduct a 360 degree feedback assessment either through interviews with the coach or an online assessment. For middle managers, you might be able to skip this expense if you and your boss are aligned on your developmental goals
- A three month engagement. For a c suite executive, I highly recommend a six month coaching engagement as the challenges to shift leadership behaviors can take time to overcome. For middle managers, a three month engagement can provide clarity and tools that can set you on a path to development.
- Offsetting expenses. After recent coaching engagements, some of my clients have decreased employee turnover, decreased overtime, elevated employee engagement, or have recommitted to the organization. Replacing an employee costs on average 200% of their salary. Coaching is way cheaper than that!
Many companies are reinvesting in middle management development. Some are hiring consultants to build customized leadership development programs. Others are focused on individual development through executive coaching. Don’t miss out on these opportunities to develop and advance your career. Have a conversation with your boss today!
Don’t Be Too Tired to Influence a Better Life
In a recent article in Forbes, the article quoted studies showing that 45% of U.S. workers consider themselves to be modern workaholics. And a recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 67% of employees reported feeling burned out at work sometimes, very often or always.
Many blame technology which allows our emails, texts and phone calls to always tether us to work. Others blame the executive leadership teams who are demanding more work on faster timelines. Others mention the challenge of semi-recent headcount reductions that have decreased staff but not decreased workload.
Stop waiting for someone to fix these. I believe the real cause for the modern day workaholic epidemic is a lack of the ability to influence change. That is something you can actively do to defeat the workaholic epidemic!
Influencing change is about identifying when a project, a person, or an organization are headed down a bad path, and being able to redirect to a better path by partnering with others effectively.
Think about it. If you are an Exhausted Hero who is a workaholic:
- Have you courageously had a conversation with your boss about your exhaustion?
- Have you prioritized the work and adjusted due dates?
- Have you asked your team for their ideas or have you taken it on by yourself?
- Have you delegated work appropriately or are you hoarding work?
Through many executive coaching engagements at companies of all sizes, I have come to the following conclusion. Corporate Exhausted Heros tend to try to take it all on. But Strategic Managers take time to influence change. Corporate Exhausted Heros tend to act as fire fighters, reacting to the challenges in real time. Strategic Managers tend to act as fire chiefs, as they plan for the fires, prevent fires through inspections, and mobilize their teams to effectively fight the fires as they appear.