“I’m burned out.”
If one person in your organization utters these words, it may indicate an individual need.
For a leader, it may signal a great opportunity for mentorship, guidance, and process improvements, where you work with the individual to help them grow into a role, learn how to make decisions and determine priorities, take on a challenge, and create solutions.
These expressed concerns can be precursors to growth, which happens as these issues are resolved.
But if you hear these laments across your team – or worse yet, from your customers and clients – you have a much bigger issue.
The issue here is leadership.
When faced with team-wide dissatisfaction, many leaders will blame their people or bury their heads in the proverbial sand. Either approach only makes the problem worse.
There comes a time where a leader must own the issue.
And, in doing so, the leader will then ask the next logical question: Why does the issue exist?
- Why are people confused?
- Why are people stuck?
- Why are team members burned out? Why is there such high turnover in the organization?
- Why is the workforce bored?
- Why are your best players unable to keep up?
- Why are your team members and customers feeling unappreciated and devalued?
Two things happen when a leader (1) owns the issue and (2) asks why.
The leader effectively identifies a person to resolve the issue (the leader), and they effectively identify the true issue.
In essence, these team-wide issues signal a point of growth for a different individual – this time, it is the leader.
In the example above, leadership growth may look like this.
If your people are stumbling over each other in an attempt to figure out who is doing what and when, this is confusion. If your team is not sure where to start or what the goal is, this is confusion. If everyone has questions, and no one has answers, this is confusion.
How do you clear up the confusion? One word: clarify. Provide your people with clear goals, clear direction, and clear position descriptions.
Generally, being stuck stems from the lack of four components.
How do you get things moving again across your organization? Open the lines of communication.
Give your team the tools and resources they need to collaborate well. Help each individual learn their strengths and weaknesses so that, when they hit a point of their weakness (in other words, they are stuck), they know who has the strengths to pull them forward.
Communicating with your team means listening and learning what helps them perform at their best. The result? Confidence and increasingly recognized competence.
Concentration is as important to business as collaboration. Give your team the means to focus in the way that fits them best so they can complete a project. For some, this means a closed office door. For others, who think best when they are moving, it may mean giving them leeway to take a walk outdoors.
Listen and learn what works best for your people. And help them keep the lines of communication flowing well.
Issue: Burnout and High Turnover
Every leader loves a highly productive team. But not every leader has mastered the art of sustaining one. The danger of having a team of “A” players who lay it all on the line every day is that there may come a day when they can’t. This happens when there is no pause button in the workplace.
Solution: Create Balance
Leaders who are highly driven and task- or idea- focused must purposely seek to create balance for their team. These can be small pauses between projects, time allocated for project wrap-up before a new one begins, or celebrations of big wins. A leader who interferes with the life balance of their workforce will eventually lose even key players.
In addition, such leaders will eventually reach a point of burnout themselves.
The best solution is to create regular intervals of balance. Push hard, yes, as a team to complete major initiatives. But don’t forget to stop and recalibrate before the next hard push. You and your team need the opportunity to re-energize in order to be fully engaged for the next round.
One high achiever noted that they had never left a job because of work. But they had left several out of boredom.
Most people would not admit it, but everyone likes challenge, to a degree. Challenge stimulates the mind and body to achieve great things. Help your people grow within their strength zones, but just outside their comfort zones, and they will not be bored.
Why are your best players unable to keep up? In a word, “overwhelm.”
In this day of email, meetings, mail, printed materials, phone, voicemail, text, chat, video conferencing, podcasts, and social media, the inputs can create an impossible scenario. If you were to place these on a desk as inboxes and print out each piece of information you have to process in a single day, the reality would be shocking. And this pile-on happens day after day. It is coming to a point where human beings cannot possibly do all that is expected of them. And, yet, they try.
Wise leaders will understand the unique challenges today’s workforce faces. They know that maximum outpoint is not a matter of addition, but of multiplication. It is not adding on to the workload of your current players but multiplying your teams by developing leaders of leaders. Today’s workplace is essentially a platform of leadership pods, where those with targeted strengths work together in groups as teams of leaders. Where the 90’s was a decade of expansion, there is now a need for strategic contraction.
This also applies to avenues of input and output. If you limit your organization to three to five main channels, the workload becomes more manageable. If you are pinging your people across multiple Slack channels all day on the input side, you cannot expect a high volume of output. It is physically impossible.
Between artificial intelligence and now the concept of social distancing, the world is becoming less and less personalized. Yet, inherent to human nature is the desire to feel connected, appreciated, and valued.
It is a world of paradox.
Leaders must never forget that the ultimate reason for business is to serve people. And to serve people well, at some level, they must also engage people in the effort. While the world may be more and more impersonal, leaders must not lose this personal focus.
Make it a point every day to express to at least one person a sincere word of gratitude for who they are and what they do. Family, friends, co-workers, customers, employees – everyone needs to feel connected.
What other issues are surfacing in your organization?
Will you, as the leader, own them and ask why?
For more resources on how you can turn leadership issues into growth solutions, click here.
As the CEO of Strength Leader Development, Deb Ingino is a highly sought-after international executive mentor, coach, trainer and speaker. Deb is well versed in global business operations and helps business leaders and their teams to discover and leverage their strengths, so they can create highly collaborative teams that deliver great results. With a refreshingly direct style, Deb helps leaders and their teams to deliver profitable results. Connect with Deb to learn more about her mentorship and coaching programs to equip you with advanced strategies to elevate your results.