The capstone of great leadership is a life capable of resisting burnout, and that happens through a life of abundant generosity.
You cannot have that, without financial health.
Ultimately, you will never be able to fully resist the pitfall of burnout if your financial life is in order.
In the early days of my coaching practice, this is exactly where I found myself. I wanted to be there fully for my clients, but often wondered how quickly they were going to pay. If it wasn’t soon, I wasn’t going to be able to pay my bills. That sort of internal struggle makes it hard to be fully present.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’ve woken up with a knot in your stomach wondering how you were going to make it through the growing pile of bills.
If you’ve ever lived at a point of having more month than money, you know the stress of too little money.
But a life free of burnout goes one step farther. It’s never just about having enough money, it’s about giving back. To be free from burnout as a leader, you give of your time, your resources, your skills, and your expertise. The final commitment is to give your money.
Great leaders not only get their financial life in order, but they also practice living a life of Abundant Generosity.
Abundant generosity is about giving extravagantly. It’s charitable giving, yes, but it’s so much more. It is the openness and willingness to propel others to their own successes.
Abundant generosity is a joyful state of abundance.
It calls for greatness out of yourself and others.
Abundant generosity opens up the well deep within your soul to provide monetary donations, wisdom, and acts of service to better the causes, communities, and people you care about most.
A number of years ago, I changed part of my pricing package to include a “generosity” option. In short, when people purchase a certain coaching contract with me, I move part of that money into a separate fund that provides scholarships for people that can’t afford full coaching services.
The individual receiving coaching wins by receiving free or discounted coaching services.
I win because I get to help more people.
The person who made the donation wins because they get to practice abundant generosity.
But as I’ve said, finances are only a part of the picture. Sometimes, they know the person who receives coaching. They nominate someone in their organization who then gets the added benefit of a promotion because of their growth through the coaching process.
The end result is a recurring cycle of growth in individuals and organizations where all are giving and receiving. Abundant generosity, in this case, is about bettering the community.
As we wrap up this eleven-part series, I want to encourage you to practice abundant generosity where you have the chance. Give freely and deeply. Bless others. With your money, your time, your gifts, your resources, your network, your business, and your passion.
Start by freeing yourself from the burden of debt. Then, accumulate as much knowledge as you can and give it all away.
To truly transform your life, you must be willing to turn up the temperature on your relationships.
My wife teaches third grade and recently finished up a unit on cold-blooded animals. Throughout the unit, she reinforced the idea to the children that cold-blooded animals regulate their body temperature through external circumstances.
If the outside is cold, they are cold, and they have to find a way to warm up.
If the outside is warm, these animals are warm, and they need to go somewhere to cool off.
Humans, scientifically, are warm-blooded animals. We have an internal regulator device that helps keep us warm.
Unfortunately, when it comes to other areas of life, like relationships, humans tend to act cold-blooded.
Understanding External Circumstances
We, humans, are a funny bunch. We have this incredible ability to make up conflict and fear in our heads from perceived threats.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever lost sleep at night wondering what your coworker, friend, child, or significant thought of you.
*I’ll raise mine first.*
It’s a natural tendency. Our brains, uncontrolled, make up things for us to be afraid of. I’ve lost track of how many times I, or one of my clients, have feared a conversation they were going to have with another individual.
Inside of our own head, it usually goes something like this:
Oh now. I need to tell Samantha what happened last Friday at the meeting. I’ll be she’ll be upset. When she’s upset I’ll have to reassure her. I’ll start by letting her know I’ve already resubmitted the proposal. When she gets angry that I did that, I’ll tell her I was forced to. If she becomes irate, I’ll calm her down by …
The power of our brain can easily transform any situation into a quickly escalating argument of emotion.
We think fearfully. Because of this, we enter the situation fearfully. Finally, we unknowingly project that fearfulness on the other person. They sense that and respond out of fear. The cycle escalates. We think we proved our own instincts right.
The problem is that this really isn’t the case. This, from the example above, is a cold-blooded response. We feel as though we are victims of the circumstances around us. Unable to control the outcome, we give up the power to someone or something else to avoid personal responsibility.
The Warm-Blooded Response
There is another choice. It’s what I call the warm-blooded response. It is the internal regulation of circumstances and control.
Think of the thermostat in your living room. If a window is open to blow in a breeze and it gets too cool, the thermostat, ever in control, turns on the heater to warm the room up.
If warm air accumulates inside the room, the thermostat is still in control and turns on the air conditioning.
Either way, the thermostat controls the outside environment instead of letting the environment control it.
We have the same power in our relationships.
Recently, I was working with a client who offers a public service. He has both his own service route and a warranty side to his company where he operates as an independent contractor for a large manufacturer.
It was time for his yearly review with the customer service director for the large manufacturer, a meeting that my client always hates. In the past, the meeting has not gone well, and the relationship with the manufacturing company is fractured.
Before his meeting, he called me to review some of the information he was going to present. Most of our time, however, was spent on his mindset. If he went into the phone call expecting negativity, he was sure to find it.
If however, he went in under the assumption that they wanted him to win, grow his business, and bless him, he’d find that as well. He committed himself to look positively at the situation and providing honesty and insight into the manufacturer’s warranty replacement policy that he worked under.
Right after the meeting, he called and said that it went extremely well. The representative heard him throughout the conversation, and he got amazing reviews from the company. They made some suggestions for improvements, and he now has a better relationship with this manufacturing company than he has had in years.
All because of his outlook.
Relational Health For Leadership Health
As we continue our look at seven areas of health that are vital to avoiding burnout, we must look at relationships. Our closest relationships can be both the source of burnout if done poorly and the greatest contributing factor to health if done properly.
So how do we set a healthy relational course? In two key ways.
1.) Commit to being a thermostat.
The first step is to be the thermostat in your relationships. Realize that you are in complete and total control of how strong your relationships are. You control how often you take your spouse on a date, call up an old friend, hit the golf course with a coworker, and how large your network is.
If you want something, be in control of your own actions enough to get it. Regulate the temperature. If you want a better marriage, raise your own temperature of commitment, and build one.
2.) Be in a room set warmer than your own.
The second step is to realize that you don’t have to do it alone and get help. If your marriage is struggling and you want a better one, don’t go get advice from your uncle that has been divorced three times.
Build a friendship with someone who has been married for 50 years!
If you want your business to grow, create friendships with successful business owners.
To get out of debt listen to someone without any, instead of your friend sleeping on your couch.
Each of these is an intentional act to “raise the temperature” of the room you find yourself in. You’ll slowly start to acclimate to your new environment and rise to the occasion.
Relational health is vital to leadership health Examining your key relationships and keeping them strong, vibrant, and life-giving is the only way to remain healthy and avoid burnout.
Holistic leadership health includes physical health. Your body was made to move. It not only provides physical benefit but mental and emotional health as well.
Your Body Was Made To move
During my master’s program, I was extraordinarily unhealthy. I honestly stopped stepping on the scale after it read 250, but if I had to guess I got much closer to 260 or 270. I was overweight, had issues sleeping, bought the biggest pants I’d ever owned, and masked my feelings through food.
Shortly after graduation, my family moved from California to Denver and Elise became pregnant with our second child. My sleeping had gotten worse and I literally could not make it through a single day without taking a nap. My weight ballooned closer to 280.
Finally, I had enough. I bought a membership to the local community rec center and hit the weights. I was weak and I was tired, but I was determined.
Soon, after that, I began to clean up my eating.
Along came babies three and four, and new responsibilities at work. The pressure was mounting.
This time, however, I exercised the stress away, rather than attempting to eat my feelings away.
By the time we left Denver to move back to California, I was down over 40 pounds. While 240 was still much too heavy for me, I was on the right path.
Three years later, I’m now a trim 215 and in the best shape of my life. I now find it more of a struggle to not work out than to go hit the weights. My morning routine includes 30-40 minutes of weight training in the morning and a 10-20 minute walk in the evening.
Lead Through Physical Health
Healthy leaders who care about avoiding burnout take their own physical health seriously.
I know this because I suffered from burnout while being extremely physically unhealthy.
I also know this because I’ve worked with dozens of leaders over the years and have seen it play out time and time again.
If your work schedule consists of more fast food than fitness, you’re in for a world of pain.
Healthy leaders know to move their bodies and stay in great shape. Physical shape and your ability to control yourself around food often say as much about your emotional and mental health as anything else. I’ve seen it enough, it’s almost a guarantee: if you are unfit physically, you’re also likely unfit emotionally and mentally.
Benefits of Exercise
There are numerous benefits to exercise. Exercise has been shown to:
Release the brain’s happy chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.
Improve your mood.
Increase sex drive
Promote better sleep
Fight off infection
and Balance hormones
Made To Move
Our bodies were made to move. It’s why I added a personal training certification to my coaching packages years ago and constantly work with my clients to achieve optimal health. Our bodies, when not in motion, experience degradation.
Sitting, quite literally, kills you.
Whether it’s taking frequent walks around your office, your block, or your neighborhood, your body is made to move.
If you’re struggling, start small. At my heaviest, I had no grand illusions. I never wanted to “run a marathon” (still don’t!) but I did want to make it to the gym three times in the first week. Next, I tried hard to go three days without dessert. Then, I challenged myself to sleep through the night. I replaced an overabundance of coffee with more water.
Make a small but significant step today to seize control of your health. Call a friend and go for a walk. Eat an apple instead of a donut. Head to bed on time instead of binging your favorite television show.
Each time you intentionally make a stand for your own health, your leadership capabilities improve. More than that, you care for those around you.
People are counting on you to show up, perform at a high level, and influence those around you.
When it doubt, move your body. Your body was made to move!
The next step in the journey towards sustainable leadership is emotional health.
Now, I’m no piano player, but I’ve painstakingly taught myself chopsticks and Joy To The World over the course of about twenty years.
I don’t have a very good range on the piano.
I possess, at best, a very limited repertoire and skillset. If you were to give the best piano in the world, on the best stage in the world, in front of the most attentive audience in the world … I’d still be an embarrassment to most of the people who know me.
My limited piano playing ability is one thing, for the leader in business, a limited range is quite another.
What’s Your Range?
Someone with limited emotional intelligence, a limited range on the piano as the analogy goes, only knows a few emotions. I’m sure you’ve all met someone (or have been that someone) that is happy, angry, sad … and that’s about it.
Increasing our emotional intelligence gives us a wider playing range on the piano.
I once worked with a guy who played his angry key. That was it. He was either stoic, fairly passive, and laid back, or angry. I don’t mean, “Wow, he’s upset.” I mean, “I think he might hurt someone” levels of angry. He always talked about wanting to be a leader, but his ability to play only one note of his emotions left him a hard individual to trust.
Mastering the Basics
There are six basic emotions:
Everything else we experience is a shade or expression from these basic emotional reactions.
But, think of the emotional range of being mad.
Here are other notes in the piano range of mad:
Each of these, depending on the context, brings another element of healthy expression to a relationship. Was my coworker really angry? Or was he jealous? Frustrated? Irritated? Skeptical?
He may have always expressed anger, and for those of us witness to it, it was troubling, but what was behind it? His inability to distinguish between anger and frustration left him limited in future potential.
The emotional range of happiness includes emotional expressions like:
Those with greater emotional intelligence can display a greater range of emotions.
Emotional Intelligence gives us better control and a deeper range. That’s the first benefit of coaching.
The need for healthy emotional expression is vital to fruitful and productive leadership. It is also essential to avoid burnout. Adequately expressing and processing emotions gives the leader tools to work through difficult experiences and situations.
The emotional health of a person sits in the unique field of being almost completely internal in nature through past experiences, while also being almost completely externally visible through actions, perceptions, and relationships.
Peter Scazzeo notes the concerns of emotional health:
Emotional health is concerned with such things as: naming, recognizing, and managing our own feelings identifying and having active compassion for others initiating and maintaining close and meaningful relationships breaking free from self-destructive patterns being aware of how our past impacts our present developing the capacity to clearly express our thoughts and feelings respecting and loving others without having to change them clearly, directly, and respectfully asking for what we need, want, or prefer accurately assessing our own strengths, limits, and weaknesses, and freely sharing them with others developing the capacity to maturely resolve. (1)
For the emotionally healthy person, effective leadership requires a previous recognition and engagement with emotional traps, snares, and shortcomings at earlier stages of life. Family dynamics, addiction triggers, and shortcomings all need to be worked through and reflected on.
I spent several years in therapy working through many of these issues. It was ingrained in me from a young age that I should work hard and achieve success. By itself, this is not a problem. My issue arose when I began to tie my identity in my ability to work hard. I was only worth what I could produce.
That became a dangerous trap. When I sense I wasn’t producing enough, I sensed I wasn’t good enough. I had to learn these triggers, work through them, and express my feelings in healthier ways.
This work is required for all healthy and sustainable leadership. Work on increasing your emotional range and adding notes to your repertoire. Those around you will appreciate the more beautiful ‘music’ you create and it will enhance your quality of life.