Professionally dressed woman asleep on couch exhausted with book in hand, asleep face down.

This is a continuing series. Today’s post is An Introduction to Burnout (Part 2). In this series, we are examining leadership burnout and the steps you need to implement as a leader to avoid (and recover from) burnout.

An Introduction to Burnout (Part 2)

In his book Ministry Burnout: A Special Problem, John Sanders writes about the elements leading to burnout. While he is specifically addressing leadership in the church, the reality holds for every position of leadership. Initially, John’s list contained nine elements. I’ve adapted and combined some as it relates specifically to general leadership health.

As a result, in a follow-up to my last post, we need to examine these six stressors that can lead to leadership burnout. In this article, we will examine the first three causes, and a follow-up article will examine the last three.

While none of these by themselves lead directly to burnout, a combination of these six events can. Be wise and pay attention to what is going on in your soul and get professional help if you need it.

1.) The leader’s job is never finished.

I remember sitting on my bed, gasping for air. I was in the midst of a full-blown panic attack. The weight on my chest would lift and I found myself unable to breathe. My wife, in her best attempt to reassure me, held my head as I half-gasped-for-air-half-cried.

The mounting pressure from weeks of over-commitment was getting to me. I was building my coaching business, often investing thirty hours a week into my then part-time venture. I was still on staff at a church, working sixty hours a week during the Christmas season. I was also in the midst of doctoral school and we had just had our third child. Weeks of poor sleep, nutrition, and exercise left my body debilitated.

As I created a list of all I still had yet to do, it all became too much. As I sat on our bed, wondering whether to call an ambulance, I eventually fell. Honestly, I’m still not sure if it was falling asleep from exhaustion or passing out from lack of oxygen. Either way, I took a four nap, whether I wanted to or not. 

I’ve learned a lot from that moment. Though the leader’sTired man with arms over his head exhausted at his computer facing burnout job is never finished, I now find that a much more welcoming prospect. I now give myself the freedom to admit that since the job won’t be finished, I might as well take some time off and enjoy what’s going on around me.

If you find yourself mounting with fear and overwhelm at the prospect of all you have to do, this can be one indicator on the road to burnout.

2.) A lack of clear results.

There are few things a leader can find more frustrating than this. Investing countless hours into a project, spilling blood, sweat, and tears, only to be given ambiguous results. How disheartening!

When I first started coaching, I agreed to give someone free coaching. I thought it would be a win-win. They’d get some (hopefully) great coaching and I’d get to practice and implement some of the theories I’d been working on.

Instead, it was a lose-lose. With no monetary investment, he never had need to change. He said he wanted coaching and really wanted to grow but never put in the effort. On the outside, he claimed to want a promotion. Internally, his lack of desire and discipline proved why he’d never get it.

I also lost. I invested 60-90 minutes into an individual for almost two years before I humbled myself to call off our arrangement. I got zero usable feedback, unclear results, and a bad taste in my mouth.

If we’re not clear about the results, and if we don’t measure the right things, our frustration can quickly lead to burnout. Unfortunately, working with people can be a prime breeding ground for unclear results. This is why I’ve implemented a wide array of team-oriented goals in coaching.

Now, not only do we measure tangibles like product production, sales, marketing, and bottom-line numbers; we also measure relational and interpersonal goals. We examine personal satisfaction. I help my teams put measures on metrics that are often left undefined. Through team-building leadership assessments, you need to find a way to create positive experiences and measurables that provide motivation and encouragement for your team.

3.) Workplace repetition

As I stood on my college campus lawn thirty minutes after graduation, I wondered what life held next for me. Suddenly, it wasn’t cool to be unemployed. Instead of a college student, I was a college graduate. I was recently married and we found ourselves without income. When my brother asked me what was next, I said, “I dunno. I guess now I just work until I die.” Had I followed my own advice, that probably wouldn’t have been that long of a cycle.

In the workplace, leaders often face a similar dilemma. Think of your own workday. I’m guessing there are a number of tasks you can count on occurring on a regular basis. Jane is 15 minutes late, Bill shows up at your desk around 10:30 to unnecessarily distract you for thirty minutes, your boss needs a last-minute report that should’ve been done weeks ago, and you get stuck in traffic by missing the elevator and having to wait another five minutes.

On top of that, you seem to make the same thirty copies every day. It’s boring. It’s dull. It takes little if any brainpower.

It’s unfulfilling.

That, ultimately, is the real danger, but the repetition can be a sign of impending burnout. Showing up every day, repeating the same tasks, feeling the same soul-crushing boredom, leads to discontentment. Discontedness leads to apathy. Apathy gives birth to burnout. You know you were created for more and aren’t living to your full potential, so you slowly start to die inside.

Engaging in the same tasks, especially the unfilling ones, can lead to burnout. Find ways to stimulate your brain, engage your body, challenge your senses, and enhance your prospects by breaking through the routine and trying something new.

4.) Stagnant Relationships

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. This unattributable proverb gives us great insight into the impending doom of burnout.

The unhealthy pervasive “Alpha” mentality in today’s leadership style has ingrained the idea that exceptional leaders must go it alone. This is never the case. Instead, great leaders have always had others close to them. They use these relationships as feedback, guidance, additional wisdom, course correction, diversity, strategy, and companionship.

David Heenan wrote about great Co-leaders in the late ’90s. He highlighted men duos like Jobs and Cook, Gates and Ballmer, and Hellen Keller with her teacher Anne Sullivan.

If you ever listen to a talk I give, we’re probably going to talk about the pairing of Lincoln and Grant. As a fan of history in general, these two men in particular have inspired me. Here, it is their unwavering commitment to each other that matters most. Their letters, starting out formal, by the end conveys a sense of warmth and deep friendship. If Lincoln had had his way, Grant would’ve been in the audience with him the night of his assassination.

In all of these, the point is the same: your level of success, and your ability to resist burnout, is directly related to the amount of deep and meaningful relationships you have.

When we have stagnant relationships, we begin to rely solely on our own power. We convince ourselves of the false belief that others don’t matter. We begin to distance ourselves from those that love us most, we simultaneously isolate our hearts from the thing it needs most: human interaction.

If you examine your life and notice that it is either void of significant relationships or that they have become stagnant, be forewarned: burnout is soon to follow.

5.) The Pressure of a Public Image

Leading others is somehow both a tremendous joy and an unbearable burden. It brings us unimaginable happiness and gives manifestation to our deepest insecurities.

That pressure can get to you. When you as a leader constantly feel the need to maintain your public image, burnout can happen.

While there are many causes and reasons for this, in my work with executives I’ve noticed one factor more than others. The number one cause I’ve seen is that the person becomes defined by the position. The belief that you alone can lead, you alone are called, you alone are capable, you alone are good enough presents an unbearable burden on your soul. Unable to maintain that image for long, you further isolate yourself from those around you. Professionally dressed woman asleep on couch exhausted with book in hand, asleep face down.

Pair that self-imposed isolation with other items on this list, and burnout will quickly follow.

6.) Failure

This final item, much like the preceding one, becomes an issue when it becomes wrapped up in identity. When you start to see the subtle shift in your psyche between, “I experienced failure” and “I am a failure,” trouble is on the horizon.

Failure is an inevitable and unavoidable part of life. Many times, it should actually be encouraged more than it is. We learn more from failures than we do successes. I recently gave my oldest son his first pocket knife. After walking through safe handling techniques, how to open and close it, how to hold it, store it, and use it to cut effectively, I handed him the knife. I concluded the lesson by saying, “But I also know that the only way to learn sometimes is the hard way. So you’ll probably cut yourself and we’ll put a band-aid on it. You’ll learn not to do it again.”

I handed him the knife. Within fifteen seconds he had cut his thumb open. The next day, cut open a different finger.

Since then, he hasn’t cut himself. He learned. The hard way. Through failure.

It was a painful but effective lesson.

But when we begin to tie up our identity into our failure, we create a vicious cycle, much like we saw above. We experience failure, feel like we alone must fix it, isolate others, fail again, and our leadership trends downward.

Very few, if any, of these six causes to burnout happen in isolation. Most often, they are paired with others on the list. The relentless nature of leadership lends itself to moments of frustration, anger, bitterness, and resentment. Healthy leaders will fight against that. In future editions of this series, we’re going to examine ways to stay healthy and fight these temptations.

 


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.

Key on desk with overlay text: confidence is key

I was reminded recently, how in any attempted area of growth, confidence is key.

First, a confession. I’m a huge Gordon Ramsey fan. His ability to instruct, teach, inspire, lead is inspiring. I’ve also laughed at more than a few of his insults. He also knows when to relax, laugh, and have a good time.

Recently, I was watching an episode of his popular show Hell’s Kitchen and set one chef home after a critical failure.

Her crime? She lost confidence in her own ability.

As the episode ends, you hear Gordon’s voice as the picture shows her leaving the competition.

“If she’s lost confidence in herself, I can’t have confidence in her as my next executive chef.”

It is a dear reminder that in any area of life and growth, confidence is key.

Displaying Confidence

Let me be clear: confidence is not brashness, arrogance, smugness, or cockiness.

Confidence is not abusive or manipulative.

No, confidence is assurance.

It’s an assurance in the mission and service you’re providing to the world.

Confident people are able to say, “I’ve made it through every previous trial, I can make it through this one as well.”

Confidence is not about putting others down, it’s a clear picture of who you are.

Confident people have an accurate self-perception. They know who they are, why they were created, and the mission they are to be about while on this earth.

Confidence is key. Key on desk with overlay text: confidence is key

I often tell people at the start of a coaching relationship, “I can do anything for you except make you want to change. You have to want to change and be willing to put in the work required to do so. Once you acknowledge and commit to that, I’ll give you every tool I have to help you succeed.”

Why do some people make that commitment (and experience the reward) and others don’t?

Confidence.

Confidence is key.

The Confidence Quickstart

Life can be hard. As a result, there may be moments where you find yourself doubting. Wondering. Fearful.

Those moments are not a reason to withdraw or shrink back. Instead, they are moments to rise to the occasion, challenge yourself, accomplish something great, and demonstrate your ability.

If you ever find yourself in need of a confidence boost, here are three proven methods to help you get back on track.

Gratitude Journal.

First, start by keeping a gratitude journal. Write down as many things as you can to be thankful for.

A number of years ago, I challenged myself to write down 1,000 things I was grateful for. Once I got past the big and obvious ones (spouse, kids, parents, a house, a job) I really had to begin to focus my attention on every moment of every day.

Could I find moments of joy or positive experiences, even in the midst of difficult circumstances?

Of course, I just had to give it intentional thought.

Eventually, I had an impressive list (even if I never did make my 1,000 goal) and it completely reframed the way I go throughout my day. 

Want to feel more confident? Start by acknowledging and welcoming all the good you already have in your life.

A list of previous accomplishments.

Next, keep a list of all of the previous things you accomplished.

Again, you’ll start with the big obvious ones (that’s great!).

The raise you earned.

That karate trophy from the third grade.

Voted most photogenic in high school.

Eventually, you’ll move on to the harder, but not less significant experiences.

The first successful sales call.

That time you worked up the nerve to ask that special someone.

Conquering the fear of public speaking.

Pretty soon, you’ll have an impressive list not only of everything you have to be thankful for, but all the previous times you’ve thought something was impossible, and yet you did it anyway.

Positive Affirmations

Finally, look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself some encouragement.

Far too often, we do just the opposite.

We mess up or make a mistake and say something like, “Of course I did that. I’m a klutz.”

Or, “What an idiot.”

Instead of that how about we say, “Boy, had I given it two more seconds of thought maybe I wouldn’t have made that same choice, but I’m glad I had this learning experience.”

Then, encourage yourself:

  • Look at this list of everything you have to be thankful for and all you’ve accomplished. Confident man looking in mirror
  • You’re very talented!
  • I can’t believe all that you’ve overcome.
  • You are very resilient.
  • You’ve got this!

As you stare at yourself, providing those affirmations, you’ll notice a shift in your thinking, your emotions, and your behavior.

You’ll notice that confidence returning. Building. Sustaining you throughout the day.

Once you’ve acknowledged all you have to be grateful for, written down your accomplishments, and affirmed your intellect and skills, only one thing is left.

Go out and do great things.

You’re more than capable.

I’m sure of it.

I’m confident of it.

And confidence is key.

 

 

Want to exponentially grow your leadership skills? Here are two great options:

Attend the 2021 Building With Purpose Conference on April 1.

Work directly with Justin.

couple hugging

The only way you will reach your full potential is if you intentionally spend time fostering key relationships.

My wife and I have been married for fourteen years. Together, we have four amazing children. We met in college. Separated by a year, I had my eye on her stunning beauty even before she officially enrolled in the school.

You see, she stopped by on an official visit one week as a soon to be music major. She poked her head into the concert band I was a part of to check it out. I remember being captivated by her beauty the moment I laid my eyes on her. I even offered to help chaperone her around the campus for the weekend, but was told by the band director to go, “nowhere near her.”

Before long, she was at the school, I mustered up every ounce of courage I had, and attempted to talk to her. As an extraordinarily shy young person, I’m sure I was incoherent at best and downright possessed sounding at worst. But I had done it! I talked to the woman of my dreams.

From there, a blossoming friendship started, followed by dating, engagement, and marriage. Over the last fourteen years, we both completed our undergraduate degrees. I’ve also added a master’s and doctoral degree, started my own business, moved us from Kansas to California to Colorado and back to California. Every leg of our journey has been full of heartbreak and triumph, setbacks, and victory.

Building For Better

While I could write a book on how amazing she is, and the many ways she has sustained me in our years together, here is what is of most importance now: I truly believe that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be half as successful as I am without her by my side. Even as an introverted and fairly well-disciplined individual, I recognize and understand the necessity of vital and life-giving relationships.

It has been her unwavering belief and support in me that has gotten me through the darkest days of my life. It was her tenderness and compassion that got me through the most difficult work experience of my life. Surrounded and attacked by an unhealthy work environment, she got me through it and encouraged to keep pressing on. Feeling the weight of doctoral school and my growing thesis, it was Elise that reminded me what I had been called to do. Overwhelmed by personal failures and stuck in unhealthy mindsets, she encouraged me to change my thinking and alter my end destination in life. At every step of my journey, she has had the strength I lacked to keep me pushing on towards my goals.

Fostering Key Relationships By Sharing The Burden

If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. This proverb gives us our final key insight into the Shift mindset: we must make this journey with other people. One big key to success is having someone else to share the burdens (and joys) of life with. In fact, research has shown that a lack of human interaction results in, “psychological and physical disintegration, and even death.” Anyone who faced the massive work from home transition during 2020 no doubt felt the reality of that.

During the COVID quarantine of 2020, my wife’s grandmother had to change skilled nursing facilities when one shut down. She was moved over the course of the weekend but then forced to self-isolate for two weeks because of the threat of the virus. When family checks on her two weeks later, this healthy and robust woman was near death.

What happened?

After she was moved in, there was no social interaction. Additionally, the staff couldn’t interact with her outside of handing her food at her door because of the quarantine. In their haste to get her isolated, the facility neglwedding bandsected to hook up her television or hang pictures on the wall. Her furniture was not set up in a conducive manner for her new room, making it difficult for her to use the restroom. She was socially isolated with no physical interaction of any kind for two weeks and found it physically difficult to move about in her own home for basic human needs!

No wonder the end of the two weeks found her near death. We immediately started preparing for the worst. Several family members took time off to be with her, in what we thought were going to be her last days. They set up her phone, television, and artwork. They gave her fresh meals, rearranged her furniture, and took her on walks. In less than a week, she regained her strength, physical abilities, and desire to live. That’s the power of human interaction with other people.

Finding,Building, and Fostering Key Relationships

I’ve recently become a fan of examining ancient cultures. What can they teach us about our modern society and ways to improve or existence? One of those areas of study has been the ancient Spartans. A formidable fighting force, their battles are legendary. These men, from age seven on, trained to do one thing: fight for Sparta. They ate together. Trained together. Went to school together. Slept together. Hunted together. The reason they were so good is that they knew their partners and those beside them in battle so well. It was built into their training.

Similarly, a sister city, that of Athens, developed a similar policy. However, as the Spartans focused on war and battle, the Athenians focused on government and society. In her book on ancient civilizations, Susan Bauer recounts how Athenians ate together frequently. It was not just expected and encouraged, it was demanded. They even had a policy in place that should you decide to eat by yourself before the community meal, you were to be ridiculed.

Ancient peoples knew, whether, through political necessity or societal continuity, that relationship mattered. In our digital world, much of this has been lost. As a society, we are increasingly comfortable in digital interaction. As a result, physical relationships have become an art. In spite of this waining of personal-physical relationships, they are still vital and necessary. Your success will always be limited if you don’t have others in your corner working alongside you. If you’re looking to build or deepen those significant relationships, here are three keys to success.

1.) Affinity. couple hugging

The easiest place to start and build the necessary relationships to sustain success is through affinity. Find like-minded people who are traveling the same journey. This is one reason I hold master-mind groups. These hour-long group coaching sessions pair people of similar professions and experience together for group coaching and accountability. While mine typically revolves around business owners, health professionals, and leadership development specialists, masterminds exist in all fields.

You can also plug into local networking groups. Many times these are less formal, less expensive, and provide another benefit. In addition to networking with like-minded individuals that can encourage and support you, you’re also expanding your network and potential client base. Your new clients are not only those in your particular group but all of their contacts as well.

Friends also fall into this category. Find another friend with an entrepreneurial spirit and hold weekly accountability. The financial investment in these is free, but it’s still a highly motivating factor. Schedule a thirty-minute session with each person getting fifteen minutes to share. In your fifteen, share the following: what your goals were for the week prior, how they went, what your new goals for the week are, and the consequences of not completing them. These consequences could either take many forms. On the grand scale, there could be the realization that if you don’t take action, you never will, and this business idea will die inside of you. At times, you may also need to make the consequences more practical and agree to by your friend’s lunch at the next meeting if you don’t accomplish everything on your list.

2.) Diversity.

Once you have your foot in the door with an affinity relationship, the next level is a diverse one. This is one far too many people miss. We’re so used to seeing like-minded people that we fail to see anyone different than us.

This is detrimental to your personal development. Ironically, after years of researching and writing on burnout, I decided not to write about burnout for my thesis. At least not directly. Instead, some of the job changes I was experiencing at the time caused me to shift my focus to this issue of diversity. I examined how a diverse culture affects community engagement and reception. Whether you want to look at churches, non-profit organizations, or business culture one thing across all spectrums of research is clear: the more diverse the team, the better they perform, the better they provide better user experience, and the final product is better in every way. In short, here is my 180-page thesis: if you want to make a lasting impact seek diversity.

Diversity can have many factors to it. Race, religion, gender, educational background, and socio-economics are only a few. The more diversity you can bring in to your immediate sphere, the better you will be. This happens, because each person is better able to help show you your blind spots. If you assemble a team that looks and thinks just like you, you will potentially end up with a phenomenal product …. for no one but yourself. Instead, diversity allows different participants to share their points of view and create a stronger end product. Intentionally seek out a diverse team and ask them to point out ways for you to grow. You’d be surprised how much they point out, and how quickly you can make those changes.

3.) A Level Above.

The third area for those key relationships is what I call the “leveled up” relationships. These are people who in your eyes have leveled up beyond where you currently are.

Think about it. Do you want to take relationship advice from your uncle who has been divorced four times or from someone who has been happily married for fifty years?

Do you want investment advice from your broke friend who sleeps on their parent’s couch or from a millionaire?

Once you’ve identified areas for personal growth or new habits you want to make, finding those relationships can start with looking for those that have already leveled up in that particular area.

This is an excerpt from my upcoming book SHIFT. To receive a complimentary pre-release copy go here.

Prefer video lecutures? I’ve got you covered there too! SHIFT is available (with additional material) as my Elite Mental Academy. Sign up for my newsletter to receive special pre-release pricing and bonus offers.

Building With Purpose Online Conference

Fight, Flight, or Fear … Isn’t there another choice? You bet! Michael Warden reminds us of this in his interview for the Building With Purpose conference. His challenge, to think creatively instead of reactively, is a timely word for us today. He inspires us to grow during this time and gives us some tangible ways to do so.

Check out this clip:

Building With Purpose

This excerpt is a part of the FREE online conference I’m hosting called Building With Purpose. This course will help you pivot during this time of social distancing and working from home.

For many of us, it’s a new experience. These experts will help you gain clarity and momentum and experience success.

To sign up for the conference, go here.

Registration is completely free and is currently open.

Building With Purpose Online ConferenceIn this conference, we hear from leading experts in:

  • Coaching
  • Business Consulting
  • Human Resources
  • Finance
  • Digital Marketing
  • And more

If you’re interested in starting or growing a business or even just wondering how to maximize your time and what to do next, enroll in the free conference.

To follow up, I’m offering all attendees a complimentary session.

To redeem your session, go here.

Isn’t There Another Choice?

I love how Michael reframes the conversation around creativity in action and not the negativity of reaction. It prompts us towards healthy growth and gives us strong language for action. Maybe, like Michael you’re asking, isn’t there another choice? Yes, here are some of my thoughts:

1.) Remember all you’ve overcome.

You have, quite literally, made it through everything previous to this in your life. While much of this is new and unexpected, you have ample evidence to suggest that you can make it through this as well.

2.) Choose contemplative action.

Michael does a nice job of helping us walk through the waters of necessary action without reckless direction. I like the term “contemplative action.” Years ago, Elise and I instituted a rule that we will pursue a new path, potential direction, or life change with 100% enthusiasm until we sense God telling us to stop. He blessed us with brains, skills, and passions and we should use them in ways that spark joy. When we sense him telling us to stop, we do. This has opened up tremendous opportunities and new career paths. We have been committed to both action, and being aware of what’s going on in the midst of it, or here, contemplative action.

3.) Seek sound advice.

Life was never meant to be lived alone. That’s what makes social distancing hard for so many. Be sure to have good, sound counsel in your life. Find a friend, a coach, a mentor, or significant other give feedback and encouragement. 

I walked away from my interview with Michael Roberts thinking, “If someone followed these seven steps, they could start a business today.”

Michael Roberts, from the small business celebration podcast, gave us seven timeless qualities of great business leaders. Looking to grow a strong and profitable business? Listen to, and then follow, Michael’s advice.

 

Building With Purpose

This excerpt is a part of the FREE online conference I’m hosting called Building With Purpose. This course will help you pivot during this time of social distancing and working from home.

For many of us, it’s a new experience. These experts will help you gain clarity and momentum and experience success.

To sign up for the conference, go here.

Registration is completely free and is currently open.

Building With Purpose Online ConferenceIn this conference, we hear from leading experts in:

  • Coaching
  • Business Consulting
  • Human Resources
  • Finance
  • Digital Marketing
  • And more

If you’re interested in starting or growing a business or even just wondering how to maximize your time and what to do next, enroll in the free conference.

To follow up, I’m offering all attendees a complimentary session.Building With Purpose Online Conference

To redeem your session, go here.

 My Interview With Michael Roberts

During my interview with Michael Roberts, he gave us seven steps to business growth, even during COVID-19. It may sound hard to believe but even now, there are things you can do to grow your business. Here are three key takeaways I learned from Micael.

1.) Expand – Don’t Contract

The world is telling is us to be afraid. To shrink back. To hide. Michael challenges this thinking and tells us to charge ahead. Position yourself as the authority now by pivoting your mindset and products to help those in need around you. He provides a real-world example of a restaurant doing that and how it is actually growing, even as we follow the stay-at-home mandate.

2.) Value First – Sell Second

As entrepreneurs and business owners, we are all excited about our product. The problem is that sometimes we are more excited about selling that (and making money) than we are about helping and serving others. Michael challenges that thinking. Start first by creating a value-based relationship and then sell your product.

3.) Take Care of Yourself First.

I can’t run a business, help my neighbors, or provide for my family if I’m sick. Now more than ever we need to take care of ourselves first. Start by looking after your own health: spiritual, emotional, physical, relational, and mental health matters. 

 

Want to hear the rest of Michael’s other points and grow your business?  Join the Building With Purpose Conference for free.