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!
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’s 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.
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.
Pair that self-imposed isolation with other items on this list, and burnout will quickly follow.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 neglected 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.