How do leaders lead when facing burnout?

In a recent blog post, “Is Your Team Experiencing Burnout?” I shared the basics of burnout: symptoms, causes and ways to combat it. While this information is helpful for organizations navigating unprecedented times, the million-dollar question for business owners and leaders is this: How do I lead my team when I’m facing burnout myself? 

Harvard Business Review shared the story of Peter Sena, CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Digital Surgeons, a marketing and design firm. Their rapidly growing team was approaching burnout due to adding several teammates, clients and building new offices. Something had to change.

Peter began practicing meditation and said, “It helped me become more mindful and present.” It was so helpful, he introduced mindfulness to his team. They hired a meditation trainer to teach their team 10- to 15-minute meditation techniques to ensure a complete stop and reset in the middle of the day. 

Explore these five bite-sized methods to help you lead your team when you’re struggling with burnout:

Take care of yourself.
Remember the airplane hostess instructing you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others? The same applies here. You must fill your own cup before you have resources to tend to others. 

Your team will look to you for guidance and inspiration on this unprecedented path back to wellness and balance. This means that your behavior—from the midnight emails to the vacation days never taken—communicates what you expect from your team, some of which may be contributing to their burnout and your own. 

Know this: If you’re stressed, your team is stressed. No one wins in this scenario. Ask yourself: Do I want to breed stress or success? If you want to breed success, ask yourself what you need and tend to your needs without guilt. Modeling self-care behavior can create positive ripple effects within your company. I’ve found that actions speak louder than words.

Understand the root cause.
Speak to your teammates via in-person conversations, ask questions to understand the source of their burnout. Maybe they’re struggling with workload and need your support or perhaps they’re tending to an ailing loved one and it’s wearing them thin. An open conversation helps you operate from a place of information instead of assumptions.

Be an advocate.
Protect your team’s time by encouraging them to not take on more than they can handle. Ask if a deadline can be pushed back if more time is needed. Support them with flexible work schedules and access to personal development resources, such as your own stress-management techniques.

Be compassionate.
Don’t take your teammates’ burnout personally; remember that you’re here to support and not fix others. Consider what’s best for your team, even when it means a different solution for each team member. Maybe one team member needs to work one or two days from home. Perhaps another needs to scale back to a four-day work week. And perhaps another needs permission to engage in self-care: a vacation, a new office chair or an engaging professional development opportunity.

Model positivity.
An authentic reminder, such as “We’re in this together,” can make a world of difference. Feeling a sense of connection and belonging is important on the path back from burnout. And the best part? The more you say it, the more positivity boosts your own spirit to lead from a place of joy and inspiration. 

Water the seeds of positivity in your life. Seek out positive people, stories and podcasts to fill your cup. I invite you to check out my podcast, the Mindfulness Academy Podcast, where I interview inspiring mindfulness leaders who are making the world a better place and equip you with a practical mindfulness tool on each episode.

If your team is facing burnout and you’d like to learn tools to help calm, connect and restore your team, reach out at info@aimeemorgan.com. We’re here for you.

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