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Helping your Team ( and yourself) Prevent burnout

The latest Harvard Business Review has a great article on managing 'burnout'.  One of the key points the article makes is that burnout in an organization is typically not isolated to one individual but is experienced by the entire team.  I have taken the liberty of injecting some of my thoughts in the thinking.  

The key signs of burnout are as follows:

Exhaustion -  I am physically and mentally tired.  Physical, cognitive, and emotional fatigue impacts people’s ability to work effectively and feel positive about what they’re doing.

Alienation -  I don't feel part of the organization.  Feeling detached from the workplace and the work we do. Alienation happens when we don't feel connect to the organization and have a sense of purpose that what we do makes a difference.

Ineffective - I don't feel like I am accomplishing anything and can't do anything right. Feeling ours skills are slipping and worrying that they we won’t be able to succeed in certain situations or accomplish certain tasks ... and I can't get anything done.  

What can we do as leaders what can we do about the burnout problem?

Put your own oxygen mask on first - Follow the advice that they give if your airplane looses air pressure - put your own oxygen mask on first - and take care of yourself. If a leader is feeling burnout they will have trouble helping their team.   

Watch for Warning Signs 

  • The signs of burnout are obvious in some people but subtle in others. Keep an eye out for tiredness, lack of focus, depressed mood, hostility, and expressions of hopelessness.
  • Regularly check in with team members to gauge their physical, cognitive, and emotional energy levels.

Improve the Team's Capacity

  • Help your team them help themselves - Understand what your team's capacity is and manage what work is in process.   Work with your team to create additional capacity and limit the number of projects and tasks we have.  It is better to work on fewer things and get them done than taking on a lot and getting nothing done.  
  • Protect the core and make sure your team is focused on the primary work. Where possible shield your team from external pressures, including unreasonable or unclear customer and management demands.
  • Try to limit and manage drop in or 'squirrel' tasks.  

Insist on Renewal

  • Communicate that optimal performance depends on rest and renewal. Encourage people to set sensible limits on work hours. We are only effective for around 8 hours of work a day.  
  • Set an example by keeping reasonable hours yourself.
  • Make sure your team members take their full vacation time.

Boost Control

  • While you can't control everything - emphasis that fact that you can always control the impact that non-controllable situations has on your team.  
  • Advocate for the resources your team needs to perform.
  • Build in focused slack - Create uninterrupted time for people to make progress on important tasks.

Make Team Recognition Meaningful

  • Regularly highlight wins and successes, even small ones.
  • Recognize and reward people for helping others.
  • Note the positive impact of your team’s work on others.

Emphasize Learning and Continuous Improvement

  • Focus on our organizations vision, strategy and goals and what resources and development activities are required to achieve them.
  • Share what you’re learning and how you’re doing it.
  • Get out and benchmark with other organization's to get a better perspective on what we need to do to improve. 

Facilitate Mutual Support

  • Talk regularly about progress toward team goals.
  • At team meetings, ask what assistance people need and can offer one another.
  • Be open about asking for and giving support.

Build Community

  • Don’t tolerate incivility on your team. Set an example for respectful, compassionate behavior toward others.
  • Encourage people to share what’s happening in their lives outside of work.
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Scott Smith
January 16, 2024
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