Burnout to Leadership

Ep#41 Working with people

August 05, 2022 Dex Randall Season 1 Episode 41
Burnout to Leadership
Ep#41 Working with people
Show Notes Transcript

Learn why our opinions of others, and what we think others think about us, are so important.

In burnout, we adopt a rather pessimistic view of ourselves, our performance and the people we work with. We often worry excessively - I'm sure you know what I mean! And the more exhausted we become, the worse our people experience get, until finally we withdraw and isolate.

Navigating the world of people, opposing views, frank communication and teamwork is a skill we can practice, to enjoy better results and a lot less stress at work. Along the way we can learn to be a whole lot more compassionate and gentle with ourselves. 

Here are my top 3 tips to improve your interractions with other humans.

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For more insights see @coachdexrandall

Hi everyone, my name is Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout To Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, my friends, this is Dex, on the Burnout To Leadership podcast and today we're gonna talk about working with people. We're gonna talk about leaders in burnout. Because from my clients, almost all of them are senior leaders or executives, massively capable and talented people who have temporarily lost their drive and power. It's like the gearbox slipped into first or maybe neutral and they've lost their mojo. And a real thorn in their side at that point is often other people, specifically either what other people think about them, or what they think about other people. And most people in burnout wince a bit when someone walks towards them at work or wants an unscheduled Zoom meeting. They worry about all the people. What all the people are thinking. And they might look up from their desk and see people they think they're letting down, or people they think are watching them fail, or people who are going to get angry about stuff they haven't done, or something snidey they've said, or something like that. Or even worse, people who don't quite trust them anymore. Because a person in burnout feels so badly about themselves, they think everyone else must feel the same. And often, in fact, that is simply not true, even when they are not delivering all that well. But I think burnout, in burnout it's actually uppermost in many of our minds that we've got friction with people. Maybe our bosses, colleagues, the system, our organisation, clients or within our own work team. And we might talk about them like their broken, like they're failing to meet expectations or behaving like jackasses, 'cause they're usually not doing what we'd like them to do. And when we're in the hole of burnout, so everything from there looks really dark. Doesn't it? So we can be quite cynical, negative, judgemental, irritated, resentful or blame y towards others. Perhaps even looking at others as dysfunctional for not doing things the way we would like them to do it. Because in burnout, we're basically on the last dregs of our energy. We've lost our power, resilience, and even our perspective. We're not able to lead effectively, and everything that happens looks like a threat. We've lost faith in ourselves, our ability to cope, we're in survival mode. And we start to believe the people or the system are against us. So all we can do then is be defensive or aggressive. All we can do is operate from fear. And quite often, we can see that as well, very painfully, and we can be pretty hard on ourselves about it. And if we know right down inside that we're behaving like a jerk we can experience really profound disappointment in ourselves and be pretty harsh on ourselves and by extension everybody else. And also how we are at work isn't that different from how we are at home. If we're near the end of our rope at work, once we get exhausted enough we'll likely be that way at home too. Snappy, unavailable, aggressive or dismissive. We're gonna see ourselves as failing there too. Letting down the people we really care about. And then we'll want to push others away. There'll be shame involved and guilt. And also we'll push them away because we're trying to protect what little energy and temper we still have. Or we are trying to get a rest from our loved ones, and they're so called demands. I don't meet many people in burnout who aren't pissed off with other people. And there's a reason for that. If we really haven't been that charming, performant, or willing as people then, of course, others may genuinely be a bit miffed. But fundamentally, people in burnout are pissed off or at least disappointed with themselves. And from that place, it's very difficult to lead. You're with me? Anyone in a leadership position in burnout is gonna try to keep the lights on. They're gonna continue to do whatever they can for their team, even if it means mechanically plodding through tasks in a way that kinda get shit done, but it doesn't feel even slightly good. And mean while they're just becoming more and more empty and despairing inside, seething with frustration and irritation, that really has a tang of helpless rage about it. And they'll try and keep that frustration and anxiety to themselves. As we all know, if someone near us is irritated, we can feel it. And then people start walking on eggshells around us. We fight this losing battle every day to be civilised and to be nice. But no, they're still tiptoeing around us. 'Cause people in burnout are typically in the bomb shelter of life, shattered, brittle, hypersensitive and reactive. They're just trying to get out of bed in the morning and hold it together and do something useful. Some of you listening here may not relate to all that description, and it somewhat depends on where you are in the burnout cycle, if you're in burnout at all. And also how willing you are to be really objective about it and knowing that it might be where things are heading, because burnout is typically cyclic and episodes, generally speaking, worsen with time. So if you're having about or say, explainable chronic stress and anxiety now, and if this isn't the first time, don't hide it under the rug and hope it's gonna go away, because the type of people who experience burnout episodes, are typically the people who are going to recreate that experience again later, and a lot of my clients come to me and they're still high functioning, often by clenching their teeth and making themselves keep going, but still, when we say high functioning, what we really mean is that even though someone feels like crap, they're still doing their job and fulfilling their obligations more or less, which is terribly creditable, and it says a lot of a person's grit and commitment, but it might also tell us that their preference in getting their job done over looking after the asset, looking after themselves, which is actually self neglect, so they are becoming more and more tired, they're wearing the cost of keeping functioning no matter what, they're kinda wearing out, what has now become a finite resource, their own energy. And when any of us lose a lot of energy, our bodies and minds start to break down, so even if you're not in that place now, and I'm super happy for you, if you're not, if you're not in dire burnout, still I don't really encourage anyone to leave fixing burnout like symptoms too long. 'Cause really, when you think about it, learning new ways to support yourself back to flashness pays off in employability, physical and mental health, career prospects, reward at work and so on. So if you frantically running a boat, hoping to hit calmer waters, it might be better to dock and dry off a bit, maybe getting outboard, because doing things the hard way has an expiry date, believe you me, I hit mine. So for those of us who like to keep slogging away, it might be a finite solution to a long term problem, so I'd fix things now. If you can relate to parts of the description I've just given you here, and you do fix things now you'll be laughing for the rest of your career. And as I say, I left my run to late, and I paid for that with a massive near fatal heart attack at 55. So while you're still functioning on the outside, if it's not feeling so flash on the inside, if you have ongoing anxiety, stress and exhaustion, if you feel cynical and de motivated, if you sleep badly and wake up dreading work, I'd really encourage you to do something to fix it now, because there's a long term solution to this short term problem. And particularly in the context of working with people, leadership, team performance, a person in chronic stress, anxiety, frustration, may not really have the resources to empower a team because they won't be empowering themselves, so if you're feeling inklings that this could happen to you, take note, and I'm gonna give you a couple of ideas to try here. And the first one, I mean, it's easy really, treat yourself and others with more compassion, empathy, respect, trust, and care. Choose to do that, even if it's not inclination, even if your brain is rebelling, just really reflect on your humanity, and so then your flaws, but also your greatness and those of other people, and it can help to write down the greatness part, if it comes hard to you again. So allow other people and you to be exactly who you are, the fullness of you. Since in any case, you can be no other. And seek the best ways to support, energise, and enthuse yourself and others to perform. Protect the asset. That was number one. Number two is choose trust, not fear. I have read a lot of books on people and team performance and leadership, and none of them advocate the stick over the carrot. Think about that for a minute. Because whilst the state might be A, your intuitive response, I can't get my words right now, I made myself laugh. The stick might be your go to response, and it might inspire increased efforts at compliance in people who are kind of in a factory process environment, but it doesn't yield superior performance in knowledge based workers. And it doesn't yield superior sustained performance, particularly in leadership. It's not relationship building, and genuine good relationships are at the heart of great team performance and great leadership. But I mean, let's look quickly at the stick first in case you're puzzled about this, and to do that, let's look at errors. When somebody in your team makes an error, you might call them out to teach them a lesson and to maybe make it fair for others. Probably you might make them fix the problem or you might take an opportunity away from them, and maybe that will get you the short term outcome that you want, but why do people make errors? Why do you make errors? Could be a lot of reasons, right? But for people in burnout, in no case do we aspire to be a lazy person, a person who failed or didn't bother, all things being equal, we normally acquit ourselves of our responsibilities as well as we can. That's who we want to be. If there are two primary motivations, love and fear, and when we're in chronic stress and anxiety, we're on the fear side of the ledger, and so if we exhibit behavior that's subpar we're probably stretched too thin. So if that's true, how is the stick going to help? How is that gonna motivate us to perform better, it's okay then. Let's look at the carrot. You might instead choose against your inclination, you might choose to work from a belief that everyone is capable and will do their best. You might choose trust, not fear. Confront problems from a no blame standpoint, not because you believe there is no blame, but because you want to solve the problem. Meeting with radical candour, an intention to resolve the problem together allows each person involved to retain their self respect and be part of the solution, it gives people a chance to be collaborative, open and curious about how to fix things, with quite a lot less fear of failure, and this creates, of course, psychological safety, allowing everybody to be authentic and honest and speak up whatever they need to say to anybody without fear of retribution or ridicule. So simply believe, simply choose to believe that they're going to pull together, treat them as a valuable resource who can solve the problem, seek to understand what motivates them, what made them make the choices that they did, why did they do that? And then be curious about how you can support them to bring out their best towards a solution. Mutual respect and honesty, along with a specific goal and predictable resolution process, open curious resolution process, invite the best and most creative teamwork, and I defer, of course, to the terrific primer on this from Brené Brown, Armored to Daring Leadership. I'm gonna put the link to that in the podcast show notes if you'd like to see it. I would recommend it to everybody, to be honest. And then my third idea is this, if you're in burnout and you can't get to a place of choosing trust over fear, if you can't get to a place of putting trust and open curiosity and respect, it might be helpful to you to find out how to resource yourself back to the point where you can. And that's how I support clients in their first few sessions with me to re establish some energy and equilibrium, some sense of okay ness and enthusiasm, and I think that's really the start point to recovery from burnout, so if you are in burnout or near burnout and you need help, come and talk to me. And what I wanted really to highlight there today was really that although in burnout, many leaders can and do function, they may continue to suffer and exacerbate their own suffering because they're too exhausted to work at their best, and that often results in worsening teamwork and worsening results, lesser results. So don't let yourself get too frustrated and exhausted before you pull yourself up and get a bit of fuel back in the tank, which will happen once you see, once you can really understand just how much of your misery can be fixed with coaching. I mean, we'll soon have you back to buoyancy. That's my guarantee to you. So thanks for listening today. If you like this episode, I'd love you to rate and review this podcast, and if you're in burnout, you must come and talk to me about how to recover quickly and sustainably, get back to your best performance and enjoyment, be the leader you wanna be, and enjoy yourself at work and at home. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.