When we're in burnout we might be trying to solve every problem - our own and other people's - often to save face and maintain status. The price we pay though might be exhaustion, overwork and resentment.
So, can we recover from burnout and be the saviour of the universe at the same time? Probably not.
Do we need to?
Listen to these tips on letting go of trying to solve EVERY problem for everyone. This is the key to stronger leadership, higher performance and deeper reward at work, whether you are an employee or the boss. Leadership has a multiplying effect through mentoring - developing others' skills, not simply your own. The soft skills you hone when you rise to this challenge will always accelerate your own career growth.
This is Marketing, Seth Godin https://www.amazon.com/This-Marketing-Seth-Godin/dp/0525540830
Essentialism, Greg McKeown https://www.amazon.com/Essentialism-Disciplined-Pursuit-Greg-McKeown/dp/0753558696
Mental Health Summit (May '23) https://www.shadowsideleadershipsummit.com/
Ep#22 People-Pleasing https://www.burnouttoleadership.com/1849743/10025670-ep-22-the-trouble-with-people-pleasing
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0:00:09.4 Dex: 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. Here we are again, my name is Dex, and I am delighted that you're here for this week's episode, 'cause I know your time is valuable and I really appreciate you spending it here with me. And just let me say that what I really try to do on this podcast is always to add value. If I can help you see any part of your life experience as more manageable or even less threatening or taxing, then I'm all in. I'm here for you. And these episodes that I make tend to be a little bit practical, so you can think about how to make changes in your experience right now.
0:01:01.5 Dex: And today what we're gonna talk about is a thought that many people experiencing burnout have, which is, I have to solve everything. See if that applies to you, right? Maybe we're onto something if it does, and maybe you can find a little fresh perspective as you're listening today. And hands up, to illustrate this point today, I'm gonna tell you an example I've had. So I'm presenting at a mental health summit on May the 19th 2023, with some friends of mine, it's gonna be epic. And I'm talking really about how to love yourself back to life after burnout. And a little clue here, the summit really is all about love, it's all about recovery, it's all about enjoying our lives better, enjoying ourselves better. It's kind of the opposite of stigma and shame and hiding.
0:02:04.0 Dex: And so while I was thinking about this summit yesterday, I was actually attending another online summit, where they gave away a key takeaway PDF, each of the speakers, and it was just giving you all their contact details, but giving you the important points that they were covering in their talk, and I thought, "What a great idea." And I really wanted to emulate that in the mental health summit, and so I kind of made this suggestion, but somehow I managed to volunteer to make all of those PDFs for the mental health summit speakers because it's an evergreen summit, and I thought it would be really helpful. It's also run by volunteers, and all of the volunteers running it are these massive heart-centred leaders, a lot of them I know, a lot of them I deeply respect and love to work around. So I just thought, "Okay, maybe I can help out here." And ironically, my own presentation really at the summit is about championing yourself through difficulties. It's not about getting into more difficulty. So I had to ask myself when I was sitting down to make this podcast episode today, why do I have to, A, invent this need for this summit and B, solve it myself? So we can all have a little chuckle about that.
0:03:25.5 Dex: Because I think my experience is people in burnout are fixers, they're go-to people. And people recovered from burnout are still fixers, but I think they do it in a really different way, from a different style of generosity, not resentment or fear, from a different perspective, and with quite a few more boundaries. So I think when you come out of burnout, you don't change who you are, you're still the same person if you are very dedicated, committed, high-achieving, hard-working and all of that, you don't lose any of that when you come out of burnout, you just find out how to deploy that with a ton less wear and tear in a way that pleases you more, in a way that suits you more, in a way that's less over-strenuous and effort-full. So I think all of your good qualities remain and they are expressed in just a subtly different way that makes your life experience of it much more rewarding and more fulfilling. So really, because type-A personality people, the people who tend to end up in burnout, pride themselves typically on being willing and able to solve any problem, often picking up other people's tasks, if those people are not winning or they're not even willing or they're in over their heads, or they are producing a solution that we the fixer don't approve of. So to put it bluntly, we do tend to yank control out of other people's hands and take over, don't we?
0:05:11.5 Dex: Pretty funny, I think about the summit offer that I made. Anyway, I am ferociously type A, I was in burnout, and I still am now. I am not personally in burnout now. I love my work. It's very modulated, I suppose. I've got a lot more passion and a lot more fun in there than drudgery and resentment and bitterness and all of that despair, I just don't tend to really have a lot of that anymore. I just love what I do. So I work a lot less hours as well, but the time that I do spend working in and on my business comes out to better effect than before. And I think that's what's on offer for anybody in burnout, you can be more effective and more rewarded and more joyful and passionate than you are now, more successful than you are now, without all the downside, all the wear and tear side, and that's how I support people when I work with them in burnout. But coming back to this, if that's me and I do work less and I enjoy it more, how on earth did I do it? How did I make my life easier? I'm gonna tell you a bit about that in a minute, but first of all, I want to just quickly share some principles that we're gonna talk about today that apply to you, whatever your job, whatever you do for a living, it doesn't matter what role you're in or how you acquit yourself at that role or industry you're in, everything that I'm discussing today can be adopted by anyone who works, really.
0:06:47.8 Dex: And I think the antidote to wanting to solve everything for everybody is positioning. Positioning is enormously important in the way that you show up to give of your best at work. And I borrowed this concept from Seth Godin, the king of marketing. So have a look at his show notes for his work. Seth's main point about this in his book, This is Marketing, is that there are people out there with a problem, but those people with the problem, it's easier for them to do nothing than to seek a resolution to the problem. And also if they do nothing, there's no risk of further failure. So for example, for those of us who are marketing to people, and this is employed workers as well as business people when we talk to those people who are in our target market, the people we're serving, we really need to stand for something, we really need to define precisely who we can help, what the problem is that we help with, and what the solution is to that problem. And to do that, we really have to go out on a limb, we have to polarise people, we have to be willing to polarise people. And what that does is it tells people who we are as well as how we work with others.
0:08:15.9 Dex: And when we do that, people really get to see our natures and our MO and how we communicate, and what that does, when it polarises people, they will either agree more with our ideas, because we're committed to them, or they will definitely not agree with our ideas, and they'll walk away. So when we polarise people, they will either come towards us if they're our people or they will go away if they're not our people. We really show them really who we are, the guts of who we are, and this builds trust and connection with the people who are like-minded. So I've also seen this described as this kind of spectrum of taking a stand. There are people in the middle of a line, if you like, of the stand we're taking. There are people who are right in the middle and they're the, "I'm all things to all people. I'm gonna generalize to make sure that everybody likes me and everybody approves of me, but nobody can really kinda see me that accurately." Then there is a way out to the left or way out to the right, which is kind of too extreme. "I'm taking such a polarised view that hardly anybody agrees with me." It's kind of, "I'm just gonna be a, what people might think of as a bit of a nutter. I'm gonna go on the extremist end and hang out there by myself." Which is fine, it probably isn't the sweet spot for drawing people to you, who you can serve appropriately.
0:09:48.0 Dex: So the kind of sweet spot on that spectrum is not in the middle, not right at the edges, it's kind of halfway between the middle and the edge in either direction, left or right, and that's where you can really define who you are, what you do, how you help people, without being wishy-washy about it, but without also being too extreme. But I think really people want you to take a stand, they're waiting for you to take a stand, they're waiting to find out who you really are, to find out if they have affinity with you or not. Really, when you take a stand, you stand out to them, they know who you are. And what the people really want is they want to hear their needs articulated in their own language, their own language by you, so they know you understand what's happening for them. And the solution likewise, they want you to articulate it in their language, how would they see it, and it needs to really resonate sharply with them. And also they want to hear generosity in your offer. They're really seeking something better and they want to know that they're gonna get that, and they also want to know that they belong. They want to dare to believe from what you say that change is possible for them, and when you can describe it in their language, they're gonna hear themself in there and they're gonna hear the solution in there.
0:11:17.6 Dex: If you don't use their language, they won't hear themselves and they won't relate. And some people aren't very willing to go out on a limb like that, but really, when you're competing on the playing field, when you're in the playing field running by the same rules as everybody else around you, when you are trying to compete with other people based on the status quo that you find, when you do what everybody else is doing, then really you don't differentiate yourself, and then you have competition, you are in competition with everybody else who's not differentiating themselves. But when you play your own game, you're not competing, there is nobody in competition with you, because only you can be you. So when you take that stand, you kind of, when people relate with you, you've eliminated the possibility of competition. And I think the reason that that's true is competition, you might say is based on price or quality, yeah, to some extent it is, but most people make decisions based on how they think they're gonna feel afterwards, and how they're gonna feel with you is safe, seen, heard, and they're not gonna get that from the mob who are competing on price and quality.
0:12:37.6 Dex: So yes, your price has to be somewhere in the field, and your quality is helpful if it's high, but people are gonna base their decision on working with you with who you are, how you make them feel, so really, the more you're prepared to stand out, the more likely you are to attract people to you. There's only one person who can deliver your unique magic, right? Your people aren't faking it when they like you, and equally, people aren't faking it when they don't like you. But what you do then is waste less time attracting the wrong people who are never gonna work successfully with you anyway. So I think the message here is more you, loud and strong, tell people who you are and let them come to you if they're a good fit and let them walk away if they're not. And so for those of you who are employed rather than head of an organization, rather than running a business, positioning absolutely applies to you, and I think the best resource here is a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown, and you'll see that in the show notes. And how to work at your positioning, really, if you're an employee, what are your inner values, your core values as a human? Is that what you're operating from, like it or not? Number two, what do you love doing? Number three, what problems do you solve best from your own role, not from trying to do other people's jobs for them, but from your own role.
0:14:09.3 Dex: Number four, what is your highest contribution within the remit of that role? What do people really super want from you? And it might not be what the rules are about what you do each day, it's probably not associated with hourly labour, with task, action-based stuff. It's probably at a higher level than that. If you've been a professional for a while, they'll be relying on your acumen a little bit more than what you did in the last hour. So think about it, what are the things I do that give my best contribution here? And of course, what are my strengths? Ask yourself, what are you best at and what you're not best at. And then I think this is coming back to the book Essentialism, which is about how to make your best contribution with the least time and energy and from the most creativity. So this is really rising to the cream of what you're able to do and giving that, not giving all this other kind of busy work stuff which might be compliant with rules and regulations, but probably isn't the place where you're giving off your best. So I look at it like this, if you're in an employed role, what your managers really want to do, the people above you really want is that you solve their problems for them.
0:15:32.8 Dex: So what would it look like? What problems do you solve for them, what problems could you solve for them, what problems have they never asked you to solve for them, but you still could, how can you contribute to making their lives easier? 'Cause that's what they really want, that's what all of us want really. So how can you solve their problem? So ask yourself those questions, and I would write down the answers and give it a bit of time and space and come back to it because what we're really doing here is we're excavating the real goodness of you. We're finding the deepest, broadest theme of the contribution that you can make, and it usually isn't a good match for what we're doing now. There's usually other stuff in there that we can be doing, and there's less of some things that we can be doing and more of some better things. So ask yourself all those questions, and if you can identify opportunities to contribute differently then maybe that might be worth exploring for you. 'Cause positioning really is about working out how to provide the maximum value in your role regardless of the tramlines you think you operate within. You don't have to ignore the tramlines. Some stuff is important, but it's not the only thing.
0:16:51.4 Dex: Also it's about if you're solving problems alone, taking on every problem going and thinking it's your problem and you have to solve it, or thinking that if you solve every problem, then it might enhance your status or it might protect your job, then if that's the way you're going about things, solving every problem that comes up, then I guarantee you have more in the tank than that, and that you've got more to give by actually letting go a little of this lone-ranger approach. And when you do, you're going to kick up a gear and it's gonna be more rewarding than what you're doing now, and less frustrating, and it's also gonna open up your career options because suddenly you will be providing more value. So I think then the question is, okay, well, what are the barriers to this letting go of solving every problem? And I'll run through a couple of really obvious ones, you can ask yourself the question again, what's holding me back? What is the thing that makes me want to solve every problem? Let's look at a couple. So maybe you're picking up other people's work because of perceived incompetence in them, or lack of quality in their work, or inexperience. And think about it from this perspective, "Okay, if I was a multiplier, what would I do? If I wanted to multiply my net effect in this role, what would I do?"
0:18:22.7 Dex: And I think really a multiplier, in this case, would let people try and grow, 'cause people can't grow unless they try something and experiment and fail and fix it. And also a multiplier would back other people's efforts and really operate as a mentor or guide or reviewer if they were. Kind of sponsoring them to greater heights and growth, and if you were gonna be that multiplier and that's not you now, then what would be required? Okay, the requirement would be, you need to let go of your own urgency to solve the problem for them, you need to give it back to them, and let them keep it. You'd need to stop believing you're the only person who can fix things and maybe just relax your own super standards for a little while. So people in burnout have super high standards. All good. But for those people who are learning, perhaps not the best, maybe being minus is okay for now, from them. Maybe that's acceptable. Maybe that'll fly this one time.
0:19:24.9 Dex: Also, what's required is, you need to have a vision for the future, right? So when you're working with other people who are not in your grade, and really you're investing in their future and a little bit in your future, you're team building, basically, you're empowering your team to come up with you, but it's a bit of a longer range plan, than just, I need to fix this problem now because I can't bare for it not to be fixed. And also the thing you will be required to do is make a little bit more space like this for your own best individual contribution. When you pull back from trying to do all these things for other people, then you've got more time to do your own best work.
0:20:06.5 Dex: Okay, so that was the first one when you perceive other people are incompetent or lack quality or experience to do things and you wanna take them off. The next one is when you think that other people are unwilling to solve problems, even their own problems, right? So then you pick it up off them, you take it, "Oh, they can't do it, they're not gonna do it. I'll do it." And if you're gonna be a multiplier here, what you really need to do is facilitate and encourage them with empathy, right? Not smirk them over the head, some of us want to. [chuckle] In the past, I would have been very brutal, I admit. It's much more effective to facilitate from the perspective of, "They'll get this, they can do it actually. I can help them to make a start on it and have a go at it." So the multiplier will encourage very gently those people to become willing. Find ways to help them be willing. And also may be useful to remember how you were at their career stage, maybe you weren't willing to do everything. Who encouraged you in that time? Who is your best boss in your career and what attributes did they have?
0:21:17.3 Dex: Why were they your best boss? Why did you appreciate the way they work with you? And probably you're gonna come up with some kind of encouragement and trust that they had for you. So if you're going to be working with people who are unwilling to solve their own problems and you want to take those problems over, what is required to let go here, is a sense of security about your own status. I know who I am, I know what my role is, and I don't need to take over everybody else's role to prove my own status. And also the willingness to be a team player, you know? I don't have to be a Knight in Shining Armor. I can let them be them and that will turn out probably well for them in the end. And I need to see through my own arrogance, and people used to say I was terribly arrogant, but really, in my case, personally, I was actually quite scared. I was scared things would go wrong, and that came across as arrogance and the live-ness, I think. But we need to see through this idea that where the person who is gonna fix them, 'cause it's not realistic and it's not kind, and it doesn't help... Fundamentally, in the end, it doesn't help our performance and it really doesn't help other people either. So that's working with other people who seem unwilling to tackle their own problems.
0:22:37.1 Dex: The next one is, we think it's faster and easier to solve problems ourselves than to teach or mentor other people. And if we're a multiply here, what we're gonna do is teach one and empower other people to learn, by their mistakes if necessary, 'cause that's how we all learn everything. And a multiplier will also build out the talent base of the team, because the team is who supports us, right? Will also model to team behaviours that will enhance team performance, so we will model sharing responsibility with other people, not trying to do everything for ourselves. Ultimately, again, it's not gonna enhance team performance by modelling, "I'm gonna fix all your problems for you if I think it's gonna be easier than letting you do them." That's not a great thing to model to the people around us, because what we're saying is, "We don't reward enterprise and teamwork." So if we want to let go of that kind of multiplier effect, what will be required is willingness to see other people's potential, a willingness to trust them, to be able to have a decent goal at anything, and also to learn by doing them and grow. Recognition of our own status as a multiplier, so we can build our own self-esteem as a multiplier rather than as a doer, you can let go a little bit of being the doer, and be more powerful in that spread, spread more of the power base to our team, which ultimately is good for the bottom line.
0:24:22.6 Dex: Also, we need to understand our own value and growth into leadership, so if we're not accustomed to letting go into our team and letting our team take on more responsibility, and it helps to see ourselves as aspiring to greater and greater, more powerful levels of leadership, so we're investing in ourselves by doing this as well. And then lastly, if we think it's easy and faster to solve problems ourselves, then it's difficult for us to let go, we need to have the willingness to feel the awkwardness and the urgency and the kind of twitchy-ness, the anxiety of, "Oh no. Oh no, I don't wanna let them do this 'cause I'd really rather do it myself and know it gets done right, done quickly," etcetera, etcetera. So we have to be willing to feel our own feelings. And then the last one I'm gonna talk about here is concern for our own status and reputation. It's very difficult to delegate to people if we don't trust them, 'cause we're worried about how we're gonna be perceived if somebody we delegated to do stuff done. Ironically, our status and reputation will improve when we become a good mentor to others.
0:25:32.9 Dex: So to be a multiplier, we need to find a way to derive satisfaction through team performance, and it's helpful if we can learn how to champion our team to the boss. So what we do is we improve team performance through creating safety, book communications and care within the team and extending trust to them, and also we can recognize that, again, we are cultivating our own leadership soft skills here. So I think let's come to the bottom line if you want to solve every problem, why? What are you afraid of essentially? What emotion is driving your need to solve every problem for every person? So ask yourself that now, is there some negative driver here? Are you operating from anxiety or fear or insecurity? Or is it positive, like wanting to please all the people? Sounds positive, right? But if that's true, then I would suggest you listen to Episode 22 of the podcast on People Pleasing, because people wanting to please all the people all the time, people pleasing is basically backed by fear.
0:26:47.1 Dex: People Pleasing is at root, trying to keep yourself safe by manipulating other people into approving of you. It's not as helpful for you as it seems, nor for other people, because even if you get that approval, it's kind of hollow and transitory. You're not likely to feel that it's enough, and you're still gonna seek more. And it also involves being a little bit untruthful, "Yes, I will do this," but maybe you won't. "Yes, I am happy to do this," when you aren't. "Yes, I will go to this meeting," when you know it's a waste of your time. And all of that kind of untruth comes at a personal cost of a loss of authenticity and integrity, so it damages your relationship with yourself when you do that.
0:27:36.4 Dex: So ask yourself really at a deep level, "What are my emotional needs here, when I'm trying to do all the things? What am I trying to protect? What am I trying to get more of? What would happen if I refuse to do every single thing that needs doing? What am I believing about myself and my performance? What is my worth in the world? How do I see my worth at work?" So I think some of these questions here might give some revealing answers, particularly when you keep asking them, ask them time after time after time, not just once, because once will get the quickest answer, the top of head answer, and it might not be the deepest straits for you, so what I do with this kind of question is I keep asking, keep asking, maybe every day for a week, I ask myself the same questions and see if a deeper answer comes. Because what we're going for here, everything I've talked about today is to empower you and to help you integrate better at work and feel better about work, deliver better at work, feel more fulfilled and connected at work. There is nothing here about self-judgment or self-blame. It's self-knowledge so that we can choose how we'd like to grow into somebody who is even more effective and even more fulfilled and rewarded and has an even stronger career path.
0:29:06.8 Dex: So this is all for you. If you catch yourself self-judging and Self-blaming then just pause for a moment and say, "No, what I'm trying to do is just come home to myself and find what's important to me and operate from that place, that's all." Right? Because when you do let go of trying to do everything yourself, when you learn how to cultivate and encourage the performance of others, helping people feel included, respected, listened to and trusted, then you're in a whole new league as a leader, your personal performance requires new depth and you don't need to be the lone ranger anymore, you can actually feel a deep sense of connection and accomplishment, because now you've got a loyal team of willing workers ready to grow with you, plus you have this expanded and very valuable skill set then leverages team success wherever you go. So you're tapping into the power of teams and making yourself more valuable as you go.
0:30:14.9 Dex: So thank you very much for listening today. I appreciate you being here as always if you're experiencing this power to... Needs to control, need to take over that we've talked about today, and if indeed you're a type-A personality, if you are experiencing burnout because of all of this, listen for the link at the end, you must come and talk to me about how to recover quickly and sustainably and get back to your best performance of leadership, and most of all enjoyment inside work and out. And as ever, for anybody listening, I would love so much for you to rate and review this podcast wherever you're listening to it because it really helps to reach other people who are experiencing burnout. Thanks for being here. Catch you next time.
0:31:01.9 Dex: 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.