Performative productivity sound good. Doesn't it?
But in burnout, it isn't. It's looking like you're being productive, without actually delivering the deep value that's expected of you. It's looking busy, but feeling jaded and cynical.
Here we will explore the signs of performative productivity and why you might be working this way.
Then we'll look at alternatives that will empower you and your team to become more successful, engaged and mutually supportive, so that you can deliver top class results with less effort, less friction and more fun.
I also include the traits I hire for, as an inclusive and people-centred leader. This has been so successful for me, I teach all my clients how to open up their leadership skills-base in the same way. Warning: Can increase career prospects.
Creativity Inc, Ed Catmull https://www.amazon.com/Creativity-Inc-Overcoming-Unseen-Inspiration/dp/0812993012
Good to Great, Jim Collins https://www.amazon.com/Good-Great-Some-Companies-Others/dp/0066620996
Brene Brown https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-on-armored-versus-daring-leadership-part-1-of-2/
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0:00:09.4 Dex: Hi everyone. My name's 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, and I'm glad once again you could join me here today for this week's Burnout to Leadership episode on Performative Productivity. Yet another subject that's very dear to my heart, because really when we recover from burnout, we developed this whole new kind of holistic, healthy way of relating to our work and our career and our efforts such that we can really outperform our previous best by miles and really so that we can add in a whole new set of skills that empower our teams to perform better too. And really what this does is when we sink into a new style of leadership, it helps everybody bond, enjoy working together, and become more creative and more productive. So really, when we get to that stage of leadership, we really don't want to slip back into old habits of performative productivity.
0:01:21.5 Dex: And by performative, I really mean we want to be seen to be being productive rather than actually meeting targets. But sometimes we are kind of compelled to go back into old habits anytime we get a little bit queasy about our kind of new reformed self-being able to hold ground. And it can be that our wonderful new habits are vulnerable to attack under ego pressure, in other words, from fear. So what we're gonna consider here is how you can make the best contribution at work and what that looks like and why you might like to change your MO. And for this, the starting point is, so I'm assuming that you are a high achieving, highly trained professional, type A personality, capable, intelligent, and experienced. Nothing wrong there. You've tasted success, and you've trusted your work capabilities, except that now perhaps you're a bit more burned out. And if that's so, then your shiny career prospects aren't quite so shiny to you, or they aren't quite so alluring to you. If you're a little bit worn out, a little bit cynical, jaded, fed up, frustrated, and probably alongside that, you're bone tired.
0:02:44.4 Dex: And also, although you possess a native capacity for leadership, you're not really getting on very well with other people right now. Probably they're just pissing you off, and you wish they'd manage themselves better and stop bothering you or making your work harder to cover for their errors. Am I even close there? [chuckle] And if I am close, how on earth would I know unless you ask? Well, let's just say, intolerant plus plus is my background before I ended up in burnout. I was all kind of thwarted genius. I thought I was a brilliant mind, like a steel trap, impatient for everyone else to catch up with me. And that was me back in the day. It's quite a long time ago now. But anyhow, that's how I was. Arrogant prick, you're probably thinking, well, perhaps, but now what I've discovered over the years is a much more human-centric, fluent way to inspire good results rather than smack those results on the board with a hammer.
0:03:53.0 Dex: And I learned all of these new skills and new way courtesy of my own burnout. So this episode really about performant productivity is partly initiated by my own brain's ongoing desire in times of stress to judge me by my old self-preservation standards of over-performance standards driven by anxiety, fear, and inadequacy. Those days when I wanted to see a full schedule to show me that I was a good boy. And it's also inspired partially by Chris Hale, a coach, colleague, and some other people I've been listening to lately on their podcast and whatnot, who I've really heard talking about the contribution of diversity, all kinds of diversity, but including neurodiversity in team results.
0:04:46.4 Dex: So back to our start point, then, Type A high achiever in burnout. Let's look at three points here today. One, how you might have valued your work pre-burnout. Two, what might work better for you? And three, in terms of working with other people, what attributes would you like them to have? And what attributes would you in fact hire for? So we'll start with the problem area. For most of us, how we Type A's might want our work to look or might have wanted our work to look pre-burnout. Here are a couple of aspects that would've occurred to me. Let's see if any of them resonate with you. We might be extremely professional, skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced. We wanna be seen as working hard and putting in long hours without complaints. We wanna be seen as meeting metrics. In other words, doing what we think our job is.
0:05:48.5 Dex: We probably have impeccably high standards applied to ourselves and of course demanded from others. We wanna be seen as flawless and rarely if ever make mistakes. We wanna be the best there is. We wanna solve every problem with super performers and contributors. We are reliable. We support, train and mentor others. We're doing the right thing by management and by the organization. And we're keeping our own team in line. We are busy all the time. We do everything that's asked of us. We never say no. We are strong, unbreakable, and relentless. We are survivors. We put up with anything, we always deliver. And we enjoy vast respect and status.
0:06:38.1 Dex: I mean, those were the things that came out of my head when I was thinking about it. But I'm looking out at that thinking, "Crikey, really?" Is that the best way to work? So ask yourself really if any of that applies to you, is that actually the best way that you work? Because here's part two, what about some other options for performing at our best? How about creating and connecting, empowering others, facilitating honesty and authenticity at all levels, working in the way that's best for you, appreciating your own skills, intelligence and contribution, and showing your full humanity to empower other people to show theirs? So demonstrating really the acceptance of the full you, being inclusive of other people's ways of producing their best results. Acknowledging that each person knows how to give their best and to establish their own rhythm. Not giving kudos for this relentless, unpaid overtime work ethic, allowing flexible work hours, valuing knowledge worker's work by results, not by clock time. Not expecting then everybody to be available around the clock. Opening up meetings as the listener, not the dictator. Celebrating people to show up and give energy rather than bring a prefabricated result, if you like.
0:08:25.6 Dex: Use fails as collective learning experiences, not opportunities to blame. Relaxing your rules about how productivity should look for others. Being a demonstration of what's possible without hustle. Fostering a humane, diverse and equitable workplace where everyone can belong. Not stigmatising any kind of difference you may encounter, which specifically I'm thinking today, neurodivergence, but I really mean any kind of bias or diversity that may show up in your workplace. Forming work groups to nurture talent and stimulate creative ideas and new thinking, redefining exemplary performance and work ethic. Such an overflowing schedule, isn't it? So if you apply some of those points I've just mentioned to your own work style, do you think that you'd perform better or worse? And how about other people? Are you willing to trust and mentor other people so that you yourself can let the reins go a little bit and give them their heads to produce in the way that works for them? And if you're not willing to trust and mentor other people in that way, why did you hire them? Or why are they even on your team if they aren't trusted to perform in their roles?
0:09:57.0 Dex: So those I think are just questions or concepts that might open up our ideas in terms of how we think about ourselves as workers, how we think about other people as workers, how we think about teamwork, how we think we might gain the maximum performance with, I guess the least amount of friction. And when I'm thinking about that, it kind of leads me to think, okay, "Well what attribute do I hire for when I hire people?" Because I have a very particular way of hiring. I have a very strong track record for the people that I hire. I'm good at hiring the right people who will elevate a team's performance. And also they're the glue, right? They'll make work a pleasure for the team. And I really, it's one of the things that I've loved most about my career in corporate is building smooth running teams.
0:10:53.0 Dex: I think that is a really fun thing to do, to get a team running sweetly, I love to also harmonise the inter-team performance and general culture in a workplace. I'm also an energy healer as a sideline, I read people's fit into a team. I read what motivates them at a personal level, what rewards them and also what cultural assets they bring from whatever their diverse backgrounds are. So I quite often would've hired in the past a candidate who on paper didn't look like the best qualified for the job. And I think of this as what gives me that leadership edge. I've been regarded as an A player in leadership, I think because of those particular selection skills in one aspect of team performance, really in leadership. So what I do is I tend to hire the best humans and then I encourage them to blend into a high-functioning team and cultivate or adopt big goals. And at the same time, I also want to weed out people who aren't the best fit, who don't think about things in that way. So when we are thinking about the outside of this type A personality box of professional assets, then how about considering things like professional attitude and high service standards as opposed to perfectionism.
0:12:24.9 Dex: How about hiring for technical aptitude and experience and an active desire to learn and improve over previously learned skills? 'Cause you can teach technical skills, but you can't teach aptitude or attitude. How about hiring for a service mentality and selfless good manners? So this is kind of the attributes of a servant leader. How about innate driving, innate drive for mentoring and team empowerment where you give credit for success to team members when you take the blame for failure on yourself?
0:13:08.3 Dex: How about demonstrated ability to kick goals in diverse projects? So this is having a flexible or adaptable, curious mind, not trying to regurgitate or rest on past successes. Also being incented on team building and connection, a multiplier, not the kind of point-scoring loan star that we might have been in a more technical role. How about being an open, authentic communicator? So somebody who admits their strengths but also admits their mistakes and weaknesses so that we can all be on a level, right? It's not a structured one at the top, everybody else at the bottom kind of situation. And that involves the willingness to not have all the answers, not know all the answers. There's no guru or dictator mentality in there. There's just more of a non-judgemental, egalitarian and inclusive nature, which isn't coming across as arrogant.
0:14:15.1 Dex: And here's a good one. I love it so much. Having this open-minded curiosity and good listening skills. This is not holding court from status or being ego-bound. And that really suggests radical candour. And also willingness to accept criticism. So this is the genuine desire for self-improvement and acknowledging that being fully human is okay. It's okay for you and it's okay for other people. And I also think this is a demonstration of community values. It's not egocentric. It's looking outside of what you know, and being very self-aware that maybe you don't know all the best ways. And I think then it also empowers you to be a fantastic team motivator from optimism about what can be achieved by the team. You get to be a visionary, but you also get to be a multiplier by bringing out the best in your team. And in articulating that, you need to be clear thinking and clear goal setting using very precise communication. It's not ambiguous so people understand what you mean. There's no hidden agenda, there's nothing proprietorial about it.
0:15:36.6 Dex: And there's nothing inconsistent about it either. Everybody knows where they sit with it. And I think because of all of this, it's really much easier to teach a good person new technical skills than to attempt to cultivate desirable personality traits. So that can be done, but it takes longer and it's a much bigger investment and it risks while you're trying to develop the culture of a person, their personality traits, it risks putting other team members offside. And conversely, there's no better attraction for new talent in a team than a consistently high-performing, psychologically safe, mutually empowering and bonded team. Super, super attractive to A players. And if you're interested in learning a bit more about that, I'm really gonna recommend the book Creativity Inc, by Ed Catmull. I know I've mentioned that one before.
0:16:33.9 Dex: But really when you've got this kind of team, particularly if you are moving or building the culture of a new team in this way, some people won't want to go to that new culture. They won't want to deal with that kind of honesty and rigour. They won't be driven in that same way. So those people won't want to participate in this new culture. You will see reluctance in them. They're gonna wanna get off the bus. But that's good really because you might even need to invite them to get off the bus if you see they're not interested in joining in with this new culture. Because success is a team sport. Keeping a person on board who's not a cultural fit is gonna compromise the whole culture and it will kind of prompt the better fit highly incented new culture people to get off the bus too if there's one person who isn't fitting in with the mix. And to read a bit more about this and how to build that kind of culture, read Good To Great by Jim Collins, it's gonna help you work out how to build that culture and also work out who qualifies to be on your bus and how to recruit new people onto the bus that will accelerate the progress of your team.
0:17:55.8 Dex: It's really true, resilient, repeatable success in business and in teams comes from a deep mutual acceptance and respect where each team member trusts those around them to have their best interest at heart and to want them to win. And to create that kind of a team, you really need to first, well first you need to come out burnout if you're in burnout. And second, you need to become humble, honest, and unafraid to be the full you, so that your team can also be that, this is about developing psychological safety and willingness to contribute and be creative within the team. And if you'd like to get a primer on how you might approach that, if it's been difficult for you in the past or if you haven't wanted to go that way in the past, a really good primer on this is Brene Brown's podcast on Armoured Versus Daring Leadership. And then if you would like to be that... If you are in burnout and you want to not only come outta burnout but be this really high-powered people-centric heart-led leader, which is probably the best in terms of career growth, it's the best in terms of team performance. It's the best in terms of enjoyment and reward at work. And it will also rock a few of your career, is a very popular style of leadership because it's, really reduces all the friction points.
0:19:22.8 Dex: So if you're in burnout now and you'd like that, that's my whole program. That's why my coaching program is called Burnout to Leadership because that's the trajectory I take people on. So just come and see me get coached, I will help you accomplish all of those aims, become confident and successful as an open-hearted leader, building powerful results through high-functioning teams. And it's gonna be beyond anything you've been able to achieve today. Never mind now whilst you're having a burnout experience.
0:19:57.3 Dex: If you are in that kind of team where team members are seeking to uplift their colleague's work as their own, right? Each other's work as their own, empowering them by giving direct, honest feedback, delivered with gentleness and compassion that keeps the team working together and it frees each person up to give fearlessly creatively of their best. And that ensures team safety, team coherence, and really optimal team function and results. So constructive feedback within a team needs to come from empowering the individual to up-level their contribution, not from blame, judgment, criticism, lack of respect or steamrollering. That's the other thing. So you are gonna be able to do all of that post burnout if you come on this coaching program with me. That's where I love to take people to. I can support you to get there and really open up your career possibilities and I guarantee you're gonna feel better about the whole thing.
0:21:01.4 Dex: So thanks for listening to this episode. I hope it was helpful for you. If you're in burnout, you must come and talk to me about how to recover quickly and sustainably and get back to your best performance leadership and most of all, enjoyment inside work and out. And if you did enjoy this episode, I would love you to rate and review the podcast so that we can reach more people who are suffering in burnout. If you are 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.