Are you Type A and in burnout?
If you reckon you have "Type A" behaviours, you might notice how they contribute to burnout. You're most likely driving yourself hard, treating yourself harshly and taking no prisoners.
Listen in to discover what Type A is all about - and what upsides you might manifest once you tackle burnout. When you understand yourself more completely, the power is back in your hands.
On the flip side in burnout recovery, there is a positive aspect of these Type A traits that will uplift you and your career. Listen in to reconnect with the goodness of the 'real' you.
Ep36 Champion Yourself
The Myth of Normal, Gabor Mate
Good to Great, Jim Collins
Creativity Inc, Ed Catmull
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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. For all of you interested in the Burnout end of the universe, here I am again. This is Dex, and welcome to this week's episode on surviving your A type side, and I mean this both in an experiential and a literal sense, as you're going to see in a minute, and probably we all have a slightly different understanding of what type A means. So let's first delve into type A personality. What is it? Well, from Wikipedia, the term was invented in the 1950s by two cardiologists, Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, who, on discovering that only the front egde of the chairs in their waiting room were being worn down, began an eight and a half year study of healthy men aged 35 to 59. They identified traits that they collected into this type A personality idea, and they concluded that type A personality doubled the risk of coronary heart disease. Ironically for me, since I do acknowledge type A behaviours in myself and I had a heart attack at 55 and I promptly left the software industry and switched careers. And here I am. Anyway, type A has since been reframed as a set of behaviours, not a personality type, in as much as the behaviours appear to be caused rather than inherent, and I think this is good news, because if they can be caused, they can be reversed. If you are a fan of the work of Gabor Mate, who discusses at length his conception of the causes of chronic illness, metabolic disease, addiction, ADHD, PTSD and a variety of other physical, mental and emotional suffering arising in a body under stress, he proposes that the best place to look for causes is in a person's attachment relationships in early life, whereby the child self develops coping mechanisms which, if they are extended into adult life, begin to be seen as maladaptive and problematic. If you are interested, read his book the Myth of Normal - Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture. It is probably packed full of pretty interesting ideas, whether you are aligned with his style of thinking or not. One of the parts of Mate's work that really struck me was his proposal that ADHD behaviours are connected to childhood relationship challenges. When I read this, it connected the dots of... so many young people these days being diagnosed with ADHD and adults for that matter; the high incidence in my client base of adults with ADHD and the confluence of Mate's supposed causes of ADHD and what I have observed in my work and learned about people predisposed to burnout. What I am hinting at here is if type A behaviours that so often lead into burnout all stem from attachment challenges, then there is more hope than we thought for recovery at a larger scale. Just one of the things that has really troubled me very deeply about burnout is that so few of the proposed solutions actually work and so many people as a result still suffer. I often have clients coming to me who, on reflection, tell me they have effectively been in burnout their whole careers and I guess, although I loved the actual work that I did very much, I could say the same about me, that my burnout was long term too. The culture to me in some industries does seem to reflect an almost casual disregard for human thriving, as if that wasn't where success comes from, which, to my mind, is really an error. Jim Collins, in his deeply research based book Good to Great, examined the commonalities among companies that consistently outperformed others in their industry over a long period of time, and it turned out that the thing they had in common was an open, honest and supportive culture that supported every worker, as well as dedication to constant improvement and willingness to make hard decisions and change direction. Ed Catmull appears to demonstrate the same theory of positive and inclusive teamwork in his success with animators at Pixar. Workplaces that I think that go beyond psychological safety into unilateral empowerment. I mean it seems more likely to me, with enough business nous thrown in, that they're going to have better staff retention, better productivity, they're going to make more money and be more successful in the long term. I mean to me that stacks up, that stands to reason. And burnout recovery for me is such a passion. If you listen to any of my podcast episodes you'll hear practical tips on recovery along with my wish that they lighten the pressure on you if you're in burnout and allow you a better experience of life, work and human connection. And I've got a background in energy healing and Chinese medicine which has conditioned my mind to ask different questions about burnout and healing than I might have previously. And I think the solution is all about energy, love, deep healing, connection, restoration of the human spirit that is so sorely bruised in burnout. And such things are very seldom discussed in corporate boardrooms. But the solution I've developed works spectacularly well because fundamentally it operates in that healing realm. It directly addresses human needs and the impoverished sense of self that comes along with burnout, but also that so many people experience in modern culture. Anyway, let's get back to Type A. Let's look at both the upside and the downside of each of the Type A behaviors, because it's my contention that these behaviors, before they tip over the edge into burnout, often bring amazing career growth and success. Type A's can be excellent people to have around and if you scratch the surface of a Type A, not that I recommend you do, you're going to find a really big, fat, altruistic heart of gold, chances are. And in burnout recovery, all of the deleterious aspects of Type A behavior can be tempered. It can be turned around into the more positive, less stressful aspects of the same trait. And this is what makes Type A such amazing, powerful and delightful humans. Once they've recovered from burnout and have their passion back, their zest for life, for work, for people, I think it brings out some really wonderful qualities that empower them to go forth in the remainder of their careers, generally speaking, and do the good that they, generally speaking, wanted to do in the first place. So if we come back to the cardiologists, the original three identified behaviors of this Type A, what are we going to call it? Behaviors or personality. They call it a personality. Okay, the three original sets of behaviors were hostility and aggression; time urgency and impatience; and a competitive drive. They were the key three factors. And I think for those people who are in burnout and they're experiencing a lot of hostility and aggression, which I find often to be the case then the flip side of that, when they come out of burnout and recover from burnout, are they have a great, a very strong vision. They're very good visionaries and then they also have a boldness and a tenacity in championing causes - causes and people and projects. And then the time, urgency and impatience that occurs so strongly in burnout. I think the flip side of that is that those people are very, very proactive. They're always going to get things done. They have a capacity, an innate capacity, for caring about humans, which in recovery comes out as very strong leadership, soft skills, empathy, emotional intelligence, and also they're very capable mentors and willing mentors of others who they see around them, who they can bring up along with them. And if we look at competitive drive, well, I think the willingness to do what it takes, the willingness to back tough projects and also to pursue big dreams. They're pretty dauntless. Once you come out on the flip side into burnout recovery and they start championing new causes, they can be pretty unstoppable in that area as well. But I think with more empathy and compassion there's a softer side to them. Don't tell them. I said that. Okay. So that's the kind of. They're the three main traits and I think they're the flip sides that I see. But there's also a bunch of additional Type A behaviors that other people have observed and that I myself have observed in my work with people. And let's look at the downside and the upside of each of those as well, shall we? Because why not? Because it's nice that there's an upside. So intolerance of disorganization. So type eight people are very highly organized. But being highly organized is quite an asset if you come out to champion projects, to be a visionary, to lead people, being highly organized is going to work in your favor if it comes without the intolerance of others. Yeah, they're very status conscious and I think you know burnout that can come across as a little bit elitist, a little bit arrogant, a little bit of loof, none of which are terribly user friendly. But I think the status consciousness that people have in burnout when they come out of burnout. The best part of what comes out of that is they have a very strong sphere of influence and they're very persuasive speakers, so they're very good advocates for a cause. And the next one is OK, driven driven or really workaholism. A lot of type A's are workaholics and I think the flip side of that is they can still be hardworking when they've recovered from burnout, but without the kind of pressure cooker driven aspect of it. They can be industrious, they can make a lot of progress, they can be very productive without operating under high stress and passing that stress on down the chain. So I think it's helpful to have people who can be extremely productive, particularly when there's not a stress or anxiety component with that. Then the next bit, type A people are renowned for being competitive, sometimes to the point of being a little bit ruthless, I would say. When they recover, those people remain ambitious in terms of altruistic projects, particularly in terms of being the champion of their teams. It comes out in a softer way. There is still a will to achieve and an ambition to achieve, but it's for the people rather than for the self. It comes across as much more selfless, but the championing of others aspect comes to the fore in the ambition to succeed with their vision, with their big projects. The next one is being demanding. I think, along with being demanding of others, we're very demanding of ourselves and then, by extension, we're very demanding of other people, often unrealistically demanding of other people. Then we can be quite irritated with other people, quite intolerant of others who aren't performing to our imaginary angelic standards. When we see people not performing, sometimes we try to rescue them and do their work for them, but we become very resentful about that. So we're resentful rescuers. It's trying to come from good grace but it isn't quite making it and it's actually coming from irritation. So demanding, resentful rescuers those people, when they are recovered from burnout, become the most amazing problem solvers again, but from a less grating perspective. It's more of an act of generosity and capacity and skill that they can still be problem solvers and they're very handy to have around. So the next thing perfectionist, obviously a little bit alongside the demanding nature is Type A do tend to be perfectionists. They tend to demand very exacting standards of themselves and others. They're very intolerant of people who have lower standards than them or make less effort or have less will and ambition and drive to be productive than them and that can be fairly painful for people who are around them and I think the switch for that when they come out of burnout is okay. They still aspire to great things and they still have the capacity to be very high achievers. But it's almost that a Type A recovered from burnout has emotional intelligence and can hold the space for the other people who will perform alongside them and be much more gracious in their inclusion and in their support of others. So instead of just the one person moving forward, the whole team will move forward. Okay, Type A tend to be people pleasers. They tend to say yes to everything. They're the fixers. They want to be able to do everything, fix every problem. Nothing stands in their way. But in the act of saying yes to everything that is asked of them, because they have such great capacity in there they can get through so much work. At the same time they can be in that people pleasing. There's a little disconnect there because when we're people pleasing we're not really being authentic with people. There's an emotional distance and it can come across Type A people as an emotional coldness. I'm saying that a bit tongue in cheek because people have leveled that at me many a time, and it's true. So I think again, the other side of that is developing emotional intelligence and then having the new emotional capacity to bring other people along with you instead of being this you know warrior on a big horse. For them, anxiety big feature of Type A's. Okay, in burnout recovery, anxiety will go down considerably, dramatically, persistently down, and when that, when that kind of dissipates, it leaves a person who is still diligent and thoughtful and thinks about solutions and thinks about risks still, but not from an anxiety perspective. So then they just become a resource for covering the ground that needs to be covered to make sure that things aren't going to go wrong without being up to the eyeballs in stress while they're doing it. A type A person in burnout is probably angry, probably very angry, because their needs haven't been met. Generally speaking, that's because they haven't been granted all the perks, the respect, the support that they wanted. And then they can also be a little bit disdainful of others in that place and resentful, which I've mentioned already. And I think the flip side of that is when we come out of burnout and we understand our own capacity, our own agency, our own power, our own skills and intelligence and emotional capacity, we feel a little bit less need for worrying about what anyone else thinks about us, what anyone else asks of us. We manage our own space much better and we take the pressure off ourselves. And in taking the pressure off ourselves, we take it off everybody else as well. And I think that somebody coming out of burnout is almost certain to be much, much more patient and encouraging and empowering of others and is much more conscious of team building and team bonding and the power of people working together, rather than just being the lone ranger of Type A, intolerant of indecision. Yeah, we're very sharp, fast thinkers in Type A and we just want everybody to come to the solution that we see at the same time that we do and agree with us that it's the right one. So anybody in indecision, anybody who takes long thought, who's got a different style of decision making, might just have their Type A a little bit, a little bit enlivened. And I think the transition out of burnout leaves those people who are super fast thinkers they're still fast thinkers and broad thinkers and deep thinkers, usually very, very analytical people, but they also are quite impulsive, which means if you need a quick decision from them, you'll probably get it, and they're also very intuitive leaders. Quite often they really can see what's the best way forward and that's generally in support of the people as well. So I think that those people will. It's actually it's not a very big shift, but the emotional kind of context of it is very positive for people who come out of burnout because now they're leading for the people. Type A hyper-a lert and sensitive to criticism and I think this is one of the things that I picked up from Gabor Mate hyper alert and sensitive to criticism is pretty likely to be some behavior that's picked up in childhood. If we've been in an environment where we were criticized or judged and where that was a bit risky for us as kids, because kids depend on an adult for survival, don't they? Typically our parents? We depend on our parents for survival for very many years, so if we can't stay on side with our parents, that's a survival issue as children, and children develop very strong and enduring coping mechanisms to that kind of situation. It's quite life-forming really the way we think about the danger of not having a parent to take care of us and keep us alive when we're kids. So being hyper alert is a signal of that. People who are hyper alert, constantly looking for danger, are probably people who didn't feel safe as children and people who are sensitive to criticism. Again, they probably didn't feel safe as children. So to me it makes sense that that feeds into type A and it also feeds into burnout. In burnout we don't feel safe. Right, we've backed ourselves into a kind of corner. We've got into a situation which has deteriorated over time and it feels increasingly dangerous. We feel increasingly criticized, judged, helpless, hopeless, not performing how we want to. We just kind of fall down that pit. So to me it's very plausible that we would have gained those behaviors in childhood. But I think it's good if we can notice that we're hyper alert to danger, if we can notice that we're sensitive to criticism, we can still heal from that and move on from that. And I think the other side of that is People who come through that and become less sensitive to criticism and their inner critic pipes down as well, and then they have much more of a sense of internal safety, internal resilience, being good enough, being okay, being safe. Those people will generally move into a much more measured and restrained kind of view of risk or threat. They won't suddenly go off like a firework when that happens, but they will still appreciate the risks inherent in business or in work or whatever it is, but they won't be so reactive to it and they will be probably motivated to solve the problem and assist others in solving the problem too, whatever the problem may be that they've encountered. Or to mitigate risk. You can be very, very aware of risk without needing to go off the deep end about it. There's acceptable risk. If it's in the acceptable boundaries of risk, then okay. Anything can happen in life. That's usually okay. For somebody in burnout it's not okay. Any risk seems like the last straw. So we improve our capacity to handle risk and then we become much more analytical, much more measured, much more accepting and we can continue to feel grounded in our ability to find ways through problems rather than sinking without a trace. The last one and I think this is really important is Type A are usually self-directed and hyper-autonomous. I think hyper-autonomous tells a story too. To me this also links back into childhood, because the hyper-autonomous person is one who thinks they have to fix every problem. Type A people build their entire career and success on this, quite often being the fixer, being the person who can solve every problem. But if you think about this in childhood. A child shouldn't be able to solve every problem. They shouldn't be asked to solve every problem. They shouldn't need to solve every problem. They should be taken care of because they are children. So any child who has developed this hyper-autonomy has been in an environment where they didn't feel they were getting the care that they needed. They couldn't guarantee their own survival, so they've taken it on themselves to solve those problems, and that's more than a kid can stand. Really. That makes a very deep impression as well, and if we've grown up feeling that we must solve every problem, that we must be hyper-autonomous, we must never rely on others to help us out. To me, that's another aspect of our behaviour that is really ripe for healing, because when we behave in such a way, it will be very difficult for us to be good team players. It's very difficult to be hyper-autonomous and a good team player right. It's very difficult to be hyper-autonomous and really want to connect with the people around us in a gentle and collaborative manner, productive manner. It's very difficult for us to do that. So we've become these hyper-autonomous beings and created this marvellous career by being as brilliant as we could be, but it doesn't really serve us. This is a behaviour that becomes possibly maladaptive as adults Because it doesn't allow us to form the nurturing and generous and wonderful connections, collaborative, creative connections that would be useful to us in our work lives and as well, of course, in our home lives. And I think once those people can see those behaviours and adapt those coming out of burnout into burnout recovery, that hyper-autonomy recedes. It becomes less and less important that we're the lone ranger, if you like, and I've had a lot of difficulty with this in my own burnout and I still to some extent work on it. But I think it's so much more wonderful to be more deeply integrated with the humans. Because although humans may at times exhibit behaviours that seem unhelpful, most of the time they're adorable and wonderful and lovely and they want to work together and they want the best for each other. So when they come out of that kind of danger zone of hyper-autonomy, then I think we can turn into champions of other people champions of ourselves in the first place, so that we can support ourselves in recovery, and then champions of others, because it feels good. Multipliers we get to multiply the efforts of others by championing them and the projects and the teams that they take part in and I've talked about teams a lot and working together a lot, because I think it's one of the biggest benefits of burnout recovery is that we reintegrate in a much more fulfilling, rewarding, bonding way with all these marvellous humans who've always been there around us and that we've kind of not given their due to. So that's kind of a bit long, but there are a few of my ideas about Type A. I've been thinking about this for quite a number of years, I've got to say, and I've studied fairly deeply on the topic. But you may or may not agree with anything that I've said and I would encourage you to have whatever view you want and develop whatever view you want and you can investigate right, particularly if you've got burnout and particularly if you think you fall into the Type A kind of category. But the essence of it for me is this If you identify with type A behaviors and whereas you once celebrated them in yourself as this kind of golden goose of career eminence, now you're cursing them because you're in or near Burnout, I think if that's you, don't worry, you can relax. There is an abundant amount of hope that something good will come of this for you and your work habits in the near future, as you recover from Burnout, and then what you get to do is redeploy these troublesome friends, these troublesome talents, into a kind of smoother, more rewarding, more successful, authentic, probably altruistic style of leadership that can really jumpstart the next phase of your career and your life outside of work. And I promise you, when that happens, work is going to be a lot more fun for you and home life is going to be a lot more fun for you too. I've seen this happen time and time again for my clients. Once they get themselves out of this kind of dumpster fire of Burnout, great things become possible and it appears easier than it's ever been to enjoy your career. So if you're stuck in Burnout, that was my promise to you right there. So here's what to do next Go to dexrandall. com, book a time to talk to me about what's pissing you off about work, and we'll make a personal plan for you to recover quickly and sustainably and get back to your best performance, leadership and, most of all, enjoyment inside work and out. If you did, by the way, enjoy this episode, please help us reach more people in Burnout by rating and reviewing the podcast. I really would appreciate that, and if you know someone who is heading towards or in burnout, p lease be a pal and send them the podcast. I really recommend they listen to the first five episodes to get started, and thank you so much for your time and energy today and for listening. Please, I beg you, do not stay in burnout. 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. Tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.