Manage Burnout for Peak Performance

Manage Burnout for Peak Performance

Peak performance is not what it used to be, according to leaders, managers, and employees who report teetering on the brink of burnout. And it’s not just individuals: entire organizations are at risk. Within the first seven weeks of 2021, Harvard Business Review published six articles on the topic, including how the pandemic contributes to burnout, how to recognize burnout, and how to fight burnout. But instead, what if we could avoid burnout and maintain peak performance? Although burnout is not classified as a medical condition or mental disorder (DSM-5), in 2019—pre-pandemic—the World Health Organization (WHO) re-defined the occupational phenomenon of burnout in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). According to the WHO, “burnout is a syndrome…resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” and includes three dimensions: Feeling of energy depletion Feeling of negativity/cynicism related to personal occupation or increasing mental distancing from occupation Reduced professional/occupational efficacy Typically, we avoid burnout by taking breaks: we enjoy several weeks of vacation, spend time away, and de-stress with a change of scenery and energizing activities. But for many, this has not been an option during the past year. Add to that virtual offices and work from home (WFH) practices, and stay-cations don’t recharge us like we need. Reaching and maintaining peak performance, for individuals and organizations, requires ongoing daily energy management. Four Dimensions Energy has four dimensions: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual (or ritual). We draw energy from each dimension, which we must replenish. To build our strength and expand our energy capacity (stamina/resilience) we must stretch ourselves beyond our usual limits and allow for rest. This... read more
Calm, Cool, and Collected: Communication in Conflict

Calm, Cool, and Collected: Communication in Conflict

How do you remain calm, cool, and collected when conflicts escalate? We’ve all been there: encountering someone in a fit of road rage; a neighbor upset about another neighbor’s transgression; dealing with a beloved toddler in the middle of a melt-down. Typically, we ignore such bad behavior, waiting for it to resolve itself. But, these may be prime opportunities to practice de-escalation techniques and communication skills. Generally speaking, we trust that our co-workers are capable of resolving conflicts and able to avoid crisis in the workplace. If a situation does escalate, equipped and available managers step in. But consider this: according to the most recent report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), over 20,000 workers experienced trauma from workplace violence in 2018. How does this happen? Conflict Escalation Multiple factors can escalate a situation, including: Physical: Pain/illness, sleep deprivation, low blood sugar/dehydration, prescription changes Mental or cognitive: Unhelpful thoughts/thinking patterns, negative perceptions, critical inner voice Emotional: Pre-existing mood disorders, past trauma, etc. Social: Lack of healthy support network, isolation Environmental: Visual or auditory triggers, audience Spiritual: Sense of connection to higher power or that which offers hope, faith, purpose While a crisis is not typically caused by one event, there is often a tipping point. Most common is the death of a significant other, loss of a relationship, loss of work, homelessness, or cabin fever. A crisis occurs when people perceive that they have encountered insurmountable obstacles to their goals, their life cycle or routine is significantly disrupted, and they have no appropriate method to manage their situation. In other words, they believe they have... read more
The Matter of Business Ethics

The Matter of Business Ethics

We are making great strides in corporate social responsibility. Many reflect changes in business policies and practices. But when it comes to business ethics, are we really improving? Consider this: almost 120 years ago, German socialist, economist, and politician Max Weber published his book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, emphasizing that personal integrity and reputation matters: they form the basis of good business relationships. A person’s words are their bond and business can be counted on with a handshake. Jump to the turn of the century. For six consecutive years, Fortune magazine deemed Enron one of the most innovative organizations and two months after being publicized, Enron filed for bankruptcy, bringing down companies and 1,000’s of individuals with it. Not long after, new regulations and legislation were enacted including penalties regarding records and the accountability of auditing firms. Then came the financial crisis of 2007-08, where organizations were deemed “too big to fail,” generating other hazards, risks, and an uneven playing field. Headlines, book lists, and social media are filled with other examples, several from the most recent past. How did we get here? And more importantly, where do we go from here? What We Don’t See In Moral Mazes (Oxford University Press, 2009), Robert Jackall suggests that modern bureaucracy has created a “society within a society” in which there is a set of ethical standards that may not be consistent with those of the larger society. Our current capitalistic society goes along with these sub-societies, as long as they are successful. Generally, the larger the organization, the more complex the strategy and operations. It might... read more
A Better Manager for 2021

A Better Manager for 2021

How are you preparing to be a better manager in 2021? Employees look to their managers and business leaders to help them make sense of complexities within their own organization, as well as the external world. They seek reassurance that their own experiences and perspective is accurate, and that there exists an adequate framework to create and maintain stability and move forward. More than ever before, employees need to be able to trust their leaders. According to a recent article published by Harvard Business Review, trust is comprised of four components:   Competence: the ability to get the job done Motives: our reasons (or reasoning)  Fair means: consistency in applying the same rules to offer rewards or assign punishments Impact: the consequences of all actions In a chaotic world, business leaders cultivate trust and help their employees when they clarify their values, develop their communication abilities, and connect in meaningful ways. Clarify Your Values Your values are the underlying foundation in how you make decisions and take action (or non-action.) They are at the core of your motives, how you prioritize, and the sacrifices you make to reach your goals. Your values have a great impact in how you reconcile conflict. Consider your attitude in relation to other people. What are your obligations to your family, friends, and community? What will you leave as a legacy to the next generation? As a mentor, what values or core beliefs would you want to pass on? Below is a sample of values. If you were to rank each from 1 – 10 (with one being the most important to you), what would be your top... read more
The Next Wave in Leadership Development: Habits

The Next Wave in Leadership Development: Habits

As a leader, what role do you take in your own leadership development? If 2020 taught us anything, it was the importance of seeing the big picture without losing sight of the small details. This requires a tremendous skill in balancing priorities, energy, and focus. And while most great leaders can take pride in their ability to multi-task under stress, this year has really tested their abilities. Leaders are called on again and again to shift their attention from one priority to another. They must consistently and consciously choose (and judge) that which is deserving of their attention. They must ignore impertinent distractions. Developing the right leadership skills and habits is critical to personal and organizational success. The Importance of Habits Consider this: 80% of our results stems from only 20% of our efforts, according to Joseph M. Juran. In the context of our productivity and efficiency, this means that only about 20% of our activities actually provide the results we are looking for, professionally and personally.                       To devote more time and energy to our most important activities we need to be able to recognize and say “no” to the people, places, and things that distract us from achieving our goals. This isn’t always easy, especially when we really like our distractions, or worse, our distractions become bad habits. Disrupting the habits that are counter-productive is important, but it doesn’t eliminate them. Unless a new routine takes its place, the pattern will continue automatically. Fortunately, we’ve come to a new level of understanding about habits, and we’re learning and practicing new techniques to improve them. The Importance of Focus... read more
Expectation Management

Expectation Management

What are your plans to bring in the new year? Will you celebrate? Maybe this is the year to try a new custom from a different culture. For example, in many Latin cultures it is customary to eat 12 grapes at midnight for good luck in the coming 12 months. Some carry an empty suitcase around the block in hopes of a travel-filled new year. Others hang an onion on the door as a symbol of rebirth; a chance to start anew. Of course, hope, optimism, and positivity are important. They help us set and achieve goals, another common tradition for the new year. However, optimism can be dangerous when planning and forecasting. Realism is key when making decisions, committing large sums of money, and setting certain expectations. Research has found that almost everyone who has a propensity to be optimistic in their world view tends to have greater success, better health, and longer life. However, beliefs and expectations must be based on achievable reality. You see, expectations have a profound effect on our energy, drive, and happiness. In the recent Harvard Business Review article, “How to Lead When Your Team is Exhausted,” Dr. Merete Wedell-Wedellsborg writes: “It feels like the whole world is tired. Even though the vaccine shines a light at the end of the tunnel, the home stretch will be long and perhaps take a greater toll on our professional and personal lives than we expect it to.” This is an ominous warning, and an opportunity for expectation management. Expectation Variables There are two variables to consider in the management of our expectations: our expectations of... read more
The Need for Kind Leaders

The Need for Kind Leaders

Is your organization led by kind leaders? This year has been like no other. Most leaders and managers are eager to put it behind them. Yet, we’re not out of the woods. A culture of kindness will make it easier. Researchers have found that kindness is associated with better and stronger physical and mental health; relationships, teams, and communities; life satisfaction, and even economics. According to researcher and psychologist Dacher Keltner, PhD, “The science of human emotion, kindness and goodness are not to be taken lightly, they are actually good for our bodies and minds.” Unfortunately, uncertainty, increased stress, and frustration have challenged and tested many organizational cultures: the way we collectively perceive, think, and feel at work. Add to that tribalism, polarity, and over exposure to vitriol, and incivility is easily sparked. Organizational culture is damaged, and left unchecked over prolonged periods, altered. The Importance of Kind Leaders Over the past two decades, thousands of employees have been polled about their treatment at work. According to research referenced in the recent Harvard Business Review article, 98% report experiencing uncivil behavior, often prompted by thoughtlessness, rather than malice. Common forms include: Interrupting others Discussing other employees Acting in a condescending manner; belittling someone and/or their contributions Arriving late; responding late (or not at all) Ignoring others Negative eye contact—giving the side eye, dirty looks, rolling eyes, or staring Yelling, shouting, and/or verbally assaulting others (insults, harassment) While subtle forms (and microaggressions) are often easier to overlook, they erode engagement, morale, and ultimately, organizational culture. Managers, and leaders, must intervene, not in kind, but in kindness. Being kind can boost... read more
On Managing Loss and Grief

On Managing Loss and Grief

For many, this is the time of year when we pause, reflect, and express our gratitude. But this year, we are experiencing significant loss and grief. For some, this grief is complicated. According to the Mayo Clinic, complicated grief is “an ongoing, heightened state of mourning that keeps you from healing.” Stressors, including social isolation, financial hardships, and myths about the grieving process increase our risk for complicated grief. And, it’s not necessarily a response to the loss of a loved one. Loss of income, status, or identity; loss of what we considered normalcy; unmet expectations; any significant change or loss can trigger a grief response. Getting stuck in grief is a very real problem. It can affect you physically, mentally, socially, and professionally. Fortunately, it can be corrected, and even prevented. We need a better understanding about the process of grief, techniques to manage our experience, and the time required for healing. A Brief Review of Grief In the late 1960’s, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified the stages of dying which she published in On Death and Dying. In 2005, David Kessler expanded on her hypothesis in their collaborative work, On Grief and Grieving, identifying five stages of grief: Denial: shock and disbelief that the loss has occurred Anger: that someone we love is no longer here Bargaining: all the what-ifs and regrets Depression: sadness from the loss Acceptance: acknowledging the reality of the loss According to Kessler, the stages “were never meant to tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there... read more
Strengthen Your Workplace Teams

Strengthen Your Workplace Teams

As a leader, what is your strategy to strengthen your workplace teams? The way we live and work has changed tremendously over the past nine months. In many organizations, this shift occurred in a matter of weeks, if not days. As leaders offered greater flexibility, employees quickly adapted to new demands and learned and improved their skills. Organizations that have proven to be most resilient moved to or expanded their online capacities and reconfigured their supply chain and delivery options. Simultaneously, they improved their diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes. Their ability to respond quickly has ensured continuity, and in some cases, increased productivity. But we’re not out of the woods. All leaders and employees will need to continue to strengthen their organization. As McKinsey & Company reported in October 2020, “corporate stress is now at the same point as it was in the 2009 trough, arriving in only months versus two years.” Employees will look to their leaders to help them adapt, and while some are well-prepared with knowledge, experience, and a leadership style that inspires others to achieve real solutions, many lack what it takes to overcome the challenges ahead. Why? Sustainability In Times of Crisis Traditionally, in times of crisis organizations have relied on a conservative, by-the-book leadership style, and as McKinsey writes, three specific attributes of resilience: margin improvement, revenue growth, and optionality (retained additional optional investment opportunities). But the divisions and polarization that exist today require a vision, strategy, and the social/emotional intelligence to engage all employees and improve workers’ job satisfaction. According to a September 2020 report by McKinsey, “Because of the connection between... read more
A Legacy that Endures

A Legacy that Endures

As a leader, how will your legacy measure up? Your leadership legacy matters. It motivates people in the way they think and behave, today, and in the future. A lasting legacy sets a course: it adds value, creates positive meaning, and empowers others to carry on—with or without you. Thousands of entrepreneurs have taken early retirement over the last year, many without a clear succession plan. Some of the vacancies have been temporarily filled by former employees or next-generation relatives, while others remain open. History reveals it is not uncommon for crisis to create or accelerate significant changes at the top. During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, more than 2,000 CEOs of publicly-traded companies were replaced, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Legacies at Risk Based on the succession planning research of Yo-Jud Cheng , Boris Groysberg and Paul Healy, Harvard Business Review (May 2020): 63% of private companies do not have a CEO succession contingency plan in place 69% of companies with less than $50 million in annual revenues lack a plan The need for a succession plan is often more acute in small firms, especially start-ups According to the researchers, 45% of all the U.S. companies they surveyed do not have a contingency plan for CEO succession, and 46% do not have an effective plan process for CEO succession. The industries most at risk include Health care (61% without a CEO succession contingency plan), Media (61%) IT and telecom (59%), and Consumer staples (53%). Creating a lasting legacy is no easy feat. Those who succeed develop other executives: they understand what it takes for a successful leader to... read more

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