It's Time to Peek Under the Rug

I’m so burned out on burnout; so damn tired of how tired I am. 

And I know I’m not alone.

Leaders are just DONE. Done talking about it. But the absence of words should not be mistaken for repair. We’ve not sealed the cracks – we’ve simply stretched the rug over them.

The absence of words should not be mistaken for repair. We’ve not sealed the cracks – we’ve simply stretched the rug over them.

In the wise and sacred words of Taylor Swift, “Band-Aids don’t fix bullet holes.”

Leaders, I’ve been talking to you. I see you and your pivots, your agility, your resilience, and your growth-mindset. I applaud it all. And let’s keep it coming. But not at the expense of ourselves and our teams.

The answer, to be clear, is not to switch gears from doing and striving to caring and healing. The answer is to hold space for both. The stakes are high. Attrition versus attraction is in your hands.

Based on listening sessions I’m holding with teams across industries, here’s some of the wisdom I’ve extracted and delight in sharing with you.

If you’re an executive leader...

  • Check your blind spots. I can guarantee that some things are going well, and others aren’t. Find some team members junior-to-you and ask them not “how’s it going?” but rather “What are people struggling with right now?” “Where do I need to provide clarity or further prioritize?” Allow some positivity, but really push for the critical – it’s the only path to insight.
  • Identify anything currently in-flight that’s not serving a near-term need, and just hit pause. For now.
  • Put your own humanity on display. Let your people see you – unplugged and unscripted. Toss out the notes, and just be real in your next town hall. Whether you’re willing to share some personal stories or choose to stick with business, role model just showing up without the need to over-rehearse and polish. It’s exhausting.
  • Remind everyone that hard work deserves days off, boundaries and time zones respected. Set the example.

If you’re a team leader…

  • Check your team’s alignment between espoused priorities and their actual daily work. Can they see how they’re contributing to something meaningful as they wade through meetings and spreadsheets?
  • Facilitate dialog whose purpose is connection, idea-sharing, exploring possibilities…not just status updates and project planning. Remind people what it feels like to just be a team.
  • Respect boundaries. Full stop. I’m shocked by the number of people I’ve talked to in Asia-Pacific who regularly attend meetings between their midnight and 4am. It is deeply unsustainable. There has to be a better way. And it starts with you.

 If you’re a human citizen...

  • Ask. For help, for support, for partnership.
  • State your boundaries. Raise a flag when they’re pierced. Raise a glass when they’re honored.
  • Share ideas. Be bold. Be loud. Be messy.

Note that none of these things imply a need to achieve less. It’s about reinfusing humanity into the system.

To everyone. Hang in there. And if you need an ear or a shoulder. I’ve got two of each. Don't be shy.

Related: The Burnout Antidote: It's Not What You Think