Feel the Burnout

Bob Goldman
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Posted: Apr 07, 2017 12:01 AM
Feel the Burnout

I'm feeling a little naughty right about now, and for good reason. I just read a Christine Comaford column in the Leadership section of Forbes.

I'm not a leader, and if you think I'm displaying false modesty, ask Tucker, my kind-of-Bichon rescue dog. Tucker has been working here for over a decade, and I have yet to provide a list of goals, or reviewed my expectations, or even conducted an annual 360-degree review, which he deserves, since the goldfish and the parrot would love to share their feedback on his performance.

Though the Comaford piece provides only a tiny peek into the problems of the leader class, I must say I come away with enormous respect for their positions. Yes, they make the megabucks, and sure, they get those outrageous perks, but these leaders are absolutely tortured.

"As leaders we are expected to be highly present," Comaford writes, "have clear and consistent insights, maintain significant levels of energy, and stay grounded regardless of circumstances."

You can understand why our leaders are stressed if they have to fulfill all these demands. As worker bees, our lives are much simpler; all we have to do is stay employed.

Considering the stress our leaders are under, 24/7, it is easy to see why they may suffer from burnout. In fact, the title of the Comaford column is "Headed Towards Burnout? Here's What You Need To Do."

What leaders need to do is not simple, or easy to accomplish.

"Your mind is active all long with some 60,000 separate thoughts each and every day," the author tells her fellow leaders. "We've been hijacked."

(Of course, we workers also have 60,000 separate thoughts each and every day, but all our thoughts are the same: "When can I go home?")

To rescue leader brains from crashing, Comaford shares some of the tools "my executive coaching clients use that have empowered them to avoid burnout."

This is generous, but don't think for a second that these tools are easy to master, or even to understand. I've been in the trenches so long, I am incapable of this high paygrade level of thinking. But there's hope for you, so here goes:

Tool No. 1 is "Release the Resistance: Resistance vs. Allowing."

The requirement here is to "look at 10 things in your life/the world that you do not want (tacky wall paper, etc.) and look at each one and say out loud, 'I do not consent to you.'"

Whether this technique will work, I do not know. I tried telling my boss, "I do not consent to you," and she told me, "I don't consent to you, either, Buster. Pack your boxes. Security is on the way."

Even if a consent decree doesn't work, this technique does provide an interesting insight into the management mind. Of all the things that are going wrong in your company, nothing is as bad as that tacky wallpaper, right?

Once you've picked out the big 10 burnout factors, coach Comaford launches a laundry list of mind games. The leader must reflect, evaluate and appreciate each of the potential burnout buttons. The purpose of generating these different viewpoints is to provide data for a "short Outcome Frame."

(Losing the thread here? I told you this was some pretty high-level thinking. Way beyond your mental ability or paygrade.)

In the Outcome Frame you examine six more questions, starting with "What would you like? (something you can create and maintain)" and ending with "What are your next steps? (get into action.)"

While leaders are encouraged to "bask in it," I suspect most come to the same conclusion -- What are my next steps? Fire the first person I see."

As a nonleader, this makes your short Outcome Frame very short indeed. "What would I like? Staying employed. What are my next steps? Staying invisible."

Because leaders do not have feelings, Comaford concludes her article with a colorful "Emotion Wheel," which guides the leader to "get to the core emotion you are experiencing."

Thus, when a leader feels "Inadequate" -- like that ever happens -- this is really a sign of feeling "Submissive" -- and what could be worse? -- which stems from the core emotion, "Scared."

Leaders are never scared, so Comaford may be off base with this spoke of the Emotion Wheel, but the wheel graphic, with its rich spectrum of pinks, greens, blues and yellows is sure to coordinate with any Ralph Lauren power wardrobe.

To followers like us, it's just tacky wallpaper.