Leadership and Burnout, Pt. 3

Finally back to blogging after a busy couple of days! Did you get a chance to read Leadership and Burnout, Part 1 and Part 2? Go ahead and catch up on those if you’d like and then resume with this post.

Today we’re going to go over some strategies to improve our self-care. Such an important thing to keep in mind as we try to prevent burnout! I’ll warn you: Some of this stuff is really obvious! And yet, so difficult to implement. We know it but we don’t always take the time to do it!

Here goes:

  1. Develop a new rhythm for your life. Work hard, play hard, rest well. Think of an athlete who works out hard every day. Just as important as their workouts, is their rest. Sleeping right, eating healthy foods, stretching etc. I used to run cross country and track in high school. My coach was a professional athlete herself and she often stressed this idea. What you do while you’re not running, she would tell us, was just – if not more – important than our running workout! Recovery is huge and the same is true in life. Work hard. Play hard. Rest well.
  2. Exercise self-awareness. We are all wired differently. That’s what’s so beautiful about how we’re made. Some of us are extroverted and others are introverts. Some of us love to dream big and imagine our futures; others of us like to live in the present and approach life more logically. Use this knowledge to inform your choices. For example, I’m an introvert. I love people don’t get me wrong, but if I’m around them too much I feel drained and I need some time alone. Since I know this about myself, I can schedule alone time into my calendar after more people-heavy periods. This help me to make sure I am staying refreshed. Know yourself and plan recovery time accordingly.
  3. Remember to take breaks throughout the day. I recently read an article on CNN’s website and a workplace psychologist stated the following: “From a productivity standpoint, there are diminishing marginal returns when you ask your brain to exert constant effort through an eight-hour day,” says Dr. Janet Scarborough Civitelli, a workplace psychologist at VocationVillage.com. “When workers skip a lunch break on a regular basis, they often don’t realize that fatigue and burnout are creeping up on them until they wake up one day and ‘suddenly’ feel less enthusiastic about their jobs or businesses.” –CNN.com (Why Taking Lunch Makes You a Better Employee)
  4. Sleep. Not sleeping enough has been shown to have a variety of negative consequences, including memory impairment, difficulty concentrating and more accidents on the road. Getting adequate sleep elevates our mood and provides energy to get through the day.
  5. Exercise. Much like the idea of getting enough sleep, it’s not like we’ve never heard about the benefits of regular exercise. Unfortunately we often neglect the simple things! Regular exercise has also been shown to improve moods, increase metabolism and provide energy.
  6. Have fun! As adults, we get stuck in th edaily grind and forget what it feels like to have fun and let off steam like a child. Remember how good you used to feel after a night of playing soccer or hanging out with friends. Even though we’re older now and our free time is more limited, the benefits are still the same! Here are a few ideas of activities to work back into your busy, grown up life that will make a huge difference… go mountain biking, organize your closet, do something crafty, watch a TV series on Netflix, organize a group basketball tournament, start a running club, get together with friends and form a cooking group, go window shopping.

What else do you like to do for fun?

Leadership and Burnout, Pt. 2

Back to the whole Stress and Burnout conversation from last week (see Leadership and Burnout, Pt. 1 to catch up)… What are some of the differences between stress and burnout?

Stress is not always a bad thing, right? Sometimes stress is helpful and motivating. It gives us that little push – that umph – to finish a project or pursue an idea. Stress can result in any number of physical experiences too. The American Institute of Stress put out a list of the 50 Most Commons Signs and Symptoms. As you can see, there is a wide variety.

What about burnout though? Burnout tends to come after a long period of stress. Often times it is associated with doing too much and when we eventually reach our limit, our body gives out. We are so reluctant to slow down on our own; we wait until we’re forced and physically cannot move forward without a period of rest. 

Burnout shares some of the same symptoms as stress but to the nth degree. Here are a few common characteristics of burnout:

* Lack of engagement in activites you used to enjoy

* Anxiety/Depression

* Isolation – Withdrawal

* Feeling numb

* Exhaustion

Have you ever experienced severe burnout? It’s not fun. I detailed my own story in “The Run”. I had been running myself ragged for years and finally my body said STOP. I started having panic attacks and withdrawing from people and activities I had always loved. I had reached my limit.

Having a background in psychology, I had a feeling I knew what was going on. I ordered some books to confirm. In one of them, I came across a stress test. There was a list of all kinds of stressful life experiences and what it asked you to do was, go through all of them and check off the ones that applied to you within the past year or two. I scored somewhere in the 200-range. (You wanted a low score to “pass”). My stress level was through the roof and it had been accumulating for years.

I get nervous when I see friends, family, coworkers etc. overextending themselves. We can never be too careful when it comes to stress and burnout prevention. The effects on our health are just not worth it. Whether it’s high blood pressure, panic attacks or even serious diseases, we need to treat ourselves with care. Not beat ourselves down with no concern for consequences.

I’ll get off my soapbox now. But take it from someone who gets it… take care of yourself.

 

Leadership and Burnout, Pt. 1

Like I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, I am developing a talk for the LifeGroup leaders at church regarding personal responsibility and stress. As I have considered possible causes for leader stress, particularly in the church, there are a few that keep crossing my mind: 

  • “Superman (or woman) complex”

As leaders, many of us struggle with an inflated sense of self-importance. If we don’t help someone, no one can/will. Or so we believe. So we expend all of our energy meeting the needs of others, leaving a limited supply for ourselves.

  • Poor boundaries

The work day of a church leader (staff or volunteer) is not determined by a task list as much as the ebb and flow of life. Conversations take place, issues arise, decisions need to be made. Unfortunately on some days, none of this can be predicted at the beginning of the day. It just sort of happens. How do you decide when to say yes and when to say no? It all seems so important.

  • The blurry line separating leader and friend

We lead because it’s the role we fill. But we are friends and family and community too. We lead and we serve simultaneously.

  • Identity issues  

We promote gaining true identity in Christ and yet often times we seek a sense of identity from what we do and from how much we do.

  • Fear of disappointing people

We want to do more and be more to people. We want them to walk away from our presence happier and more whole. I recently found out that someone I counseled walked away from our session angry at how our conversation went and unhappy that I was the one he had to meet with, instead of someone who would “get it” more (which is code for: someone who would tell him what he wanted to hear – rather than reflect back to him what is actually going on in his own heart and behavior). It is taking everything in me not to become paralyzed in stress. I hate when people are disappointed in me.

Leaders, especially in the church, carry stress around like extra holiday weight. It’s heavy, it hurts our backs and while it’s easy to come by, it’s hard to lose.

Stress leads to burnout and physical, emotional and intellectual aches and pains.

Over the next few posts I’ll continue to address this issue. From the signs and symptoms of stress to some strategies for stress relief so stay tuned…

Day 21 – Leadership… a few final words…

Leadership can be really tough. It’s not always easy to motivate people who aren’t interested or to work with people you don’t like. Despite these outside circumstances though, Here’s a brief recap of some of the principles discussed throughout the recent Leadership Series…

1. Don’t reinvent the wheel

Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 12 – Day 14Day 15

There are experts and mentors out there that we can learn from! So do it! Don’t allow your pride and “do it yourself” attitude to keep you from continuing to learn. If you get stuck somewhere along the line, ask for help. Leadership is not a solo act so lean on others when necessary. Don’t start from scratch when there are great resources out there to help!

Some book recommendations

     a) 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

     b) Strengths Finder 2.0

     c) The Traveler’s Gift

     d) The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Some website recommendations:

     John Maxwell on Leadership

     Jim Collins

     Coach Wooden

2. Strike a pose

Day 2

Well, strike a balance really, but strike a pose just sounds cooler. As a leader you’re juggling tasks and relationships. I prefer to be led by someone who is more focused on relationships because not only do I feel cared for, but I also feel more motivated getting the tasks completed for someone I respect (and who I know respects me). The work needs to get done; that goes without saying. But not at the expense of the people.

3. Be a team

Day 7Day 8Day 9

Remember how those Titan boys brought the whole town together with their inspiring teamwork? And Charlie’s Angels were there for each other, protecting one another from all things evil in the world?! Well, we can be that for each other too! (So to speak). When a group of individuals come together, each person is strengthened. There is something powerful about a team coming together to reach a common goal. Don’t go rogue! Surround yourself with like-minded people and see how you fuel each other’s passions and the goal suddenly feels more and more within reach.

4. Don’t quit!!!

Day 16Day 17

Some of the world’s most successful people, failed before they succeeded. Let their stories inspire you to stay focused and keep moving forward toward the finish line!

5. Be a visionary

Day 13

It takes someone with a vision of the possibilities to attain new levels of experience. Someone with the courage to live his dreams. – Les Brown

Day 20 – Three Words… and a 4th of July adventure

 

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Last night my husband and I decided to hit up the fireworks in one of the neighboring towns. We were so excited! Being from CA, we used to go to shows at the Hollywood Bowl pretty often, especially during summer. There is something about the outdoor amphitheater that we love! We usually bring a picnic and sit out under the stars drinking wine and enjoying a good show… which is what we were hoping would happen last night.

We left home with our picnic in hand and marveled at the fact that this was a free event! You don’t find that often in CA. Parking was a breeze and there was even a shuttle transporting people from the parking lot to to the amphitheater. The weather was nice although we read there was a chance of showers around 9pm. Weather reports had been saying that all week and so far, nothing. When we arrived we found seats on the lawn and set up camp. It was so relaxing! A local band was playing and the NC Symphony was up next followed by a fireworks show!

There was a brief transition period when the local band finished and the NC Symphony was getting set up. The lady sitting in front of us turned back and commented on the fact that they sure were taking a while to get going. I agreed and we just hoped the delays weren’t weather related. The sky did look a bit darker but the clouds were moving quickly and we continued to hope they would pass right over us.

Suddenly we felt a sprinkle. Then another. Within a few short minutes it was pouring! And I mean, POURING! Buckets of water pounded the ground and pandemonium ensued as the crowd raced back to the concession area for cover.

When we got back there we huddled together and became somewhat of an extended family with everyone else as we waited out the rain. Some of the little kids who were scared, cried in their parent’s arms while others got separated from their parents and were taken in by other families until the storm ceased.

My hubby and I ended up by a family of four. The mom and dad laughed, reminiscing about their 10-year anniversary at the Cary amphitheater where they also got rained out. The kids looked a little timid at first but the parents surrounded them and helped them feel safe. The mom told her daughter, “this is an adventure! This is fun!” and the daughter began to smile. She laughed and later even said “This is fun!”

Those parents had a choice the moment that rain started. They could either get anxious worrying that their kids would catch a cold, about losing them in the crowd, among a hundred other things. Or they could laugh it off and call it a 4th of July adventure, which is exactly what they did. This in turn comforted the kids and helped them to see that all was okay.

We have a choice when we are leading others. Sometimes it may mean setting aside our own feelings in order to protect and comfort those around us. It doesn’t mean you should act fake but rather focus on the positive for both your benefit and the benefit of those around you.

Three words: Lead by example!

Day 19 – What NOT to do if you’re trying to motivate others!

Do not be cheap!

If you want to impress a high level of quality amongst your team, don’t scrimp on the small stuff. Treat them with a high level of quality. For example, if you’re taking your team out on a retreat, get good snacks. Go out for a nice dinner. These things may seem superficial but it doesn’t break the bank to spend a few extra bucks here and there to make your team feel special. Surprise them with an afternoon off just “because.” Don’t worry about productivity that afternoon or money lost. I remember one of my old bosses saying once that if we weren’t happy, we wouldn’t work as hard. We were treated with the utmost respect and care by her, and our team clicked better than any other team I’ve been involved in.

Do not keep work to strictly work.

Take your team out to lunch. Celebrate a holiday at your place with a white elephant gift exchange or a meal. Take your team off-site and have a “Team Day” where you focus on your personal lives instead of work for a day. Get creative.

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Do not ignore your team.

Be a student of your team members. Get to know their quirks, personalities and what makes them tick. If you only focus on work, it will be incredibly difficult to motivate and inspire. Work is extrinsic; figure out the inner workings of each team member. Learn some psychology 101 and use it to help your team function in the best way possible.

Do not be a slacker.

If you say you’ll follow up on something the next day, do it. Don’t let it slide. If you say you’re initiating a standing meeting, don’t cancel it half the time. There are few things more unmotivating than not being able to count on your boss, the schedule, the plan etc. Don’t be a flake!

Do not be a hypocrite.

If you don’t lead by example you will not be able to motivate anyone else. It all starts with YOU, the leader, and if you demonstrate integrity and a willingness to go exactly where you’re asking your team to go, your team will eagerly follow. Be willing to get on the floor and wash their feet.

 

Day 17 – Why do some people fail?

Yesterday I described four people (and “Senifeld”) who failed before they succeeded. And the list is even longer than that!

Take for example…

John Grisham: “A Time to Kill” was rejected by more than 15 publishers and Grishman himself was even rejected by an agent!

Louisa May Alcott: Alcott wrote one of my favorite books, “Little Women” but was told “to stick to your teaching; you can’t write!”

Anyway, you get the point. Thank goodness each of the people I’ve described (and many others out there) persisted despite negative feedback early on in their careers!

So why do some people fail while others succeed?

1) Those who succeed are persistent: I know many people who get discouraged at the first sign of failure. I used to be one of those people! As I’ve gotten older and I’ve been exposed to more people and situations, I realize that failure and rejection are a part of life. I have learned more from those negative experiences than I have from the postive ones. It’s so funny how we tend to brush off the good things that happen and dwell on the negative. If you’re a dweller like me, at least be productive in your dwelling… what could you do differently next time? What did you learn from the mistake? How can you move forward toward greater success in the future?

2) Those who succeed understand that there will be bumps in the road. I read a great book called “The Dream Giver” by Bruce Wilkinson that describes how hard, yet rewarding it really is to pursue our dreams. We will undoubtedly encounter naysayers who will try to convince us that we’re not good enough, smart enough, strong enough etc. to get where we want to go! We tell ourselves those lies too. As the cliche goes, anything in life worth having is worth fighting for and as dreams are pursued, opposition will cross our paths. Successful people dont let the opposition stop them; they push through it and move on.

3) Successful people define success and failure accurately. In other words, failures are viewed as opportunities for growth. Life is successful, not just when the ultimate goal is met but when smaller goals are met along with the way. Life is not all about the bottom line. Check your perspective.

Sometimes just a few small tweaks can shift us from a path of negativity to great success! We can reach our goals but we have to keep moving forward and get “back on the horse!”

Day 16 – I never would have guessed it!

My mom is a teacher and just retired from a long career working with elementary students. Each year at Open House her kids would dress up as famous people and memorize facts about “themselves” to tell the parents and students coming through the classroom. This event was always a huge hit because the students absolutely glowed bragging about their heroes! It was by far one of the best events of the year for teachers and students alike!

One thing I noticed the years I stopped by was, although the students were factual in the biographical information they shared, for the most part they tended to focus on the positive aspects of their hero’s life. They aren’t heroes for nothing! But not all of the famous people we admire and respect had everything in life handed to them on a silver platter, as we tend to believe.

Check out these success stories… that didn’t exactly start out that way:

1) Henry Ford’s first few businesses failed. After losing all of his money several times throughout his life, he started the Ford Motor Company and is known to this day as one of the Founders of the American-made car.

2) The TV show, Seinfeld, almost didn’t get picked up for a full season, yet finished among the top two shows on TV from 1994 to 1998. It’s still considered one of the best shows of all time.

3) Van Gogh struggled to make money painting his entire life. He created over 900 paintings, which since his death, have been sold to museums, individual people, art galleries etc.

4) Charles Schultz was not only rejected from his high school yearbook staff but he was also denied a position working for Disney. His Peanuts comic strip is now beloved world-wide.

5) Babe Ruth is known for his home runs but most people forget about how many times he struck out. According to Babe Ruth however: “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

Don’t be discouraged if you try something and it doesn’t work out so well the first time. As Babe Ruth did, try to look at the positive aspects of your journey and know that even your failures are bringing you closer to your ultimate goals!

Day 15 – Empower Through Encouragement

This is an awesome guest post by a phenomenal leader. Dustin Chappell is a worship leader at a large, incredibly popular church in North Carolina. He received his master’s degree in Theological Studies from Duke Divinty School and describes himself like this: I’m a Christ-follower, husband, Texan, worship leader, musician, world traveler, foodie, avid reader, gym rat, and former barista all rolled into one. Check out what Dustin has to say about empowering through encouragement.

If you have led in any capacity for an extended period of time you probably understand, at least in a general sense, how it feels to guide and influence the lives and decisions of others.  People respect you.  They listen to you when you speak.  They have seen corporate or even personal success as a result of your leadership.  It’s empowering, and it’s dangerous.  You can easily begin to think that you’re the force behind their success. 

What am I getting at?

Like it or not, your team will be the force behind your success or your failure.  You want a great team?  Honor those people you know you could never be successful without.  Value them.  Never let them forget how much you appreciate what each of them uniquely brings to your team dynamic.  I’m not suggesting that you fawn over anyone.  I’m not suggesting you heap upon them loads of undue praise.  But, odds are that they probably do something better than you, recognize and respect that.  In doing so you’ll notice that they are going to be a lot more willing to do whatever you ask.  They’ll know that you see them for who they are and not who you want or need them to be.  When you push them toward growth, you’ll likely get less push back.  Better yet, if you couple this with a strong vision then those people are going to attract others like them.  Your weaker team members will generally follow suit or fade out, leaving you with a team for whom you’d fight. 

If you’ve made it to this point, odds are you’re finding a lot of success.  Want to maintain it?  Honor your people.  Value them.  Never let them forget how grateful you are for them.  They’re behind you, so get behind them.

Day 14 – Lessons from Lincoln

When I think of strong leadership, I think of Abraham Lincoln. But as much as I hate to admit this, I really don’t know much about the guy. He just has a reputation, still to this day, as someone who knew his stuff and led with integrity and courage. We all know the “Honest Abe” nickname from when we were kids right? Well, as I have been doing my research for this series it seems to add up. Here are a few leadership characteristics to be gained from Honest Abe’s life:

1) Don’t separate yourself from your peeps. Be one of them. Apparently Lincoln was pretty hard to guard and protect because he was constantly out and about. I love that though. Have you ever been led by someone who seemed so out of touch with the realities of your organization? I’ll never forget assisting executives back in the day who couldn’t remember how to make copies or transfer calls. I’ll even give them this: They did try at times! But inevitably I’d get called in to help! It’s not that hard people!!! As a leader, stay in touch with the minute aspects of the job as well as the wants/needs of the people working for you.

2) Get comfortable in front of a group. As president, Lincoln did his share of public speaking. Leaders need to develop their public speaking skills or at least get comfortable communicating in an articulate way. Communicate your vision for the organization clearly and passionately so that others jump on board.

3) Become a storyteller. Why do you think most people become so invested in the lives of film and TV characters? We love to be a part of their stories. They mean something to us. Lincoln was known as a storyteller. When you can paint a picture with your words, it is easy to inspire people. Learn how to deliver messages using stories, colors, pictures and of course, passion.

Lincoln left a legacy worth paying attention to so I suggest we all learn a thing or two from this former President!

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