Burnout and boredom.
No matter what your career or leadership level, you will sooner or later (or more likely sooner and later) encounter these two facets of work.
There was an attorney who went into law mainly because his parents urged him to do so. “There is good money in the legal profession,” they said, out of genuine concern that their son would have income security.
A good son, with great respect for his parents, he dutifully went to law school, hated every minute of it, but did extremely well. He graduated and went on to an equally successful career.
Then one day, in his mid-forties and experiencing severe burnout, he realized the hot dog vendor he visited frequently outside his office was happier in his job than he was.
To the shock of many, he quit his job and purchased a hot dog stand.
Not only did he find joy in his new career; he went on to expand the business. In time, he was making more income than he did as a successful attorney. He found work he enjoyed in an unexpected place. And the legal training took its rightful place in his career – it served him as the businessman he had always yearned to be.
In my work as an executive coach, it is not uncommon to work with someone (or a team) who has this type of “burnout in success” syndrome.
Burnout and boredom are the “check engine” lights for leaders at all levels. They indicate that something you are doing in some area is not working optimally, and that something needs to be addressed.
Burnout is an indicator of overload.
It signals a need for you to rest in order to recharge physically, and in other areas as well. Failure to do so is like driving a vehicle without oil, and we all know the consequences that can come of that.
Boredom is an indicator that you need a new challenge.
Its effects are similar to burnout, in that your energy will be low. But the action you need to take is quite different. In the case of boredom, adding something new and challenging to your work will serve to recharge your battery.
As I work with leaders facing these issues, it becomes clear that there is often a combination of both factors going on, and so it requires a time of retreat and then a pursuit of new challenges. This is why I especially enjoy doing leadership retreats. They give individuals and teams the chance to recharge and also reignite their passion for their work.
It is amazing how a little rest, time in nature, and a change of scenery helps clear the mind for better strategic thinking, goal setting, and problem solving.
For this attorney, changing careers was exactly what he needed to do. The passion to lead his own business was so deeply entrenched in his being that nothing else could take its place.
For others, it may not be a matter of changing careers but changing something in their careers that is needed.
Delegating some duties in order to take on ones that are a better fit or taking a different position in the same company are solutions for some.
For many, getting to the “why” of what they do is key. If they are “people-focused” but trapped by success in a corner office, they may do well to purposely leave the office several times a day in order to engage with their team or customers.
Boredom and burnout can hit at unexpected times.
Many leaders find that, after reaching a major milestone in their business, career, or income – at a time they would expect to have high energy – they experience a combination of fatigue and apathy. These are burnout and boredom in disguise.
Therefore, it is important to experience the full cycle of success – develop, launch, and celebrate; then rest, reflect, and seek a new challenge. That feeling of fatigue and apathy is a normal pattern that follows success. It is your indicator to finish the cycle of rest and reflection followed by taking on a new challenge.
Not only is this important for leaders as individuals; it is important for teams. Your team works hard to reach milestones; help them finish the cycle of success before diving full throttle into the next phase of development. The last half of the cycle does not have to be lengthy, but it is necessary. It could be the period of wrap-up after a major project, where your team has time to document the process and reflect on ways to improve it for the future. It could be an administrative day for a business owner or it could even be a day out of the office for a time to think and plan.
This cycle of action plus reflection is healthy for businesses and individuals.
Are you taking time to experience the full cycle of success? Are you allowing your team to do the same?
Dave Ferguson is “The Leaders’ Coach”, an internationally recognized executive leadership coach, speaker, facilitator, and author. Are you interested in talking to Dave about coaching or having Dave speak to inspire and motivate your team? “ASK COACH DAVE” at 704-907-0171 or at Dave@AskCoachDave.com.