Burnout often happens when we least expect it. It almost happened to me (I wrote about it here). We know something isn’t right, but we can’t quite discern what, so we push through.
Those around us know we’re not healthy, but don’t have the courage to speak up. Then one day we wake up and realize we’ve burned out — or are dangerously close to it.
We move forward with an attitude of “Things need to change,” but we rarely take action. After all, we have to get up the next morning and keep grinding. People don’t care about our well-being. They just want us to produce. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.
The truth is — our health directly impacts the quantity and quality of what we produce. So let’s stop making excuses and make better use of our time and energy, before we burn out.
10 Driving Forces Behind Burnout
In order to get healthy, you must recognize the driving force(s) behind your exhaustion and burnout. This requires separation and examination. So STOP what you’re doing. Turn off your phone. Take a deep breath…
Consider these ten driving forces. Make note of which ones are pushing (or have already pushed) you to burnout.
1. The Success Paradox
You burn out when… the things you had to do to become successful in your role, no longer apply, so you’re left not knowing what to do. Do you learn new skills? Do you move on to a different organization?
Talk to a life coach, your spouse, and/or a close friend about your situation. Be honest and admit you don’t know how to do what needs to be done in your current role. You should bring this up with your board or supervisor as soon as possible, but wrestle through it with a trusted friend/coach/spouse first.
2. Role Shift
You burn out when… you are no longer doing what you love to do, but what your company wants you to do. Your job description looks less and less like what you signed up for. You’re fully capable of fulfilling the role, but it drains the life out of you.
Sort through your current projects and tasks on a two-column spreadsheet or piece of paper. List the projects/tasks you want and love to do on one side. On the other side, list the projects/tasks you are currently doing — but loathe.
Work through these with your board/supervisor to determine if significant changes can be made. Or, you can do this on your own with your assistant or team. Often, working through this internally can make a dramatic impact for the better.
If you’re wrestling with this one, I put together a FREE 5-Step Self-Assessment to help you dig deeper into this process. You can download it here.
3. Mismatched CEO
You burn out when… your organization has entered a new stage you’re not prepared for. You led well through the previous stage, but are struggling to adapt to the current stage. You could be a mismatch at this time. Most CEOs tend to match up with one of the following 3 types. Note: you can adapt these types to fit executives and pastors, if you’re not technically a CEO.
The Startup CEO
You’re a creator. You thrive when you have to make something out of nothing. You’re a problem solver and motivator. You know how to build a strong team from the ground up.
The Growth CEO
You’re a cultivator. You don’t lose sight of the big picture. You know what it takes to grow a good company into a great one. You know how to get the right people in the right roles, and how to empower them to accomplish their goals.
The Turnaround CEO
You are a re-starter. You have the vision to bring a dying company back to life. You know specifically what needs to happen next. You know how to re-shape the culture of an organization in decline. You know what it takes to get the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off it.
Figure out which type you prefer and consider moving to a different organization that needs a CEO of that type. Or, find out if there’s a role in your current organization that aligns with your CEO type.
4. Mission Drift
You burn out when… your organization moves away from the mission you (or the founder) started with. Sometimes this is an intentional change in direction. But unfortunately, as some organizations grow, they lose sight of why they were formed in the first place.
If the drift was unintentional, meet with your leadership team, board, etc., and lead the charge to get it back on track. You’ll soon discover if there’s any hope of reclaiming the original mission. If not, you may want to move on.
If the drift was intentional, perhaps you were never fully on board with it? If so, maybe it’s time to be honest and move on? Or reconsider the mission and see if you can align with it.
5. Stuck in Maintenance Mode
You burn out when… you see a clear path to maintaining your organization’s position, but you are clueless how to grow it. Perhaps the organization has outgrown your talents? Or maybe you feel like a competent, successful manager, but you’re stuck in the weeds. This makes it impossible to work on the big picture.
Is it time for you to give up the reigns and take a different role? Or could you delegate a ton of your work load to a team member or assistant, so you can focus on growth? Or maybe it’s time to move on to an organization that has yet to outgrow your skill-set.
6. New Life Stage
You burn out when… you enter a new stage of life — you get older, have kids, get married, buy a home, etc. The changes at home, lack of sleep, and new relationship dynamics drain you emotionally and physically.
Get in counseling. Take a real vacation. By real, I mean don’t work while you’re gone. Restructure your calendar so you have more space for recovering emotionally and physically.
7. Lack of Trust
You burn out when… you don’t trust those around you — your board, investors, leadership team, employees, etc. If you don’t trust your team, you won’t be honest with them when things are falling apart. You will find yourself hiding things, and working around them. Not a good situation to be in.
Work through this with the specific people you don’t trust. Perhaps even with a coach or counselor present. Try to get to the root of why you don’t trust them and work to re-build the relationship. If you don’t take this one seriously, things could get real ugly, real fast.
8. The Grass is Greener Syndrome
You burn out when… you’ve convinced yourself — rightfully or wrongfully — that the grass is greener on other side. You find yourself thinking, “If I worked at that company,” or “If only so and so wasn’t on the board,” and so on.
If you know for a fact it’s greener on the other side, why are you still on this side? However, most of the time it’s not greener on the other side, so try to get at the root of why you think it is. Maybe some of the other 10 driving forces are the real reason for your discontent?
9. Lack of Passion for Your Work
You burn out when… you’re not doing what you were made to do. As a Christian, I believe God has created each person with unique skills and passions. If you’re not doing what God has made and called you to do, it’s only a matter of time before you burn out.
A simple question you can ask yourself is this — “Do I enjoy the work I’m doing, or am I doing it for other reasons?” Also, write down a list of things you would love to do, if you could do anything. Next, see if you can shift your current role to align with your passion and skills. If you can’t — you guessed it — you probably need to move on.
I put together a 5-Step Self-Assessment eBook to help you eliminate what drains you, so you can do what you love. You can get a copy here.
10. Lack of Rest
You burn out when… you don’t have regular rhythms of rest built into your life — daily, weekly, seasonally. When was the last time you had a day off without checking your email, texting co-workers, etc.? Or maybe you recently had a day off, but haven’t taken an extended vacation in months, or years?
According to a recent NPR poll, half of Americans don’t take all their vacation time and 30% say they do a significant amount of work while on vacation.
Take every single vacation day you have. Don’t be afraid to take some personal days too, if needed. But just as important — when you take time off, turn off your phone, do NOT check your email, and be present with your friends and family. Also, get in the habit of spending time doing nothing in a quiet, distraction-free location — even when you’re not on vacation.
We All Need Help
As you go through the above driving forces, think about the people you know who’ve experienced burnout. Which of the ten would you say drove them to burn out?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’ve been dangerously close to burnout. But I’ve also seen first-hand many leaders burn out. I’ve made it my mission to help as many executives, pastors, and CEOs gain more time and energy, so they can accomplish their goals without burning out.
I aim to do this by helping you get more out of your assistant, or hire the right assistant, if you don’t have one. If you need help, or know someone who does, check out my coaching services here. Thanks for reading! Now, go get some rest! 🙂
NOTE: I recently spoke with a successful CEO about burnout and how big of an issue it is. We wrestled with what we thought might be some of it’s primary causes. He went on to share a variation of the list above. I’m grateful to him for walking through this with me and giving me permission to use the list!