My friend Meagan Strout (CEO of Tack Advisors – the leading provider of management consulting and recruitment for administrative professionals) agreed to share the recording of this recent webinar she hosted with Al-Husein Madhany.
Meagan and Al-Husein (Founding partner of Tack Advisors and co-founder of The Leader Assistant Premium Membership) discuss strategies for balancing your work and personal commitments and how to navigate stress across all areas of your life. If you or someone you know need a little push to prioritize wellbeing, this conversation is for you!
Thank you Meagan and the Tack Advisors team for sharing this featured session with the Leader Assistant Community!
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- Access this webinar replay, and other on-demand webinars, at tackadvisors.co/webinars-on-demand/
He serves the global administrative professional community as an inspirational speaker and coach. He offers live and online training for next-level career development as well as consultative services to executives and human resource departments for companies experiencing change management within their administration business functions.
Al-Husein is regarded as one of the best executive assistant coaches globally, and has worked one-on-one with over 350 EAs and 100 EA to CEOs, coaching them to success, including higher levels of responsibility, weightier business titles, and more robust job descriptions and career ladders.
His international corporate client list is extensive, including Fortune 50 companies with over $100 billion in annual revenue, as well as Silicon Valley startups and their founder CEOs with $0 in revenue. Al-Husein started his corporate career as a Facebook C-Suite EA, before joining PayPal as the HR Chief of Staff. He holds Master’s degrees from Harvard, Georgetown, and the University of Chicago.
Meagan Strout is the Founding Partner and CEO of Tack Advisors, the only full-service Recruiting and Consulting firm that is dedicated to progressing the role of administrative professionals. Meagan has 6 years of experience recruiting for Executive Assistants, Personal Assistants and Chiefs of Staff to support the world’s most influential leaders. Prior to transitioning her career to Talent Acquisition, Meagan worked in luxury hospitality for over a decade with Four Seasons, The Ritz-Carlton and The Breakers. While working in hospitality, she provided ‘Five Diamond’ leadership and administrative support to clients and guests around the world; and recruited, on-boarded and trained highly efficient teams.
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Meagan Strout 1:19
Hi, leader assistants. I’m Meagan Strout, CEO and co founder of tack advisors are a full service recruiting and consulting organization that helps game changing executive assistant is like you find an excel in your dream role with top CEOs and founders from innovative industries. Not only do we provide retain search for executives, but we also offer onboarding, one on one coaching and virtual training for assistance, like the webinar you’re about to hear. If you’re a growth minded assistant looking for resources, and or a life changing role, reach out to me and my team at Tackadvisors.co. And introduce yourself. I hope you enjoy this webinar. And I look forward to hearing from you. And figured we’d start a little bit with context and why we’re having this session today. And the reason why is I haven’t seen and I actually just did this session for one of our clients, but our over our larger training program on how to minimize stress and prevent burnout. And our executive business partner Alexa felt like it would be really beneficial if we did like a speed mini course on this for our greater admin community. Because the reality is, is that you have had a pulse over the past two years, you probably have experienced extreme stress, have experienced burnout or on the brink of burnout. And so gonna be appropriate to chat with you all about that today, especially with you know, Al Husein, who I think is probably has the most complex life of anybody that I know. And yet, like the ultimate Zen master. So I’m excited owl for you to chat with the community a little bit more on how you sort of manage stress and self regulate. So thanks for joining me today.
Al-Husein Madhany 3:09
It’s my absolute pleasure, Megan. And as Megan mentioned, look, if you’ve been employed during the pandemic, during the past few years, whether at home or hybrid or return to work, just kidding returned to Office. Just kidding back at home, you probably have thought about the word burnout, you’ve you’ve mentioned the word stress more times than you’d like. And so we’re here to unpack a lot of that in the brief. 30 minutes.
Meagan Strout 3:34
Yeah, perfect. So I think that would you know, for me, I’m a big proponent of just understanding like, what is stress and burnout at its core, because as GI Joe said, knowing is half the battle. And so why don’t we talk for a moment about what stress is. And the first thing to point out is that not all stress is bad stress, right? Stress is, is there it’s your body’s reaction to external stressors for you to be able to function on a day to day basis. And, you know, 2000 years ago, the stress that people were experiences, like running away from animals that were predators who were trying to eat them. We’re not typically having that issue, although I’m sure there are certain parts of the world that are a little bit more remote that are worrying about that. But our stressors today are, you know, dealing with crying child wire on a zoom call or having to know what are some stressors that you’ve experienced? How
Al-Husein Madhany 4:37
well do you not working? And you’ve got a big client meeting coming up or your executive is like, wait, what where why is the link not working or, you know, communicating with you on the because there’s, we would all agree too many paths of communication now, email Slack teams, like instant messaging, DMS SMS and it’s like You’re always on some device throughout the day, and you feel like you’re always behind, right? That’s a stressor
Meagan Strout 5:07
giant inbox of emails that you can’t get through. And that’s probably my biggest stressor, right?
Al-Husein Madhany 5:15
Indeed, and, you know, if you look historically, in the last 20 years, most people in the English speaking world today, average person English speaking world today spends over four and a half hours on this thing every single day. Not including, we’re not talking about tablets, we’re not talking about laptops, just four and a half hours on this, don’t tell me that this isn’t stressful sometimes.
Meagan Strout 5:41
Right? So stressful. And so I think the first thing to know and to understand is that, you know, historically speaking, back before the days of slack and email and iPhones, there was a way to end stress and what’s called completing the stress response cycle, right, like 2000 years ago, you’re getting chased by a jaguar, maybe it wasn’t that long ago for some people, but you know, and you, you get away and the stress is over, right? Like you’re safe. There’s an end, there’s a resolution, but the issue now is that it’s really hard to break away and to completely unplug, right? And so how do we complete that stress response cycle, because if there isn’t an end, your body never gets a chance to hit reset. And so I think the first thing to talk about is how do you complete that stress response cycle? So what do you do out as like the the Zen master, ex Buddhist monk, to try to hit reset, even if it’s just for a few minutes, after a stressful day?
Al-Husein Madhany 6:51
What am I supposed to do? Or what do I actually do? Look? The reality is, even the best of us, even the best of us, even the best of us have bad days, and even the best of us can fail can fail in actually maintaining and keeping the promises we make to ourselves. And the hardest part about all of this is we know what’s right, right? You open up your feed on any social media app, everybody’s talking about burnout and stress. And everybody’s talking about what’s right to do and what’s wrong to do. I just want to give us permission briefly, before I answer your question, Megan, to just recognize that the hardest part of this whole thing is making a promise to yourself. And then keeping it it’s much easier to make a promise to somebody else and keep it whether a child, a co worker, a boss, I’ll never let my boss down. But I’ll let myself down way too long. Constantly, constantly.
Meagan Strout 7:59
But I think and I know I’ve mentioned this in previous webinars, most people who are Administrative Professionals tend to fall into that obliger category where they respond really well to external motivations, like your boss, or your family or your kid, but don’t respond to internal motivations. I’m in that category, right? And so I cannot keep a New Year’s resolution, I will tell myself that I am going to start that diet today. And then then it doesn’t happen. Like let’s just forget it. But as soon as it’s somebody else holds me accountable. That’s a totally different story.
Al-Husein Madhany 8:33
That’s right. We are obligers. And what do we do is we give and we give and we give and we eat because we’re givers. We’re givers by heart, and that makes us feel good. And we put other people’s masks on first, their oxygen masks on first even though we know that’s not, you know, the, the modus operandi of how it’s supposed to work. And so to answer your question, Megan, like the psychology of stress, the psychology of stress, to recognize, first of all, that the promises we make ourselves are the hardest ones to keep. And just recognize that and know that that is human psychology for givers and for obligers. But the things that I do to answer your question, are I try and establish what I call micro habits. I try and do small things that I can win it very quickly, to feel as though I’m moving in the right direction. Here’s an example. After many hours of zoom calls, and you know, perhaps many hours of meetings, rather than going into my car and driving home and looking on my phone and turning on Spotify and getting into another technological loop. I tell myself, I’m going to pause and I’m going to ask myself, what’s one thing that I was grateful for today? I just to myself, I’m not writing it down. I’m not, I’m not verbalizing it. I’m just saying what went well today? And who was responsible for that on my team in my organization. And then sometimes it triggers another response, which is, is there something I should do to action that tell them or not tell them. Other micro habits are literally after a zoom call, I will look away into the trees outside my window for five to eight seconds, just so my mind can clear away from technology and see human nature, micro habits, small things that we can do on a regular that will compound over time. And there’s a lot more, there’s a lot more, of course, where that comes from?
Meagan Strout 10:45
Yeah, well, that reminds me, I was reading an article and it kind of goes into self awareness and self regulation, right. And so I’ve been doing a whole kind of just 15 minutes a day reading some different article on self awareness and self regulation. And self awareness is recognizing your feelings, recognizing like, I’m tired, or my brain needs a break, or I’m feeling stressed. And where that is in your body, within that self regulation piece have actually been doing something about it, whether it is taking five seconds to look at trees instead of looking at a screen. And one of the things I read in this article that was really interesting about self regulation is it has even even something as small as just your thoughts. And that’s something that I thought was really interesting that they talked about, if you’re having a negative thought, instead of saying, I feel this way, saying I’m having the thought that I’m feeling this way, I’m having a thought that I don’t feel like I explained that to my employee really well or, and having a thought that and it kind of like removes you from the situation and puts that stress or that negativity, kind of one step in between you, as opposed to it feeling really, really present. But that was a really interesting, just like, I would call that like a little micro habit of changing the way that you think, and the way that you’re talking to yourself. So that would be I think, another really good example of something that doesn’t even take you to, like you want to get out of your chair for it. I think that’s the biggest issue.
Al-Husein Madhany 12:21
That’s right. That’s right. People feel like it needs to be too remove or reduce stress, one needs to get off their chair and go exercise and go change a light. It’s not it’s in the micro, it’s definitely in the micro habits. You know, going back to something you said earlier, Megan, you know about burnout and how it is a very common word and during the pandemic, and those last two years. You know, I would just want to reiterate that, even though you may love what you do, it doesn’t mean you can’t get burned out from it.
Meagan Strout 13:01
That easily causes burnout, right? He’s so passionate, and you work so hard, that you don’t again, self regulate and give yourself these breaks.
Al-Husein Madhany 13:11
Yeah. And so, you know, and we all would admit that, you know, quitting when things get hard, is a great way to get nowhere in life. Right? Because we’re not quitters. Like we’re, you know, we’re the A team, right? So we have the expectation that we put on ourselves, the stress that we put on ourselves not to quit when things get hard, because the people around us aren’t quitting. And we have a lot of duties and responsibilities to those people around us, including our families. But what we’re talking about today is not quitting. It’s recognizing the signs of burnout before it’s too late. So here’s a couple of signs of burnout, that could be impending. And something that you should perhaps action for those of you who are listening, the first is but first of all, by the way, when you hit the wall, it is too late. So visit and sometimes you can’t come back from it. Because it can be so debilitating. You’ll find yourself often, you know, perhaps like, you know, like, like some of us, you know, in a fetal position, rocking back and forth in our bed. You know, after binge watching Netflix for six hours. That’s when it’s too late, y’all that’s when it’s too late. But if your friends and the people who love you are Express worry about you and tell you things that you don’t want to hear. Because you think yeah, I don’t think she really knows me that well. That’s not true. Listen, listen to them. There’s some truth that they see that they’re that they’re saying to you. I’ll tell I’ll give you a perfect example. There’s somebody actually on this call. I saw her name pop But we did an event in San Jose on January 15, at the mountain winery, and we had a special. We had a special evening planned just for leader assistant members. And she pulled me aside and she was like, What’s wrong with you? Like, what you didn’t like my talk? She was like, No, you’re about to like, draw. I was like, What are you talking about? She’s like, you’re not sleeping? Well, I was like, how do you know, I’m not sleeping? Well, I started getting defensive. She’s like, look, are you even exercising anymore? And like, when’s the last time you actually took a beat? And I was really, like, taken aback at first. I was like, How dare you? How dare you approach me? You don’t know me? Like you haven’t seen me in how many months? But then I said to myself, maybe there’s a truth there. Maybe there’s something she sees that I don’t see. Because I look at myself every day in the mirror, and I’m like, looks the same. Right? If your friends are communicating to you, that, hey, I think you need to like take a beat. Listen to them. Listen to them. Even if even if you may not agree with their intentions. There could be some truth there. So that’s one perhaps, sign of impending burnout. Megan, do you have other signs that you know of? Like how to recognize when it’s about to happen, or before it happens?
Meagan Strout 16:25
Yeah, I think going back to, you know, quite often you can be burned out from a job that you love. And so if you’ve been in a job that you love, or you’re doing something that you love, and suddenly you don’t feel like you love it anymore, right? That that feeling of apathy, or just kind of like a lost Guiding Light, that’s a very common side of burnout. And that kind of goes into another exercise I was doing on the past week on this sort of like self awareness journey. And it had me write down like, think back to the last time that you really felt joy in what you’re doing. And I you know, as you write it down, it’s like, what exactly were you doing? Where were you? Why do you feel like you felt that way. And at the end of the day, like, the tasks I was doing, were all the same tasks I’ve always done. But I realized that in that moment, the reason why I was feeling so much joy is because I wasn’t burned out, I was eating healthy, I was doing some kind of physical activity, I was creating some space between my business and my personal life and being involved in social activities. And that’s really, really hard. When you are starting a company or now in this pandemic world where, like, my office is in my house, there is a door separating my living room, and like that isn’t right. And so it’s really, really hard now to create those boundaries that used to be there that just don’t experience it anymore. And so I’ve had to change the way that I think about my life and what I’m doing and self regulate and create micro habits and like micro boundaries for myself to give myself some of that space.
Al-Husein Madhany 18:24
So what I’m hearing, Megan is it’s like a constant thing. It’s like,
Meagan Strout 18:29
it’s, it’s every day, every moment of your life. But I think the important thing is to not get overwhelmed by it. And this is actually something that Alexa and shared with me, that she had learned a long time ago is that it’s, it’s really is about one day at a time and not even thinking about it like a whole day, but in like chunking, she said she thinks in 30 minute increments, and that’s what keeps her sane. And so it’s, you know, being really, really present in the moment. And like you said, as soon as you’re done with a zoom chat, like taking five seconds to like change your physical point of view, look at something different, do a deep breath. It doesn’t have to be something big. And I think if you’re thinking long term, it just takes so much energy and it seems daunting and something that’s not realistic, at least for me, that’s how I
Al-Husein Madhany 19:21
feel. Yeah, for sure. You know, going back to just that which is many of us believe that the world and life happens to us by if you are on this call on this webinar and a part of our community, you know, that life happens for us. And it happens for you. And so switching your mindset of owning the responsibility of what comes when life happens for you. I think Is is, is part of it. And knowing that there’s something here, whether it’s work life balance, whether it’s work life integration, whether you’re working from home, during the pandemic, with two kids, whatever it may be, there is an answer and a gift in that here for you. uncovering it is the hard part. Unpacking the gift is the hard part. But part of it is recognizing that, you know, we all are collectively experiencing a significant amount of stress, collectively experiencing what may near us towards burnout. And so there is a collective beat that I think all of us are taking in the corporate world around this. And so that’s very helpful.
Meagan Strout 20:54
And I want to point out one thing that I think is interesting, and this is a nice, I think, also just a shift of mindset. And I think it was Karen said, you know, work life balance is impossible. It’s about work life integration. But I think it’s also like, family and life integration work and like integration, finances and life integrate, there’s so many things outside of like work is not the only stressor. Family is a stressor. Other commitments are a stressor. And so it is about finding a blend or finding an integration. But at the end of the day, kind of what you’re saying I would say is it starts with you think the only person who can prevent burnout is yourself. It’s not your family, it’s not your your colleagues, it’s not your manager, the only person who has any kind of control on self regulation. And B being able to create healthy micro habits and boundaries is the person in this bag of scam right here. So
Al-Husein Madhany 21:56
even even when we download, we make an intention to download the headspace app, the comm app, whatever your favorite app is, to help in this regard. How many of us feel guilty after we download it that we haven’t opened it and used it? Right? And so just and this, what I’m saying the promises that we make to ourselves are the hardest ones to keep. And so perhaps that’s too big of a lift, perhaps that’s too big of a lift to listen to this, you know, melodious voice 30 minutes before you go to bed every night to help you sleep better. So, again, focus on the smaller things, and the things that don’t drive towards creating more guilt. Because that’s, that’s not we need what we need more of right now is like, you know, because that is part of the rat race. It’s like, Oh, do you have the latest gadget? Are you on the peloton? Are you on the Fitbit? Are you on the whoosh? Are you on the calm app like and we compete with each other, particularly in the corporate world for you know, reduction of stress for exercise for these things that are supposed to make us feel better. But inevitably, what also happens is it also makes us feel worse about ourselves. Because you look at your aura ring app, and you’re like, Wait, I didn’t sleep well last night. And then you start beating yourself up about it, right. And so the reaction to the data is also important. And the reaction to these these technological advances that are trying to help us is also critical don’t fall for the chair trap of creating more pain for yourself by by accessing these, these technologies that you’re not able to make use of.
Meagan Strout 23:45
So we talked about as far as things to prevent or minimize stress and prevent burnout. We talked about being self aware, I acknowledging and identifying feelings that you have inside of you. regulating them and creating little micro habits, whether it’s like taking a moment to walk outside, taking a moment to take a breath, changing the thoughts in your head that you’re saying to yourself, what else what else can people do to try to minimize stress before burnouts? Epson.
Al-Husein Madhany 24:26
Yeah, walking away from your computer is a huge one walking period is a huge one, you know, up to you know, we had a a friend who told me that she didn’t take her maternity leave. During the pandemic. I was like, Are you kidding me? Take your maternity leave. It’s a it’s a it’s a human right at this point. For US companies in the United States. Do take the time for self care. Here’s a small one. But it’s a really important one. And it’s hard it’s hard for me it’s hard for Megan and it’s hard for you because As you guys are obligers, and you’re givers, and you give to your family and you give to your friends, and you give to your bosses and you give to each other, say no more often, yes, I actually write down I used to write down. When I would say no, just to make sure, at least a few times a week, I was saying no to things. Because if I was not this obliged, your instinct would kick in. And I would feel like I need to say, Yes, I need to say, well, but then what about me? Who’s taking care of me? So as a goal, ask yourself, when’s the last time you said no. And you have to obviously have the smarts to know when you say no, and what to whom you say, no. But, you know, when did you say no? Last? Are you saying no, often enough? And are you replacing the know with me? Time? Hashtag self care time? Yeah, that’s really important. Because you could squeeze in another 45 minute meeting today. You could, because we’re all at home and this whole thing and zoom? Or you could say no, and do it. Find another time on the calendar next week, this week. So you can go and spend time doing what you want to do for yourself care?
Meagan Strout 26:21
Yeah, I think it’s important. And Karen kind of touched on this too, in the chat about saying no, and not feeling guilty. And so, you know, as really great Administrative Professionals, there’s definitely times where it’s not appropriate to say, you know, right, it’s a yes, but let me you know, offer some alternatives or whatever. But in the times when you really can say no, right, what, that piece of not feeling guilty. And this is something we talked about a little bit in our training course, is the reason why people have a hard time saying no, is because in their head, there’s they have consequences for these actions, like, Oh, I’ll let this person down. If I say no, or this is never gonna get done. If this says no. And so what if you just remove those consequences? There’s a lot of times consequences, again, is just your perceived reaction of what you think is going to happen. And it’s not reality. Right? And so, saying to yourself, like, sometimes it’s okay to say no, no, it was a complete sentence, and the world will continue moving on without E. Little thing.
Al-Husein Madhany 27:30
That’s exactly right. And it’s okay to say no to your family members. It’s okay. I did
Meagan Strout 27:34
this weekend. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a family that was in town. I’d seen them the day before. And I needed a personal day. And I told her no, I was really important. Like, because I’d really rather just sit in the silence of my apartment today. Today,
Al-Husein Madhany 27:54
yeah, you know, you got four, six members of your team on that meeting? Do you really need to attend to say no, and have them just update you? Like, again, the permission to say no, without guilt, and understanding how powerful that is, particularly for us as obligers for givers. And for people who love to serve, we need to say no more.
Meagan Strout 28:18
Awesome. Well, I really appreciate you taking the time to chat through this with me today. I think that you know, you’re you’re the ultimate guru at saying no and creating boundaries and self regulating. So I really appreciate you doing this with me. It’s always a pleasure,
Al-Husein Madhany 28:35
Megan, I love I love working with you, I I keep it together. But I have bad days to remember folks. Keeping the promises we make to ourselves is the hardest thing. And I struggle with it. I know we all do. Think about that, as you think about stress stressors, and think about the power of No, thank you.
Meagan Strout 29:01
Good day i.
Speaker 2 29:14
on Apple podcasts goburrows.com