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10 Questions to Help You Overcome Burnout and Find Renewal

Resilience in Leadership

September 26, 2023
Leader's Journey
Charles Hooper, MCC

Leading on Empty

It was the second time I went through professional burnout. I was leading on empty.

Death by meetings characterized that season of my career. Big budgets, big decisions, and big implications weighed heavy on my shoulders. Anxiety constantly jolted me out of REM sleep. My vacations were over before any deep rest set in.

I was in a management role outside my skill and gift set, and I felt like the job was beyond my capacity to lead well. I had too many direct reports, and I was balancing family life on top of all my responsibilities at work.

These were just some of the external factors which kept my tanks low.

There were also internal factors that kept me in a leading-on-empty state. I confused excellence with perfection. I had adopted a mindset that my performance determined my identity. I wasn’t delegating because I believed I could do it better and faster myself.

I felt like I had to please everyone. I allowed my emotions and anxiety to rule over thoughts of truth. My work creeped into my off hours in the early mornings, evenings, and weekends. I put on a false armor to prove that I had what it takes.

I had a choice to make…

I could curl up in a proverbial fetal position and binge-watch Netflix. (And if we’re being honest, that is exactly what I did at times!)

Or

I could make some changes in my mindset and leadership behavior to become more resilient.

Resilience in Leadership - Leading on Empty

Building Resilience

Researchers have found that highly resilient employees miss fewer workdays, report higher job satisfaction, stay on the job longer, and are in better health than those unable to cope effectively with stress caused by challenge and uncertainty.

I began a new journey of assessment, awareness, and actions, which led to increased resilience and health. I assessed the root issues and knew that something needed to change. My awareness of how the external and internal impacted me gave me insight into what to address first. I began to act in small ways, which ended up having big results.

Resilience and grit can be developed and strengthened, much like hardiness and growth mindsets. According to researchers, people who don’t give up have a habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, local, and changeable.

Hope for renewal started to emerge.

Resilience in Leadership - Building resilience

Finding Renewal

During this season of burnout, I remembered some good questions from Bobb Biehl, an Executive Mentor I was exposed to in college. The power of good questions had a penetrating impact on me.

As I journaled on these questions, my renewal and resilience started growing stronger.

  1. How can I get an extra ten hours of sleep as soon as possible?
  2. What things are weighing heavily on my shoulders?
  3. What clear, meaningful, and achievable goals can I write or edit?
  4. How can I shift my work focus from EFFICIENCY (doing things right) to EFFECTIVENESS (doing the right things)?
  5. How can I make one improvement to my physical condition? (diet, sleep, exercise, self-care)
  6. What could I do to shift from “forced” energy to living on “natural” energy?
  7. What is something I would enjoy growing personally over the next 90 days?
  8. How can I approach my future work one step at a time?
  9. What responsibilities or tasks can I…
    • …delegate to others?
    • …delay?
    • …delete?
    • …downgrade?
  10. What strained relationships can I mend?
Resilience in Leadership - Finding Renewal

One additional event kickstarted my renewal.

Before I worked for WinShape Teams, I had the opportunity to attend one of their leadership retreats. The change of scenery and being outdoors was fresh air not only to my body but to my soul as well. Hearing encouraging talks that spoke to my identity as a human and as a leader realigned me.

Time for fun activities with others reminded me of the importance of play. Innovative ideas came as I was exposed to new experiences. I slept like a baby for those two nights. On the last day, I was able to reset the trajectory of my life and leadership with new hope and resolve.

The months that followed put me back on a path of living one day at a time. I made changes in my personal and professional life. My tank was filling back up again. It was time to go back to the basics.

I ensured that I was in a healthy state before I tried taking care of others. I reconnected and made sure to stay connected to family and a few friends. I chose to do a few things well and leave the rest on the to-do list for another day rather than trying to tackle it all at once. I took a day to rest each week. I remembered that my assignment is not the same as my identity.

Resilience in Leadership - Leadership Retreat

How about you?

How would you assess this season of your life and leadership?

What awareness do you need to become more renewed and resilient?

What are a few strategic actions you can take to fill your tanks?

Could you benefit from taking a personal or professional retreat?

Are you leading on empty? Fill your tank at a WinShape Teams Leadership Retreat!

At WinShape Teams, our wish for you is that you can lead with your tanks full of resilience. A great way to do this is to step away from the busyness to participate in one of our Leadership Retreats. Held throughout the year at our beautiful, sequestered campus in Mount Berry, Georgia, these 3-day retreats provide you with leadership concepts, guidance, and best practices to help you grow alongside your peers.