As someone who burnt out from a previous career, I now guide my sales leadership clients to avoid my mistakes. The common mistakes all high-performers just can’t see to avoid. We love our jobs so much that we never quite know when to stop.
I had spent my 20s rising the leadership ranks at a now public insurance company. It was exciting to see how far the team could get as we climbed the leaderboard. Humbling to receive recognition and accolades and then help train other sales leaders also be effective. But the never-ending carrot chasing finally did me in and I said goodbye to a career I loved.
I heard that we are best positioned to serve the people we once were. And you’ll see coaches all over that are doing what they can to help others. The problem is when opinions overtake facts, and things that sound good and should be true are in actuality bad advice.
Because burnout is being attributed to the fact that people are leaving their jobs, it’s getting a lot of attention. HR professionals say that burnout will be responsible for up to 46% of the people are leaving their jobs. It is being concluded that people are working too much. There are opinions everywhere as to how we can decrease the expectations we have on employees so they don’t have to exert themselves so much.
But this advice ignores one important fact about energy: it’s not set like time. We can get more energy. And the only way to build up your energy capacity is to use more of it. If you want to go fast, you have to be fast. If you want to help avoid burnout, we have to help people be more effective with their energy management so they have more to work with in the first place.
This comes from leadership. And leadership isn’t getting the training THEY need to do this effectively.
I don’t think most people burn out from working too much. I think they burn out from thinking about work too much. Their mental energy is low and their ability to focus on what they are doing in the moment causes they to work inefficiently. They use up more energy than necessary because they can’t focus. And then when they aren’t working, they don’t rest effectively so it feels like they never get a break.
Jim Loehr wrote a great book called “The Power of Full Engagement”. I mention it in my book “Beyond the Board: How to Achieve Your Vision Board Goals in a Fulfilling and Sustainable Way” in my chapter on energy management. Jim says we have four types of energy: spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical. To increase our energy in any category, we push ourselves a little bit further, and then rest.
Leadership must learn how to help their teams rest. Effectively. Zoning out is not resting. They should be empowered to help their teams figure out how to fill their cups so that they have the energy to do more. People’s energy bank accounts are so low right now that when they take a penny out, they feel like they have nothing left. The bigger the bank, the less of an impact a withdrawal makes.
So how does leadership do this? They can stop with the constant push for more and close out work effort periods. I work with emerging sales leaders, and what this looks like in the sales world is closing out a quarter. Help the employee mentally close it out, pause to think about what they were able to accomplish, and rest before giving out the next incentive to shoot for.
Leaders should be having business reviews and feedback conversations and acknowledging a sales person’s effort. According to the data, 69% of employees would do more if their manager actually recognized the effort and work they do with feedback.
Leaders can ask their team members what they are doing for fun and to fill their cup. It’s not necessarily your lack-luster employees who burn out; its the high-performers who love their jobs and don’t know when to stop. I had an old mentor that told me I had to find something else in my life besides work. He was happy I was finding success, but didn’t want my whole identity wrapped up in what numbers I was turning in. Success can be very addictive. It’s the only addiction that the deeper we go, the more recognition we receive. When leaders help their teams find other ways to fill their cups, the chance of burnout decreases.
And if you really feel that you are being asked to work too much to achieve the goal, you should also request better training. If employees are burning out and the results are lack-luster, the issue also might be bad training systems, which leadership is responsible for.
I believe that leaders want their teams to do well and stick around. They don’t purposefully drive people into the ground. When we empower leaders with the energy management skills that they can then teach their teams, everyone wins.
And an honest day’s work feels fulfilling, not exhausting.
Rebecca Gebhardt is the best-selling author of Beyond the Board: How to Achieve Your Vision Board Goals in a Fulfilling and Sustainable Way. You can connect with her on LinkedIn, or find more energy management resources at risewithrebecca.com.