Tag Archives: Leadership

Burnout – Pushing Through, or Going Around?

Lately the extremely fast pace of work has been pushing me hard. Over the past 3 years our business has tripled, from 30 million to a run rate of over 105 million. We’ve gone from an IT department of 2, to an IT department of 7, and growing. That growth has come at the expense of a great many things, work life balance, consistency in direction, and most importantly the ability to feel as if I’m planning ahead.

As an IT professional one of the things that gives me great satisfaction is the planning and execution of a project, that finishes on time and with the planned result. Lately I’ve felt very much that although I plan out projects, the end result is either not what is desired (partially my fault for over-estimating the impacts), or the project keeps getting put on the back burner for other projects that have different strategic goals.

I keep pushing, knowing that eventually things will slow down and we can go back and remove the “duct tape” from everything that we’ve patched together to make it work to support the huge growth, but holding that duct tape together is tiring, and the growth doesn’t seem to be slowing.

So – how do I deal with the threat of burnout?
I push through. I find the small victories, the little joys that make it worth while.

As a business leader, sometimes its the simple pleasure of solving a problem for a co-worker, helping someone that reports to me solve a problem, or helping them understand that “this to shall pass” is a very true saying. Acknowledging how I have to grow, and the changes in the definition of success for my new role is how I need to stave off burnout, how I need to measure myself against the yardstick of success.

While work will take as much time as I offer it, I’ve also learned that I need to take some time for me. Separate from the identity I have at work, and separate from the “dad” identity I have at home. Yes, this is somewhat heretical, but taking a hour or so a day 3 – 4 times a week is a minimal amount of time. Most of those hours are spent at the YMCA, where I have rediscovered my love of swimming, with a side of running, and an occasional weight workout.

Staving off burnout is about all of these things, and I need to remember this whenever burnout threatens. So should you. Remember – when things are hard at work, and you have a a million shifting priorities, look at what you’ve accomplished, either through your work, or your team’s work and celebrate the wins. Then take a moment and celebrate you, with something that you love that doesn’t involve work.

— Mike

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Lessons I need to Learn

This past week I received my first annual performance review in many years.  The negative feedback that I received during the course of the review wasn’t a surprise, its the same feedback that I’ve received review after review throughout my life.   I’m memorializing these items in an effort to assist me to remember them, as in order to continue to move forward in my career I have to overcome them. 

  1. Interpersonal Relationships:  I tend to come off as distant and somewhat cold in work situations.   It isn’t that I don’t care, its that I care more about the task at hand while discussing work, then I do about who is delivering the information to me.
  2. Condescension:   In keeping with the interpersonal relationships theme above, this is another thing that I struggle with.  When I talk to someone, I’m brusque, and to the point.   This often times comes across as condescending, intellectually I understand that this is people’s perception, emotionally I don’t understand how anyone could think I was condescending.  I whole heartily believe that I have things to learn from everyone.
  3. Ask questions but don’t debate — there is a fine line between debate, and asking questions to help gain understanding.  I am often guilty of asking questions to “test” the other person’s resolve, and their firmness of opinion.

The single biggest suggestion I received from my manager and friend, was to make sure that I take the time to understand the difference between leadership and management.   The difference between control and influence.

I’ve spent the past day reading, and trying to understand what it is about me that makes other’s feel that way, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I still don’t completely understand the why, but I do understand more about how to overcome the deficiencies that were pointed out to me.

  • ABL – Always be listening.  I listen, but I listen usually to the point that I understand where the person is going with a given statement, and then focus on how I should respond, sometimes summarizing what I think they’re saying before they even finish.  I have to stop this.  In a world where I’m seeking to gain influence, and not control listening to how people say things, is almost as important as what they’re saying.   
  • Share Tasks — I tend to give assignments and tasks, without always communicating the bigger picture, and where the rest of my thoughts are with how the task or assignment fits into the bigger picture.   While I will not always be able to share the entire bigger picture, everyone understanding where they fit into the cycle and how their input helps against that larger picture draws them into the team, and makes them feel a part of something larger.
  • Celebrate Accomplishments — Something I need to get better with.  I tend to not celebrate the completion of a milestone, or a project because there is always something next.  To me the completion is as much of a celebration as I need.   Most people aren’t like that, most people need recognition of their accomplishments. 
  • Take Blame — Truthfully I think this is something I’m already fairly good at, but I put too much of a joking spin on it when I say that “Everything is my fault” to the team.  In order to get better, I need to remember that laughter when taking blame isn’t seen as appropriate.   Fault doesn’t matter in the heat of the moment, we must worry about a fix when something goes wrong, and address the responsibility issues as a followup.

 

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