A few months back, a Sr Vice President of a large multinational company reached out to me because he felt he was sidelined for another executive for a plum promotion at the corner office. Now this kind of things do happen in an organization. However, what did happen post this is something interesting.
Due to this one reason the executive could not recover from this psychological turbulence. Since the option of leaving the organization was never a question, he did the next best thing per him, which is working days and night, weekends and for extreme long hours under tremendous stress.
This began to affect his family and his “me” time. Luckily, he realized at the far end of a near breakdown and reached out to me. We did work together for some time and since the competence of the person was never a question, today he is the CEO of a large Multinational company.
The fact is that if you are the Boss, then believe me no one is going to step into your cabin and say that you are burning out and losing the edge. Every human being is prone to burn-outs at some point of time and it is in your interest more than others to ensure that you do see signs of this coming before it does some irreparable damage to your physical and emotional health. This article Burnout & Brain is an excellent read on this topic.
As with any Real issues, it is always better to be Proactive rather than Reactive.
The signs of Leadership burn-outs is not something easy to articulate, however when you are at the top of the game, it is very easy to ignore the symptoms and push it under the carpet to motor towards the organizational goals.
However, the best thing in my own experience over the years working with Sr Executives and Large business owners is that it is imperative that you monitor yourself to always be at the top of your game. It is extremely critical to know the symptoms of Executive Burn-outs so you can begin to make rapid changes in your own life before it is too late.
Some of the most common signs I can think of when Executives are knocking on the doors of a burn-out are :
Physical & Emotional Exhaustion
One of the first flags to notice if you are a High Performing executive is your Physical & emotional well-being. If your mind and body are in absolute Sync, then you will be performing at your peak level. However, when things do not begin to go the way we envision, then unregulated stress begins to take over and can play havoc on our thought process, appetite and at times our overall view of the external world.
I am surprised that extremely successful executives ignore the tell-tale signs of chronic stress and tend to push themselves beyond one’s limit. Reaching out for help is one of the most empowering steps one can take and there is nothing to feel small when one is going through these physical & emotional uncertainties.
I do come across many high ranking executives who are so concerned about their automobiles and slight variation in its performance and are sure to send it to the service Centre. However, when it does come to their own health, they think they are fine and begin to ignore the tell-tale signs.
This Wall Street Journal article is a good read as to the physical & emotional toll on executives.
Lack of Internal Drive
Internal drive is the one thing which can make or break a person. It is no different with an executive who is striving to excel in his/her field. When one begins to get a feeling that he/she needs to drag oneself from the bed to get to work then, this should stop you in your track to give a think-through.
When there is no compelling reason to do a task then, there is a disconnect between the mind and body which does lead to critical mistakes which can undo all the efforts put through the years.
Internal drive is the one key aspect which does technically separate the Top performers from the people just wanting to get to the corner office. I personally link this to an Operating system of a mobile, which when upgraded begins to help the hardware perform at an extraordinary level. I am a big believer that the internal drive can be worked on just about anybody by conditioning oneself from the inside out.
Slipping Performance at work
When one begins to lose the internal drive, it begins to effect the performance. Even though burn-outs do tend to happen over an extended period, if you step back and take a relook at what’s happening from a neutral perspective it will give you some signs of indications.
I remember a couple of years back when I began to work with a woman Executive. She had graduated from an Ivy league school and had got into a challenging role. Even though she was extremely well versed in her domain, she began to make mistakes in her work. Small things like not checking the mails sent for external customers snowballed into not completing the task given in a period.
Since this was affecting her work directly, her manager who was thankfully aware of this pitfall did suggest her to work with an external “Executive Coach” who according to him would be in a better position to give her unbiased views on her area of challenges. She did take a step further, by hiring me from across the continent to get a completely different perspective.
Performance at work will begin small and then gradually seep into more than one area of your professional life and at times also personal area if one is not smart enough to read the tell-tale signs.
This article by Harry Levinson on HBR talks about ‘When executives burn out’ Am sure quite a few can relate to the case studies mentioned in this article.
You are tuned out most of the time
One of the areas which does get affected when burn-outs are around the corner is interpersonal skills. This, according to me can happen in two specific areas which I have come across while interacting with people
a) having more conflicts with office colleagues and family or
b) completely disconnected with colleagues and family.
Now both instances do happen only when one is completely tuned out most of the time. There is no “one size fits all” for everybody but most of the people whom I have been interacting with over the years will fall into either of the categories or at times even both.
When this happens over a period, it is bound to have a ripple effect on yourself which is where one begins to ignore one’s own needs and begins to push through harder. We human beings, are social animals and we need to connect with people around us and the time we do spend the most with.
Ignoring your own needs
One of the most common indicators I have seen across gender and designations is that the first casualty of someone pushing the envelope comes when they start ignoring their own needs. This does happen due to many factors and there is no one specific reason where we can put the finger on the pulse. However, ignoring one’s own needs is catastrophic because it will eventually lead to many other serious issues including physical & emotional issues.
There is no one way to overcome Executive Burnout. However to begin with, it is imperative that you do take responsibility for it and protect your personal Spheres at any cost. Yes, even if it means your job is at stake. You can always get another job but you are irreplaceable and often our logical brain shuts down in this area.
Originally published at satishrao.in