Michael Roub of Inflection 360: “Non-work conversation”

…Non-work conversation — If you can have dinner with family or friends — avoid talk about work. If you don’t have that opportunity, call someone to chat about their day — not yours. Take a break from your own world, you deserve it. You can’t escape your own burnout if you spend all of your time talking about. Strangely, there is […]

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…Non-work conversation — If you can have dinner with family or friends — avoid talk about work. If you don’t have that opportunity, call someone to chat about their day — not yours. Take a break from your own world, you deserve it. You can’t escape your own burnout if you spend all of your time talking about. Strangely, there is something relaxing about hearing of someone’s else’s stress.

Millions of Americans are returning back to work after being home during the pandemic. While this has been exciting for many, some are feeling burned out by their work. What do you do if you are feeling burned out by your work? How do you reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back”? What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?

In this interview series called “Beating Burnout: 5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout,” we are talking to successful business leaders, HR leaders and mental health leaders who can share insights from their experience about how we can “Beat Burnout.”.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Roub.

Michael Roub is the Managing Partner and founder of Inflection 360 and has more than two decades of business expertise as a strategic advisor and consultant, corporate executive, and investment banker. Michael has extensive experience with corporate development, mergers and acquisitions, and capital raising and has worked extensively with dental and medical groups and private equity backed-platforms. Michael earned a BS in Economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Thanks for the opportunity. I grew up as the youngest of three boys with great parents, initially living in Cleveland, Ohio before we moved to Melbourne, Florida as I started junior high school. In high school I played football and wrestled and also excelled academically. I was fortunate to get accepted to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where I also played safety for the Penn Quaker football team.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My dad was the CFO of a Fortune 500 corporation, and my love of math coupled with his business success made me highly focused on a career in finance. While at Wharton it was always great to talk to my dad about what I was learning and the opportunities post-college, such as investment banking, corporate finance, trading, etc. Ultimately, I thought I would someday look to be a CFO, effectively following in his footsteps.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My dad is an obvious person to mention again, but as I have spent the last several years very actively involved in the dental space, I also owe a lot to Dan Crowley. Dan was the CEO when I worked at US HealthWorks more than a decade ago. The company was looking for a new VP of Business Development to focus on acquisitions, and while I had M&A experience from my banking career and healthcare experience from my current role running and building surgery centers, there were other candidates already with the right job title. Dan hired me, and I worked like crazy for two years to make that choice a successful one. I ended up leaving to pursue some other opportunities, but several years later when Western Dental Services was looking to hire its first VP of Business Development, I got the call. Dan had joined Western Dental a year earlier and gave me the opportunity once more. That opportunity, and Dan specifically, has enabled me to become a strategy and acquisition expert in the dental field.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Early in my investment banking career, I learned over-and-over that presentation was key. Having the right information was critical, but it also had to look great when presenting to clients, investors or internally within the firm. I once worked tirelessly on a presentation for the executive team of a client on multi-billion dollar restructuring. Unfortunately, too many nights of little sleep led to some errors in the presentation shared. The Managing Director I was working for caught a material error while presenting but was able to talk through everything without the client becoming aware of the mistake. It definitely was not a fun conversation with my boss after the fact, and I had to work much of the night to fix everything. So, I learned a few huge lessons — (1) when precision is essential, make sure you check your work manually — don’t just trust a spreadsheet as it can’t fix your own mistakes for you, and (2) if your presentation of information looks great, most people will assume it is correct.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“Perfection is the enemy of success.” Mark Cuban says this often, and while with financial analysis precision is essential, as an entrepreneur or business leader, you rarely can wait until everything is perfect to move forward. You have to be willing to make mistakes and learn from them. This is a lesson I remind myself of each day, particularly when I find I am working too long on one particular task. My expectations of myself often outweigh what would make a client extremely happy, so I need to decide when I have done enough and put my pencil down.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am working with a young company in the athletic recovery space that is likely to raise its first capital within the next year. Firefly Recovery has an amazing device that still has limited recognition, but that is changing quickly. The business has gained 200 pro and college team clients in the US and consumers are starting to take notice. I have had the opportunity to work with the leadership team as it charts its path forward. Firefly is great for athletes who need to recover faster and more efficiently from training. However, it also is great for anyone from a weekend warrior, or a travel that deals with tired legs after long flights. Pretty amazing stuff, and it’s just exciting to be part of their journey.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Work Ethic- I will put in whatever time and mental energy is needed to get the desired result for clients. While perfection is the enemy of success, you still need to ensure you are delivering on or exceeding client expectations.

Communication Skills. Whether you are in a sales role or not, effectively you are always selling. My knowledge and experience allow me to execute, but I have to gain clients’ trust and that starts with building a relationship and being able to effectively communicate how and why you add value.

Listening Skills. It’s great to be able to talk but you also need to listen, and I mean listen to what the client is thinking as much as what they are saying. I know more about acquisitions and strategy than most of my clients, so I can’t expect them to always fully express what they are needing in a particular opportunity, so I need to listen to their concerns, interests, opportunities and challenges to really understand what they need and how I can best help.

For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of burnout?

When I was an investment banker, I routinely worked 80–100 hour weeks. In my roles over the past 20 years, I have necessarily needed to juggle different responsibilities and client demands with high time sensitivity. With clients on both coasts, there are few hours where emails don’t come through that demand some attention. Effectively, I am always on the clock. Understanding burnout and working to manage it has been essential for my health and wellbeing.

Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about beating burnout. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. How do you define a “Burnout”? Can you explain?

I define burnout as the point when even getting through normal day tasks begins to feel too challenging or oppressive. Motivation dips to a point that firing off a simple email can seem like an arduous task. Too little sleep, too much stress, too much time at your desk — all of these are contributing factors.

How would you define or describe the opposite of burnout?

The opposite of burnout is that feeling when you wake up ready to start the day at full speed. You are excited about the day ahead even if you don’t necessarily love every task involved. Having purpose and being mentally fresh are key.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Some sceptics may argue that burnout is a minor annoyance and we should just “soldier on’’ and “grin and bear it.” Can you please share a few reasons why burnout can have long-term impacts on our individual health, as well as the health and productivity of our society?

When people feel burnt out but don’t look for ways to alleviate this feeling, stress and anxiety mount. As someone that has worked in healthcare for years, I have heard more than a few doctors talk about high blood pressure, heart attack, strokes and other frightening outcomes that result from poor management of stress. Without some healthy balance, people will literally work themselves to an early death.

From your experience, perspective, or research, what are the main causes of burnout?

Lack of life balance. It’s hard to have balance when you have a demanding work life, but you need to make some time. Plus, you will boost your work productivity just by creating some of this balance. I spent too many years without having this balance and it took its toll on me physically and mentally. Fortunately, I am much more aware of the need for balance in my life now.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. What can an individual do if they are feeling burned out by work? How does one reverse it? How can you “get your mojo back?” Can you please share your “5 Things You Should Do If You Are Experiencing Work Burnout?”. (Please share a story or an example for each.)

While everyone is different, here are five things I do to both regroup when I am experiencing work burnout and also use as tools to minimize this issue:

1. Exercise — Nothing new here — exercise is great for the body and mind. Even on my most stressful days with a million things on my mind, I can jump on my peloton and find 30 minutes to completely detach from my work stress. In 2021, I have made exercise non-negotiable — every day, even if just some pushups and sit-ups. It is the perfect reset and allows me to focus much more on the work ahead of me.

2. Sleep — For years I thought I only needed 4–5 hours of sleep at night. While it turns out I could technically survive on that amount of sleep, by pushing my sleep to 6–8 hours, I am incredibly more efficient each day. Plus, I am much more adept at managing daily work stress, so my burnout factor decreases dramatically. I get more done in the first few hours of the day after a decent night of sleep than I often do in a full day when poorly rested.

3. Get Outside — Whether it’s a quick walk with the dogs, a little time to breathe some fresh air, or just a few minutes of sitting in peace, the days where I sit at a desk without interruption weigh on me. I like to head out a few times a day for at least 10 minutes just to reset my system.

4. Meditation — I was never a big believer in meditation — I thought it would be boring, my mind would drift, maybe I would fall asleep. The good news, 10 minutes of turning your brain off is still a great thing. Even better, if you are able to learn to focus on your breathing and get some additional peace of mind or focus, you again get the benefit of a brain reset and a detachment from your work burnout. I use both Peloton and Calm for simple meditation sessions. I even find they are great when sitting at my desk or taking a walk to reset my mind.

5. Non-work conversation — If you can have dinner with family or friends — avoid talk about work. If you don’t have that opportunity, call someone to chat about their day — not yours. Take a break from your own world, you deserve it. You can’t escape your own burnout if you spend all of your time talking about. Strangely, there is something relaxing about hearing of someone’s else’s stress.

Ultimately, all 5 of these steps are opportunities to reset your brain and briefly escape the work at hand. Not everyone can take a 2 week vacation and leave the world behind. But, everyone can take 10–30 minutes at different times in the day to take a mental break.

Also, not every day will allow an escape from burnout, and not every day will be productive. Give yourself a pass on those days and look towards the next day to take a little more care of yourself. Your mind and body will appreciate it, and your work productivity will soar.

What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to help someone they care about reverse burnout?

Have dinner with them, talk about non-work life as noted above. Join then for a walk or hike. Help someone that won’t help themselves take a little break from their stress.

What can employers do to help their staff reverse burnout?

Some employers mandate vacation. It’s a pretty effective tool but an expensive one. Other employers can and should offer gym memberships, discounts on workout apps, etc. A simple solution is to have events outside of the office. A team bowling night, an evening out, anything to take the shift from the daily grind but still build team unity is amazing for helping with burnout. Also, never miss an opportunity to acknowledge someone’s efforts. A small complement from a boss in a team meeting can greatly benefit for that employee who is feeling a little burnt out.

These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?

I do think businesses such as Peloton and Calm are working hard to increase awareness of mental health and how their brands/products can be so helpful. As more employers partner with businesses like these, awareness will further grow.

What are a few of the most common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to reverse burnout in themselves or others? What can they do to avoid those mistakes?

People try to power through burnout — if I work all weekend or all night, I will catch up. In reality, that seldom works and leads to more burnout. A night away, a day at the beach or a hike somewhere far away from computers and cell phones is necessary to recharge the batteries.

You can’t miss deadlines, but know each day what items are critical on your to do list, and for the other items have a clear timeline of when they are needed. You may also find plenty of items over time simply aren’t important and you can just let them go.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

A 10 minute nap during every workday. The power nap is amazing to reset the brain and give a quick boost. Even better is the coffee power nap. Have an espresso and then take your quick nap. As you wake up the caffeine will start to kick in, so it’s a double-win.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

There are so many people I would love to meet, but Richard Branson has always intrigued me. He sees no limits, has tremendous love of life and inspires millions. From records, to airlines, to space travel, all with a smile on his face. I did once have a long sit down with Elon Musk, so it would be so amazing to be able to compare and contrast these two individuals that have literally changed our world.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My website https://inflection360.com as well as https://michaelroub.medium.com/ are both ways to follow articles I have written or to learn more about how I work with businesses and business leaders.

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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