Coaching Article – The Dangers of Increased Performance and Team Burnout

By Lee Ellis

I just want to yell out, “Okay, I got it! Enough is enough.” Most of us are worn out from hearing how quarantine from the COVID crisis has thrown a monkey-wrench in our lives—both at home and at work. But the Gallup report that I received this week was so surprising it grabbed my attention.

A Surprising Performance

When COVID hit a year ago and we quarantined at home to work virtually, many corporate leaders were very concerned that productivity would go down. That just made sense, didn’t it? People hanging out at home would get distracted. Accountability would also go down since we weren’t working face-to-face, putting work performance in jeopardy.

Yet by Fall 2020, the evidence was somewhat the opposite—for many companies, productivity went up. Some of my clients had their best year ever—with all their folks working from home. Who would have thought?

Historically, engaged employees produce at a higher level. Now Gallup’s employee engagement surveys serve as a report card on people’s commitment to work—employee engagement went up. Based on my past behavioral leadership coaching work, I’m betting that results-oriented leaders were shocked to see this happen. We were all surprised.

Watch my brief coaching clip on achieving better work-life balance, and then continue reading below –

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The Abnormal Outcome Revealed

Many companies are already planning to reduce the demand for people to come to the office, and many will be allowed to work from home permanently. But Gallup’s research also showed a disturbing abnormal outcome:

  • Based on normal historical data when engagement goes up, well-being also increases—the two seem to feed off each other.
  • However, the new Gallup survey data shows while engagement went up in 2020, well-being decreased.

The other shoe fell and brought us a new potential problem—Burnout. The Gallup Wellbeing survey focuses mainly on stress and worry, and as those increased, well-being went down. Here are a couple of quick statistics from the Gallup Report:

It’s logical that when stress and worry go up, our sense of well-being goes down. Sudden life changes that crash our established habit patterns, bringing fears of the unknown, and fears for family health always bring stress and worry. Add to that limited social life, cancelled vacations, riots and racial strife, and the continual negative emotional political rhetoric of the 2020 election, and it’s easy to see why and how worry and stress impacted our lives.

What is the Toll?

As Gallup points out, it’s usually burnout.

“Our adrenalin and commitment responses as leaders can carry us for a while during an emergency, but we can only run at full throttle for so long. If continued over time, burnout comes much like night follows the day.” [Tweet This]

So, let’s ask two honest questions as honorable leaders:

  1. How am I doing personally? Have I also been a casualty of stress and worry and become out of balance?
  2. How are my people doing? And, how can I use my influence to help them take the foot off the gas and return to a healthier work-life balance—hopefully before burnout hits?

Whether you’re naturally a results-focused leader or a relationship-focused leader, it’s a good time to use of the 4C’s of the Courageous Accountability Modelto guide your discovery process:

1. Clarify. Pause to think it through and then do you own analysis of the wellbeing of your team. Is their performance high? And conversely, how is their level of stress and worry? Clarify these questions as a leader and then share your expectations with them regarding work-life balance.

2. Connect. We always talk about two kinds of connecting –

  • Connect based on natural DNA (talents and personality). We’re all unique, so great leaders communicate and manage people based on their uniqueness.
  • Then connect with their hearts. Every person wants to feel valued, worthy, and significant. Receiving that message from you is going to lift their spirits, increase positive energy, and bring greater confidence. You could consider these as antidotes to stress and worry.

3. Collaborate. The stresses of quarantine and working at home are new territory. Consider having some good discussions with your team on the key stressors and ask them to share their ideas and experience. What are they doing to cope? What’s working? Problem solving by sharing and collaboration in community can be very powerful for helping people feel more grounded.

Fighting these battles alone is not good. Our nation’s warriors—especially fighter pilots, Green Berets, Navy SEALS, and police and fire departments—know that it’s never good to fight alone.

4. Closeout. Closing out this process by formulating a plan of action should result in one or both of the following –

  • Celebrate. Don’t ignore the great success your team and individuals have had. Be intentional about celebrating. Celebrating lifts spirits and creates positive emotions that will energize people to problem solve and fight the other battles coming at them.
  • Confront. Often, it’s good to confront yourself about your own work life balance. Like emergency use of oxygen on an airliner, put the mask on yourself first so that you can help others. And, even in these difficult times, it may be necessary to confront the small percentage of folks who are not carrying their load. Find out why they are underperforming, coach them and hold them accountable.

So, leaders, we know that you have come through a lot and many of you have had great success, but let’s use these survey insights from Gallup as a motivator to survey the landscape of our people. Let’s assume that stress and worry are present and proactively work to avoid burnout. Otherwise, that engagement and performance curve is likely to come crashing down.

LE [Tweet This Article]

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Where the Courageous Accountability Model Start?

From his early experiences as an Air Force jet fighter pilot and POW in the prison camps of Vietnam to an award-winning author, presenter, and leadership consultant, Lee Ellis shares his concerns about the lack of accountability in our culture and how you can apply a positive, proven accountability model to get better results as a leader.

Read his award-winning book, Engage with Honor, to practically add value in your leadership and the team that you lead.

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