Overview: Instead of rushing to counter the effects of employee burnout, leaders should focus on simply preventing it. To do that, they must show genuine concern, offer proactive help, and encourage employees to observe a healthy work/life balance. Leadership coaching can help leaders prevent burnout in themselves and their reports.
Burnout is an officially recognized, work-related phenomenon that prevents employees and leaders from operating efficiently and sustainably. Burnout is the bane of organizations and leaders everywhere.
Leadership coaching has always preached that intelligent leaders should stop viewing their employees as cogs in a soulless mechanism and start recognizing them as human beings with feelings, abilities, and limitations. Treating employees as humans is a step up from the leadership paradigm of the industrial age, but it’s not enough to prevent burnout.
Burnout can occur for many reasons, and intelligent leaders must do their best to cover all possible bases. Here are five things a leader can learn to do effectively through executive coaching so they can combat burnout and depleted leadership.
1. Finding the Real Problem to Fix
Leaders may assume that if employees are burnt out, something is wrong with them. By contrast, employees are merely the victims of burnout. There is nothing wrong with them, and leaders who try to “fix” employees end up aggravating the problem.
Employees may conclude they’re not resilient enough to withstand burnout. Thus, they’re not suited to continue working for their organizations.
The real problem is the lack of a preventive attitude. To mend the situation, leaders must radically rethink how they work and communicate with employees. Preventing burnout is not a question of ticking a few boxes; it requires an overhaul of attitudes and culture that may involve hundreds of seemingly insignificant, yet ultimately important details.
2. Genuine Concern Trumps Meaningless Check-Ins
Intelligent leaders understand the importance of checking in with employees. Such a routine activity may, however, degenerate into a superficial exercise.
Leaders should develop genuine concern for workers’ well-being and allow this to guide their check-ins. Leaders aren’t therapists, but they should have ideas about how employees are doing. Only by genuinely listening can leaders spot early signs of burnout.
3. Proactive Help Is Meaningful Help
Troubled employees should look to their leaders for help, and these leaders should help them proactively.
A simple “What can I do to help you?” may sound sufficient, but it’s not. Instead of reassuring the suffering party, it may make them feel more helpless and distraught. Proactive help is concrete help.
“Let’s look at the obstacles that bother you and see if we can get them out of the way.”
“Do you feel you need more time off? Let’s talk it over and see what would work for you.”
This approach to offering help goes well beyond a generic “How can I help you?”
4. Flexible Schedules Provide Freedom
During the COVID pandemic, many people started working from home. For many of them, returning to an office was no longer an option, and those that have remained working from home often juggle work, childcare, and taking care of other family members. A flexible work schedule is a breath of fresh air for such people.
Even those who have returned to their offices appreciate the opportunity to come in and leave either earlier or later than others so they can honor commitments outside their work.
5. Work/life Balance Is the Key to Long-Term Well-Being
Intelligent leaders apply the principles of a healthy work/life balance in their lives and careers, and they encourage peers and employees to do the same.
Employees may shun the opportunity to use paid time off for various reasons. Intelligent leaders should make it clear to everyone that by stepping away from work, they increase their productivity. They should expect everyone to take advantage of the time off their organizations offer.
Prioritizing employees and their well-being isn’t just the right thing to do in the context of intelligent leadership; it’s also the only way to prevent burnout and maintain or improve productivity.