Register: Battling Burnout & Building Resiliency Webinar - 3/31 @ 12pm PST
Burnout has become quite the buzzword recently. The more I hear it, the more I begin to tune it out. I’m burned out on the word burnout. However, after a recent Harvard business survey said 89% of respondents said their work life was getting worse, it reinvigorated my search for ways to offer hope to those affected.
The flood of common answers we’ve all heard on coping with burnout didn’t really provide sustainable remedies: “take better care of ourselves”, “take better care of our teams”, “be more mindful”, “get more sleep”. All true things, but not exactly the resolution I was hoping for.
For me, it all sounded a little mechanical—like if we could just bring ourselves to do these things, we’d get back to normal—a return to feeling purposeful and hopeful for the future.
Eventually, I came to realize that the secret weapon—and the ultimate beacon of hope—is energy. Not fake energy, like plastering more smiles on our faces and consuming mass quantities of caffeine before meetings. I was looking for the source of the real, authentic energy that ignites our passion and transforms us into beacons of hope for others.
So, if energy is the solution, how do we create it?
Seeking inspiration, I revisited the cultural tenets of the Propeller Manifesto—eight core principles that help guide our work and inform our everyday decisions. At that moment, one stood out among the others:
I knew there was more to “Harness Grit” than just digging deeper. The two critical components of grit are passion and perseverance. Passion comes from intrinsic interest in your craft and from a sense of purpose—the conviction that your work is meaningful and helps others. Perseverance takes the form of resilience in the face of adversity as well as unwavering devotion to continuous improvement.
Cultivating grit is a process that takes attention, intention, and courage. It’s more than just powering through; it’s about changing our mindset. With this realization, I started formalizing some tactical steps anyone could take to create energy and grit—even renew that lost drive and sense of focus:
1. Focus on what we can control, take inventory of what we can’t
Clearly distinguishing between the known and unknown shifts the attention from fear and helplessness to problem solving and self-improvement. It seems like such a simple thing, but it enables us to reframe and start our journey towards hope. When I finally took my own advice and tried this myself, I made two critical observations:
- I control way more of my environment and day to day than I thought
- A thoughtful review of my actions led to some pretty significant well-being increases (like remembering to eat lunch)
2. Celebrate successes in an intentional and reflective way
In an environment of external stress, it’s hard to feel successful or remember the successes we’ve had in the past. Reflecting on our own past successes and highlighting the success of others is one of the best ways to remind ourselves that we are accomplishing good work now and will accomplish more good work in the future.
One way we do this for others internally at Propeller is through a #kudos Slack channel. This allows us to share stories and observations where we call out great work by our teammates, stories where we observed exceptional service, like leaning in to support someone on another team or project or serving the community. It’s set up in a way that enables us to highlight the individuals, even utilize animated emojis that tie it all back to the eight tenets of the Propeller Manifesto.
Simple applications like this make it easier to proactively look for and authentically acknowledge and celebrate the successes of others, which always ignites energy for everyone involved.
3. Seek inspiration by being curious
Curiosity activates our growth mindset, invites learning, and promotes collaboration. Finding inspiration and purpose is a truly personal journey for each of us and there’s certainly no magic bullet. Anchoring on the word “seek” helps remind us that the world is larger than the four walls we’ve all become all too familiar with this year.
Personally, I started by incorporating seasonal icebreakers into all of my meetings (even with people I know) to survey what people are learning, reading, watching, and doing. Exploring possible sources of new inspiration gives us energy. We might discover something new that brings us joy or connects us more deeply with others through our shared virtual experience. For example, this last fall, I learned one of my colleagues hiked 160 miles in 8 days!
4. Find opportunities to generate a meaningful dialogue
Social snacking (the process of providing quick high-level updates on how things are going in our lives) saps our energy. Be cognizant of how the small talk of your meetings and conversations begins. If you’re finding a lot of high-level negative updates (which are totally understandable given our environment), reframe the conversation at whatever level of influence you can. Personally, if I’m the owner of a meeting, I try to reframe the set-up by infusing things like show-and-tell or live surveys and polls. Asking people about something they’re proud of or looking forward to is a great way to quickly shift away from negative thinking. Don’t underestimate the energy you can build in yourself and others by driving participation (even when remote).
5. Be a beacon of hope and energy
Energy is infectious and wildly powerful. We need to ensure that we’re caring for ourselves, managing our own personal wellbeing, and being our authentic selves. I gained so much energy from going into our physical office and seeing my coworkers, that it took me a while to recognize the big void that left in my life. Our virtual environment has removed the ease of casual conversation, but the good news is that structured communication does not have to be formal. We need to break through this mental barrier and ask for a quick review, or send a quick message, or ask for a favor. Even the process of planning will build energy and familiarity.
Right now, we all have an opportunity to pause and assess what might be causing us to feel low-energy or burnout, then consider and begin practicing new ways of restoring stamina and balance. Performing this reality check and intentionally making small changes, can help bring back that familiar “gritty purpose” that energizes us and helps us inspire others.
Think of small action steps that foster purpose and connection. Be the initiator. Not only will we strengthen our work teams, but we’ll be delivering a deeper, more sustained value to our clients, customers, and everyone around us.
Be sure to check out our Battling Burnout Webinar for a deeper dive into this topic. I unpack more tactical examples to help evaluate your current state and its complexities, build momentum, ignite energy, and most importantly, serve as a beacon of hope for everyone around us.