Burnout Stops with Self-Care

“Employers need to be mindful of the pace of work demanded from their teams and the impact on the teams’ effectiveness,” said Dr. Millard Brown, senior vice president of medical affairs at Spring Health and a practicing psychiatrist by training, in an interview with me. “There are times when a hard push is necessary. Leaders need to balance the hard push times with other times to take a breath and catch up.”

Self-care for leaders sets the right example. “Leaders should actively encourage self-care by team members and lead by example,” Brown said. “Keep an eye out for employees who demonstrate a change in work engagement and proactively seek to understand and support any concerns.”

The problem with burnout is that it feeds on itself, particularly in crisis times, such as we are living in now. “Most of us likely need to spend more time with self-care, as we are often harder on ourselves than we are on those around us,” Brown said. “As burnout takes hold, we tend to neglect our self-care further.”

Company intervention

Companies can help prevent burnout from occuring. The challenge is to act promptly and proactively. “Once an employee reaches the complete burnout stage,” said Brown in the news release, “recovery can become a challenging and long-term process that significantly disrupts both the employee’s life and the organization’s efficacy.”

There should be no shame in burnout. “Do not judge me by my successes,” said Nelson Mandela. “Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” The ability to rise again is a form of resilience.

Getting back up again is not easy. It takes two forms of courage. One, to recognize that you are not as strong as you thought you are. Two, you are stronger than you think you are. This approach is not a mind game. Recognize we all have shortcomings, and by acknowledging them, you can forge a path forward.

Adapted from my post for SmartBrief.com 12/18/2020

Going Back to the Office

Louis Carter and David Burkus, two colleagues of mine from Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches, have written about going back to the office. I quote them and their work in this new article for SmartBrief.

Here is an excerpt.

There is always a tension between the wishes of management and what employees are willing to do. The challenge is for those in authority to provide a means for employees to achieve the mission by following the organization’s strategic direction.

One such issue arising and worth of study right now, even before it happens, is the workplace’s future. According to a new survey by the Best Practice Institute (BPI), 83% of CEOs want their employees to come to work back in the office. Only 10% of employees are interested. Of those who responded, safety was the prime concern. “Over 60% of employees responded they wouldn’t be comfortable returning without trusting the company’s confidence in communicating co-worker illness, clear instructions on health and safety policies, and the option to work from home.”

Management wants a physical presence

Louis Carter, CEO of BPI, told me in an interview. “Research shows that any change, especially during a highly volatile time, will most likely cause a great deal of stress. People are already very concerned about their health and catching COVID (and rightly so), and going into work present a huge amount of potential for additional stress. Those who did indicate they would come into work gave us clear expectations of what they needed to make it easier for them to come back to work.”

David Burkus, Ph.D., organizational psychologist and author of Leading from Anywhere: The Essential Guide to Managing Remote Teams, says it is necessary “to recognize that it’s about way more than just where people work from during normal business hours. People had the opportunity to rework when and how they do their work as well. So even those who want to return to the office are unlikely to want to return for the standard, Monday to Friday from 9 to 5. There’s no way around a need for flexibility, so the best thing you can do is recognize that it’s not a binary choice. Most people will end up choosing a little bit of time at the office and a little bit of time at home. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s probably better.”

Read the full article first posted on SmartBrief 2/19/2021

Hymn to Inspire

I am seated at the piano because I am remembering my grandmother. She was a gifted piano player. She also taught music and played in her church.

Every morning before my grandfather went to work, she would sit down and play songs. And he would sing along. It was a great way for both to begin their day.

Part of my practice routine is playing hymns. While I was raised in a faith-based tradition, but I am not observant these days. But I do find comfort and solace in the hymns. They are timeless.

They also have an energy about them that gets us motivated.

And so today I want to play a hymn called “Eternal Father, Strong to Save.”

When Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met off the shore of Canada in summer of 1940, United States had not yet entered the War. Amid the talks, they found time to hold a Sunday service on the deck of a British warship.

“Eternal Father, Strong to Save” was one of the hymns that was played. It was a favorite of Churchill, but also of Roosevelt. I know such a hymn gave these statesmen solace just as it does us.

First posted on LinkedIn newsletter 2/28/2021

Love = Respect

There’s a famous quote from the grizzled football coach Vince Lombardi.

“I don’t necessarily have to like my players and associates. But as their leader, I must love them. Love is loyalty. Love is teamwork. Love respects the dignity of the individual. This is the strength of any organization.”

Love is important.

Vince talks about it from an organizational standpoint, and from a people standpoint.

It’s about respect.

And when you show respect to people, you demonstrate that you care about them

And in return, they will show you loyalty.

Not because they have to, but because they want to.

Because you know what?

They will love you in return.

First posted on LinkedIn 2/14/2021

Experience + Engagement = Virtual Success

Do you miss hearing live speakers?

Well, of course you do.

There’s the crowd.

There’s the adrenaline.

There’s the energy.

I miss it, too.

But virtual presentations can achieve some of the same effect, including energy.

A successful virtual presentation must have two things.

The first thing is to create an experience… something memorable.

Make your presentation actionable.

Give people things to think about when they go back to the workplace.

You also have to capture interest, which we call engagement.

You speak in shorter segments… five, six, seven minutes.

Create exercises, poll questions…

Things like that to get the audience and keep them engaged.

Experience and Engagement.

What a Friend Taught Me about Listening

The other day a colleague of mine, commenting on a short video I did on the topic of trust, noted that I had not mentioned listening. And so he made a list of things necessary to improve listening and communicating.

My friend, who asked that I not use his name, has shared these thoughts with the young leaders he mentored and coached. And he has graciously allowed me to share them here.

Keep your word.  If you say you are going to do something, do it. 

Listen well.  Genuinely listen. Ask questions that allow others to know you’re listening. 

Don’t speak over people. Don’t finish their sentences for them. Good eye contact is helpful, and important. 

Maintain confidentiality, when appropriate and for sure when asked. 

When needed, roll up your sleeves and join the task to help. 

Ask your people what they think and why. Do it often. 

When you disagree, argue the facts, not the personality.

Do not criticize your direct reports in public. Do it in private. 

Support members of your team. Have their backs, especially when they are in a tight spot. Support does not confer agreement. 

Likely you have heard many of these before, but it’s always good to be reminded of how we can become more attentive listeners. “There is perhaps no greater gift you can give to another person,” goes the saying, “than by paying attention and let them know they are being heard.”

Listening is an investment in another person. It is a sign of respect. Doing it regularly and with kindness demonstrates that you value the contributions of others.

First posted on LinkedIn 2/07/2021

Martin Lindstrom: Minister of Common Sense

You don’t just read Martin Lindstrom, you laugh with Martin Lindstrom.

Here’s his new book The Ministry of Common Sense: How to Eliminate Bureaucratic Red Tape, Bad Excuses and Corporate B.S.

Let me give you a little taste.

Have you ever gotten locked out of your computer while you’re at work?

Well, the good news is, according to IT, is that support is available on the website.

Or how about this one?

Big box retailers pride themselves on stocking common merchandise.

Well, why is it that one big box retailer puts snow removal equipment in Florida?

A lack of common sense, I would think.

“The Ministry of Common Sense” is about those foibles that keep good companies from being even better.

It’s a good look at human nature.

And no surprise, because Martin is a student of human nature.

He’s studied more than 3,000 people in customer interactions to find out their behavior.

But Martin, above all, has a deep love for all of us as people.

And this book “The Ministry of Common Sense” talks about how we can get better if we think more clearly.

It’s a good read. It’s enjoyable.

It will tell you a lot about yourself… and show you a way you can get even better.


Here’s a link to my most recent interview with Martin on my LinkedIn Live show.

GRACE under pressure: John Baldoni with Martin Lindstrom

Golf in a Time of Pandemic

The other day I may have played my last day of golf for the season. Here in Michigan, snow is in the forecast for the coming days. Soon our course will be hard frozen and covered in snow. Another season over.

I usually would not write about my playing golf. Even on my best days, my game is nothing to cheer about. But these are not the best of days. These are the worst of days. The pandemic has upended all of our lives. And so, golf has offered my playing partners and me moments of solace.

Most of my golf buddies are retired. They have missed vacations as well as visits with children and worse with grandchildren. We live now in isolation, apart from loved ones as well as friends.

Getting out on the course is a refuge. We mask up on the №1 tee box, but once we’re out on the course, we keep socially distant, and so masks are not necessary. For the next few hours, we can revert to the banter that sustains us, laughing and joking at one another’s mishits as well as praising the good shots or long putts that one or more of us make.

This year for me has been different. I did not play in our league, something I truly missed. I did not feel comfortable in overly congregant settings, even on a golf course. Hardly a sacrifice, but it was a loss of something, the community of men at play.

Uncertain tomorrows

Writing about golf in a time of plague and uncertainty seems almost supercilious. Millions and millions more have truly lost part of themselves. So many have suffered, and so many have died. Golf is inconsequential.

Yet golf for me, and for my pals, has been a refuge. A return to presumed normalcy that we know is no longer there. Our course is located across the street from what’s known as the Big House. Weekly during the season, it boasts the largest crowds to watch a football game. Not this year. Games have been played, miserably, but played nonetheless in front of empty seats. Eerie yet fitting.

My friend, author Chester Elton, regularly posts pictures of things he’s grateful for and asks us to chime in. Golf with friends has been a particular joy this year. The camaraderie and good cheer (some liquid even) have meant much to me. It has been an affirmation that despite the world turned upside down, somethings have remained “green side up.” And I am grateful.

Maybe I will go out a time or two in December. (We in Michigan play when it is 40 degrees.) Yet emotionally, the time spent on the course for 2020 seems over. And it may be the only thing I miss about this wretched year.

First posted on Medium.com 12/6/2020

VIDEO: You Ain’t As Smart As You Think You Are

Overconfidence strikes all of us at one time or another.

Multiple studies of managers show that a majority of managers overestimate their own ability to perform. And, as a result, they might be capable to getting themselves and their teams into trouble.

Psychologists call this the “overconfidence effect.”

According to the author Rolf Dobeliwriting in Psychology Today, the overconfidence effect “measures the difference between what people really know and what they think they know.”

Dobeli, who wrote “The Art of Thinking Clearly,” advises, “Be aware that you tend to overestimate your knowledge.”

For managers, it means to be on guard. You can do so in three ways.

  1. Question assumptions. Look for what is propping up your arguments. Is it valid? Has it been tested by others?
  2. Look for skeptics. Surround yourself with people who will disagree with you. Make it safe for them to push back. Challenge them to examine your assumptions.
  3. Ask for feedback. Invite people to let you know how you are doing. Encourage them to be specific. Good managers create feedback loops where there is continuous discussion about what happened, is happening and will happen next.

Overconfidence may be part of management today but savvy managers are those to keep it in check.

First posted on SmartBrief.com 4/19/2019

VIDEO: Make Your Attitude One of Gratitude

Gratitude is the grease that makes working with others easier; it dampens the sparks that occur when co-workers rub each other the wrong way.

Gratitude comes in two parts: external and internal.

Let’s take external because I think it is the easier of the two to master. Why? Because it is action-oriented.

Show direct and frank appreciation. Make it known how much you value an individual’s contributions. Be as specific as possible. Delineate what the individual has done to receive a thank you and tell him or her how much their work is appreciated. Simple words certainly, but they go a long way. All of us cherish moments of authentic recognition.

The second part of gratitude may be trickier to master because it deals with our inner selves.

Gratitude is the recognition that you have something to offer the world and the world has something to offer you. Gratitude is the capacity to care.

From that recognition comes the thanks you need to be grateful — for who you are and what you have.

First posted on SmartBrief.com on 3/15/2019