How to lead when there’s nothing left

How to lead when there’s nothing left

How to lead when there’s nothing left

It was a sleepless “oven pizza box” night for the management team. Jesse, the CEO, left the meeting exhausted. Still.

When the company was a start-up, Jesse was full of life and inspired everyone to do their best at work every day. Now he had nothing left to give (except occasional tantrums). And yet, the company desperately needed his leadership because it had huge deals in the pipeline. Still.

Tired, undermined, running on fumes. Knackered, patted, toast. Choose your word, they all mean you’re exhausted. The short-term solution requires immediate, compassionate self-care coupled with very explicit communications that effectively manage expectations. The longer term solution is going deeper into your organizational culture and choosing to lead with love.

6 ways to deal with exhaustion

  1. Sort and process, now. Accept that your level of exhaustion needs urgent attention (don’t need a heart attack to take action!). Start by listing five things that instantly fill you up, for example music, nature, massages, sleep, etc. Commit now to altering your schedule for this week and next week to make time for these rejuvenating activities. Plan them. Cancel anything that is not absolutely essential, saying that you have a personal health problem that requires your attention. (You can explain later; or not).

  2. Communicate very clearly. Let your team know that you pushed too hard and need a break now. Don’t add drama, just state the simple truth. Reassure them that you will continue to take care of the most pressing matters and expect to be back at the top of your game. And that you see that some things have to change so that everyone can be healthy and perform at their best in the long term.

  3. What is the reward? Ask yourself what psychological benefit you derive from being so busy that you constantly neglect your own well-being. Ask what you might fear if you slowed down. Ask your team these questions too. Then think about other, healthier ways to meet those same needs.

  4. Explore the alternatives. Take five minutes to allow yourself to imagine different ways of being a leader that are both productive and sustainable. Really see it, see you soon. If objections or resistance arise, simply take note of them and continue to consider positive alternatives.

  5. Go for a deeper change. Once you have regained energy, paint a mental picture of how you will lead the future. Consider yourself to be both highly efficient and motivated, and extremely healthy and balanced. Now consider the three things that need to change in your organizational culture to support this vision.

  6. Be a leader driven by love. Discover how and why you can lead with love to optimize the well-being and performance of your organization, which will also promote your well-being. Consider implementing the love-based Amare Way business framework which you can read here.

You know the flight attendant’s announcement to put on your oxygen mask first so you can take care of others? The same principle applies here. Don’t allow yourself to burn out or stay burnt out. Be good to yourself so you can tap into your greatness to fuel the long-term success of your business. It is a very profitable act of love.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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