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How to Combat Burnout: Why Leadership Coaching is Important

by | Retention & Engagement

Senior leaders at the helm of organizations across North America are stressed and overworked. They’ve been managing teams while navigating near-constant change since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are at high risk of burnout.

Many are considering leaving their leadership roles entirely. Nearly 70% of the leaders asked in a recent survey are considering quitting, according to Deloitte.

The significance of employee retention in tough economic times can’t be overstated. Few companies can afford to lose their best people to the competition, and certainly don’t want to be hurting for talent when business turns around.

Beyond the impact on people and workplaces, there could also be significant consequences for the economy if organizations fail to address the realities of what will happen when senior leaders burn out of the workforce, reports the Toronto Star.

Exploring how your leaders have been coping these past few years might help underscore why leadership coaching is essential in challenging times. In times of uncertainty, taking care of your senior leaders can greatly impact your succession planning and employee retention.

Senior leaders are at high risk of burnout. Let’s look at what organizations can do to retain these key people and combat C-suite burnout.

Why are leaders so burnt out?

Good leaders have had to balance multiple priorities during exceptionally challenging circumstances over the past few years. Even the most capable leaders have felt pulled in many directions as they worried about meeting deadlines and revenue targets while caring for everyone on their teams.

The pandemic changed how and where we work, as well as how we lead teams. Some may be new to hybrid or remote work structures, and others may need more training to offer the support their employees need.

These changes to how we work are contributing factors to senior leader burnout. Eighty-five percent of leaders surveyed say the shift to hybrid work has also made it challenging for them to have confidence in employee productivity, according to Microsoft.

These C-suite executives also struggled the most when it came to adapting to working virtually, with 85% experiencing significant remote work challenges, according to a study from Oracle.

A recession looming over the country has only exacerbated the strain and worry these leaders feel. They’re trying to be effective in a changing landscape while dealing with rising inflation and hiring challenges.

What happens when executives burn out?

Senior leadership burnout can affect organizations in serious ways. Some leaders may leave their roles entirely, but others may stay, negatively impacting their teams through demeanour or actions. Organizations need to recognize the significance of employee retention and its connection to burnout at every level.

When senior leaders are experiencing burnout, they may inadvertently create workplaces that feel toxic to workers, triggering others to quit. Stress can quite literally “cascade through the organizational levels,” according to a recent report from McKinsey on harmful workplace behaviour and employee burnout.

These senior executives may engage in quiet quitting, inadvertently mistreat their teams, or underperform in their roles. The combined pressure of not meeting targets while feeling alone and isolated can also increase the likelihood of mental health issues, driving up associated costs.

Signs of executive burnout

Knowing the signs of burnout is critical so you can more readily identify if you or a senior leader on your team are burning out. In addition, early intervention can help change the trajectory of a leader struggling with stress and overwork, and mitigate the negative impact on their teams.

Here are a few signs to watch for:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Reduced productivity
  • A feeling of “running on empty”
  • New feelings of anxiety or depression
  • Growing resentment toward work
  • Pessimism about the future or impact of their role or the organization
  • Uncharacteristic impatience or outbursts
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling detached from team members
  • Headaches
  • Change in social interactions or connections at work
  • Lingering mental or physical fatigue

What to do if you or one of your leaders is burnt out

Intervening when you see someone burning out (or recognizing the signs in yourself) can help limit the negative impacts of burnout. Burnout is a serious issue, and its effects can be contagious on your team, according to Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Here are a few steps you or your leadership team can take to help identify and reduce burnout:

1. Recognize the problem

The first step is accurately diagnosing burnout, now considered a legitimate medical diagnosis relevant to employment or unemployment by the World Health Organization.

Noticing the signs above may be the first step toward getting you or someone else the help they need. A medical professional can rule out other possibilities and help confirm that burnout should be taken seriously.

2. Take breaks

Leaders who suffer from burnout are often overworked and stressed, but don’t take the breaks required to return to work refreshed. Resting as needed can help reduce overwhelm and pressure.

While it often seems counterintuitive to rest when busy, a break is often more valuable than pushing through a lack of focus or feelings of exhaustion.

3. Set up systems in work and life

When leaders start burning out, they often demonstrate lower motivation and capacity to handle the challenges they’re facing at home and work. Inefficiencies only worsen the problem, as leaders expend more energy without positive outcomes.

Creating systems to direct efforts properly can help leaders gain back energy. When they can prioritize their time to maximize impact, their efficacy increases across the board.

4. Lead without micromanaging

Leaders often try to control outcomes by staying involved in every task and project their teams are working on. But, unfortunately, this doesn’t help them lead more effectively. Instead, it simply fills their days with busy work, adding to their exhaustion and frustration.

Letting go of the tendency to micromanage can help increase the capacity of everyone on the team and is another reason why leadership coaching is important. Leaders can have a more profound impact by coaching their teams to perform at their best, increasing capacity through the levels of the organization.

Talented leaders are the foundation of succession planning and employee retention across an organization—and they are not easy to replace. However, these steps can help you recognize when burnout is building in your executive team, and create better habits that allow leaders to invest their time and energy into the right things.

You can also develop a healthier workplace culture by opening the conversation about burnout, according to HBR. With these insights and well-timed leadership coaching for executives on your team, you can reduce the likelihood of your senior leaders quietly struggling in their roles.

Preventing burnout and keeping your best leaders engaged is an excellent way to retain your top performers during challenging times. These benefits trickle down through every level of your organization, helping you keep your existing teams intact and attract new hires when you’re ready to grow.

Why leadership coaching is important to combat burnout

Burnout is a costly issue for organizations, which is why leadership coaching is important to keep your best leaders engaged and effective at work. Developing coach-like leaders on your team can help prevent burnout in senior leaders and employees through organizational levels.

First, equipping leaders with coaching skills can help them stop micromanaging and doing too much of other people’s work. These skills help create an “ask, don’t tell” leadership dynamic where teams are asked to contribute to solutions. And last, leadership coaching for executives empowers them to hold people capable in their roles.

A shift to a more coach-like leadership style can help leaders make the most of the time they have with their teams, focusing more on frequent communication and asking questions that lead team members to solutions.

Want to protect your senior leaders from burnout? Book a discovery call with me today to discuss how building coach-like leaders on your team can keep your best people in these critical roles.


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