How to avoid business leadership burnout

Once burnout sets in, you’ll start making bad decisions

David FullerA couple of years ago, I was engaged by a construction company owner who was struggling to take his business to the next level. He was working 60 to 70 hours a week and felt like he was carrying the company on his shoulders.

While he was relieved to hear that his predicament was somewhat typical for his industry, he wanted to change.

There are only so many things that a person can do in a day. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average business leader works 9.7 hours a day and often more than five days a week. Many leaders believe that if they don’t do the work, it won’t get done.

There is a mentality that they need to lead by example and show their staff that they work harder than anyone in the company. The problem with this picture is that it leads business owners, managers, and leaders to burn out.

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Once leadership burnout sets in, entrepreneurs and managers start making unwise decisions. The frustration with the business leads to micromanaging their staff, making decisions without proper forethought and often, a general lack of leadership that tends to paralyze the business.

Unfortunately, during times of economic change, it is critical that business leaders spend the necessary time planning and engaging their team to manage for the future. This starts with developing systems that support decision-making and team engagement. However, the reality is that many business leaders feel isolated in their roles and are unsure of their ability to change in a meaningful way without support.

From my experience, there are several things that business leaders can do that will enable them to find balance in days and reduce the risk of leadership burnout. These include but are not limited to the following:

Engaging your staff in 90-day planning: One of the easiest ways to get tasks off your plate and delegated to staff within your organization is to engage in 90-day planning. The idea is to pick one or two tasks that will have the most impact in the next 90 days and have your team volunteer to be involved in the project. Measurable, meaningful projects that facilitate change for the whole organization not only get your team excited about change but engage them in their work.

Document your systems to ensure that the things you need to be done get done. If you want people to do things the way you want them to when you are unavailable or otherwise focused on your responsibilities, you need to specify how you want those tasks to be done. Documenting your systems one system at a time enables your staff to complete tasks to your satisfaction.

Train your staff and have regular reviews to keep them accountable for their job descriptions and operational systems. It’s great to have systems or processes to follow, but if your team doesn’t understand how to use those systems, you have a problem. Training your staff to follow the steps in your process will reduce your stress.

Hire better people than yourself. Sometimes business owners are intimidated by people who are better than them. Great leaders draw people around them that have skills that are better than theirs so that they can focus on leadership. Small business owners are leaders. Start acting like one!

Take a holiday. Yes, get away from your business and take a break! On your return, note what was done and what fires needed to be put out. What is on your desk? These are the tasks that you need more systems in place to take care of, which will reduce your need to micromanage in the future.

Make a list: Having a list makes a difference. If you can write down the tasks you need to take care of the next day and do this before the end of the workday or the night before, you will get better results. It has been proven that business owners who make lists are more effective and have less stress.

Leadership can be overwhelming and lead to burnout if you are trying to do it by yourself without the proper systems and team engagement. The construction owner who engaged us developed systems and a team that enabled him to work less, make more money, and overcome his burnout.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner with Pivotleader Inc.

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