How do you know you’re burned out? Five signs & five remedies

The signs can be subtle or so very obvious! More tasks, more demands, fewer resources and greater levels of conflict reduce resilience, and impact far more than on the job performance.
So if you, as a healthcare leader are burned out and stressed to the limit, how can you be patient, deliberate and open minded? How can you demonstrate leadership qualities if you are exhausted? What is the source of your resilience in the face of growing demands? One research study concluded:

“Our findings suggest that interventions to improve LTC staff resilience would be important to pursue and that consideration should be given to resilience in optimizing the match between potential staff members and LTC positions.”

As the flight attendants always say, put your own oxygen mask on before attempting to assist others.
Sign #1 – You are constantly dealing with the alligators, and never the swamp
Tactical minutia not only absorb most of your day, they seem to be the bulk of your job. Your plans to address “employee engagement.” are never engaged because nursing supervisor turnover has created havoc on one of the floors, the Medicaid audit needs your attention and it’s time to renew the pharmacy service contract.
Remedy #1 – Delegate. There’s a reason that Bill Onken’s and Don Wass’ classic Harvard Business Review article, “Who’s Got the Monkey?” is one of the most reprinted pieces in business literature!
Sign #2 – You speak to the same circle of people most days, and the circle seems to be shrinking.
It is a truism that expectations are created by our peers, and if the circle of people you talk with is constantly dwindling, what does that say about your expectations? When you put off talking to another leader from whom you generally draw inspiration, or you postpone or reschedule that webinar you were looking forward to, you are establishing a pattern for both you and those with whom you collaborate.
Remedy #2 – Challenge yourself with new and different people. Find and hold on to a coach who challenges you to expand your circle of contacts. Interview people around you about their backgrounds, dreams and ambitions; you’ll find some amazing stories.
Sign #3 – Your personal presentation/message never changes.
If your colleagues are completing your sentences just as you are about to make a profound point, and if your team seems to know what you’re going to say, even before you say it – they probably do. Predictability is value in our culture and in management, but if you have lost very resiliency to change your message, or to present things differently, it may be time to shake things up.
Remedy #3 –Be absolutely relentless about attending conferences you feel the need to attend or webinars about topics you know only a little about. Use these events to find and keep in touch with people who know more about the topic than you do. And mix it up! Wear something outrageous – red sneakers, a red nose – break the hum-drum to make a point.
Sign #4 – You find yourself frequently talking about, “The good old days.”
Nostalgia is a big industry in the US, and for good reason. The fast pace of change is leaving a large group of baby boomers confused; we are the digital immigrants, and recall when cost +, fee for service reimbursement dominated healthcare. Nothing alienates a group of millennial CNAs faster than a baby boomer talking about the “good old days”.
Remedy #4 – Stop reminiscing (it’s probably only revisionist history, anyhow) and create a future story for yourself, for your team and your center. Stories ignite the imagination.
Sign #5 – You find yourself hiding out, drifting away or bunkering.
There are many ways to avoid the pain of perceived inadequacy and overwhelm. Since we have so much to do, one of the ways to avoid strategic leadership is to immerse yourself into the tactics and the minutia (see Sign #1).
Remedy #5 – Mark time off at least 2 hours once per week of “strategy” time. Take yourself to another part of the center or out of the building entirely. Give yourself an assignment and get cracking on it by starting during the strategy time. It seems a contradiction, but by removing yourself from the usual stimuli, you will be creating a new set of assumptions about time utilization, and by making incremental progress, you will create anticipation and expectation within yourself and your team.

And join us in Bermuda, if you’re able, for the Summer Leadership Conference ( where we will explore these and many other personal and professional development strategies and tactics.