Team Captain Mindset, Avoiding Burnout When You Love Your Role, and More
Bring Ambition Newsletter - May 19, 2022
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The Bring Ambition Newsletter is like having a personal executive coach in your inbox every other Thursday. You’ll receive 3-5 quick bulletpoints (~3 min. read) related to professional development, peak performance psychology, leadership, learning, productivity, and much more.
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1.) Management 101: You are now “Team Captain”
I ran four management workshops this week, so managerial skills are top of mind for me at the moment. Here’s a lesson that tends to resonate with many leaders, especially new managers:
You’ve moved from an “individual contributor” to a management role, but chances are you’re still individually accountable for a ton of work. Fewer organizations these days have pure “middle managers,” employees who merely supervise performance and triage issues. You shouldn’t think of yourself purely as a “manager.”
Instead, the role is more like being a Team Captain. Just like a Team Captain in sports, you’re not only playing your role on the field, you’re looking after your teammates in real-time. You’re responsible for the productivity and development of your team, in addition to your own performance, growth, and output. That means:
Keeping them engaged and aligned, and uncovering what individually motivates each team member
Developing and coaching them by offering advice and feedback
Helping set expectations and goals
Tactfully influencing them rather than relying on power dynamics
Getting in the weeds and working alongside your team as needed, but “zooming out” and taking a more high-level view of the landscape more frequently
Being a role model in how you perform, demonstrating the behaviors and attitudes you would want your team to adopt
Becoming a leader worth following, irrespective of your position
Driving results collectively and showing recognition for great work, but taking “extreme ownership,” even when output is subpar
Empowering your team members and delegating work to free yourself up for more high-impact, strategic activities
The Team Captain mindset can help you make better decisions around how you manage and behave toward your team. At the end of the day, your team’s performance - not purely your own - decides whether you succeed or fail.
2.) How to avoid burnout when you love your role
If you’re passionate about your job, it can feel like a blessing and a curse. On one hand, the work “fills your cup” — it capitalizes on your talents, continually interests you, and rewards you on a deep level. But it’s a double-edged sword. The same passion that makes you excellent can cause you to overcommit and exhaust yourself. So how do you avoid burnout when you love your role? This research explores the conundrum.
Sure, this is a nice problem to have - and one I can relate to - but it’s a problem nonetheless. Because it’s uncommon, we don’t fully appreciate the risks associated with being uber-passionate about our work, and thus we’re less likely to implement strategies to mitigate them.
According to the researchers, when we love our role we may fall into “obsessive” passion — constantly working, failing to set boundaries, being “always on,” and pushing the envelope. In the process, we crush it in our day-to-day, but we risk apathy, unnecessary conflict, and burnout.
These findings are counterintuitive. Burnout research has long argued that passion for our work prevents potential burnout, but this metanalysis demonstrates that the relationship between wellbeing and passion is more nuanced. Obsessive burnout operates in two dimensions: first, it causes conflict between our work and personal lives. Second, it actually prevents us from experiencing true satisfaction from our work.
Instead, the researchers argue that we should pursue “harmonious” passion, which promotes work satisfaction and decreases the likelihood of conflict, disengagement, and burnout. It sounds nice, but how do we do it? Here are a few strategies I would suggest based on research, my coaching experience, and my own personal experience:
Raise awareness. Understand that the possibility of burnout is very real even if you are passionate about your work. Knowing is half the battle.
Identify what satisfies vs drains you in your work. Prioritize the former, and for the latter, reduce their frequency, delegate them, settle for “good enough” rather than perfection, or eliminate them entirely.
Find unrelated hobbies. “Obsessive” passion naturally motivates us to find hobbies that overlap with our professional lives. “Harmonious” passion requires a marked separation between what you do for work and what you do outside of it. I’ve practiced Muay Thai on and off for several years, and in many aspects it is the polar opposite of what I do for a living. But counterintuitively, that is exactly why it helps inoculate me against burnout. It requires a totally different mindset and skillset. It gets me out of my comfort zone and forces me to tap on capabilities I would never get to explore or use in my professional life.
Be communicative with your manager or stakeholders. Let them know that as much as you enjoy your work, you need to occasionally disconnect. This type of recovery is critical to your ability to perform long-term. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint.
Disconnect. “Obsessive” passion will drive you to continue working, learning, and driving results compulsively, even when you know you need to take a break. Implement strategies to force yourself to disconnect - leave your phone in another room, set an email-free window during the day, block time in your calendar to disconnect. I attended a panel yesterday where someone wisely suggested taking a vacation before you think you need to. Give yourself permission to disconnect.
Practice strategic gratitude. Because “obsessive” passion actually decreases the likelihood that our work satisfies us, we can spend time re-connecting with the “why” behind what we do. On a recurring basis, journal or reflect on what you are grateful for about your work, or why it is fulfilling. Don’t lose sight of your underlying “mission.”
For those of us fortunate to encounter this issue, hopefully these tactics help you perform sustainably and avoid burnout. Anything I didn’t cover? Have any of your own strategies? I would love to hear your thoughts.
3.) Quote of the week
“People are not looking for the meaning of life, they are looking for the feeling of being alive.” - Joseph Campbell
4.) Recent reads
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. This earned a spot in my all-time top 10 list. The authors, brothers Chip and Dan Heath, explore how to communicate your ideas so they are as compelling and “sticky” as possible, and provide a simple, six step recipe. This is a must-have for teachers, facilitators, and anyone who wants their messages to resonate with others.
Casino Royale. The book that started it all. I’ve written extensively about Ian Fleming, and this is the title that made him a star novelist, and his character James Bond a household name. Here is a free (!) audiobook version narrated by Robert Whitfield which I highly recommend. Years ago, Whitfield’s narration got me through countless dreadfully boring workdays at a machine shop (check out my link above for more on that topic).
Thanks for reading this week’s newsletter! I’d love to hear your feedback — reply here or reach me via the links below.
Have a great weekend!
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