“Put your oxygen mask first before assisting others” – this phrase could be used not only in terms of emergency situations. We should apply it to our lives every day because if we don’t take care of ourselves, if we neglect all our needs, we can’t sustain ourselves for the long run and we can’t succeed with our mission. This important phrase is on the company website of our guest, Davida Ginter, and for a good reason.
Davida is the author of “Burning Out Won’t Get You There”, she’s the CEO of Enkindle Global, a company that helps burnout prevention for organizations. She is also a speaker and a social change catalyzer.
What brought Davida to work with burnouts? There was a seminar a few years ago, the intersection between leadership and social change. She studied sustainability and social-environmental change in Sweden, working with leaders and innovators. Davida noticed that a lot of her colleagues were experiencing this situation of being stressed out and then burnt out. She went to explore the problem. This led her to hold many interviews and conversations and later resulted in publishing her book. From there, it was a very natural way for Davida to gather a team and start the Enkindle Global organization.
Two major causes of burnout are not having trust with the people with who one is working, and broken communication. And a big part of Enkindle’s work is not only to raise awareness but also to explore what are the real causes and therefore, what are the strategic solutions.
When Davida just started to explore burnout, her biggest realization was that this is a cross-cultural, cross-sectoral, worldwide phenomenon. This is not an individual problem but a systemic one and it’s a social pressing issue that could and should be addressed. The conversation should be happening on a public level. But we still have the responsibility on an individual level to a certain degree. The work of tackling the issue of burnouts has two important aspects: there is no one size that fits everyone, and it is crucial to be proactive. There’s a wider agreement now that a leader is not the one with the title. We can be leaders or lead if we are proactive in our own circles. This means that one needs to take responsibility for his/her own stress instead of sitting and waiting for something to happen.
There are many things we can do to help. If we start with individuals, one should be in strong alignment with his/her own values and preferences. That means whenever there’s a gap between what we believe in and what we actually do, we are more prone to burnout. We need to close that gap, we need to aim to be in full alignment with our own values, even if it means shifting our mission where we work. We need to develop our inner compass and stay in alignment with that.
The second area is about building our support systems. We don’t need to go through anything alone. Once Davida has learned to reach out for support and help, she realized it’s not necessarily about reaching out for advice, sometimes it’s just about being heard and seen. Eventually, she felt so much more connected and supported, and this also enabled her to give support to others.
What can leaders who have some managerial positions do to change the environment? Encourage open communication. We need to maintain an open and trustworthy communication channel at all times. Also, the company should support and encourage its staff to develop new directions and interests. When people feel fulfilled on many levels, it makes them more at peace with themselves, which increases well-being and we all win – the organization and system too.
As Davida mentioned before, one of the causes of burnout is when people don’t feel heard or seen. She sees organizations that are known to ask for their staff’s opinion, but then they never follow through with actions based on what they learn. That is what really damages all people’s trust in leaders. Also, mid-managers in organizations often feel stuck between two fires. When a mid-level manager is not receiving backup and support from the organization while being evaluated on their success in supporting their reports, that creates a lot of frustration.
Senior management can view burnout prevention work as a waste of time and energy. They often don’t see how this is a good return on the investment, yet we need to make the entire system care too. This is oftentimes why Davida insists that top management should be an essential part of this process.
Another challenge of the burnout prevention initiatives could be that people feel overwhelmed already. It’s not the idea of overloading them with more work or another zoom call about their stress levels. What helps to really encourage them is to not add too many things to their plate. Davida sees it from her clients once they get clear on their values. It gets so much easier to say “no” to things that don’t serve them. Find a way to help your people work on their values and personal mission, so that they can feel well at work, stay with you longer, be healthy, happy, and contribute to the sustainable success of your company.
Lastly, remember: if there’s one thing that is worse than burnout, it is burnout coupled with guilt. We can always improve and grow, but it starts with acceptance and not judging ourselves or the people around us.
If you want to dive deeper – listen to the whole episode of the Genius Leadership podcast with Davida here.
Stay tuned and be genius!