295: Assessing Burnout As a Leader

18 Minutes Read

Do you ever feel stuck in fire-fighting mode in your business? Or like the feeling of overwhelm is a too-frequent companion?

These may be early signs of burnout. 

And if you've listened to this podcast for a while, you've probably heard Erin's burnout story. But we haven't spoken much about Steve's. 

This week's episode includes a sneak peek into the upcoming Superabound book, sharing the story of Steve's journey down the path to burnout, and what you can learn from it to protect your own energy and wellbeing.

The fact is, most people don't often realize they're close to burning out until it's too late. And yes, this includes coaches, yoga teachers, and even people you consider to be great leaders.

To help you assess and prevent burnout in your own life, we explore:

  • How to recognize burnout signs early and turn them around
  • The impact of "static" on your mindset and relationships, and how to shift gently shift it
  • Where to find your best sources of unbiased support and perspective

Other topics include: burnout as a continuum, the role of our human "negativity bias" on burnout, taking breaks for the body-mind-spirit, striking the balance between vulnerability and confidence as a leader, why it's okay to ask for help.


Learn more about upleveling your leadership and coaching with the Superabound Coach Certification here.

Support your body and mind with the Superabound Life membership here.

If you want a coach to help you prevent burnout, we have openings for new VIP one-to-one clients. Learn more and book a consultation here.

Listen to this week's episode on Apple Podcasts here

Listen to it on Spotify here

Watch the video here

Full Transcript

Steve Haase  0:01  
Welcome to the Superabound Podcast with master coaches, Erin Aquin and Steve Haase, where entrepreneurs and leaders learn coaching tools to help you build a business you love. You are listening to Episode 295: Assessing Burnout as a Leader. Welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining us. This might sound a little funny assessing burnout, isn't it a all or nothing thing? You're either there or you're not? The fact is, it exists on a continuum. And many people find themselves on the kind of bottom half of the continuum. Without even knowing that there there. It kind of sneaks up on you. And only once you've kind of made some changes and built your energy back up, do you really realize how far down the spiral of burnout you may have been? And so in an effort to help you not go any further down the spiral, we put together this episode with our best insights on what does burnout look like? What does it feel like from the inside, even if you're not at that kind of zero point where, you know, you have to tap out, either by choice or by circumstance. So we hope you enjoy this episode and gain some real insights into where you might be on that spectrum. In different areas, maybe it's your energy, maybe your relationships, maybe your enthusiasm for your business, any one of those can be pointers to areas to improve areas to kind of build up your reserves, so that you have that resilience that you need as a leader for your business. If what you hear resonates with you and you want a thinking partner and a coach to help you build your burnout, resilience and help you kind of move up that spectrum towards really having energy having zest for your business. We would love to talk with you. We have openings for our free, no obligation conversations called the visionary meetings. You can learn more about those at besuperabound.com/consultation. Let's dive in.

Erin Aquin  2:10  
This is from the chapter on static. We've talked about static on the podcast before but static is our way of talking about basically, mindset, attitude, personal beliefs that are like not supportive to you. It's like one of the examples we use in the book a lot. It's like hiking up a mountain with a bowling ball in your backpack. You're not going to be bowling on a mountain. So why are you taking it with you? And yet we all do this because we're human. So there's a chapter that I wrote. I'm talking about Steve.

Steve Haase  2:49  
There we go.

Erin Aquin  2:51  
Just read a little bit. A few years ago before Steve joined me full time in our coaching business, I witnessed him experience several months in a high static state. He had been excelling in his corporate work, and when it came time for a new manager to be chosen for his team, he was promoted to the role. Almost immediately the size of his team doubled, then tripled. Like many new managers, he found himself quickly shuttled from doing a job he was an expert at to doing something he had never done before at this level, managing people. If you couldn't tell from reading this book, or listening to this podcast so far, Steve loves people. He's a natural cheerleader inherently positive and trusting that at this time in his career, he wasn't a master coach and hadn't received any training or mentorship on how to do his new job as a people lead. The next part of the story will sound sickeningly familiar to anyone who has been jettisoned out of their role as an individual contributor into the nebulous world of management or entrepreneurship. Over the course of a few months, I watched my joyful confident partner turn into a reserved self doubting whisper of his former self. His mind seemed to be only on work, and he could talk about nothing else. It didn't matter if we were at a party, watching a movie at home or out for a lovely dinner, the conversation would always turn to a struggle with someone on his team or a tricky deal with a client. The challenges were made worse for Steve by the many harmful conclusions he drew about himself as a novice in a management role. unhelpful mental chatter such as this is an impossible role to succeed in. I don't know what I'm doing and I'm completely alone with this mess was throwing him off and making it impossible to navigate difficult path he was on. We call this type of thinking static because it is the fuzzy snow between stations on your radio or an old fashioned television that makes you want to cover your ears and hope someone else will grab the dial and fix it. First, I tried to be supportive. I would encourage him to get all his concerns off his chest. Don't we all do that partners are like yeah, tell me everything. I'm here for you. Sometimes I would try to coach him gently and show him how his static and constant negative focus on work was making his situation worse. After a few months of this, however, I grew resentful. Remember that Steve, not fun? Well, Steve would use me as a sounding board. He wasn't trying any of the tools I offered him. And I started to feel like I was his unpaid living coach, not a spouse, my static piggybacked on his unhelpful thoughts for me, such as he cares about his work more than he cares about me and the kids, he only pays attention when there's a problem. And favorite, I'm sick of being taught that if you won't try anything I'm teaching him only serve to amplify the frustration in our house, and likely reinforce some of his own static beliefs about being alone with the mess. What started as a handful of work problems and negative thoughts for Steve reverberated outward, to set off a state of static for him, then me, and disrupted our relationship for months. And we were talking about this section of the book, and more importantly, the section of our lives today. And how, at the time this was happening, I was coaching people on relationships. And I was watching something happen in our marriage that I had seen, kind of the after effects of a lot of my clients and their relationships. And I was like, this is the shit that ruins marriages. This is the shit that ruins relationships, business partnerships, family relationships, one person being so deep in their static, that it feels all consuming, and the other person trying all the things they know to fix it. And like really it going nowhere to a point where resentment builds up amongst the relationship.

Steve Haase  6:57  
And the thing that had us kind of bringing it up this morning was the difference between how alive and empowered and aligned with my purpose I feel now versus at other times in my life, that story being one of them. And how oftentimes, when we're in the middle of something bad, we're not even aware of how bad it is, it's apparently you can't actually just turn up the heat on a frog and boil it like it will jump out at some point, that little thing is a myth I had heard, but the story is there because we kind of are that way as people write things get bad, and then they get a little bit worse. And then they get a little bit worse. And it just keeps deteriorating until suddenly you're dealing with a level that is so low, that you're kind of shocked when you look back on it from a much better place. And so we're going to talk about how you can assess your own level of burnout, from the perspective of the static that you are experiencing.

Erin Aquin  8:03  
Yeah, and I mean, I'll say there's another story that starts the book about my period of burnout, which was more a physical expression of burnout, not so much a like all consuming spinning mindset, like yours, was kind of going in that direction. But even then, even when you're doing something you love, and you're doing something that feels very aligned with who you are, like I was when I was teaching and running businesses before I became a coach, you can still burn out because some of the static, it leads you to deprioritize your well being when you tell yourself, Oh, it's okay, I can skip meals, I skip meals all the time. That is static. That is a belief you have that sleeping doesn't matter. Eating doesn't matter. Resting doesn't matter. The days off don't matter. Weekends don't matter, that the only thing that matters is the problem in front of you the work in front of you. So that for me is like an alarm bell of static. It's one of them. And it is a mindset issue. It's like when you start to talk yourself out of like, basic human needs.

Steve Haase  9:32  
Yeah, and the setting this conversation the other night actually about the negativity bias. How is with our eight year old who was focusing on a tough moment at school, like yes, there's a tough moment but our brain does a trick where we focus on the tough moment. 10 times more than we focus on the rest of the stuff because it's those tough moments that might kill us. Right there's it's a evolutionary adaptation that has kind of short circuited or claimer. Well, being in the modern

Erin Aquin  10:05  
world, nothing was trying to kill her. It's not a scary moment. It was just a relational. It's just a relationship that felt bad at the moment. But I Yeah, but our brains do think that anything that feels bad anything where we are told something that feels like a threat to a relationship that does feel like a threat. So, yeah, I just wanted to make sure no one's worried about our kids, or my sir Good.

Steve Haase  10:36  
It was standard standard school. But that's one of the drivers of burnout, and kind of a perpetual high static state is something goes wrong. So you feel, and that becomes the thing you have to fix. And that becomes the energy that you bring to your work. And that becomes the intensity at which you start to relate to everybody around you. And that's what was causing the, the mismatch in our relationship, we were not connecting because of my own negativity bias and not kind of handling that static in a way that was able to defuse it. It was active for months and months at a time, which is how you burn out, eventually, you just say, this isn't worth it thrown in the towel. Or you don't make the choice to throw in the towel and your body does it for you or your relationships do it for you. Right, those things kind of have a way of the decision is made. At some point. Even if it's not, you're consciously doing it. Yeah.

Erin Aquin  11:48  
And the interesting thing for me during this particular situation was I became like hyper fixated on your hyper fixation. I was like my negativity bias became, look, he talked about work again, oh, he said something about work, like anytime he could be talking about something like just oh, I have a meeting tomorrow at three. And it would immediately bring up all of my angst and resentment. And it was just like, pouring gasoline on a fire for me, even though it had nothing to do and there wasn't anything inherently negative, and what he was saying. So it's almost like our brains also can kind of get emotionally wired. And if it's our brain or our energy, but we get like emotionally wired to anytime that topic comes up, it like brings the full arsenal of of that emotion emotions along with it. And at this point, I was a I was coaching, I was a master coach by this point where I was at least in training to be one I don't know this was early on. And I really knew that coaching was going to be something that would help him. I made the mistake in my relationship as a newer coach of thinking that I was going to be that coach. Now, Steve, and I do coach each other, sometimes on certain things. But it's actually really hard for us to give one another the quality of coaching that we're able to offer our clients, because we're married, and we have a lot of opinions about what the other person should do. So I do well, I do think that talking about your static with other people and people who love you, and can like, if they know how to hold space for you. That's a beautiful, beautiful thing. But things didn't really treat, you'll read this in the book, things didn't really change in that dynamic that was happening in our relationship until I kind of set a boundary and said, I am I coach all day. And I get paid for that. And I love you and I'm here to help you work out something out from time to time. But I cannot coach for free for four hours every evening with a client who's not complying to the coaching. We talked about this last week. I made me believe Steve was not coachable, but not universally just by me. So one of the things that we did during that time was I actually had to put a boundary and say this is not good for my energy. It's not good for my emotional space. And I think it's probably not good for you to be at work thinking about work and that at home allowed to kind of spew about it at all times. So what did we do?

Steve Haase  14:51  
Well, I started working with the coach homepage and

Erin Aquin  14:53  
I love it. You said I started working it was like totally voluntary. No, I was like you're working with risk. I found a coach. Amazing and you worked with him? And

Steve Haase  15:04  
yeah, it was really helpful because you just can't see the state that you're in from your own state. And often that includes your partner that includes the people that are closest to you. You know, we tend to make people into wallpaper in our lives, we're like, well, that's just what it feels like to be at home. And, you know, the ability to really question and inquire is, is precious. And that's what you can create in a coaching relationship. That's, that's part of what a good coach brings to that space, is the ability to, to look at things with fresh eyes, and to question how good things could possibly be and what it would look like for things to be good rather than better we fix this next problem and get over this next hump and, you know, get things back to Okay. The coach can and did help you question the whole thing, and, and make decisions based on where it is that you want to go and how you want to grow, rather than just improve a really bad situation a little bit, which is how we tend to think about things. And so when it comes to a burnout assessment for yourself, I think that's a good place to ask is, am I focused on just fighting all the fires? Or do I have space in my life, to think about real possibility, and how I want the most important parts of my life, my work, my health, my relationships, my wealth? What do I want those to look like on a one year, five year, 10 year timeframe. If all you're doing is fighting fires, you're trending towards burnouts. Because we need more in our life than just solving the next problem, it can be so much better than just micro short term work. I

Erin Aquin  17:14  
think that that's a really important thing. And you can just even for yourself, as you're thinking about this is if it does feel like you have whatever the idea is in your in your world, I like fighting fires, because it does kind of go along with the theme of burnout. Your body can live and exist well in a state of constant stress. So for some people, it feels like low level anxiety or overwhelm. You'll know because it feels like there's never a break. So when Steve was kind of going through that period of time, there was never a day off of that didn't matter if he was like we were out for dinner didn't matter if he was playing with the kids, it was always sort of turning, I could watch it turning in his mind. I don't know what your actual experience was. But it never seemed like he got a break from thinking about whatever the problem of the day was. So I would say that was true for me. When I went through a burnout experience. I was always planning for the next thing thinking about the next thing. I was like future focused, but not in a helpful way. I wasn't thinking about how could I support myself to show up in the future and like, enjoy my life. I was thinking about, Okay, how much sleep can I shave off so that I can say yes to this other class or this other opportunity, I was constantly worried about making the wrench and making sure that I could show up and do my job at a decent enough level. So when you're kind of assessing yourself to see like where you are, notice if you don't feel like you ever have a mental, emotional or physical break from whatever kind of has you feeling stressed. I think something else you said was really important, too, is a lot of times, you'll be focused on like, how do I just get through today and it'll be very hard to connect with the future. I have been working with someone who was pretty much on the brink of burnout when we started working together. And when we talked about their vision, they actually said I have no idea I haven't thought about what I want my future to look like I haven't even thought about what I like for years. And so for me as the coach it was kind of you know, that was like okay, well that is something we need to at least make enough room for you in your life to think about And I was talking to them recently. And they're all of these paths suddenly forward. There's all of these ideas, all of these potentials that didn't feel like they existed for my client, when we started working together the year before. So, no, you're maybe going in a new direction that isn't towards burnout, when you actually see a future that's exciting for you, when you see that, even the things that you're doing now, that may be challenging may not be so easy, but they have a direction and that direction feels like your future home. Shopping bubble sign.

Steve Haase  20:43  
Yeah, because because then you are connected to where you want to go, you're connected to your vision, and we talked about vision as the source of free energy, that free energy will keep your fire lit. So if you feel like you're making progress, you have a vision, it all connects, and it matters to you and your legacy, then you're on the right side of the burnout equation, right, you're, you're you're in a healthier zone. Similarly, we started the conversation about being in a high static state, if those thoughts and feelings that kind of get you sidetracked from your work, or make the whole thing feel harder, seem inescapable. And like, they're just true. The idea of, I don't know where to go from here, this is too much for me, these problems just won't and the sorts of things that really get you down, if they seem true, and like, there's almost no way out, then that is that's a path towards burnout, because none of those things could actually be factually so right. All of those are our perspectives on a situation, not the situations themselves. And so if you find that your mind is almost in a self defeating loop, then that is, I mean, obviously, you can't break out from within it.

Erin Aquin  22:16  
Yeah, and I mean, a lot of what you're describing, too, can be like signs of other issues, you know, we're not mental health professionals, but we're aware of mental health issues, because it is, it touches what, what we do and, and, you know, we have to be informed. But the thing is, it's never going to feel like oh, I just have a bad attitude, oh, I just have some self defeating thoughts, the things that cause you to burn out from from within. feel true. And it's always so interesting, because when when we're working with clients, and there tends to be a new level of awareness, after we've worked with some for a little while, they'll say, you know, what, I know what this narrative is. Sometimes we give it a name. Sometimes we like make it into a character, just so that we can objectify it and talk about it. But you're like, Oh, my, my little gremlin Sharon, is really kicking up a storm here. And I think there's like some way that she's trying to sabotage me or that are yet you know, my personal favorite way of talking about is like I'm having some static right on in some static, I'm in that fuzzy place between clear frequencies. And there's gotta be a reason for that. There's a reason that makes sense. There might even be some wisdom that I need to be here. In order to receive too often we have taught ourselves to blow past unpleasant emotions, to grin and bear it, whatever the like, horrible ways that we've taught ourselves to just cut cut off emotionally from challenging situations. Those sorts of defensive tactics can also really keep us stuck in more of the same. So for Steve, the the static beliefs that he had about this is too hard. I'm not good enough. I mean, I'm saying the ones I heard you say, but like, you remember what that narrative was like. They also kept you doing that work. Right.

Steve Haase  24:48  
Well, the what's important here is is we're not saying swap out the bad thoughts for good thoughts. The solution to being in that kind of static loop isn't thinking happier

Erin Aquin  25:06  
thought better. Think more helpful thoughts doesn't work. That's the worst it doesn't work either. It's

Steve Haase  25:14  
It's It's inhuman. It's like papering putting wallpaper over a rotten wall. You're like the walls rotten men, you have to figure out what is the source of that angst and not like, Oh, I was, you know, not hugged enough by my mother. My mom did great. She hugged me plenty. It's like, what is that message coming from that feeling of inadequacy of helplessness of despair, any of those feelings that when you're really honest with yourself, maybe you're in the presence of and not wanting to change them because they're bad, but to gain the wisdom from them, so that you can move forward with energy vulnerability and authenticity. And unless you find yourself with a practice and with a partner, like in a space, where you can do that, and you can make room for those really challenging emotions, too, inform your path forward and form your leadership and form your work, then you are, you know, you're on the side of the more likely to burn out, right, in terms of a burnout assessment, being able to shift from those, those those less helpful, less pleasant emotions into something that actually moves you towards that next lantern. But in a way, that's not, you know, violence, or just sort of papering things over making yourself wrong for feeling them. When you're able to do that, then that is a becomes an emotional skill, right? You've built a certain amount of emotional skill, that doesn't make you burnout proof. But in the spectrum for the assessment, it puts you more towards the positive side there. Yeah,

Erin Aquin  27:06  
and there, there is power, and just being able to say some of those things out loud. So like, you know, even though I didn't love every minute of of receiving all of Steve's thoughts about it, the fact that he was talking about it meant that it wasn't festering inside. Maybe it was a little bit but like not as much. So Steve, I'm curious if you were to coach past, Steve, what do you think that static was really trying to tell him? In the midst of managing a lot of people in a new role? I think we were selling locked down. Like there was a lot going on. Was it pre COVID? Oh, man, then there was another one during COVID There was like, just a lot. Yeah. What do you think that all sort of? What do you think got started? Was there for what was the wisdom in there?

Steve Haase  28:07  
I mean, I think there's a lot, right, oftentimes, those really challenging emotions have richness in them. And so that's why it's important to spend time with them and not paper them over try to get get to the good vibes, good vibes only, but actually say what, what is the wisdom here? And I think some of that wisdom was to be gentle with myself, to pay attention to everything that's going on and not try to get it right. But actually to try to let it in. It was a certain like, the the feeling of of fear or I don't know what I'm doing is trying to tell you know, was trying to tell me to pay attention to be humbled to ask for help. But not in a not in a help I don't know what I'm doing kind of way in a help. We're all on the same team together. And and I need I need more than I have currently at my disposal.

Erin Aquin  29:16  
Yeah. But you did yeah. You needed more resources then were made available. And another reason I think every every manager, every leader, every human should have a coach because it is really also hard to differentiate sometimes when it's internal static versus when there are tangible challenges that we are not equipped to deal with. It's so tempting if you're used to being kind of a lone wolf, kind of like a take pride and figuring things out myself kind of guy which you are. To think that I must be He inadequate if I can't do this alone. And if I asked for help, I mean, something's wrong with me, but maybe, you know, maybe actually needed some resources as well and having a coach be able to sit with you as an objective sort of third party removed from the relationship and the situation. And that is the gift of coaching. In some ways. That's like one of the many beautiful things. So I hope that this has helped you sort of identify if maybe you are in danger of burning out and giving you some ideas for how you can start to really look at that honestly, lovingly, gently. And make sure that you don't continue down a road thinking that this is your problem to solve alone. It is not. And if you want support, you can absolutely reach out to us we have a lot of resources in our community, in our programs and in our VIP one on one coaching. But you could learn about at beSuperabound.com/consultation. We are right now doing 30 minute free sessions. Yeah. And then come and tell us all the things and we can help you assess where you're at, and what you might need, even if, even if it is not a program with us. You know, we actually really do care about supporting everybody who listens to the show, everybody in our community. coaching the way we coach is not going to be a fit for every single person. And we know a lot of people we know a lot of resources and we're happy to point those out to you as well.

Steve Haase  31:48  
Thanks for listening. See you next time. Take care