We are one month into the new year … yet many leaders are already feeling the drain of burnout. And no, COVID-19 is not to blame. It may be exacerbating matters, but the root cause has nothing to do with the pandemic. Rather, the source of burnout is the fact that these leaders are essentially filling two or even three seats on their leadership team, even though they have people in those seats. That is an unqualified recipe for becoming exhausted and demoralized.
The situation, in a nutshell, is this: either the leader doesn’t have the right people in those seats and needs to make organizational changes, OR, the leader does have the right people in those seats but the individuals aren’t delivering and need to be goaded to better performance. Instead, the leader is choosing to watch these individuals constantly – not for the purpose of providing feedback, but in order to step in and do whatever parts of those jobs aren’t getting done.
When we point out that this treadmill is not sustainable in the long term, the leaders agree – intellectually. Then they say that one word that saps the energy right out of the room … BUT.
But I can’t replace this person right now …
One common rationale for keeping deadweight on the leadership team is that the person has so much institutional knowledge or so many critical relationships that replacing them could impact the business.
Here’s the truth: When you summon the courage to replace deadweight on your leadership team, you’ll discover that the effects aren’t nearly as bad as you fear. After all, if the person isn’t doing a good job, your employees know it. Your partners and vendors know it. And, yes, your customers know it. Other people will be as relieved as you are to start working with someone who really cares – and delivers.
But I can’t afford the expense right now …
A second excuse is that making a change in personnel is expensive. There’s the cost of the search, the cost of the salary, and the cost of ramping the new person up to speed.
Here’s the truth: Yes, those are all real costs. But there are costs associated with not making a change, too. There is the cost the company bears because you don’t have the time and energy to do your true job … building vision, strategy, relationships, and ideas. There is also the cost to motivation, productivity, and performance across your company as your employees observe that you are okay with lower standards from someone on the leadership team. These are the costs you really cannot afford.
But I can’t face a new mess right now …
Change always entails some level of chaos, even when it is well-managed. The idea of intentionally bringing on that chaos by making a change on the leadership team is often more than leaders want to think about.
Here’s the truth: Until you realize that the pain of change is actually less than the pain of the treadmill you are on, you will choose not to act. Do you really want to keep the status quo until you reach the point of exhaustion where you cannot focus on anything and are not effective at all? How long can you continue to convince yourself that things will change even though you refuse to make a change? (Remember this quote credited to Einstein? “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Do you want that to describe you?)
If you want to stop burning the candle at both ends and instead build bench strength that will give you, your leadership team, and your entire company the energy to thrive in 2021 and beyond, you will need to: