Leadership: Take Time to Energize

Elizabeth is the executive director of a large non-profit organization that provides wide-ranging services to people in need. She and her staff work long hours to help their clients as effectively as possible, always trying to make the best use of limited resources. While she acknowledges that hard work and scarce resources are the way of the non-profit world Elizabeth admits that she feels increasingly overwhelmed. She accepts as fact that she will work herself to burnout then leave the organization.

Frank, a successful surgeon, is a popular, sought-after speaker at medical conferences around the world. He struggles to balance the challenges of his work with the demands of his family while trying to squeeze a little time for himself out of his tight schedule. Like Elizabeth, Frank has resigned himself to what he sees as the inevitable cost of his career. Living with exhaustion and fatigue is the price he has to pay for his success.

Kate is the mother of three small children. She works a part-time job, struggling to maintain her home, care for her kids, spend time with her husband, get enough exercise, and tend to her aging parents' needs. Like Frank and Elizabeth, Kate resignedly accepts her situation the way it is. She feels powerless to change things.

Kate, Frank and Elizabeth find themselves in demanding situations. They sought coaching because they were tired. They want to make changes in their lives and their livelihoods but because they see so many others experiencing similar fatigue, exhaustion and burnout, they assumed they had to accept the status quo. They felt resigned that this is just the way things are.

A strong desire to serve the people around them drives Kate, Frank and Elizabeth. They are committed to doing their best and giving their all. Their intentions are good and their dedication is admirable. Their behavior, though, is incompatible with their goals; in fact, it is counterproductive. Each fails to see that a frantic lifestyle is not good for anyone.

Elizabeth's staff, for example, looks to her as a role model. She sets the standard for their work methods. She stressed the importance of seeking balance in life and work, but her own life demonstrated a lack of balance. She talked the talk, but she did not walk the walk. As her staff modeled her behavior, they wore out quickly and failed to produce the desired high quality of their vitally needed services.

With coaching Kate, Elizabeth, and Frank were able to stop long enough to reflect on the consequences of their actions. Frank was able to re-connect to his goal to treat and help many patients over a long career. He sees now that he will not be able to achieve his goal if he continues to work at his current pace. He simply will not have the stamina. Kate was able to admit to how irritable she is with her family because of her pressured schedule, and to recognize the undesirable impact it has on her children. Elizabeth is learning to practice what she preaches.

Armed with their new awareness, all three are finding creative ways to live and work differently than before yet still make true, sustainable differences in people's lives. Frank, Elizabeth and Kate each started small, but with every small success, they find the energy and the incentive to continue to change their lives for the better. They feel healthy and motivated, thus they can give more to the people and the organizations they lead.

* Are you trying to give of yourself in spite of exhaustion and fatigue?
* Are you exhausted to the point of questioning your ability to meet your goals?
* Do the people around you sense your exhaustion?
* How has your exhaustion affected the people you lead?

I challenge you to stop. Step back. Look for some small immediate change you can make to energize and to care for yourself. Now do it. Continue with other small, manageable changes. As you feel more energy you will find the motivation to look for new ways to overcome your resignation to situations you thought were inevitable.

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