Kindle a light, not a bonfire

Leadership Moment: Spotting burnout

A quick-read article on HBR covers burnout, when chronic stress creates a sort of perpetual exhaustion, and spotlights six categories of stress: workload, values, reward, control, fairness, and community. While I haven’t yet read the source book (The Burnout Challenge: Managing People’s Relationships with Their Jobs), I’d likely place “control” as one of the largest sources of stress, in a category all to its own (and in a Freudian typo, the first version of this paragraph even listed “control” twice).

If we think of work as being the application of energy through skills to create value, then anything that wastes energy is problematic. Some energy is wasted even before work starts, when a person feel excluded; that likely falls under “fairness” or “community.” But the ways in which a workplace creates barriers that waste energy? That’s where control comes in. For me, control is the opposite of stress – stress is what happens when the world surprises you by not meeting your expectations. Every unpredicted roadblock, communications failure, misalignment, and organizational weirdness accumulates stress in the area of control.

It’s a timely article, with tomorrow’s book launch of 1% Leadership. Leadership, whatever your style, ought to have as an output increasing the value created by your team’s energy output. Some leaders monomaniacally focus on their own control: driving and managing their team’s skills, tightly optimizing outputs. I think that misses some seriously low-hanging fruit: reducing wasted energy by increasing inclusion and control.

How is your leadership style reducing the potential for burnout?

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One Minute Pro Tip: Venting vs Escalating

Sometimes, a member of your team will come to you with a problem. They might even seem a little overly emotionally invested in the problem, and, as they tell you about it, they might express their frustration with other parties in a way that suggests that they are possible at their breaking point. You helpfully suggest some approaches that might work for them. They go away, and don’t bring the problem back to you. In fact, they seem to learn from your lesson and start solving more problems without needed to escalate to you, so you’ve done your job, right? Right?

It’s quite possible that your teammate wasn’t coming to you to get your help on solving a problem. Instead, they were coming to you because they needed a safe place to vent a little stress before they dove back into the problem. They needed a sympathetic ear to tell them their stress was okay, so they could bleed a little off before diving back into problem solving. Next time, just ask a single question early in the encounter: “Do you need me to solve this, or just listen?”


Chapter 18 Teaser: Serenity is knowing that the crap you’re wading through is crap you chose to deal with.

One of the surprising challenges as a leader isn’t dealing with big, hard crises. Those might be stressful, but everyone expects that difficulty, and the need to channel energy into solving the problem right now is well understood. The surprising challenge? Staying the course when the problems you’re facing aren’t urgent, and aren’t easily addressable. Whether you’re trying to drive slow systemic change, or putting up with a difficult environment for any number of reasons, the daily grind of shoveling your way through the shit that’s all around you can really wear you down.

It’s easy to get distracted by it – either by trying to solve those distracting issues, or by stressing about the problems. But sometimes leadership just requires you to stop wasting energy. You decided to put up with the hassle – so let go of the stress that is burning further energy.

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A call for problems

With 1% Leadership launching tomorrow, I’ll be ending the “Chapter Teaser” section of the newsletter, and one option is a Leadership Advice section: readers send in situations, and I’ll comment (and maybe point you at a few chapters). What do you think?

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April 11, webinar, host: Creating a Cloud Security Strategy.

April 18, 1% Leadership is released!

April 19, webinar chat: Writing your Cloud Opus: A Deep Dive into Orchestrating your Cloud Security Remediation

At RSAC (times Pacific):

April 24: 10:50 am, Telling Fairy Tales to Your Board

April 24: noon, RSAC bookstore, signing books

April 24: 5-7 pm, Welcome Reception, Orca Booth 527, book giveaway & signing

April 25: 7-9 pm, Orca Security Cocktail Reception

April 26: 2:20-2:35 pm, Bishop Fox Livestream

April 26: 6-9 pm, YL Ventures & Portfolio Companies Reception

May 7-12: Tel Aviv

May 16: panel moderator, Cloud Security Live

Behind the paywall: an essay on Inclusive Leadership, which was the genesis for several different chapters in 1% Leadership.

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