The results of our annual organizational survey just came back from my team, and they aren’t good. Answers point to burnout, disengagement, and a sense that team members feel under-resourced.
Our reputation within the organization is as a top-performing team, and that’s always been my number one aspiration: to deliver exceptional results. My credo: never leave anything undone and always deliver on time.
I take pride in excelling at whatever do, so these results are quite hard for me to swallow. To see my team unhappy is both devastating and surprising.
While I have noticed a degree of personal exhaustion over the past year, I thought it was because I had been working hard to shield my team from all the stress. Clearly, these results indicate otherwise.
How do I continue to have my team deliver results while addressing the issues reflected in the survey?
Surprised by the Survey
First, let’s unpack this. Your question tells us that:
- While you hold a standard of excellence, living up to those expectations may be unsustainable for you and your team.
- You may be in an overfunctioning mode, and you’re putting pressure on your team to do the same. This overfunctioning conceals the realities of what’s needed to get the job done from a resource and people perspective.
- You’re marginalizing your own sense of stress and likely have habitual patterns of neglecting your own exhaustion; this also makes it hard to see these problems in others.
- You’re making an implicit choice of business results over team health, and it seems you haven’t really explored or made conscious the consequences of that choice.
So, exactly how is your problem a power problem? A few thoughts:
- Your desire to succeed at all costs leads you to use your positional power to make people work beyond what they feel capable of.
- Your own high sense of power marginalizes the vulnerability and stress in yourself and others.
- You feel like you can’t say no when people above you are asking you to deliver.
What’s the Solution?
Since it’s quite clear you have been prioritizing immediate success over long-term wins, exploring and shifting your mindset is a good first step. While your core values currently center around getting results, you need to focus more on the long game so you can thoughtfully develop the people on your team to be successful over time.
An important piece in resolving this issue is to talk to your team about their experience. Just listen to what they have to say and make it safe for them to share their frustrations, what’s not working, and what they need.
In tandem, you should take some time to consider your own long-term goals. Do a scan of your environment and consider:
- How long do you feel you can realistically keep going at this pace?
- How is your mental, physical, spiritual, and relational health?
- Are there casualties of your pace of work?
- What feedback from your environment might you be neglecting or minimizing due to your pace of work?
- Who is underfunctioning in your environment because of your overfunctioning?
Once you’ve considered these questions, we’d encourage you to talk with a coach or trusted advisor about what a more realistic cadence for you and your team might look like.
When you’ve completed the thinking, reflecting, and talking, it’s time to take some action. Some good first steps include:
- Make it a habit to check in with your team regularly on proposed projects.
- Integrate a regular feedback process with your team so you are never surprised by the answers like you were with the survey.
- Talk to leaders whom you respect and ask how they balance this out.
Finally, don’t forget to check in with all the parts of yourself beyond just your work self. Often, if you’re overfunctioning in one area of your life, you’re underfunctioning in others, so pay attention to your own personal health, family, friends, and emotional well-being. A happy, well-balanced boss is much more likely to lead a happy, well-balanced team.