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129. How to Serve as a Leader Without Burning Out

You want to focus on serving others in your leadership. But is it even possible in these economic times?

In this episode we dig into what it means and what it does NOT mean to serve as a leader.

And using wisdom gained from Tara Jaye Frank's The Waymakers, we dig into how you can effectively live out our definition of leadership and GET THINGS DONE even more efficiently. Resources:

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While it's not perfect, we offer this transcription by CastMagic for those who prefer to read or who are hearing impaired.

Teri Schmidt [00:00:00]:

Hey, I see you. You're doing all the things in the current economic reality. Maybe you've been asked to lead an extra team or fill in until the hiring freezes over. Or maybe you were recently promoted to a leadership position, but are being asked to keep doing your old job too, until things improve and they can backfill. If you're a parent, you're dealing with an unusual summer schedule and trying to get everyone set up for the beginning of the school year. And underneath everything is your desire to help others grow and use their talents. But the pace of work keeps getting faster and faster, and you're tired and approaching burnout. So that's what we're going to talk about today on this solo episode:

Teri Schmidt [00:00:40]:

How can you serve as a leader in tough economic times without getting burned out?

I'm Teri Schmidt, CEO and founder of Stronger to Serve Coaching and Team Building, where we believe that leadership is all about courageously using your talents to make a way for others to courageously use theirs.

And this is the Strong Leaders Serve podcast.

So before we get started, let's clarify some things. We talk a lot about serving as a leader. It's in the title of the episode. The podcast itself is called Strong Leaders Serve, and our company is called Stronger to Serve. Let's talk about what I don't mean. First of all, I'm not advocating for one style of leadership.

Teri Schmidt [00:01:41]:

Just because it's called Strong Leaders Serve doesn't mean that I only ascribe to servant leadership. I believe that all leadership theories are like tools in a toolbox and are used appropriately in certain situations. Also, serving as a leader does not mean that you're constantly bending over backwards for others and prioritizing their needs over yours. It also doesn't mean that you're at their beck and call and always let others set the direction for the team. And of course, it doesn't mean seeking a leadership position just for the money, status or power. Instead, the clients that we work with, the strong leaders who serve. Ascribe to the simple definition that we give at the beginning of all of our recent episodes, as a reminder, we believe that leadership is courageously using your talents to make a way for others to courageously use theirs. I see that definition as two parts, and each can provide insight into how we can serve others as a leader without burning out.

Teri Schmidt [00:02:45]:

So let's take the first part courageously using your talents. First, of course, you have to know what your talents are, do you? Why does that even matter? Well, as I've learned from experts in positive psychology such as past guests Tamara Miles and Jane Miller and other Clifton strengths experts from Gallup. When you're able to spend time during your day doing work that's aligned with your talents, it gives you energy. For example, I have a client who has a talent developing others. She knows that if she can intersperse short conversations with her team members in the middle of other scheduled meetings and work, she will get a boost of energy that can carry her through those less energizing tasks. Another example is that you've probably heard me talk about my talent of learner and how, whenever possible, I schedule some time in the midst of my middle of the day energy slump to learn something new. When you're aware of your talents, you can intentionally use them to energize you. Now, you may be saying, yeah, that's great if you have control over your schedule, but I am booked from morning till night by other people.

Teri Schmidt [00:03:55]:

So if you don't have control of your schedule and can't do it in the way that I just suggested that my client and I do it, think about what small opportunities might you have to use your talents in those scheduled meetings. Recognizing that you are using those talents and the act itself of using them will help to bring you energy as well. The importance of knowing your talents is one of the reasons that we have our ground phase first in our leadership development model. In our ground phase, we focus on knowing your talents and your values. What that does for you is you're better able to discover how you can most effectively serve others in your work, but you also know what you need to do to energize yourself and hopefully avoid a place where you're heading toward burnout. The second reason that we have the ground phase first is that it also includes clarifying your values. Another piece of information that can help you to make decisions that lessen your chance of burnout. Being a service focused leader does not mean that you have to answer every call to serve with a yes.

Teri Schmidt [00:05:01]:

In order to sustain your leadership, you have to be able to prioritize and know how to say no. We first talked about this way back in episode eight. Knowing your values and using them to prioritize your efforts both at work and at home is the key to setting boundaries that can help you to avoid burnout as a leader who serves even in challenging times. Now, you may have noticed that I didn't say anything about the first word of the definition courageously. If you want to have an impact as a leader, there will be times where exercising your talents require you to take up space to stand out or separate from the norms or from your colleagues. We'll get more into that when we talk about the second half of the definition. But I did want to say that one way to make this easier is to have a trusted network of support. Who are those people that know you and believe in you? Who are those people that you can go to when maybe you feel like you're standing against everyone else and aren't very sure of yourself? Who are those people who can advocate for you and speak on your behalf.

Teri Schmidt [00:06:08]:

Having this community is necessary for being courageous as a leader. But as a bonus, it also is another proven way to buffer yourself against burnout. So, to sum up the first half of the definition, courageously using your talents. First of all, you need to know your talents and values. Second, prioritize and be intentional with structuring your time. And third, have a community of support. Now, let's move on to the second part of our definition of leadership to make a way for others to courageously use theirs. This is where the skills that we work on in the grow and give phase come in.

Teri Schmidt [00:06:46]:

Those skills that help you effectively navigate the sometimes okay, let's be serious, often okay, maybe even always messy world of dealing with other humans. This is where we dig into the poorly named soft skills like emotional intelligence, handling difficult conversations, building trust, and motivating your team. In the grow and give phase, they come into play. And this is where empathy turns into action, making your workplace more compassionate and just. But wait, I thought we were talking about avoiding burnout, not just adding more to your list. In fact, I recently talked to a woman who said she just didn't have the time to deal with all of this people stuff as she had too much work to get done. And I know where she's coming from. If you can't see the big picture of how work really gets done when you're involving humans, then two team members getting into a disagreement or a team member coming to you talking about relationship struggles can seem like an unnecessary distraction from the real work.

Teri Schmidt [00:07:49]:

But the thing is, we're not machines. The more we treat ourselves and each other like machines, the more prone to burnout we are, the less engaged we are, and the less likely we are to do our best work. So if you want your team to move through their work more efficiently, focus on making a way for them to use their talents as complete human beings. That gets me to some wisdom I've learned from author and equity strategist Tara J. Frank in her book The Waymakers. She said that the talent in your organization has four basic needs. Number one, to be seen. Number two, to be respected.

Teri Schmidt [00:08:31]:

Number three, to be valued. And number four, to be protected. The research that Tara's team did, together with Brand Trust, presents what it means for employees from various underrepresented groups to be seen, respected, valued, and protected. And I highly recommend you read it so you can expand your definition beyond what those words mean for you to make this really practical and again, simple, so it doesn't feel like something complex that you need to add. To your to do list or something that you need to have in your mind that will make you feel guilty when you feel like you're not making any progress on it. Let's just talk through a couple of potential ways that you can serve your team and avoid their burnout and yours by focusing on these so to be seen. How can you help your team members to feel seen? Well, I'd like you to think about how much do you know about what influences them outside of their work or their unique experiences that may add value to your team's work? Do you know how they like to be recognized? I challenge you to think of one question, one way in which you can get curious to find out more information about one of those topics. Just asking that one question, which is going to take probably max five minutes, can help your team member to feel seen.

Teri Schmidt [00:09:51]:

In terms of helping your team members feel respected, one indicator that you respect someone is that you include them. So in your team conversations, are you seeking out everyone's ideas and making sure everyone has an opportunity to talk? This doesn't have to take extra time. It's the matter of using facilitation practices like think, pair, share, or reflect and post, or simply keeping an eye on making sure everyone has had an opportunity to talk. Simple things like that can go a long way in helping people feel respected and included. Next, how do you help your team members feel valued? Of course, this can mean different things to different people. Get curious about what it means for each member on your team. How do they know that they are valued? Is it that they get a chance to work on a high visibility project? Is it a matter of you sending a message to them or speaking about them at a departmentwide meeting? Learn what it means for them to feel valued. Also, helping your team member feel valued means thinking about what roadblocks you can remove as a leader for them and finally protected.

Teri Schmidt [00:11:01]:

Do your team members feel like they have support? Like they have the freedom to contribute without needing to be perfect? And if something does hurt them or harm them, do they know that you have their back and will courageously speak out against it? Does your team feel a sense of psychological safety like we've talked about in the past? If you're not sure, maybe it's time to ask. When people feel seen, respected, valued and protected, they are more likely to utilize their talents. They know that you will help them to succeed when they try. Frank says that waymakers see potential in everyone and shine a light wherever they find it so that others can see it too. You as a leader can help them to discover and use their talents, which will then increase the efficiency and the effectiveness of your team. When you model the courage that helps each team member to feel seen, respected, valued and protected, then they are more likely to do it for others on your team and outside of your team. And what that means is your organization is more likely to be healthy, resilient and high performing. And when you are a leader of a healthy, resilient and high performing team, the risk to you experiencing burnout is much lower.

Teri Schmidt [00:12:20]:

So if you're ready to work on any of this, we'd love to support you in any way that we can. After all, our mission at Stronger To Serve is to energize work by elevating this kind of leadership through coaching, team building and networking. And as always, if there's a particular element of being this kind of leader, or a skill that you'd like to dig deeper into, or a guest that you think really excels at doing this, we'd love to focus on that. In a future podcast episode, just reach out to me on LinkedIn or send me an email at terry

And until next time, lead with this quote by Will Craig in mind: "Success comes in direct proportion to the number of people you help."


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