6 Ways to Save Your Team From Crashing and Burning
While entrepreneurs are revving up to start the new year on the right foot to push their business forward, they also need to consider their employees -- and employees' well-being. Because without a strong team, no matter how great the vision, it can't be executed properly. Instead, you will have disgruntled employees with low motivation and high burnout -- not great for your bottom line.
As the founder of Whole Life Challenge, a company that works with corporate clients and individuals to improve their health and well being through a six-week program, I understand fully the importance of leading your people with strength, enthusiasm, and vigor toward your business’ mission. But I also know that doing it without deference to their health, well-being, and quality of life will ultimately lead to a lack of productivity, a decrease in the quality of work and ultimately an increased rate of employee turnover.
Here are six ways to ensure your team does not burn out this year.
1.) Lead by example.
You, as the person leading your team, need to demonstrate the importance of work-life balance. If you can’t have a healthy relationship with your work, how do you expect your team to do so?
Start by setting boundaries and allowing your employees to do the same. For instance, establish the length of the work day and work week, and once either is over, make it a practice to not email or Slack, even when you have a brilliant idea you think can’t wait. (Instead, write it in a note to yourself and communicate it to the appropriate person the next day.)
Yes, I realize there will be times when you will be working 10 days straight, including weekends, and your team will need to be part of this grueling stretch. But even during these intense periods, remember that your team members have a life outside of work. Give them a chance to live it and be there for their partner and kids. They’ll appreciate it, respect you for it and work harder for you the next day.
2.) Check your desire for right-now innovation.
Every time a founder wants to try the latest business trend or execute on a fresh idea, it puts a burden on employees who have to switch up their day-to-day tasks to meet these new objectives. This “shiny object” approach is one of the quickest ways to frustrate your team and cause resentment.
I realize you’re always going to have new, great ideas. You’re an entrepreneur; it’s just the nature of who you are. But when you chase after every “good idea,” you end up with a bunch of half-baked, half-implemented ones -- and even more stressed-out employees.
So think before you act. Keep a private notebook of ideas. Don’t tell anyone about them until you’ve taken the time to flush them out. Consider the following: Is it actually a good idea worth taking action on? Is it short or long term? Is it easily implementable? How many resources will it require? Will its implementation derail a project already in progress? Will it actually move the needle for the metric that is most important to your business?
3.) Determine what is actually on fire.
What’s a priority? Everything, of course! While it might seem that way to you, not everything is an all-hands-on-deck emergency. Learn to prioritize problems, so your staff doesn't get overwhelmed.
The question you should always be asking is what important task should come before the next important task? You have to have a sequence, and if you’re not consciously choosing it, you will be allowing how you feel in the moment to dictate what your team works on (not a great strategy). Ruthless prioritization is key, and while it may feel extraordinarily difficult at the moment, in the end, your team will thank you.
Here is what I recommend: Use a whiteboard and make a big list of all the tasks looming on the horizon. Give each one a number from one to five in terms of its potential impact on your business, with one being the highest impact. Take all the ones and start making decisions based on importance, duration, sequencing, resources required, and short-term feasibility.
4.) Set up the right workflow when you delegate.
Nothing is more frustrating to an employee than getting a task delegated to them without having been given the appropriate authority, resources, people, time or autonomy to get the job done. Sometimes it can feel to them like they’re banging their head against a wall, which can quickly and easily lead to resentment and burn out.
So, when delegating, you’ve got to think through everything. How much responsibility can they handle? How much supervision will they need? How many instructions do you think you need to give up front so it actually relieves you from work? How often do you want to be updated on their progress? If there are multiple people involved, who reports to who, and who reports to you? By doing this brainwork up front, you’ll save a ton of time and headaches and prevent misunderstandings and unclear expectations.
5.) Be flexible with people’s work styles.
Everyone has a system that works for them. Some people are night owls, others early risers. Some people would rather put in 40- to 50-hour weeks and have the weekend off. Others would prefer to divide their work over seven days. Some people like their work and personal lives to blend, others like a clear distinction between time on-the-clock and time off.
As long as an employee is getting the job done, it works best to create an environment that allows them to set their life up in a way that works for them -- even if it means making slight accommodations for them in your own schedule. Of course, whatever they do, it must also work for the team. Standards for the company are important, but so is getting the best work out of happy and productive employees.
6.) Express your gratitude.
Think of expressing gratitude as one of your primary responsibilities as a leader. This could come in the form of public acknowledgment, a call out in an email, a personal handwritten note or even a small gift of appreciation. (Don’t make the mistake of thinking it needs to be something big or expensive.) People want to know that you appreciate their hard work, and sometimes telling them is all that’s needed.
For example, send a DM in Slack stating something like, “I appreciate everything you’re doing here. Thank you for being such a valuable contributor to the team.” Small regular “deposits” in their “gratitude accounts” go a long way toward making happy, productive employees.
If you don’t express your gratitude, people will begin to feel unappreciated and burnt out, even disgruntled. And this could cause them to look for a job somewhere else.
Employee burnout and turnover can be like kryptonite to a startup. The great thing is that you have the power within yourself to make small tweaks in the “how” of what you’re doing that can minimize or eliminate it. As the founder and leader of your company, it’s up to you to set the tone, keep a long-range perspective and serve your team by instilling habits and a culture that will conserve and even enhance their well-being, mindset, and desire to continue giving you their best for years to come.