Burnout or boreout?

Proportion
Categories: Blog

It’s two weeks to Christmas and everyone I know is looking a bit stressed. If you’ve got kids, then you’re probably juggling all of the concerts, prize-givings, valedictories and performances that we couldn’t fit in during lockdown. It feels like you’ve got Heathrow air traffic control in your head and you’re worried that you’ll crash one of the planes at any minute.

The summer break is when everyone gets to breathe a little and reflect. After another challenging year, it’s no wonder that so many are thinking about major life changes. It’s not called the Great Resignation for nothing. It’s a good time to think about what makes you happy and how you can get yourself and your team on track for 2022.

An American psychologist described the state of being happy as being ‘in the flow’. How do you know when you’re in the flow? Usually it’s when you have such a deep sense of satisfaction that you lose track of time. It could be playing music, baking cakes or tinkering in the shed. When you finally check the clock, the whole afternoon has passed by. Either side of ‘flow’ are two less satisfying states- burnout or boreout. It looks like this:

In the flow

in the flow

After two years of pivoting, adapting and responding to greater needs in society, it wouldn’t be surprising if some of you are feeling over challenged. But it’s not a sustainable place to be. Team leaders need to consider ways to prevent burnout, or it’s equally undesirable sibling, apathy. When did you last have a team meeting that wasn’t a WIP? How about a regular session that celebrates the success of each team member or asks people to thank someone for the contribution they made? If your team is horribly overworked, then you need to go back to basics on your strategy. Are you clear about what’s important and what’s peripheral?

The most difficult thing for non-profits is to decide on what they won’t do, rather than everything they’d like to do. A set of 3 key priorities is much better than 20 ‘important’ things that are not achievable. In non-profits everyone is typically focused on the 20% of stuff that is still to be done, rather than the 80% that has already been achieved and you’ve forgotten about it in the headlong rush forward.  There’s nothing more demoralising than feeling like you’re missing the target all the time.

A team that is challenged won’t necessarily burn out if it feels like you’re kicking important goals. Think of that concert violinist who has practised and performed for hours but is deeply satisfied at the end. Some non-profits have doubled their partnership income in the last two years. They may be tired at the end, but still fully engaged and motivated.

Boreout is the other side of the line. You’ve hired a talented and enthusiastic partnership manager, but not given them the tools or the support they need to be successful. They’re under challenged and just giving them a huge income KPI won’t change that. Think about how you’re mobilising the whole organisation to provide support to partnerships. Make partnerships a regular point of discussion on the leadership agenda. Invest in some development, training or mentoring to build their skills. Help them feel like the challenge is worthwhile and achievable. If not, they’ll be joining the Great Resignation before too long.

When was the last time you were ‘in the flow’? Make this summer the time to decide which side of the line you fall and what will make you happy in 2022.

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