A burned out team blesses and benefits those they are designed to serve less and less because those who are burned out live with muted passion and numb affections. Thus a wise and loving leader shudders at the thought of creating a culture that cultivates burnout. While much of the responsibility to guard against burnout rests on each person, leaders can surely drive a team to burnout. Whether leading a team of staff or a team of volunteers, here are three ways to raise the likelihood of burnout (Obviously, you don’t want to do these things):
1. Change directions continually.
A leader who continually changes directions will burn out those who are attempting to follow. If you want to frustrate and exhaust a team, change directions continually. People will grow discouraged, as they will never taste the joy of seeing a plan come to fruition. The people will invest time and energy in a direction only to have the direction change. They will likely shudder at the announcement of the next “vision meeting,” because all they have been working on will likely change. Again.
2. Be inconsistent.
If your team never knows what to expect from you, you will foster a culture of fear or anxiety, which can easily raise the likelihood of burnout. So if you want to burn out a team, swing the pendulum from extreme to extreme in all your leadership. Keep ’em guessing! Switch from frantically firing off hundreds of emails a week to only allowing for face-to-face conversations and then back again. Require strategic plans several years out and then switch and bash the whole concept of strategic planning. Main point: never let them settle into what you are thinking.
3. Fail to care.
The best way to raise the level of burnout is to not care for the people you lead. View them as tools to accomplish a mission, not as partners and people. There are more chess pieces somewhere in the world at your disposal, so simply fail to care for people and gather some more.
Here is the painful paradox of serving on a burned out team: less of an impact while feeling like you are working more. If you want more burned out people, change directions continually, provide inconsistent personal leadership, and fail to care.