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How to Reignite Purpose in the Face of Burnout



Most people who have made it into positions of leadership are great problem-solvers. But these high-performing problem-solvers also tend to share an unfortunate trait: The instant Problem A is solved, their mind immediately moves on to Problem B. Then C, then D, and so on. By the time they get to the end of the alphabet, there’s a new Problem A.


Sound familiar?


In racing from problem to problem, do you ever stop to acknowledge anything you accomplish along the way?


Here’s another question: is it possible you treat your employees the same way, robbing them of a sense of fulfillment in their work?


It’s vital for CEOs to take a moment to consider their successes and those of their team. Paradoxically, slowing down like this actually helps you accomplish more, faster, because you are taking time to inspire your people. They become more energized and better able to serve your customers.


Here’s an example from our own work with our clients. After COVID-19 struck, health centers came under immense pressure; they were on the front lines, vaccinating tens of thousands of people in tents in parking lots and scrambling to administer new and innovative treatments like monoclonal antibody treatments. Frustration and burnout ran high, and many people quit, leading to team shortages that made the job even tougher for those who did show up.


During one of our meetings with a health center, the burnout within the team was obvious. We started asking a few questions to help team members reframe. We asked how many folks their center had vaccinated since the pandemic hit. The answer: about 60,000. 


“What impact do you think that had on their lives?” we asked.


The room was quiet for a minute, and then stories of positive impact came flowing out. People had been able to return to work and support their families. The isolation so crippling to some, especially those on their own out in remote areas, had been lessened. The CEO told a particularly poignant story of one client, a young mother on her own with her three children, who had been unable to get any kind of support; a health center team member had hopped in her car, raced to the store for diapers and groceries, and delivered them to the struggling family herself. She followed up by connecting them to social services that would continue the care. 


The shift in the room’s collective mood was palpable as everyone realized that this was just one story out of hundreds. They had all saved lives. They all made a difference, every day. By harkening back to their purpose, the team members transformed from an exhausted, burned-out group to one full of pride, ready to take on the next challenge.


This is the power of taking a moment to pause and acknowledge accomplishments, to celebrate the achievement of the team’s mission.


Ask yourself: is your team feeling the full pride of their purpose? Or is it possible they’re on the hamster wheel alongside you?


Read more about reigniting your team's purpose in our bestselling book, The Great Engagement, available on Amazon.

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