Podcast Ep 163 | Executive burnout: Building your resilience (Part 2 of 2)

Executives are often more driven than the average person. We run hard all the time, and it usually works. And then, it doesn’t work.

We persist and push harder than the average person, and that’s why we win. But it’s also why we can crash harder and sometimes even put everything at risk. 

This week we talk about executive burnout in the second of two episodes. What it means, what to look out for in both yourself and your team, and when it might be time to go get some help.





Brad (00:00:13) – Hey there. Welcome to the Growth Whisperers, where everything that we talk about is building enduring great companies, companies that last, that means that you actually enjoy working at and running and being a part of, of course, if you are burnt out, you’re not gonna be able to ,

Brad (00:00:31) – Enjoy anything.

Brad (00:00:32) – Enjoy anything, right? It, it’s, that’s a part of it that’s not fun. This is episode two of two, uh, about executive burnout. If you haven’t, we encourage you strongly to listen to, uh, episode 1 62 about executive burnout. But, uh, I’ve talked enough. Kevin, hello, my co-host. How are you today?

Kevin (00:00:52) – I’m doing great. Thankfully I’m not burn at the point. I’ve been burnt out many, many times. Yeah. Um, yeah. But I’m actually, yeah, things are great. Excited to be doing this episode. This is deep, deep in my heart and passion, talking about burnout, uh, preventing burnout. Recovering from burnout. Is this just, you know, it’s been part of my life. Yeah. And, uh, lots of the people I work with, so. Yeah. Well,

Brad (00:01:16) – You wrote a book about this, didn’t you? . Um, uh, so normally at this point, I’d say, what’s your word of the day? But I’m gonna ask you something different, right. I want you to tell me about Elvis Presley. Right. And you and I Are you okay? Your weirdo? What are you talking about? No, you and I were at a, at a, at a place, and I remember you telling me a story about Elvis Presley. Maybe you could share that with us as a different way to start the episode.

Kevin (00:01:46) – Which story would that be about? The story of his life or the story of my childhood home?

Brad (00:01:52) – Of your childhood home.

Kevin (00:01:54) – Yeah. So, um, when I grew up, people talk about being fans of different musicians. So if you could imagine my childhood home, and I grew up in the seventies, and in my childhood home, we had our dining room where we’d have our, you know, fancy meals. And we had family over in a, had the old seventies velvet wallpaper with the kind of diamond like designs. And it was, you know, vel like golden velvet wallpaper, if you could imagine. And, you know, we were like, you know, we, we didn’t live in a fancy house by any means, but we had nice wallpaper, but we had a spectacular piece of art. And there was only one piece of art in the dining room. And that was a mirrored framed picture of Elvis Presley. And that was ha that was the only thing at our dining room. Some people would have a picture of a relative or maybe even, you know, a, a, a landscape.

Brad (00:02:45) – But ours was Elvis. Cause my family was deep, deep, deep Elvis fans actually to, to some point early in my life. You know, my friends that were, were really, um, you know, their, were their family, were, their religious beliefs were core to their family. They would have pictures of the, the God that they believed in or their beliefs up on their wall. And there’s a part of me that wondered for a while, if we believed in Elvis Presley, but , it’s so, he was a, he was a figure. And that’s why in my world, you know, when, um, Elvis Presley, uh, ended his life early in 1977, when I was a seven year old child, it hit me real hard cuz I was like, we idolized this guy. Yeah. And he, he was rich and he was famous, and he had an airplane, and he was an amazing performer. And he had it all in my naive childhood eyes. And I was confused of why he would, you know, tap out early in life. And, uh, that kind of got me onto the stalk of thinking about, you know, what, how, what does it take to like, thrive in your career and have a great life too, and wanna stay alive even? So, yeah.

Kevin (00:03:52) – Thank you for sharing that. I mean, there’s no doubt that Elvis Presley, oh, he was one of the first, he, he, he blazed a lot of trails in the Oh yeah. Entertainment industry and his suffering for mul multiple reasons. His suffering was immense. Okay. But it’s abs, I, I bring it up as a way to change the start of the podcast, because this is an example of what we’re talking about here. Last time it was executive burnout. Um, when do you know it’s time to get help? Uh, this time it’s, it’s building your resilience because frankly, we don’t want anyone to end up in the misery and the terrible, tragic end. Um, uh, which let’s be fair, uh, it took years to play out. Um Sure. Elvis or anyone else that you can name.

Brad (00:04:49) – Yeah. And, and unfortunately, it’s like the deep sart secret of the boardroom, where some people get to the point where their Bruno gets the best of ’em. Like happened to Elvis, it was, you know, a cumulative over time. But it, it, it, it happens to lots of people. It’s quite common. I mean, on one of the companies we work with, we, we lost a key exec, and it was, it was, it was incredibly sad, obviously horrible for them and their family and, you know, and lots of others have been close. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a real, it’s a real, it’s a real serious issue. Yeah. And we wanna talk about this. Today’s episode is more about the prevention piece.

Kevin (00:05:26) – Yeah. Yeah. I, in our research for this episode, we, we went to the definition of resilience versus strength and, and mm-hmm. . And it’s a great, it’s, it’s a great way to get an idea of what we’re talking about here. So strength is defined as the ability to withstand a great force. Okay? But resilience is the ability to recover quickly from damage. Everybody, everybody experiences mental health issues to some degree resilience. How do we build our resilience? It’s the ability to recover quickly from that damage. Damage will always happen. How do we recover quickly? And that’s the, the, the topic, um, that’s, that’s there. So, so I know how close this is to your heart. You wrote a book about it, you spend a lot of time speaking about it. And it certainly is to me as well, it’s our ability to recover from the issues that we experience that matters. Um, yes. It’s so important. It’s

Kevin (00:06:34) – Almost like elasticity of an elastic, you know, the stronger and more, um, and better the, the rubber in the elastic or whatever is in elastics these days, the more that it can bend and basically, you know, it can, you know, be pushed and come back. Yeah. At a certain point it breaks. And we’re trying to keep the idea from breaking, which is almost like burnout and, you know, and, and resilience. Our own resilience, our ability to balance back is like a muscle. You know, you can, there’s things that you can do to train it and, and get better at it. And that’s what a lot of, you know, personal growth and executive growth is about. And sometimes that happens naturally just through the work you do. You build more resilience throughout your life. Yeah. Sometimes you need some additional help. And sometimes there’s things that actually reduce your resilience. So no matter what, if you’re building an enduring great company, you’re gonna need more resilience as you continue to grow because you’ll have to handle bigger things, not only in the business, but then stuff in life happens.

Brad (00:07:31) – It, it’s, it’s the thing that people don’t anticipate as they’re growing. The more that you grow your business, the, the more complex challenges come your way.

Kevin (00:07:41) – Yes. Yeah. The bigger the company, the bigger the challenges and they have more zeros attached to them. Yeah. Or more consequences or more lives depending on the business that you’re, that you’re in. And, and no different than a power lifter, if we’re just looking at the strength side, going to lift more and more weight. Well, you need more muscles in all of your body to be able to handle that. And same thing for, you know, leaders and companies. You just need more resilience to handle all the stuff that gets thrown at you. So, yeah. And the definition, it’s ability to recover or balance another term for it. So the main thing is resilience. Resilience is a preventative measure and it helps you to feel good and mentally be well and, and happy. Um, but still, as we talked about in the last episode, we’re all one or two life, life, life events away from getting pushed into a place where we need some mental health help, where we get into the orange or red zone. So no matter what you do, you’ll be able to handle more, but there’s still things that could put you in jeopardy. And that’s okay. Yeah. We just want to make it harder and less frequent that we could get pushed over the edge mentally. Yeah. And, um, and that’s what this episode’s about.

Brad (00:08:53) – So, uh, we made the point, I just wanna reiterate it. We made the point last week that executives are often more driven than the average person. So this mental health executive burnout, building a resilience topic is, uh, we encourage, uh, more appropriate for our audience than the average person. Second point, or as we zoom out, uh, uh, before we start to go through some key points here, this is a job that must be done. Okay. Simply knowing, yes. Oh, there’s been a, there’s been a burnout event. Uh, and uh, yeah, it’d be good to build my resilience and then going back and watching TV is not going to solve it. This is a job that you’ve gotta do unless you work on this stuff. Uh, it may occur organically, but you necessarily, you won’t build your resilience, especially if you’re in a scaling business.

Kevin (00:09:48) – Yes. I guess. Absolutely. It’s critical. And it’s almost like if, if you were a a an electric car, the job that must be done is you gotta plug it in and charge it up.

Brad (00:09:59) – Yeah.

Kevin (00:10:00) – And we know that, unfortunately, we kid ourselves into believing that, you know, even though the car’s got a 500 kilometer range, we’re just gonna take it for 700 and see what happens. We, we wouldn’t do that with an electric car, but we do with ourselves. And the idea of resilience is always keeping yourself charged up. Yeah. Not letting yourself, you know, deplete not driving from Los Angeles to San Diego on 50 kilometers of range. We wouldn’t do that. Yeah. But often that’s what we try and expect of ourselves. And shockingly, um, it doesn’t work out most of the time when we overdo it for too long.

Brad (00:10:40) – Yeah. So a couple of quick points before we dig in. Um, I guess for, for me, one of the things that I’ve found in building resilience is a line in the sand. And, and the line would be Stephen Covey’s circle of influence versus circle of concern. In other words, there are things that concern us and the examples he uses, the sex life of celebrities or politicians, latest antics or what’s on TV or whatever else. There are things that concern us, but there is also things that we can influence. So in terms of building your resilience, just on any topic that comes across your radar, knowing is this a part of my circle of concern or is this a part of my circle of influence? So that’s the first point. The second point I’d make sometimes just saying to yourself, uh, in one year’s time, this thing that’s eating me up, that’s concerning me so much, it won’t be a big deal. Yes. And, and being able to be at peace with the fact this thing will pass, it doesn’t matter what it is, this thing will pass, is is a very good way to think about building that resilience. So having said that, Kev, I’d like to talk about your oxygen mask first, your book, because this is about building these habits.

Kevin (00:12:09) – Yeah, for sure. And the one thing I wanna talk about, like in your example you gave is excellent and logical. The problem is when your brain is in that red zone, mentally, we talked about the last issue, when you’re really, really in a bad place. Yeah. Our brain has bad thoughts. Yeah. And the ability to be optimistic and hopeful almost disappears to the point where people at that point, like they need to build their mental health and resilience so bad, they can’t see positives anymore. And that’s, that’s why it’s so darn risky. Yeah. Yeah. So we, but there’s a few chapters in the book, and the book is basically an entire book about resilience. And the model of the book is simply that people talk about work-life balance, which is very cute, but what they leave under the equation is self. And self is the power source, the battery of the car, essentially in that metaphor.

Brad (00:13:03) – And that’s you and your own resilience and you make things happen at work and you make things happen in life. And we often, and this is about neglecting ourself and keeping ourselves charged up. So we just pulled some of the key chapters out to, to talk about, and the first one is the chapter call Double your resilience And the root of it, and this is the specific focus on resilience, the others are secondary or, or influencing, is making time for what we call your resilience rituals. What do you, things you do that charge you up the, for your body, your mind, and your spirit. And so I’ll give you an example. So like this morning, it’s a Monday when we’re recording this, you know, I got up, I got outside and got some exercise mm-hmm. , that is one of my resilience rituals. Yeah. Um, then I also had some time to write this morning before I started my meeting.

Kevin (00:13:57) – It’s another one of my re resilience rituals. And last night I spent a couple hours preparing my plan for the week. So my action list, that’s another one of my resilience rituals. So weekly prepare the action list, which is for my brain in the morning exercise, which is for my body and my brain actually in a bit of my spirit too, cuz it elevates me. Yeah. Action plan for my brain. And then for spirit, I had a whole bunch of time with my kids on the weekend. And last week I had some, some extra time to go do an experience with some friends in Los Angeles. So there’s a bu you know, and I’ve got time playing with my friends at the racetrack coming up in the, in a month or in the, in the next month. So body, mind, and spirit, charging your those different parts of, of yourself. And if you just do the body, that’s great, but it’s, it’s not enough. And if you know your mind is important, but that’s not enough. The spirit is kind of the things that gives you inspired and connects you to purpose and connection with other people. And if you do those things regularly, uh, it makes a really, really, uh, so that’s for me, they, when I do those things consistently, things are good. And when I don’t do them things don’t go as well. It’s almost like my chart comes down a little bit.

Brad (00:15:10) – Yeah. Yeah. Um, make time for yourselves. Yeah. So for me, I guess I’ve, I exercise every day, um, 30 minutes to an hour. Um, and I, I switch between high intensity, a range of things that works really well for me. Um, there’s also saunas and meditation and some things like that that, that help to get me to refocus clearly. There’s also time with the family and mm-hmm. a lot of, uh, uh, time with friends. A lot of that type of stuff. And, and to be honest, also, it’s this podcast just being able to riff and talk garbage with you No. Uh, on a regular basis. Uh, so let’s move on to the next one from your oxygen mask first.

Kevin (00:15:56) – Yeah. Invest in your sweet spots chapter four. And the idea is, a sweet spot is work you love to do and you’re really good at it, and you do it in the environment in which you like to do it. So it’s basically, if you do it right and you spend 80% of your time doing work that, that you love to do mm-hmm. and you’re good at the way you love to do it, your work will give you energy when you’re drained by your work. Look, a a 12 hour day will drain most people, but in a regularish day, if you’re drained by your work, you’re probably doing the wrong work. Mm-hmm. . And as senior leaders, we can modify our roles or build a different team to suit us. So for example, one of the things that will absolutely zap and drain my energy is anything to do with forms administration or anything like that whatsoever.

Kevin (00:16:54) – Just it, it absolutely zaps me. And, but yet I will work with CEOs and executives with the most challenging problems in a second. Yeah. Someone says they have a, a big challenge they wanna work through, or a big opportunity, they wanna brainstorm around, I’m all in twenty four seven, call me. But administration stuff like I I, I can’t get away from it fast enough. So in my world, if 80% of my time is spent doing that, I’ve got infinite energy. And so Ill give an example. A C E O I worked with, um, long story short, had a bit of an issue with dealing with some people. And when it came to letting people go, drove him crazy, uh, he didn’t like it. Ended up creating issues and had a lot of lawsuits in their organization from from dismissals. Yeah.

Kevin (00:17:45) – And it drained them. And so we had a conversation, I said, well, why do you get involved? He’s like, and he had a, a whole story about why, but I said, at the end of the day, if you don’t like it and based on a number of lawsuits, you’re not very good at it. Right. Why don’t you get somebody else? And it was an epiphany. So he got someone else to get involved in these and he had zero to do with it. First of all, he didn’t have to be burdened by that in his day. Second of all, he had a lot less lawsuits, which took away further burden from his system. And again, it’s not rocket science, it’s just don’t do the things you don’t wanna do. And whatever you don’t like doing, somebody else loves doing.

Brad (00:18:27) – Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Kevin (00:18:29) – And it’s basic, but you need to give yourself permission. Go ahead.

Brad (00:18:32) – So you, you’ve gotta have something in the battery to be resilient. If, if you are depleted from just day-to-day, normal operating, uh, your, if your battery is depleted too much, then you’re not gonna be able to withstand those forces. So what have we got next? Something about toads?

Kevin (00:18:54) – Yeah. The next one’s called Lick your Toads. Basically it’s all the loose ends or incomplete things in your world, mentally or physically. The burden. You, there’s a story about it in the book, but basically it’s the things that you think about regularly. You get pinged with guilt or ugh, dread, but you don’t do them. And truly in the time you’ve spent thinking about them, the 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 times, you could have got them done. Yeah. And what I found, and through my work on this, and I used to do a lot on this years ago, is most people have 30 to 50 of these loose and incomplete things. And it could be a que like right now in, in, in my place here in the, in the shower, in the master, the silicone, it’s starting to discolor. Mm. And I know I need to get it done.

Kevin (00:19:47) – Mm. And I’ve gotta get some pictures that are beside me, hung up in my, I gotta get some pictures redone and hung up in my office. And the thing is, if you don’t care and you don’t notice it, it’s one thing. But when you think it’s burning cognitive energy, these are low value issues really in a, in a big scheme. But almost like from a feng shui perspective, they, they clog up your life if you believed in feng shui. And if you don’t, principal’s still the same. So for example, so I had a a, a leader that was a partner in a professional services firm. They had 150 of these, which is not uncommon.

Brad (00:20:22) – Yeah.

Kevin (00:20:22) – And they all just created huge amounts of mental friction and energy wasted on low value distractions that kept them from being as effective as they could in their job. Nevermind the amount of stress. And so if you wanna have more resilience, have less friction, and imagine walking to down, down the street to your, to your place of work or go to see your friends or family with 150 toads stacked up onto you that you’re carrying all that extra weight, it’s just brutal in ineffective.

Brad (00:20:52) – Yeah.

Kevin (00:20:52) – And well, and, and it just, it’s, it’s unnecessary burden, but it’s like you gotta do, if basically it becomes like spring cleaning for your mind and getting the stuff out. So,

Brad (00:21:02) – So if the last one was, uh, infinite energy generation is what you described it. So you’ve gotta have something in the battery at the end of the day. Yes. And this one is about the things that are draining your battery, the little things. Then the next one, dealing with your emotional junk is also about the things that are draining your energy. Correct. Or, um, things that are I guess long-term things rather than the silicon in the shower, things that are draining your energy.

Kevin (00:21:30) – Yeah. Cuz they’re just deep in your operating system. And this is just unpacking those triggers. So basically we’ve all, you know, everyone is healing from something or suffering from something. We’ve all got issues that bother us. And, and we’re not trying to be perfect humans, but we have issues that tend to show up and get in the way our emotional baggage acts out in our modern day life and gets in the way. So, for example, one executive that I work with and it’s, they’re probably the most challenging executive I work with and they just can’t help but be an asshole.

Brad (00:22:04) – Yeah.

Kevin (00:22:05) – Like they, they’re like the dog that needs to go piss on top of the other dog’s urine to stake their territory. Yeah. He can’t help himself.

Brad (00:22:15) – Yeah.

Kevin (00:22:15) – And as a person, I kind of, I I like him as a person and as a, you know, and he is, you know, we’ve got a whole bunch of the right things, but he just can’t help but continually be an asshole and be overly difficult. Yeah. Now, I don’t know what he is talking about if he has a counselor, if he’s talking to his counselor, but I sure know that it, it, it definitely, it regularly shows up and it regularly gets it. He gets in his own way and unfortunately he gets in the way of a lot of other people

Brad (00:22:46) – And that’s the point he gets in his own way. Because if we go back to the last episode where we’re saying, when do you know that you need to get some help, executive burnout, there are things that can be long-term challenges. Maybe it was a, maybe it was a divorce or a loss, or you got fired or you had a fight. I don’t know. There could be things that are stuck there that are making you in a, a certain ma making you act in a certain way that are leading to your unhappiness and acting out. So you’ve gotta get these things sorted out. Yes.

Kevin (00:23:23) – Well, and here’s the thing, if everywhere you go you run into assholes,

Brad (00:23:30) – ,

Kevin (00:23:32) – You’re probably the asshole. And I’ve had my own versions. I could, I I can be pretty fiery, but at the end of the day, if everywhere you go or you run into crooks Yep. Look in the mirror. Yeah. Right. If everywhere you go there’s, there’s people who are overly dramatic, like no matter what that is. Um, and we all have our things. I’m not perfect. I, I can still get intense and, and people might call me an asshole at times, although try not to. Um, but it’s, it’s, it’s internal triggers in our own junk that gets in our way and creates unnecessary consequences for ourself and others. So deal with your emotional junk, go see your therapist, continually clean out the things that get in your way so you can one, feel better inside and two, also be more effective and you’ll know what those are cuz they keep coming up.

Brad (00:24:26) – Okay. So then the last one that we’ve got is making yourself useless. Tell us about that one, Kev.

Kevin (00:24:31) – Yeah. Well it’s truly what our job is as a leader is to build a team so strong that there’s not much we need to do. And most people suffer from a, a, a less than ideal team. Yeah. Because it’s hard. It’s the hardest part of business dealing with the people stuff today we had to, you know, last few days we had to deal with somebody on a, on a company that just wasn’t cutting it and was an awesome person who we really, really, really, really liked. Really good person just wasn’t up to the task. And those are hard changes to make. Yeah. So the idea is it’s normally the team, the team either gives you energy or takes energy. It’s one of the one or the other. So if you wanna have a lot of resilience, have an amazing team or if you wanna improve your resilience, if you’ve got a bad one, at least get it to neutral.

Kevin (00:25:17) – Yeah. And, um, just story after story. But the root of it is build a world cl build the team that you want and that you would dream to have. It’ll free you up and give you energy. Cuz most of what drains you at work is the people around you. Yeah. Sometimes it’s the customers. Customers can be as, it’s interesting, um, we have a, a place that, uh, is in a, in a community where, uh, things are rented out over the summer. It’s a place that we don’t use a lot. So we, it’s in a, it gets rented out and you know, we have a list in the community of the people not to rent to and for whatever reason, I stumbled on it the other day, and guess what, every single one of this thing these people had in common,

Brad (00:26:01) – They were asshole.

Kevin (00:26:02) – Yeah. Generally they were painful. Yeah. And for all kinds of things. Yeah. So they were basically, they were customers that you didn’t want to have to work with. No different than team members you don’t want to have to work with. Yeah. But this one’s about team, it’s just, you know, and, and, and today I was just talking to a c e o about a new exec on a team that the c e o has and they’re, god my gosh, it’s so much easier. Yeah. It says, nevermind the quality of the work, the thinking we’re talking about, things like that are strategic in adding value to the, the convers, nevermind the work and the issues, the conversation has changed dramatically in a very meaningful way. Yeah.

Brad (00:26:43) – Yeah. Yeah. It matters. Awesome. Yeah. Okay. So building your resilience. We know executive burnout is a problem. Uh, we know that this is a job to be done unless you work on it, you won’t build your resilience. I would strongly recommend if this is a topic you are interested in, that you buy slash read Kevin’s book Your Oxygen Mask First by Kevin Lawrence. Um, it’s, you know, it’s a, a topic that not many readers, no, pardon me, authors have touched on and you’ve done a great job there. So thank you for that work, Kev. Uh, so to quickly summarize, uh, we’ve gotta know it’s a job to be done and it’s not gonna get done in a few days. So what we covered off here was doubling your resilience, investing in your sweet spots, licking your toads, dealing with your emotional junk, and making yourself useless. So, uh, anything else to add there, Kev, before we close? Nope.

Kevin (00:27:44) – No, it’s just that you, that you, that you deserve to take good care of yourself and make it preventative versus reactionary. It’s always worse when you do it reactionary. Find ways to do it and you generally feel better on a daily basis and you’re able to bring your a game to the table consistently.

Brad (00:28:01) – Indeed, indeed. Well, thank you again. Um, so this has been the Growth Whisperers podcast. Uh, my name is Brad Giles. You can find me at evolutionpartners.com.au and we’ve got a weekly newsletter that you may well be interested in where we share a whole range of interesting thoughts every week. Kevin, uh, the author again of your oxygen mask. First you can find at lawrenceandco.com. And Kevin has also a weekly newsletter that you may be interested. You can find us at YouTube if you search for the Growth whispers as well, if you’d prefer to see our smiling faces. Hope that you’ve enjoyed the episode and look forward to chatting to you again next week.