Single Arrows_RGB

Women and Burnout in Leadership

in PODCAST

New research on women and burnout at work and why it's causing women leaders to leave. Learn the signs women are burning out and what to do to help.

photo of Dr. Geri Puleo with a woman leader in the background looking stressed out as she works on her laptop in the background to show that this leadership 480 podcast episode is about women and burnout in leadership

A 480 PODCAST

Women and Burnout in Leadership

41 minutes | May 18, 2021

00:00:00 00:00

In this episode of the Leadership 480 podcast, Dr. Geri Puleo joins us again to discuss the workplace burnout epidemic that's only been made worse by the pandemic. But this time she shares new research specifically on women and burnout at work. Learn the burnout signs leaders and companies need to watch for and how to help women who are struggling.

Beth Almes:                        

Hi, fellow leaders and welcome back to the Leadership 480 Podcast. And today I'm so excited that we actually have a return guest. One of our most popular, Dr. Geri Puleo. Geri is an absolute expert on burnout. She has her own company, Change Management Solutions and a PhD in management specializing in organizational change and burnout. And don't miss her great TEDx Talk on burnout. 

And just now, the reason she's here today is that she's completed some new research on how burnout is affecting women in particular. And I will say, it's alarming, but there's some hope. So stick around for the whole episode. It's not as dire as it seems, but things we need to watch for. Geri's worked with us on a couple of microcourses on topics related to things like burnout, overachieving, similar things. And we brought her back given the success of our last podcast. So welcome back to the Leadership 480 Podcast, Geri.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Well thank you for having me again. I hope I can live up to that intro.

Beth Almes:                        

No worries. I'm absolutely positive that you can. So you've been working on some new research about how burnout has affected women. And I think so many of us have heard in the news. Women have been leaving the workforce in droves during this pandemic. And it was a problem before the pandemic and it has really become a problem now. So tell me a little bit about your research and what you're learning about how burnout is affecting these women.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Well, women have been, quite frankly, have been burning out in, I hate to use the term epidemic since we've been in a pandemic, but it's really been an epidemic in the workplace for many years. I think the pandemic because there was no longer a distinction between your work life and your personal life that it suddenly brought burnout to the forefront. 

In fact, everything's burnout. There's Zoom burnout, you've got chocolate burnout, you've got exercise burnout. They're calling everything burnout. But I think what happened with women during the pandemic is even though Millennials are not as stuck to traditional roles, women still tend to have the most important role of taking care of their children and there's help by spouse or someone else.

And I think when the pandemic hit and women were working from home, it wasn't just trying to find a quiet place at home, but it was the homeschooling of their children and everything else. And this is paralleling some of the research findings when I interviewed women who have burned out. And interestingly, I focus a lot on work burnout. 

And what I found with these women is, I mean, these were high achievers, in fact overachievers, they were also people pleasers. They were nurturing to their staffs. They were the type of employees that employers pray for and they were working crazy hours and everything else. But it seems like when something happened in their personal life, that was the tipping point. And unfortunately, most of the employers didn't recognize it.

And so these women went down the downward spiral into a full-blown burnout. I think what's happened with the pandemic is women are choosing now how they're going to work and how they're going to spend their time. And in this research, I was able to identify the top three symptoms for women and I've been doing some, I'm kind of geeky, so I've also been doing some analysis of, is it different by generation? 

The number one symptom of burnout was exhaustion or fatigue or feeling like you're running on empty. And as we all know from this pandemic, the utopia of working from home and life will be calm, many people found they were working longer hours. And without having that mental break of going to work and then coming home from work, people started getting more and more stressed and they became more exhausted.

The second major symptom that I discovered was these women were unable to focus or concentrate. And a lot of them felt kind of spacey or even confused, but they had a lot of difficulty concentrating and focusing. And if you think about it with the pandemic, if you're working from home and you have all these other challenges and responsibilities, it can be difficult to prioritize. 

And then finally, the biggie is irritability and crankiness. People who were burned out are very cranky. Many of them also experienced a lot of anger and a short fuse. And so I think that if you look at these top three symptoms because the women I interviewed didn't all just burn out recently. Some of these burnouts were earlier. But it's the same type of thing and I think the pandemic just exacerbated these symptoms.

Beth Almes:                        

Yeah, that make so much sense. And what you were saying about what high achievers these women are, I think that's such an important point that why companies need to care about this, why you need to be looking at your team that often the people so susceptible to burnout are the ones you really, really need to keep. I mean, it's their desire to do things well that is often causing this.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Well, and a lot of these women talked about when they left their jobs and here's a call-out to employers, when people totally burn out, they leave, period because they have to leave the stressful situation. But I think that when you look at burnout and you look at the overachieving, it seems to be coupled with people pleasing. And these women talked about something that I was fascinated with. They talked about wearing armor at work-

Beth Almes:                        

Wow.

Dr. Geri Puleo:  

... because they had to steel themselves up to deal with all the stuff in the workplace. But the problem was with their teams, they were earth-mama, they were nurturers, they were the type of bosses that you had to go through the fire for. And that's cognitive dissonance because they're doing two different things. 

And many of these women delayed dealing with their burnout and delayed leaving their jobs because they wanted to protect their teams. So they were literally falling on their swords for their teams. And the other thing I'd like to mention is there's all these warning signs that come up, but across the board, the women ignored them. They didn't have time. These were the overachievers. I'm not talking high achievers, I'm talking the overachievers.

And the other thing I found is that perfectionism is usually tied to burnout. These women weren't perfectionists and that's the scary part. They knew when something was good enough that they had so many competing responsibilities and everything was a priority and everything was urgent that they didn't take the time to say, you know something, I'm not sleeping at night. I'm waking up every hour. 

Gee, maybe something's wrong. And in fact, I know I'm kind of jumping ahead here, but I asked them what the most difficult part of recovery was and many of them said admitting there was a problem. So I think that's a real issue. And these women aren't coming back into the office. In fact, many of them started their own businesses.

Beth Almes:                        

That's so interesting. And I'm going to want to dive into that. So, but tell me a little bit when they said the problem was... One of their biggest hurdles was admitting there was a problem. Is that because they felt like their feelings were their own fault, were they feeling like it was someone else's fault? I mean, what was the barrier to admitting there was the problem?

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Part of it's superwoman complex. Let me tell you a story. These women were the women who had great jobs, great marriages. They went to all their kids' soccer games. They were the ones that were held up on a pedestal as man, I wish I could be like you. I kind of call it the Martha Stewart Syndrome. You know Martha Stewart?

Beth Almes:                       

Oh yeah.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

I mean, some of her recipes are good, but she's kind of like my aunt. She always kind of leaves one step or one ingredient out. But-

Beth Almes: 

It never quite turns out the way when I make it that the way she does.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

... Oh I know. It never looks the same. You sit there and go, it's going to be beautiful. Oh my God, this is horrible. I can't even serve it. But I think with this... Everybody looked up to them. 

I had one woman who shared a story with me of one of her lowest points. She was really fried. I mean, she was having a lot of physical symptoms, emotional system symptoms, everything else and she kept powering through because that's what we're supposed to do. Keep your emotions at the door. You come to work, you have to work. There was a town hall meeting in her company. And she was at a director level and she opened up and was vulnerable and shared how she was feeling and how burned out.

Well, after the collective gasp from all the people in the company, she thought, I'm going to lose my job. I'm off my pedestal. It's horrible. A few dozen people came up to her and said, "Oh my God, you're describing what I'm feeling. And you're director, you have it all together. You seem to be able to balance everything. If it happens to you, it can happen to me." 

And so I think a lot of the reason for ignoring is there's so many responsibilities and these women were loyal. I mean, they wanted to do a good job and they cared about people.

And what they did was they put themselves last. Sound familiar with women in general? Take care of everybody else. And then maybe if there's anything leftover, I'll take care of me. 

But it goes back to that idea of when you're on a plane and traveling with the child, if there's problems and the oxygen mask comes down, your reaction may be to put it on your child, that you have to take care of yourself first so that you can take care of the other people. So I think that's why they ignored a lot of the warning signs.

Beth Almes:                       

Oh, that's so interesting. And you mentioned that their thought was to power through. And I wanted to talk a little bit about length of time that this goes on because sometimes I think there's an impression that we just have to get through this. Get through the two weeks. Things will be better or whatever and sometimes that's the case. 

That's sort of the regular stress. It's a bad week this week, but we'll get through. So how long does it take for burnout to kind of set in and it's burnout, it's not distress? And then how long does it last? How long does it last until they recover?

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Well, this is really interesting because these women may deal with themselves and did exactly what you said. If I can just get through this, then there was never respite or reprieve or recovery. And it went to the next week. It was, well, if I can just get through this, then I'll be feeling better. This is scary. These women, over 61.5% overall, their burnout lasted over a year.

Beth Almes:                        

Wow.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Lasted. And in the Generation X group, 40% of them had burnout that lasted over two years.

Beth Almes:                        

Wow.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

I mean, this is not something that lasts three months. My original research found that the progression into burnout was a gradual realization. It wasn't a specific event. But when I started interviewing these women, it's that combination. It's growing, it's growing, something's wrong and then there's that pivotal experience that just takes them right over the edge. 

And when these women share these experiences, and I'll tell you, they make your hair curl, when they shared these experiences, no matter when they had the burnout, they were right back into how it feels, which is why you mentioned my TEDx Talk.

There's a similarity I believe between burnout and PTSD. So the progression downward can take at least a year. And then they're in it for at least a year. And then recovery takes on average two years. Now you're talking four years in a person's life where they feel horrible. They've got mental issues. They've got emotional issues that a lot of times they don't seem to take action until it comes up with some type of a physical problem. I had one woman say to me that she was gritting and grinding her teeth so badly at night. She got bone spurs in her jaw.

Beth Almes:                        

Gosh.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

And you can't get rid of them once you have them. So two years is like, wow, that's a long time. But I interviewed women that were five years from the burnout. And they're like, I still haven't recovered because they went to another position, never fully went through the self-awareness and the peeling back to find out what caused their burnout and what they need. And they went into what I call a residual burnout. So they went to a new job thinking everything's fine. I left the stressor, things are going to be great.

Bam, something happen and they're right back into it, either into the steps leading to burnout with your frustration, anger, and apathy or the full-blown burnout. And so that's really scary. And think about it from a leadership position and from a corporate or organizational perspective. 

A lot of these people across the generations are burning out. It's not generational. And think of how miserable they are, think of the loss talent when they finally leave because it comes down to my job or me. The other thing I found is that many of these women were the primary breadwinners in their companies or in their families. 

Beth Almes:                        

Interesting. Yeah.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

So they had a lot of responsibility for that. So they just kept pushing and pushing. But many of them left their jobs because it was either if I don't leave, I'm going to die. It's that extreme. So I think one of the big takeaways is that burnout is not that you're tired. 

If you can sleep it off or you can go on a vacation and feel totally refreshed when you come back, you were just stressed. You weren't burned out. And I think many... I heard one international business leader answer a question in a summit where the guy said, "I'm just so tired. I don't know what to do. I can't think straight."

And I'm sitting there going, "Yeah, he's burned out." This guru said to him, "Well, take a long weekend vacation every quarter." Well, you can imagine. I was jumping up and down. Thank God it was online. They didn't see me because I'm like, no, that's not going to help. 

That's not dealing with what the problem is. So yeah, it's a serious issue because it is so long in terms of burning out, experiencing the burnout, admitting that there's a problem and then recovering. And it hurts everybody. It hurts the company, it hurts the individual and it hurts the clients.

Beth Almes:                        

So I get it. It's not as simple as taking a three-day weekend. I wish it was.

Give everybody a couple more PTO days, problem solved. But it sounds... I mean, recovery is possible from it. It can take a long time.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Yes.

Beth Almes:                        

But what does that start to look like when people recover? How does... What can they do? What happens when they recover?

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Well, the ideal recovery. And now this is assuming that you're not going into a residual burnout. That you think you recovered and then you really burned out again because that just prolongs the process. But what I found with these women with the full recovery is enlightening, it's empowering and it really is a source of hope. 

In my original B-DOC Model, it was an inverse bell curve. And it started off with high levels of hope and then it descended into burnout. And then when you recovered, it was a revised psychological contract with work, which is I will give you this, but I expected this in return. But it was not at the same high level of hope. And that was good. You know what I mean? But it wasn't all encompassing.

And what I found from these women is that when they fully recover, that tale goes beyond the revised psychological contract and it really gets into Maslow self-actualization. They have boundaries. They know who they are. They're not afraid to say what it is they need. 

They're not afraid of leaving toxic relationships. They are still driven, but it's purpose-driven and they're living their lives based on their purpose and doing good in the world. I mean, it's just this amazing kind of a transformation. And they're happy and they're peaceful and they're calm and they take care of themselves so they're better able to take care of other people.

So that's what an ultimate recovery looks like and they don't go back. And they protect themselves, not with these rigid boundaries and walls that it's like, okay, you want me to do this? This isn't going to work. I can't. Let's try something else. Which means they're better employees. 

They're not going to posture to say, "Oh yeah, I can do this. I can do this. Put something more on my plate. I'm working 100 hours a week, but I don't need to sleep." They don't do that anymore. And as a result, their quality of life, their quality of work goes up, which is that's pretty exciting, really exciting and really hopeful.

Beth Almes:                        

Yeah, I mean, it's great to hear that there's hope at the end of this. That if you hurt someone, if you're a leader who's listening right now and you're experiencing some of this, there is hope of setting boundaries and being able to do better. 

But you did also mention earlier and I'm curious. A lot of these women, what kinds of jobs are they going back to? Similar roles? You mentioned a little bit about many of them are starting their own businesses.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

A lot of them do.

Beth Almes:                        

So when they come back, what does that look like?

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

When they come back, it's not the money that's the driver, it's not the status anymore, it's doing the work. And I know this sounds artsy fartsy, but if you really think about what's happening in society, that's really critical. 

And Millennials, thank heavens for Millennials, are much more purpose-driven with a social consciousness. And that's a good thing. But I found the same thing going on with baby boomers and Gen Xers. 

Are they coming back to the same jobs? Yes and no. They're in their fields, but it's kind of changed what they're doing. For example, I had one international director who flew all around the world. 

She said, "I'm not doing that again." Because she never had any downtime to get her body acclimated. So they are changing in terms of what they're going into. The other thing I found really interesting is many of these women went back to school-

Beth Almes:                        

Oh wow.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

... and got PhDs or masters degrees. And it was kind of a call-out that I'm doing this for me. This is what I want to do and I'm going to choose what I do in my life. So that's pretty exciting.

Beth Almes:                        

I think that's fantastic. And as I'm listening, I'm thinking of it from two points, on the individual side, this is good. You can find it. It's going to look different in the future. But if I'm listening to this from the company side, if I were sitting here as a senior leader, a C-suite leader, things like that, this is panic-inducing.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Of course.

Beth Almes:                        

... to think of like, not only are your great performance. I mean, you're talking... You referenced women who are directors and team leaders and high-level leaders. And I would be sitting here thinking not only are we at risk of losing all this talent, they may never come back. 

And there's such an important focus right now on building more women in the pipeline and having gender diversity in leadership. And they were already struggling long before this to fill the pipeline with more women leaders. 

And as I'm listening to you, I'm thinking if they're all burning out at these levels, how am I ever going to get women into these roles where we need them, where we need that talent and all that they have to offer?

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Yeah.

Beth Almes:                        

We can't afford to lose it. So given that seriousness, what did your research show about what companies are doing to prevent this? Because they should be panicking right now.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

You ready for the one-word answer?

Beth Almes:                        

Maybe.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Nothing.

Beth Almes:                        

And that's what I was afraid of.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Absolutely nothing. In fact, one of the questions that I asked was, did your employer help you to avoid or overcome burnout? And I got two responses. One was maniacal laughter like really? 

Or the other was the extreme of that quiet no. No, they didn't care. And in my original research, I found two, the top two things that stressed out people, number one was poor leadership, which that goes right up into DDIs early research in terms of improving leadership because it's a win, win, win. 

It's a win for the company, win for the employee and win for the customer. But number two was the belief that the company doesn't care about me.

Beth Almes:                        

Wow.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Lack of organizational caring. Many of these women had five or six bosses in a two or three-year period.

Beth Almes:                        

Wow.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

So their bosses didn't know them. It's just like, put someone, put a hamster in the wheel and let them go. But they never had that one-on-one. So I think if you're a leader, what you need to do, and there's really a strong movement for this right now, is to practice empathy and compassion. 

And that gets into the squishy stuff. How do you measure that? Am I a level eight, am I level 10, am I a level two on compassion? How do you measure that? Because in business, what gets measured, gets done. But I think it's where you have to look at your policies. It's kind of the same with discrimination.

You may not be trying to discriminate, but there could be an adverse impact and the oops, I didn't, no defense doesn't cut it. So I think employers need to practice greater empathy and compassion. And that may be the silver lining in the pandemic and the work from home. 

Because if you think back and we've all seen the cartoons about this, people were in their little business suits for their Zoom meetings at the beginning of the pandemic. And then they decided we're going to be business from the waist up and sweats and flip-flops from the waist down. And then we started relaxing a little more and then we had the cat that walks across the screen.

And then we have the child who comes up and suddenly people seemed human. They're not just employees anymore. These are people that have lives outside of work and they have things that they care about. And I think the smart companies are going to learn that lesson. 

And really, and I've been screaming about this for years, to put the human back into human resources. They're not robots. They are not automatons. And one of the things that you can look for in an employee who might be burned out is that they appear very robotic. They're just going through the motions. They're also cranky if you ask them anything that's not in their schedule, okay?

Beth Almes:                        

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

So the irritability is there. But I think it's empathy and compassion for the whole life of the employee. And also to recognize what the organizational stressors are. And I don't believe that corporations exist. 

Okay, now that sounds like a weird statement. I know. But corporations only exist on paper for tax purposes. Okay, now we can talk about culture and everything else, but guess what? 

Culture is not created by that piece of paper, culture is created by people. And people are complex and they have different needs, they have different desires, they have different wants. And I think companies need to recognize that. I mean, we had to with this pandemic.

I mean, when you have the cat walking across the screen or I love it when they just sit there and then look at the screen like, hey, I'm part of this meeting too, employees are seen as human and it breaks down those barriers. 

We are not in a manufacturing or industrial age where you've got an assembly line and if Joe is over on the assembly line, move the dead body, put Tom in his place and things go right on. We're in a knowledge age, an information age and that is people. Despite artificial intelligence that's still programmed by somebody. And what are your assumptions behind that artificial intelligence?

So I think that leaders should be frightened because this is a wake-up call and more and more people are saying, I don't know if I want to do this. Just the simple thing of demanding that employees come back into the office because it's safe. 

Many employees are saying, "I did my job really well from home. Why can't I continue doing that? It works for me." I mean, why do you have... Form follows function. You don't necessarily have to be that rigid. 

What they are finding though is a hybrid workplace is better with two days in the office and the rest of the time at home because people were feeling lonely, even the introverts were feeling lonely and you need that personal connection with people. So yeah, organizational leaders should be frightened, but they shouldn't be paralyzed by it. There are things that they can do.

Beth Almes:                        

So if you're a leader, we just did some research in our Global Leadership Forecast. And one of the things that leaders told us, it's a survey like 15,000 leaders. One of the things they're least prepared to do is prevent burnout on their teams. 

So they know that we get this and they know to look for it. And they don't feel like they know what to do about it. So if you see it on your team, you see someone doing, the signs you mentioned, acting robotic, they're irritated, they're stressed. And normally this is a high performer, right?

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Beth Almes:                        

This is somebody who's always ready to take on the next thing and you're starting to see signs, can you bring them back from the break or once you see it, are they kind of, are they gone?

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Well, let me say two things. First of all, the reason why I believe organizational leaders can't address the burnout is because they're burned out themselves.

Beth Almes:                        

We saw that too.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Yeah.

Beth Almes:                        

We saw that in the research that a huge percentage of leaders, what they said was, we had asked them about how they feel used up at the end of the day and how often. It was really hot. It was very hot.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Well, yeah, and there's a fear behind it. There's a real fear. If I don't perform, I can lose my job. If I don't meet the numbers, something is going to happen. 

And the first thing, it's like the director in that town hall, she had the guts and the courage in front of the whole company to say, I'm burned out and this is what's happening. But that opens the dialogue. And there's a lot of shame with burnout. 

I remember I talked to a former CFO, a woman who was fried in her job. She was in New York City and she had lunch with a friend of hers. And she said, "I'm really burned out." The friend rolled her eyes. And this woman said, "Why are you rolling your eyes?" She said, "You're in finance in New York City. Get over it. It comes with the territory."

Beth Almes:                        

Wow.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

And so there's a shame factor. It's like they cut... And here's the other thing. Okay, may I go on a slight tie right here?

Beth Almes:                        

Sure.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

What I see is that the tools to overcome burnout basically have the underlying assumption that burnout is an individual's maladaptive response to stress. In other words, there's something you're doing wrong. 

Your time management is wrong, your expectations are wrong, you're a people pleaser. It's your fault. But what I've also discovered is that you can be doing everything right. 

You can be meditating, you can be getting sleep, you can be eating correctly, you can be trying to put in boundaries, but if you're in a toxic workplace, you're still going to fry. It might not be as quickly, but you're still going to fry. 

I mean, let's be honest with it is if the organizational leaders in the C-suite can say, I understand what you're going through because I'm going through it.

And then it's going to require organizational change. What is going on in the workplace? What types of policies and procedures and roles are in place that support the descent into burnout?  And that's tough. That is really tough because that's looking in the mirror and seeing all the warts. 

But one of the things that's important with organizational change is participative management. Well, that's humanity. So talk to people what is it that they need. Don't be so rigid, be willing to listen. And I will say something else though. A lot of companies are without the employee wellbeing programs. And I think they are valid and I think they are important, but it only addresses part of the equation.

Learning how to meditate for someone who was always very active and exercise doesn't work. For someone who was very introspective to say, you need to go take a 20 minute walk, oh, every day doesn't work. So what I found in my participants, they went one of two roads. 

They either went through the body and the physical road first or they went into the more reflective spiritual meditative road. Eventually the roads crossed. I've been exercising, but now I need to deal with some of my thought processes. So they became more self-reflective. Or I've been self-reflective and I'm beginning to feel better, I need to take care of my body and they flip over. But you need both of them.

I think that a lot of the wellbeing programs do not address the context of the burnout. And I mean, I've seen situations where people were really... For example, I had many women who had a boss who was their mentor, loved the boss. 

The boss protected them from a lot of things. They were supportive. It was everything you wanted. But then for some reason, the boss left the company either voluntarily or involuntarily and suddenly the new boss did not have the same relationship with this woman. So they were lost and they're still trying to protect their teams.

So it's very tough to deal with this problem because it's the dirty little secret. But if you believe that there's a lot of burnout in your company, consider that to be the canary in the coal mine. The canaries were sent into coma test for toxic gases. 

And basically if the canary died, well, that's a sign that something's wrong. Burnout is the canary in the workplace coal mine. If employees are burning out at high levels, it's because something is wrong within the organization and you need to have the courage to address those things.

Is it easy? No, not at all. Is it gut wrenching? Yes. And is it going to make immediate change? No, because if you don't have a culture of trust in the first place, employees are going to look at you with suspicion. 

So I do believe that there is hope and it starts at the top. And if people in the C-suite are burned out, you need to put the oxygen mask on yourself because you will then discover what worked for you to recover from burnout and then you can help other people. 

But again, don't just say, this is what you should do because every person burned out for a different reason and every person is going to recover in a different way.

Beth Almes:                        

Oh, that's so powerful. And I think the lesson here too of it's hard for people to admit burnout to a superhero.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Oh yeah.

Beth Almes:                        

Someone who is perfect. And you're thinking they've got more stuff than I do and they're doing great. I don't want to say anything. I'm just going to leave because I don't think I can cut it here.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Right.

Beth Almes:                        

Such a powerful lesson for leaders in sharing their own vulnerability and something that companies can do. We've talked about this a long time at DDI about how authenticity, vulnerability, and leadership can actually be a very powerful tool versus a weakness.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

It's a powerful combination. But I think in society, we view anything like that, as you said, as being weak. 

What's going to happen? Somebody's going to take advantage. Now hey, it doesn't work that way because when someone's authentic, you are more likely to be authentic in return.

Beth Almes:                        

Right, these are great lessons. And I think for those leaders who are listening today, they can be looking for this on their teams looking to support them, looking for the signs and looking forward in yourself too.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Yeah.

Beth Almes:                        

And being able to admit some of this can be things that if you do like your job, but are overwhelmed.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Yeah.

Beth Almes:                        

There are paths forward to start addressing this burnout. But it's going to take some larger support from more people working on this, working on the empathy, working on meeting the personal and practical needs of everybody as they're going through this. And this is all here to stay. So this is wonderful.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

I mean, I throw one other thing out, be patient with yourself. This isn't a project that you have deliverables by certain deadlines. I will be feeling this much better within three weeks and then in six weeks. 

And we tend to do that because it's a way of making sense. And there's this sense of urgency that I have to get rid of it soon. But the more you push, the slower your recovery is going to be. A lot of these women learn how to let go. 

And that is scary. That is very scary. What I found in my own life though is I tended to be a crazy planner and I used to be one of those overachievers that overachievers are not high performers. There's a big difference there.

Beth Almes:                        

Yeah.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Overachievers, there's usually some sense of I have to prove myself, whereas someone who's a high achiever knows what's needed to be done. And I think that in my own life, learning how to let go and not plan everything so minutely allows serendipity to occur. 

And nobody talks about serendipity in management, but it's those little things like, oh wow, I didn't expect that opportunity. But it's practicing yoga where it's willful determination, but lack of concern with results, which goes against most business models and business school. 

But it's still doing the work so that you do what's essential. When the pandemic hit and people worked from home, what a lot of companies found is, God, we're more efficient now than we've ever been.

Beth Almes:                        

Yeah.

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Well, gee, you were focusing on the essential stuff and not all the non-essential. And so that when you do the work and you let go, you're focusing on what's really important. 

And I think to organizational leaders, may I say that you don't have a company unless you've got employees. They're your only non-duplicatable competitive advantage. Your competitors can reverse engineer everything else that you do, but they can't reverse engineer your people. And that can give you one incredible competitive advantage after this pandemic.

Beth Almes:                        

That's a fantastic statement. And so I think I'm going to leave it there on this interview because it's so powerful. Thank you, Geri. 

Dr. Geri Puleo:                  

Oh, my pleasure.

Beth Almes:                        

It has been therapeutic for me. I hope everybody listening is feeling much better. We're all feeling a little bit better about our burnout, what to do, how to share vulnerability, and move forward. 

So thank you for spending part of your 480 with us today and give this really valuable insight. This is Beth Almes reminding you all to make every moment of leadership count.

Subscribe to our podcasts!