During the pandemic years, over 2.4 million Americans retired early, many in supervisory, manager or senior leader roles. While some of these older employees have since re-entered the workforce due to tele-work options and higher pay, many have not. And many of those who have returned are coming back as individual contributors, electing to forgo the stress (and longer hours) of being in a leadership role. Let’s be honest. Bringing you’re A-game to work as a leader week after week can be a tough assignment.
This exodus of experienced managers has left many organizations scrambling to back-fill, pushing many younger workers into front-line supervisor roles with little, or sometimes no formal training. Even those organizations that do offer training usually focus on the task elements of the job, not the “soft” stuff like managing relationships, resolving conflicts and having “crucial” conversations about performance gaps. Fewer still provide training on how to keep your own energy and skills sharp. I think this is a mistake which can lead not only to burnout, but also unnecessary turnover.
It’s with this in mind that I offer 5 ways for you (or your managers) to build personal resilience and capacity for the long game.
Encourage yourself and other managers to prioritize their own physical and mental health by taking breaks, exercising, getting enough sleep, using their allotted vacation time to recuperate, and taking care of their own emotional needs. While it’s important to be flexible on occasion, never allow yourself to be put in a situation where you consistently burn the candle at both ends. This builds resentment over time and can even compromise your physical health.
Similarly, set boundaries and stick to them. This might mean saying no to extra work on occasion, delegating more tasks, or consistently taking work home. While our personal needs can vary depending on age, family status and other obligations, nobody benefits from you not having a healthy and sustainable sense of work life balance. But no organization is going to give you this on a silver platter. You have to define and carve it out yourself.
Develop a support system
Make time to develop and nurture a support system of friends, family, and colleagues (including mentors) who can provide emotional support and help you manage the intermittent stresses that come with your job. We’re social creatures by nature and being able to turn to others whose opinions we trust and value can be a real advantage in the long run.
There is no such thing as a stress-free manager or supervisor job. It simply doesn’t exist! So make time to learn and practice mindfulness techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga, to help manage stress and improve mental clarity. Some techniques, like box breathing, are simple, but extremely powerful tools that can help us remain calm, patient and present even during stressful situations.
Most importantly, make time for learning and developing new skills (including the “soft” ones). Taking courses or attending workshops that enhance your skills and knowledge base not only benefits you, but everyone you work with or is a stakeholder in your efforts. It also prepares you for the next promotional opportunity that comes your way!
My dad used to say, “We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time.” This mindset is especially important for supervisors, managers, and leaders. Leading others is a tremendous responsibility. It’s also a privilege…and one that we should relish, not dread.