On the back of some big years, no leader or industry seems immune to the detrimental effects of burnout. And the professional services sector is no exception. Leaders and teams in Marketing and BD roles at professional services firms have operated through recent challenging periods, not to mention working in fast-paced and complex workplaces with talented people with high expectations.
Therefore, we sat down with Lisa-Marie Sikand – an expert in this area – about why burnout occurs, how to spot it and, importantly, manage it before it escalates too far.
Appointed to the C-Suite at just 33 years old, Lisa-Marie Sikand’s career was on the fast-track. As a Chief Marketing Officer of a global elite law firm, she was flying high, enjoying the opportunities of a successful commercial career managing international teams and working with the firm’s leaders to develop and execute BD & marketing strategies in highly competitive and fast-moving markets. She became known for her straight-talking practical advice, warmth and ability to get results and things done to a high standard. She was, to the outside world, flying high – until she came crashing down.
Following a series of life-changing events, including burnout, she redesigned her life.
She now runs a multi-disciplinary consulting practice, Soulitude7, working with leaders, founders and teams to achieve their commercial goals and harness the wellbeing revolution as a performance lever. Through strategic coaching, mentoring, workshops and retreats, she helps individuals and businesses to achieve healthy high performance and create sustainable success.
We asked her to write about burnout – something we are seeing leaders cite more and more as the reason for their resignations – and share her advice and recommendations to recognise when you might be pushing yourself too far.
What is burnout?
It’s a crushing, multi-faceted, chronic workplace-related stress that can lead to physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. It’s a modern phenomenon and particularly prevalent in professional services.
Several factors contribute to burnout in professional services. These include:
- High-pressure and demanding environments, leading to feelings of anxiety, stress and overwhelm.
- Lack or little control over your work and where roles and responsibilities are unclear, leading to frustration, helplessness and resentment.
- Long hours and tight turnaround times: Employees often put in more than 50 hours per week, leading to fatigue, stress and decreased productivity.
- Lack of support from management. When marketing and business development teams do not feel supported, it becomes challenging to stay motivated and engaged.
- Poor work-life integration: Presenteeism prevails, creating difficulty in balancing work and personal matters, leading to feelings of disconnection, unfulfillment and exhaustion.
New Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) research highlights 52% of respondents admitting they fear burning out in their current role and almost half (49%) demanding working pattern changes to cope with stress.
Signs of burnout
Here are some questions to ask yourself or to consider when spotting burnout in your teams:
- Do you need to keep pushing yourself, ignoring others’ calls to pace yourself?
- Have you lost perspective on what truly matters? Are minor details now giant?
- Do you prefer to isolate yourself, as connection feels burdensome?
- Are you neglecting your own needs, as everyone needs you?
- Are you feeling empty, irritable, or anxious, switching between numb and excessively worrying?
- Do you fantasise about running away – remote island, anyone?
The effects of burnout can be different from one person to the other, and can present in several physical ways:
- Low mood, energy and disconnection
- Digestive issues
- Poor sleep
Burnout is destructive
Burnout has many negative consequences for individuals and their employers, including physical, psychological and occupational:
- Reduced productivity: Employees who are burned out are less productive and effective, affecting their performance and contribution.
- Health problems: Burnout can lead to several health problems, including anxiety, weight loss or gain and depression.
- Increased absenteeism: Employees who are burned out are more likely to take sick days and miss work.
- High turnover: Employees who are burned out are more likely to leave their jobs, resulting in loss of knowledge, talent and, ultimately affecting the employer’s brand.
Leading research from consulting powerhouses, AON, McKinsey and Deloitte, evidence the business benefits of employee wellbeing, yet most strategies overly focus on initiatives only – the sticking plasters of remedial actions. And as good as they may be, initiatives won’t outrun poor organisational design, a toxic culture, sub-optimal organisational leadership and a fixed mindset. Conscious modern leaders know that wellbeing is the ultimate lever for healthy high, performance and responsible business.
Employees with high levels of wellbeing are:
- More engaged
- More profitable
Getting it right is crucial, for business and society.
Ways to prevent burnout in professional services
Below are some tips for creating workplaces and cultures that mitigate or minimise burnout in your teams:
- Creating a supportive work environment: Providing employees with the resources they need to succeed, such as fair, clear and open communication, trust, respect and support, building out to include training, development and flexible working options.
- Setting boundaries: Between work and personal lives, meaning working reasonable hours, taking breaks and disconnecting from work.
- Managing stress: Finding healthy ways to manage stress, including task prioritisation, exercise, relaxation techniques and seeking support. Unmanaged stress can lead to burnout.
- Being a role model by leading well with living better, because you fundamentally believe and advocate that wellbeing drives performance.
Ways to stop burnout before the whispers turn to screams:
- Acknowledge what’s happening – what you resist persists.
- Respect yourself and others. Revisit priorities and review workloads to determine what’s realistic.
- Start with focusing on the basics. Fresh air. Nutritious food. Good Sleep. Staying hydrated. Movement.
- Explore your mindset. How else might I look at this? Is my thinking working for me? What can others see that I am avoiding?
- Seek support. There is immense value in objective, professional help. Coaching supports individuals and teams to increase their self-awareness, performance, effectiveness and wellbeing.
Founder Lisa-Marie Sikand is a C-Suite professional, subject matter expert in leadership, business development and professional services, ICF accredited executive coach, thought leader and impactful public speaker.
She created the Get Out of Your Own Way®️ framework to support high-achieving professionals to consciously develop as sustainable self-leaders. She runs leadership coaching programmes for senior executives who want to lead themselves and others to healthy high performance.
Get in touch with Lisa-Marie
+44 7878 55 638