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Blueprints & Frameworks - An Uncommon Method To Avoid Burnout As A Leader, with Michael King

On the most recent episode of Human Capital Innovations Podcast, CEO of Teams Coach and business leadership coach, Michael King joined Jonathan Westover to talk about burnout as a leader, how to avoid it, and how to deal with it in a healthy way.

Michael posed the question, “Leaders are having a great weight put on them. They're having to navigate all the complexities. So how do we navigate and avoid burnout as a leader?” One of the main things needed is to first support yourself. “We want to be supportive and show empathy towards those people and we need to practice self care for ourselves.” The idea is to understand that everyone in the workforce, from employees to team leaders to CEOs will experience burnout many times during their career. The goal is to make it so “... you can deal with it in a healthy way.”


Michael described two types of leaders: blueprint leaders and framework leaders. He argued we should strive to become blueprint leaders, or leaders who know what is reasonable to expect and have detailed plans for their coworkers. They don’t rely on guessing and “winging it”. Blueprint leaders have distinct plans in place so they know what will happen and won’t be caught up in unexpected work, increasing stress and chances of burnout.


You can listen to the full episode at innovativehumancapital.com/podcast, or anywhere you listen to your podcasts, just search “HCI Podcast”.


Read the full transcript below:


Michael King. Welcome to The Human Capital innovations Podcast. Thank you, John, for having me. It's great to be here. Yeah, it's great to be with you. You're joining us from Omaha, Nebraska and south of Salt Lake City in Utah. And today we're going to be talking about avoiding burnout as leaders. There's lots of conversations around it out. Generally we talked about how leaders can support their people in avoiding burnout, but leaders are dealing with it too. They're having a great weight put on them. They're having to navigate all the complexities. So how do we navigate and avoid burnout as a leader? And what are some of the uncommon methods that we can go about using to try to help with that? And I know you talk a lot about blueprints and frameworks around how that can be done. So we're going to unpack that and explore that all together today as we get started, I wanted to share Michael's bio with everybody. Michael King is founder and CEO of Teams Coach LLC is a highly sought after executive and business leadership coach and he helps business leaders clarify and execute at high levels through his proprietary teams methodology to develop measurable business growth and companywide collaboration. Michael has close to 20 years of hands on experience leading teams and organizations. And in the past five years, he's worked with a wide range of clients, from solo entrepreneurs to top company executives. And I could really go on and on, but I'm going to pause there. Anything else, Michael, that you would like to highlight with your own professional journey and path as you've gotten to this point before we launch on into the conversation? Yeah, I think that bio makes me sound significantly more important or significant than what I truly am. But I do feel really very, very lucky that I end up being in the lane that I feel like I was created for and even how this links into the conversation we're going to talk about today with leader burnout. For roughly about 20 years before I became like an official licensed, certified credentialed, master degree, executive coach, I was 20 years working with pastoral leaders and working in the church context and moving across the country and working for high level visionaries and executive pastors and even some music type of things, production things. And I actually got to a place to where I experience burnout affected my life, affected my family, affected the churches that I was serving. And so somewhere in the whole grand orchestra design of purpose in my life, things played out a little bit differently for me. So I'm so thankful that I get the lead from a first share experience on this. And thank you for having me on this podcast. It's great. So I got three amazing kids, married to my wife Beth for 25 years. We have two huge dogs that are about the size of horses. I got a St. Bernard and a staoodle. It's been great living here in Omaha, Nebraska. I do love Omaha. The peak of our stress level here, living in Nebraska literally just comes down to whether the football team is winning and who's going to coach them next year, roughly lately, is what you're saying. Oh, my word. It affects everything. It affects the state economy. It affects whether people actually go out and go shopping, hang out with their friends or their family church on Sunday morning, by the way, I don't know if you're a church guy or not, but it affects congregations are down, like mass percentages, like sometimes upwards of 30%, depending on whether the Husk are winning or losing. That's exaggerating a little bit, but kind of not. Yeah, no, that's fantastic. Well, good. Thank you so much. And as we were talking in the pre interview, I'm from Missouri, not far from Omaha, really, just a few hours and wonderful part of the country. And I love getting back there whenever I get the chance. And I totally get how the whole community gets wrapped up in something like football and those sorts of things. All right, so today we're going to be talking again about burnout. And again, as I mentioned in the introduction, this impacts everybody. I mean, everyone has been dealing with burnout. Cove has been a really tough time, and people had to figure out how to navigate schooling at home while working and all the health and mental health challenges during that time. And we've largely come out of the height of the pandemic and the COVID restrictions and all of that, yet many people still are struggling to kind of get their footing and get set again, even though things have kind of gotten back to, quoteunquote, normal. During all of that time, tons of attention was given towards the average worker who may have been struggling and how organizations needed to show empathy and compassion and accommodations towards people who are struggling to avoid burnout. And especially with the great resignation and a tight labor market, like, you better treat your people well and help deal with burnout, otherwise you're going to lose them. So in all of that conversation, though, very rarely do we actually talk about the leaders within the organizations who are also experiencing the exact same things, yet they often don't have people looking out for them to say in a way that hopefully they're looking out for their team. Right? So let's start there and talk about burnout as a leader, how it's similar in many ways to just the normal burnout that any worker might feel, but also maybe some of the unique elements of leader burnout that are worth highlighting and then we can get into how we can go about avoiding it. Yeah, absolutely. It's a serious topic and I think more times than not, finding people in burnout phases of leadership. And we don't know necessarily why you might find yourself as a senior leader within an organization and consistently going into one. Of your peers offices and just feeling like, man, I'm so tired of having the same conversation with this person over and over again, because they just seem like they're a downer. They're just not bringing any life to the party. They're certainly not producing and you don't necessarily know what to do about it. And I think that's why executive coaching. This is why, like, for me, man, I love that I get to work with Fortune 500 sea level leaders. I love it. Why? Because I get to feel like I'm making a massive difference in making shifts to be able to help somebody find their purpose, but also for them to be able to see and think differently, to be able to help them live out their best version of themselves. Best life affects their family life. It affects their organization that they serve. So when we when we talk about this topic, we're really talking about a couple of different things that we need to address. First and foremost, the mind, why we think the way we think, the way that we feel, and the decisions that we make. And those three things along the way. There's all these different, like, snippets of tricks that get thrown our way that make us feel like that we're incapable of making decisions that we deserve to feel the way that we feel. And then the decisions that we make aren't decisions that we make, but it's consequences that we're stuck with. And those are kind of the big three elements that come into play when it comes to a leader. Kind of accepting burnout instead of fighting their way through it. Yeah, accepting it, leaning into an understanding that it's a natural part of the process that everyone has to deal with and then trying to have healthy ways to navigate it I think is important. Sometimes I think about the burdens that anyone has and you've talked about pastoral work in a church context. Whether talking about that context, we're talking about just general community context or organizational context, people have burdens. Everyone has their stuff. Every single person in your organization and your team has their own backstory, their own history, their own stuff on a daily basis that they're dealing with. And there's usually hard stuff going on in pretty much everyone's life. And so recognizing that and recognizing as a leader, on the one hand, we want to be supportive and show empathy towards those people and we need to practice self care for ourselves. We also just need to recognize that it's part of the deal. Like it's part of the deal of life that you're going to be dealing with these things. And so when it occurs, let's build muscles and habits around healthy approaches to burnout so that we don't spiral and go down unhealthy rumination paths and doing other negative behaviors that ultimately are going to just pile on what we're feeling and experiencing and that's something I see all the time. And I'm sure you actually referred to this just a few minutes ago and I've certainly experienced it too. I have experienced burnout as a leader, as a worker generally, but also as a leader, I've experienced burnout. And it's hard. It's hard when you feel like you're carrying the weight of everything on your back and you don't want to make a misstep because you know it's going to impact a whole bunch of people. That's heavy, that's heavy to carry. And especially when, I mean, in the best of times, it's a heavy weight to carry. But when things are really complex and messy and the ground is shifting under you as you walk, you know, that's really hard to be able to deal with that and keep perspective and to recognize and value the challenges that you're facing at the time so that you can deal with them in a productive way. Absolutely. When you get into this mindset of being stuck and a really great recipe for burnout, it's almost like the same recipe for what they call insanity is trying the same thing over and over and over again and expecting different results. When you get into this phase where it's like you feel like you don't have the ability to do something different, that you're stuck running the same exact place that you've been running forever, but you desperately need something different. To happen within your life and within your organization. But you don't have the authority or even the ability to make a different decision. To make a different choice. That's a really great opportunity for you to absolutely spiral out and to get burned out. So and one of those things is when we talk about even just on the first part of it, so we talk about how you think, your mind, how you feel and the decisions that you make going all the way back to the mindset. Part of that with working with an executive leader of understanding, you have your inputs and your outputs. So the first thing I would challenge you on is just recognizing, I love this quote that you are the sum average of the five loudest or the five most influential voices in your life. Understanding that part of the way that you're thinking about things and even how you feel like you might have the authority to take on certain things has a lot to do with who is influencing you in the first place. So who's your boss? Who's your reporting authority? How does that look like? Is there a good chemistry relationship happening there? Is there a clear understanding of the issues that are actually at hand in the first place and even the people that are speaking into your life? Do you have the cheerleaders that are surrounding you and helping you go to the next level and to be innovative with the solutions that you bring into the table. I tell leaders this all the time. When it comes to the vision of what you need to accomplish, that shouldn't be negotiable. That should be something that comes from a very deep seated place. It might even be something that's the vision of the organization, it's nonnegotiable, but the strategy, sector strategies and systems, those need to be collaborative. Like you need to be able to invite people in for you to be able to figure out new solutions. And so that's why those inputs are so strong. And then of course, we'll talk later when we talk about the blueprints frameworks thing, but that all comes down to outputs like who's surrounding you, like, who are you leading and you have them in the right seats. That's so key with making sure that you're being fair, with understanding what burnout is and the implications of it. Yeah, and there's so many different, like, as you've referred to, there's, I don't know, a gazillion different ways that people can feel burned out and what the causes of that burnout might be. So for as many people as you have in your organization, there's probably going to be that many different, slightly slight variations on the type of burnout and the reasons behind that burnout. I'm thinking of one type of burnout or one cause of burnout that I had felt in the not too distant past. And it was just feeling like I'm putting so much mental energy not only into my work, do good work, show up, be creative, be innovative, lead my team, help them excel, etc. For like all those normal things that take a lot of energy, but I felt like I was putting so much energy into constantly. I see it as a big role as a leader to be an advocate for your people. So if my team, if there's something that I see as I perceive as an inequity or unfairness or something like that and how they're being treated, I want to address it. So if there's some system, process, procedure within the organization that's inequitable or unfair, I see it as my job to advocate for them and to push back in healthy ways and to try to help them have as positive of an employee experience as possible. And yet, as I step back, I'm like, oh my gosh, I'm dealing with those same things. Who's my advocate in the darker moments where I'm kind of wallowing in self pity a little bit and I'm thinking, oh my gosh, I'm biting my head up against the wall over and over and over again, and who's my advocate? Who is looking out for me? And I look around, I'm like, I don't see it. I don't see my advocate. And that can be a little depressing. And a part of that is just the lonely road of leadership as we talk about often. It's just part of the deal to some extent. You just have to be willing to recognize that what you're going to be dealing with. But it's hard when you feel like maybe you're undervalued, maybe you're not being appreciated, maybe things are negatively impacting you in unfair ways and nobody is advocating for you like you're trying to advocate for your team. It's just one of many ways that could lead an individual to burn out at something that I've felt in the past. That's so good, John. And what you find is that and maybe you can relate to this a little bit in your situation, but you find a lot of times that our systems and our structures, our strategies and even our processes like the things that we do as far as how we get things done as a company. A lot of times those things are set up on the motivations of the people that are making the decisions. So if your motivation is to have amplified top line revenue, and that is the main thing that you're looking at, what you end up finding is that an organization, they'll put people who are absolute rock stars when it comes to increasing top line revenue, and they'll put them into place and they'll go ahead and put their playbook into place. And whether you like it or not, it's probably going to be profitable, but you will pay for it. And because, why is because the motivation isn't about EQ. It's not about high levels of emotional intelligence or high levels of organizational efficacy. These things are becoming more and more valuable as we're kind of transitioning through the think probably all the way. This is going to be a decade experience for us to be able to right size value systems within organizations. But that tension that you feel wanting to be an advocate for your team and then wanting somebody to be an advocate for you, if the motivations of your senior leaders aren't there to care about the things that you care about, then you are in a dark space, my friend. Yeah, and that's just one example of the difficulties that you have to navigate as a leader and why burnout is just very real and I'm sure people listening, I'm sure there's lots of people nodding their heads saying, yeah, I've had those experiences, or other similar types of experiences. We've all been there, we've all felt that and it's hard. And so give yourself space to deal with that. Hopefully you don't devolve and spiral down into negative wallowing and negative behaviors and ruminations and such. Hopefully you can deal with it in a healthy way. And that's what gets us to the blueprints and the framework. So let's go there and spend the rest of our time talking about some of the frameworks that you used to work with executives around, avoiding or in a healthy way managing the challenges and the burnout that they may face. Yeah, well, this is a bigger conversation beyond this as well. And so I encourage anybody to if they want to go deeper with me in this conversation, feel free to reach out to me. I imagine we'll give contact information later as well. But part of this is that organizational infrastructure actually has function. Do you believe that? That makes sense to me. Right. And a lot of times what end up happening is within organizational infrastructure. As far as knowing exactly how those positions that report to you, reporting to John how those positions are supposed to perform and how we can clearly identify the win within those positions. Sometimes we end up getting the wrong people in those seats, and we don't necessarily know how to surround the senior leader with the right type of leader in order for us to be able to elevate the organizational success of the organization. We figured out along the way that we try to break this down into two really, really simple identifiers is that if we can find out whether a person is a Blueprint leader or a Framework leader, we can typically find out whether or not that Senior leader is going to be able to really run well, because I think just a very generalized statement, I think that bandwidth is the number one asset for any Senior Leader. Knowing that if you're in a leadership role and you can get anywhere from 40% to 60% of your bandwidth to be future thinking, to be visionary in nature, you are a very lucky leader. And it means that you have the right people in your place to be able to keep the sustainable energy of today happening. So that's good. But here's the thing. A blueprint leader are people that you can say things like this. It's almost like, I think the Marvel Cinematic Universe is full of bunch of blueprint leaders and here's why. Are you a Marvel fan or DC guy or anything like that? Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so you might appreciate this, and everybody else is going, oh my man, this conversation just became incredibly nerdy really fast. But what I love about it's, like, as much as I love the storytelling and the characters and the talent that's involved, I'm a little bit more intrigued with the reverse engineering of success in the project that they do. So Kevin Feige, the master of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he'll say things to his directors like a James Gunn or whatnot? Hey, this is how the movie has to end. And here are the three characters that you have to introduce in the movie. I don't care how you get there, but do it compelling, meet our quality objectives. You have free reign. Build out your framework and go, see, he's talking to blueprint leaders. They decided that, hey, at some level, in order for us to scale, in order for us to be able to move it incredibly fast, we have to have people that understand that they have to build something from nothing and they have to be able to meet key cultural and key performance initiatives along the way. And that's really the definition of a blueprint leader. A blueprint leader is something you can say this to. I need you to get there. I don't care how you get me there, but just get me there. Or as the, I just totally had a brain fart there. But the main primary objective is this. With a blueprint leader, you don't necessarily always know that you're going to get something that you've asked for or maybe you don't necessarily know exactly what it is, but you know that it's going to be good and you know that it's going to align with your mission and your vision and the quality standards of the organization. A senior leader that's able to surround themselves with blueprint leaders, they have a significantly better chance to avoid burnout when they have blueprint leaders around them. A senior leader that surrounds themselves with framework players. Framework players are people that need to have specific instructions. They need to have a playbook, they need to have an operational management moment by moment. They need to have a clock punching mechanism in order to track their time. It's not micromanagement, but it's micro leadership. They need to have the small details of their job detailed out for them in order for them to perform. Those are powerful players too, but some people are just natively a little bit more blueprint or maybe they're more natively a framework. But studies have shown the more framework leaders that you have surrounding a senior leader, the higher chance they're going to have of being a burnout. Well, why is that? It's because that senior leader immediately becomes a micromanager. They become a framework leader because they have to be, because they're surrounded by framework players. Yeah, and I think also, not only are there dispositional components to that, so some people are just more naturally kind of blueprint people or framework people as you were describing. I think it's also in part just the difference you see in career development, right? And so you talk about young people coming into the workforce fresh and new in their career. They need a lot of coaching, they need a lot of mentoring, they probably need more framework kind of attention as they're growing into their capabilities and their self efficacy and just confidence and understanding how to go about being successful in their career. And then if we develop them well, hopefully we can develop many of those individuals, if not most of those individuals, to be able to at least be, if not naturally blueprint types of people, at least they can function in that arena more. And hopefully as people get senior in their career, they're able to move that direction. But like you said, it's really hard when you're surrounded with people that require that level of attention. So it's not necessarily micromanagement in the traditional sense. It's not me wanting to be controlling over my team. The motivations may be completely different, but the energy level required for being a framework leader still can lead to that burnout. And so finding ways to develop your people, especially early career individuals, towards more empowerment and autonomy and selfdirection, I think is going to be really important. You know, it on the head too, in that when you have Blueprint people on your team and you have them at the right level of authority, those Blueprint people can mentor framework thinkers and framework leaders and help them become more Blueprint along the way. Because here's the thing, is that understanding high levels of emotional intelligence, comfortability within the space, and the levels of excellence and expertise that come into so when we talk about competency, those things can all improve within a framework leader. So if you're new to a team, especially, like, if you're fresh out of college or fresh the workforce, if you're being mentored by a Blueprint leader, there's a pretty good chance that you're going to be able to drift. To some of your thinking, maybe even some of your some of your tendencies to be a little bit more blueprint along the way and more comfortable that you get, the more expertise you get, you'll grow into that. But if you put a framework leader high up within your organization and they're responsible to mentor, your chances are pretty small that you're going to help somebody elevate. Yeah, absolutely. Well, Michael, this has just been a really great conversation. We could go into great much greater depth here, but that's going to have to do it for us today. I know you have to go here in just a minute, but before we wrap things up for today, I wanted to give you a chance to share with the audience how they can connect with you, find out more about your work, your team, and then give us the final word on the topic for today. Yeah, absolutely. Well, my website is www teams Coach. So feel free to check us out on the Web, the interweb, the Internet, and you can find me on Social for Michael King anywhere from my personal to our Instagram pages, et cetera. Teams coach for Instagram as well and also on LinkedIn. And also we have, we just launched a podcast couple of months ago, the Level of Leader podcast with Michael King. So we're kind of stepping into the space that you're into as well. And so we love that. Okay, final word. When it comes to just kind of dealing with burnout and all those things, I think, again, just reminding yourself to having clear expectations and clear authority and clear responsibility, all these things have to align. There's no greater pain that you can actually have as a leader than to have a bunch of responsibility without any authority to make things happen. Start with that one singular thing in the first place, because part of that comes into the way that the things that we hear, the things that we think about and the things that we think about determine how we feel, and how we feel determines the decisions that we make. A really big thing for senior leaders is to understand that sometimes we get put in positions in which there's a high level of expectation for us to deliver, but we don't truly have the ability to make a decision to do something different. So responsibility without authority, it's painful. So address that and make sure that you put yourself in a situation to where those things balance out a bit. Yeah, I love it. Michael, thank you so much. It's been a real pleasure. I encourage you audience to reach out, get connected, find out more about what Michael and his team can do for you. And as always, I hope everyone can stay healthy and safe. They can find meaning and purpose at work each and every day. And I hope you all have a great week.

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