Burnt: The Personal Cost of Leading Culture Change

nStratagem Insights Burnt The Personal Cost of Leading Culture Change

Are you suffering from culture change fatigue?

This is a common affliction suffered by those who have been made responsible to deliver culture change in organisations where expectations are high, strategy is not clear, resources limited, leadership direction and commitment is opaque and employees stubborn to adopt and adapt.  

If this is you, then you most probably feel like the TV newsreader who reads the same news items for their entire shift punctuated only by the dramatic on-the-hour programme music theme or beeps – the great reset. Then like Pavlov’s dog – on cue, read, repeat, read, repeat, read, repeat, read, repeat, stop, go home, start again the next day. Sigh!

I can only assume that every newsreader hopes for Breaking News to interrupt the boredom.

Do you feel that you are going insane? Equally worse, questioning your own competency.

Are you promoting and defending a change strategy that you find undeliverable and difficult to defend?  If this is you then you may also lie awake at night wondering if it is the people, the leader, the strategy or is it you?

This burden takes its toll on your psychological and emotional wellbeing including your confidence.

The difference between you and the newsreader is you are trying to create something new and different and inspiring with great pressure not to repeat the same old “stuff” again. Expectations are high and everyone is watching. Your reputation, pride, respect and even your performance bonus is on the line.

It takes special skills and know-how to deliver culture change so know your limits and reach out to someone who has done this before. Even if they are in the background as a “silent” partner. Don’t suffer in silence.

If you don’t you will burn out and then turn into an automaton – like the newsreader.

It’s the top of the hour again, so make your move.

Culture change or adaptive self-renewal is key to creating amazing places to work but changing mindsets and behaviours is complicated and difficult and to make things even more stressful, no single simple recipe for continuous adaptation exists. The paradox is that such adaptation eventually should reduce stress. But for those tasked with getting to that “nirvana” state there is no easy path or guarantee for success and the journey itself is arduous and precarious.

98% of HR professionals are burnt out.

Because of workplace transformation and quiet quitting many professional are suffering under this pressure to deliver future transformation. As it happens, HR departments are often delegated this complex task.  This study in Forbes notes that 98% of HR professionals are burnt out.

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. William James

5 Quick Tips for Culture Change Leaders

  1. Care and prioritise yourself for yourself: You need to look after yourself and take control of your time, actions and recharging capacity.
  2. Delegate the tasks and narrow your focus: Get past as soon as possible that you have to do everything and control everything. Engender trust in the delivery team around you so you have confidence in them.
  3. Adopt a learning mindset: Don’t be afraid to ask for help from others part of your organisation and externally from experts. You don’t know it all and you may not have time to study it all but others around you have the skills, expertise and know-how that you can use – so use it.
  4. Learn to push back on saying Yes all the time: priorities your task and organise your thinking with a measure of time available to you. You are a non-renewable resource so learn to use this as a tool to your advantage.
  5. Stay fit, healthy and charged:  Eat well, exercise, take walks in nature, meditate and rekindle your hobbies. Me-time does work and will give you that edge and something else to look forward to other than just work, work, work.

If you are a top leader who has delegated culture change to a department and then walked way this is akin to a hit-and-run driver on a road who abandons the scene leaving the injured alone to suffer.

That statement is not intended to be melodramatic as I can tell you (having witnessed such a scene in organisation and often called upon to clear the mess) that you have introduced pressure, stress and anxiety into your organisation that may not only have unintended consequences for individual employee’s but for your entire organisation.

This often shows up in increased attrition with good talent leaving, sick leave increasing, quiet quitting, projects not being delivered on time, quality of work decreasing and many other tell-tale signs of mis-handled culture change.

You cannot delegate culture change and walk away. I discuss the efficacy of this in more detail in a previous article: Skin in the Game: Every CEO is the Chief Culture Officer.

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