Authenticity: Build Your Team's Resilience During Periods of Burnout

So many things have been thrown off for all of us in the past few months. Most of us are flexing and bending to the changes in our careers and in the workplace, as well as changes at home, with our families, and to our kids’ school and sports. At times like these, we can become overwhelmed and begin to burnout. In fact, studies from Gallup estimate that more than 60% of employees are experiencing burnout from what has been thrown at them in 2020.

Leaders, your employees need your help!

As leaders, we are often taught to drive for results and success by projecting a certain executive image, and by never disclosing our vulnerability. But upholding this image has drastically diminished the human connection in the workplace that is absolutely critical at this moment. We are all afraid of the unknown – of what has happened, and of what may come in the weeks and months ahead. In this time of unknown, the importance of being vulnerable and showing authentic compassion for others in the workplace is underscored. Leaders can help their teams by owning the fear, letting their teams know their own fears, and listening to the fears of the team. We are in this together, and we must be as vulnerable and as authentic as ever.

We tend to think of vulnerability and authenticity in a touchy-feely way, but that is not what I mean. In his book, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Jeff Polzer, a professor of organizational behavior at Harvard University, describes the power of vulnerability as “sending a really clear signal that you have weaknesses, that you could use help” and goes on to say that we begin to trust and help each other once we set our insecurities aside. In her book, Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts, Brené Brown defines authenticity as “the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

Like many leaders, I used to fear vulnerability and authenticity. But as we face a new normal together, embracing vulnerability and being authentic help to build trust, collaboration, and connection that your employees need to relieve some of their burnout. There is no playbook for becoming vulnerable and leading with authenticity, but here are a few things to help you get started:

  • Connect with yourself, daily, and check your emotions.

  • Connect with members of your team, individually.

  • Be transparent; share as much information as possible, as often as possible.

  • Be honest. Tell them what you know and admit when you do not know something.

  • Have a sense of humor.

  • Admit mistakes. Be willing to learn.

  • Ask for help.

  • Give regular opportunities for feedback

  • Encourage your team members to be vulnerable and allow them to be authentic.

  • Show kindness, gratitude, and empathy when they are vulnerable and authentic.

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