The Missing Pieces of Leadership Training

The Missing Pieces of Leadership Training - Cover 02

It’s Ginny here. I wanted to share some things I’ve noticed about leadership training.

Congratulations, let’s get you set up for success!

When promoting you into a leadership role, most organizations offer leadership skills training to help you, but the vast majority miss out on topics essential to your success. Leadership training programs will typically cover topics such as strategic communications, conflict resolution, team building, decision-making, and managing employee performance. You may even be asked to continue to bolster your learning by attending additional workshops or seminars that get more tactical. That could include participating in coaching sessions that dive into cultivating emotional intelligence, understanding organizational dynamics, developing a leadership mindset, or even prioritizing employee wellness. The goal is often to make you more confident in inspiring and motivating your team, feeling at ease navigating everyday challenges, and being a force to drive positive organizational change and productivity. Does this sound familiar?

The best use of your time

The reality is that being a leader can be tough. You’re expected to do more and more, taking on more accountability and responsibility for the organization’s success which can lead to a lot of stress. A quick Google search using the phrase “statistics about burnout and stress among leaders” reveals some alarming results. Many studies over the past five years indicate that more than half of all leaders feel burned out sometimes.[1] It could be easy to correlate increased stress with the astronomical changes that have been made to the way we work, primarily tied to the global pandemic. But that would be short-sighted.

While leadership training teaches you how to make decisions and communicate well, it often doesn’t address handling all the pressure, managing stress, and taking care of yourself. In the quest to prove competency and worthiness of holding such enormous responsibilities, leaders often ignore those fundamentals – or at least push them aside as things to do later when they have more time. That attitude can lead to the development of work habits that, over time, will affect more than just your on-the-job performance. You can damage your physical and mental health, plus create strain on relationships with your family and friends outside of work.

Instead, leadership training needs a refresh to teach people how to spot signs of stress and burnout in themselves and their teams and to learn ways to cope with these feelings in psychologically safe environments. What does that look like? It’s a workplace where everyone involved, including the leader, encourages and supports “trust and transparency at the team level… [so that] people can say things and admit things freely, without fear of consequence.”[2] And, more importantly, it’s the follow-through that matters.

What are the missing pieces in a conventional leadership training program?

Learning to maximize your energy and sustain your well-being enables you to reach high performance now and maintain that level of performance long into the future. It requires developing and committing to practices like exercising, getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, and practicing mindfulness. You’ve got to have these in place for yourself as a foundation before you can ever hope to influence the creation of a supportive work environment. When you care for yourself, you can stay strong, perform better, and inspire others to prioritize their well-being.

Stories about real leaders show us why this is so important. Some leaders have struggled with stress and burnout, hurting their work and personal lives. Others who took care of themselves did better and felt happier. In our eBook, How to Elevate Your Remote or Hybrid Team’s Performance, Commitment and Happiness! We look at the experiences of three leaders who manage hybrid or remote teams, allowing readers to assess their circumstances.

Cathy is struggling with an overwhelming sense of responsibility to her team, her boss, and the organization, unfortunately, at the expense of her health. She is under constant stress trying to manage her workload and colleagues who have left the team but have yet to be replaced. Cathy recognizes that she is on the verge of burning out and intends to take sick leave to recover, but she struggles to disconnect. She feels as though taking time to recover herself is letting everyone down. In the meantime, her good intentions toward putting everyone’s well-being ahead of her own have the potential to intensify her health circumstances. Without the follow-through on that leave now, when Cathy deems the time is right, she may find herself at risk of being away from work far longer than initially anticipated. Treating severe burnout takes time and dedicated effort on the part of the individual affected. However, a second part of alleviating burnout is the necessary focus that must be invested in improving the work environment and establishing essential boundaries. If those are ignored, there’s a higher likelihood that Cathy could experience burnout again. The next time, it could happen sooner and with greater intensity, leading to more harm.

Roshan is doing his best to manage a team worldwide while his boss is on medical leave. He recognizes that he can be more effective in his role by having clear boundaries. It’s challenging, though, as team members work in different time zones that aren’t aligned. However, his knowledge and support are sometimes still needed when he’s unavailable. While advocating for clear boundaries to protect his well-being and expecting that other members of the team will do the same, he could inadvertently be creating stress. Rohan is aware of the need to improve culture by providing better workplace support and tools that could facilitate higher coordination and performance across multiple time zones. But his organization needs to be equipped to facilitate that, which he recognizes is a sign of a bigger systemic problem. Roshan values well-being and prioritizes this above others. As a result, he is contemplating finding a new position with a company that has more insight and demonstrates a commitment to maintaining a healthy workplace culture.

Pilar has excelled as a member of the C-Suite while also managing the complexities and stress of some challenging family responsibilities at home. She knows how to balance her own needs with the needs of others, but the real secret to her success is her supportive workplace that values well-being and openly embraces the concept of achieving work-life balance. She works flexible hours and leads by example – setting boundaries and focusing her time on work when she can and isn’t split between her many responsibilities at home. Her company has recognized that people are fundamental to its success. Her team and organizational support give her the energy to sustain her performance.[3]

It could come down to discovering new approaches

Companies need to ensure their leaders learn skills that help them stay healthy and do their best work. Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness authored Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success, after a destined meeting where they shared their stories of experiencing burnout, and became interested in whether there was a secret to avoid it. Their book, a product of their mutual curiosity, looks at the science behind achieving optimal performance in various aspects of life, whether based on the current day or recent history. They focus on common elements of success in sports, business, art, and everyday activities, discovering the valuable details of approaches that can be exchanged to support new ideas—some of the main points they make offer novel insights and strategies that make good sense.[4]

1. The key to success is not avoiding stress but using it well.

They emphasize the differences between good stress (eustress), which offers motivation and energizes us, and bad stress (distress), which can lead to burnout and negative outcomes. Reaching the point of struggle is essential to generating the capacity to grow.

2. The best performers know when to push their limits and when to back off.

Peak performance is not about constantly pushing yourself to the limit but recognizing the power of balancing stress and recovery. To excel, we need to develop the insight to recognize when our work starts to suffer and the discipline to embrace both strategic rest and deliberate practices to build resilience, not restraint.

3. Peak performance isn’t about getting more out of yourself but becoming more of yourself.

It comes down to developing a holistic approach to performance that integrates physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual aspects. Taking care of all these dimensions is crucial to sustain success.

4. Self-care is not selfish. It is essential.

The book provides many examples of athletes and businesspeople who excel by actively managing stress and prioritizing self-care by integrating practices like exercise, meditation, sleep optimization, and proper nutrition into their routines.

You may be skeptical, thinking it is easier said than done, especially as you move into a leadership role with high demands and expectations. We want to help you understand the vulnerabilities of conventional leadership beliefs and show you a different approach.  We believe the missing pieces of leadership development are those that will help you develop sustainable habits and strategies that will give you consistency with your energy and performance.

Ginny Santos MSc. CEO, Well-being Advocate, and Adjunct Professor.

[1] Klinghoffer, D. and Kirkpatrick-Husk, K. (2023 May 18). More Than 50% of Managers Feel Burned Out. Harvard Business Review.

[2] Christensen, K. (Fall 2021). QUESTIONS FOR: Paula Davis, CEO, Stress and Resilience Institute. Rotman Management Magazine, University of Toronto.

[3] Santos, G. (2023). How to Elevate your Remote or Hybrid Team’s Performance, Commitment and Happiness!, Neolé.

[4] Stulburg, B., and Magness, S. (2017). Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success. Rodale Books

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© Neolé 2024