Burnout in the C-Suite: Why It Happens and How to Beat It
Listen to Episode 150:
Episode 150 Transcript:
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Inc. — enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success. On the Web at businessadvance.com. Now here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks, Chris. I’m Pam Harper, founding partner and CEO of Business Advancement Inc., and sitting right across from me, as always, is my business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi, Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi, Pam. It’s a pleasure to be joining you again for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio. As always, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves and their companies to their next level of game-changing growth and success.
Now, Pam, here we are just several weeks into 2019, and it’s a time of unprecedented opportunity as well as challenge for anyone who’s leading their company to new heights.
Pam Harper: That’s right. When we work with CEOs, C-Suite teams, and boards, one of the questions I’ve heard most often is: How do we move fast enough to stay at the head of the pack without having the wheels come off? Now, that’s certainly something we’ve helped with. However, the constant pressure can come at a cost — and that’s burnout.
Scott Harper: Yes, especially in the C-Suite. The uncertainty and high expectations at that level, combined with long hours, travel, and all the other things that come with that job can leave people feeling lonely, harassed, burdened, and just all strung out.
Pam Harper: That’s why we’re pleased to have as our guest someone who specializes in Mastery Under Pressure. She is Tina Greenbaum, LCSW. Tina is an optimal performance specialist, holistic psychotherapist, author, speaker, and workshop leader with over 35 years of experience. She helps entrepreneurs, business leaders, and aspiring leaders to be as effective as they can be by guiding them to find their own blind spots. Using cutting-edge strategies, Tina combines the latest in neuroscience with the ancient traditions of the East. For her full bio, go to growthignitersradio.com, episode 150.
Pam Harper: Tina, welcome to Growth Igniters Radio.
Tina Greenbaum: Well, thank you. I’m so happy to be here.
Pam Harper: Tell us a little bit about your story. What led you to your work on the cutting edge on the interface between psychotherapy, spirituality, sports psychology, and energy psychology? It’s a lot to say.
Tina Greenbaum: It’s a lot to say, and it has one theme, honestly. It’s that there’s a mind and a body connection. I started my career 35 years ago working on an eating disorders unit at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC. At that time nobody had ever treated eating disorders. So, in my very traditional Western psychotherapy training, they gave us a manual that said, “Alcoholism,” crossed it out, put “Eating Disorders,” and they said, “Go.”
Tina Greenbaum: Well, I like to be really successful, and I was so not being successful. These young women were the most challenging, interesting, and obviously my best students. But I got my first clue at a yoga class, for those of us that are doing yoga and know that at the very end of the class they have a pose called the Corpse Pose, called Savasana, where you lie down and you just let everything go. The first time I ever experienced that, it was a state of relaxation that I had never experienced. I said, “Wow, if I could only get those young women to do this, then maybe they won’t need their eating disorder, because all addictions are anxiety-based.”
Tina Greenbaum: So, the truth was, I was right. I just had no idea how long it was going to take and the path that it was going to take me on. I did come to intimately understand that somebody could talk, talk, talk. I would say to this, “I hear you, but I don’t feel you. If I don’t feel you, I’m not feeling your heart. I’m not sensing you.” So, that was my first sort of insight that there’s this deep connection. It’s just, God, many, many years later, and trainings, and spiritual teachers, and kids that played intense, high-level sports, and it’s all the same thing.
Pam Harper: How did you get over to the corporate world, then?
Tina Greenbaum: Well, little by little. I lived in Washington, DC. I lived in New York City. I live right now outside of San Francisco. So, my clients initially were the women with eating disorders, but many attorneys and people in high-pressure situations. They would love to talk. They know about their mother, their father, their sister, their brother, but they didn’t have the skill. So, just over time, I just got to attract more and more successful people who had more and more complicated issues.
Pam Harper: I can imagine, especially at the C-Suite. I was just trying now to envision all of these high-powered people lying like corpses, which sometimes, I guess, when they’re feeling stressed out, that’s perhaps a good thing. But I know you do so much more that’s so much more serious. What keeps you excited about your work now?
Tina Greenbaum: Well, the excitement is, now after all these years … I’ve been on this path for a very long time. When I lived in New York, I was involved with the Association for Psychotherapy and Spirituality. I’m not woo-woo; I’m very grounded. The reason that I follow this is because it works. So, now what keeps me excited is that the neuroscience is matching up with the mysticism, and things that the ancients have known for centuries are now being proven by the neuroscience.
Scott Harper: It all comes down to brain chemistry.
Tina Greenbaum: Yes.
Scott Harper: We’re learning more about that now, and you’re absolutely right. Now, you refer to a discipline that you call “Mastery Under Pressure” and how that can help people reach higher levels of happiness and productivity at the same time. What do you mean by Mastery Under Pressure, and how can top leadership use this to enhance their own lives and their own performance?
Tina Greenbaum: I think about, if you were an Olympic athlete, you would no sooner go out there to compete at the highest possible level without training the mental side. Right? So, if you were an athlete … We’re just using that as an example … you have your technical skill, which is your area of expertise, whatever it is. If we take it over into business, whatever your business area of expertise is. Then, as business leaders, you have your strategy: How are we going to take this area of expertise into the marketplace and make the business grow?
Tina Greenbaum: Well, the third part of the triangle is the mental side. Again, if I’m an athlete, you’d have the technical, the tactical, and the mental side. So, again, as a CEO and a high-powered individual that has all kinds of things to keep all the moving parts going at the same place, if you don’t have a calm body, because the calm body creates the quiet mind … Again, if we come back to peak performance, that’s really what we’re talking about, and athletes are trained in that, it’s a little bit easier, because actually they’re focused on one thing. As a CEO, you’ve got many, many, many things, but it’s the same process, that you do something over and over and over again and that you train the nervous system to operate sort of at a higher frequency and a lower range in terms of the heart rate, that you’re able to hold more energy.
Pam Harper: I have a question here. Every CEO, and C-Suite leader, and board member deals with constant stress, I mean, constant. Maybe this goes into what we were talking about earlier.
Scott Harper: It goes with the territory.
Pam Harper: What is the difference between something we’ve heard a lot about — which is healthy stress, and the stress that leads to burnout?
Tina Greenbaum: It depends on the amount, number one. It depends on what your purpose is, what you’re attempting to do. If you love something, like you just love, love doing it, you see that stress as a challenges. If I’m going to create a keynote speech, or I’m go to do something that’s really the next level, or something that I want to be spectacular about, I’m motivated to keep working at it, keep working at it, keep working at it. That excites me.
Tina Greenbaum: Now, at the same time, fear and excitement are the flip sides of the same emotion. There’s a saying that says, “You can only go as far as your nervous system will allow.” If my nervous system is operating at a really good pace, and my body is working really, really well, I can tolerate a lot of stress that is very interesting to me.
Pam Harper: Is that eustress — that healthy stress?
Tina Greenbaum: Yes, that is a healthy stress. Let me come at it this way. The body gets stressed based on the perceived amount of control that we think we have, or we don’t have.
Pam Harper: Good. We’re going to hold onto this for a moment. We need to take a quick break. When we come back, we’ll talk more with Tina Greenbaum about the psychology of burnout and how to beat it. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: This is Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Inc. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to ignite, sustain, and boost the momentum it takes to get game-changing results. We’re on the Web at businessadvance.com.
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Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper … That’s me … and Scott Harper. Today Scott and I are speaking with Tina Greenbaum, LCSW, about the art and science of Mastery Under Pressure and reducing the risk of burnout, especially in the C-Suite.
Pam Harper: Tina, how can people find out more about you?
Tina Greenbaum: Well, they can go to my website, which is tinagreenbaum.com or reach me directly at email@example.com.
Pam Harper: You have a book?
Tina Greenbaum: Yes. Mastery Under Pressure is the name of the book. I also have a quiz to help people learn about themselves so they then can really learn about how to manage this level of stress and create it into peak performance. If you want to take the quiz, it’s masteryunderpressure.net.
Pam Harper: Now, we started talking in the first segment much more about healthy stress, or the eustress. You talked about the feeling of choice that people feel that they have that leads to a feeling of control. What most often prompts the slide from healthy stress to burnout?
Tina Greenbaum: It’s simply overload. When we think about the way that we’re designed as human beings, we’re designed to have in some way a balanced life. I know people kind of laugh at that sometimes.
Tina Greenbaum: What does a balanced life look like? We have the mind, we have the body, we have the spirit, and we have the emotions. A healthy life is paying attention to all those quadrants. If we’re working all the time, and the body never gets to go into that place of relaxation, it’s going to be on overload. Depending on each person’s vulnerability … Some person may be vulnerable to back pain; some to heart disease; some to cancer; some to diabetes. If the body is on overload, it means that the stress hormones are racing through the body, go right to the brain. They go all through the body. We have steroids and cortisol and all that, which is designed for emergencies, which is great. But most of us are not chasing tigers or having tigers chasing us through the marketplace, and yet we operate as if that were true. So, that’s how the body responds. Well, you have all that adrenaline and all the cortisol chasing through the body, and then that affects your immune system. It makes your immune system more vulnerable to stress-related illnesses. It’s just a domino effect.
Scott Harper: This is not something you can just say, “Get over it, bud.”
Tina Greenbaum: No, but some people think that. That’s a good point, Scott, because a lot of times it leads to a tremendous amount of anxiety and depression.
Pam Harper: There’s almost a competition at times, it seems like. “Can I stay strong?” I think people have so many misconceptions about what burnout is and isn’t. We hear in the news of so many people who haven’t been able to deal. They feel like they have to keep it to themselves. In fact, we had an episode on Growth Igniters Radio a while back, where Judith Glaser, who has sadly just passed away, actually was talking about appropriately sharing our hard times with others, that it’s hard to people to feel comfortable saying, “I’m having an issue.” I mean, do you see this, too?
Tina Greenbaum: Of course. When you asked me that: What gets me excited? what gets me excited is people talking about real issues. If we were in a room where there were, let’s just say, an auditorium, and you started to scratch the surface just a little bit, you would find every one of those things that we’re talking about.
Tina Greenbaum: I have a particular client who has started a children’s art studio. She knew nothing about business. She was an art teacher, and she just had this great idea that she just loved teaching kids. She went and she rented a space. She’s creative, and excited, and she built it up, and there’s classes.
Tina Greenbaum: Well, the problem is that she can’t get enough help, and so she does everything, from the bookkeeping to this to that. She wants to get pregnant again. She’s not getting pregnant. She’s got all kinds of health issues that are showing up. So, it just went from that excitement, that healthy stress, and a great idea to just, really, she’s thinking about, “If I don’t get the help, I can’t sustain it.”
Tina Greenbaum: We have to think about, whatever aspect of the workforce that you’re in, is it sustainable? Is it sustainable? If it’s not sustainable the way that you’re doing … I have a person in my building who’s a serial entrepreneur, a brilliant guy. He’s talking about opening up an office in, God, China, and another one somewhere else, and he says, “I’m just exhausted. I’m exhausted from the flying.” He said, “We need to talk.”
Tina Greenbaum: Interestingly enough, he said to me … When we started talking, we were talking about blind spots, and he said, “Oh, I don’t want to know any more about myself than I do.” I said, “Oh, yes, you do, because everybody else sees them, and if you don’t see them, you’re in trouble, which leads to a whole bunch of other things.”
Scott Harper: You’ve got this issue where people may be denying that they’re under stress, may be denying that they are in danger of burning out emotionally and physically. What are some of the physical symptoms that people can maybe key into that can tell them, “Hey, wait a minute. You’ve got to change things here, or you can really hurt yourself”?
Tina Greenbaum: That’s a great question, Scott, because it’s very subtle initially, and people who are not used to paying attention to how they feel are out of touch with that. So, number one is just, How do I feel in the morning? Do I feel motivated? Do I want to get up? Or does it feel like, “Oh, my God, the alarm clock, another call, another this, another that”? I always talk about it. A lot of times for myself I think about, “Too much output, not enough input.” There’s too much going out, too much energy, always pushing, pushing, pushing.
Tina Greenbaum: So, we need to be nurtured in some way, shape, form, or another. An engine can’t run without gas. We can’t run without rebooting and refueling. That’s the first sign, is just kind of a flatness, kind of “Ugh. I’m bored. I’m not interested,” a lack of motivation, difficulty sleeping, could be a lot of anxiety. It affects people differently, but it’s that feeling of overwhelm. It’s “Ugh.”
Pam Harper: So, you’re overwhelmed and you’re going, “I don’t know. Don’t want to get up.” You state that when you’re facing problems, it’s most important to deal with the source of the anxiety first before you deal with the actual dilemma at hand, which I thought was a really interesting way to think about it. So often people say, “Wait a moment. I’ll deal with the problem first and then I’ll deal with the stress or the anxiety.” Why is it more helpful to generate the solution this way?
Tina Greenbaum: It’s getting to the source. Again, if you had a problem in your business and you started looking at all the extraneous symptoms: This one’s leaving; this one’s unhappy, and we start dealing with this, and we start … No, but why is that happening? What is the source?
Another quick story — I was planning to write a book, and I had a business coach who said, “Well, let’s just start with an e-book, 27 pages, get it done.” I’m thinking at the time, “27 pages, that’s a lot,” and I’m starting to feel that stress. So, I stopped and I thought, “So, where’s the stress coming from?” That’s the operative question. “Where’s the stress coming from? Is it coming from me? Am I putting this on myself? Is it coming from him, of his expectation of me?” It was more like, “What does he care if I get this done or not?” It was me. I was putting it on myself.
Tina Greenbaum: I just took off the expectation from him and said, “Oh, I can write five tips. Let me just start with that.” They’re still on my website, Five Tips for Dealing with Stress for Peak Performance. Then that was the seed. I started with that, and then I went on to the e-book, and then I went on to the book, and the talks, and so on.
Pam Harper: And there you are. It sounds like in order to prevent that burnout from happening, be aware of your physical symptoms, deal with the source of the anxiety first, and then move forward from there. What we’re going to do is take a quick break. Then, when we come back, we’ll talk about some immediately useful ideas for beating burnout in the C-Suite. Stay with us.
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. We’re brought to you by Business Advancement Inc. — on the Web at businessadvance.com.
Pam Harper: We’ve been talking about how important it is to face and talk about difficult issues in our work and personal lives that can put anyone at risk of burnout. Frequently, this can bring us face-to-face with confronting challenging issues that everyone knows are there, but nobody wants to face, that is, the elephants in the room. As we’ve been talking about, leaving these issues unaddressed not only contributes to us and them divisions. It can also create huge costs in time, energy, and resources of all kinds. That’s why we encourage you to read our Harper Report, Taking Control of the Elephants in the Room.
Scott Harper: This is one of our more popular reports, because it’s very practical and it addresses an issue that every leader and team and individual faces at one point or another, especially when we’re moving fast and faced with uncertainty. Go to growthignitersradio.com, select episode 150, and request your complimentary copy of the report, How to Take Control of the Elephants in the Room.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I have been speaking with Tina Greenbaum, LCSW, about the art and science of Mastery Under Pressure and reducing the risk of burnout, especially in the C-Suite. Tina, remind us again how people can find out more about you and access some of those resources we discussed in the last segment.
Tina Greenbaum: I have my website, tinagreenbaum.com, where I have “Five Tips for Peak Performance” and also a link to a quiz, called masteryunderpressure.net, where you can test your own level of peak performance skills.
Pam Harper: You can, of course, find all kinds of links to resources as well by going to growthignitersradio.com, episode 150, and scroll down under Resources.
Pam Harper: This is the segment where we talk about the immediately useful ideas. In this case it’s for beating burnout. Let’s talk about the first idea. How can you get more in touch with your body?
Tina Greenbaum: Well, the body and the feelings, again, are intimately connected. So, you could start with, “How am I feeling at this particular moment?” and just tune in. Tune in to the mood. Tune in to the anxiety, your level of excitement, whatever it is. Then see if you can find that feeling in your body.
Pam Harper: So, I’m sitting in traffic and I’m feeling so tense. Okay? I should ask myself, “Where is that?” Is that the kind of thing you’re talking about?
Tina Greenbaum: Absolutely.
Pam Harper: Not the why of it, but just how you feel it.
Tina Greenbaum: Exactly. You start out with just the feelings. That just begins to start to activate the part of you that’s going to start to connect to your memory, and your questions, and your feelings, and your unconscious. It’s fascinating, actually, if you start to get into it.
Scott Harper: If I start to feel a knot in my stomach and I start to feel like I need to gulp some Rolaids, that’s the time to say, “Hey, what’s going on?”
Pam Harper: People actually, I think, tend to feel certain things predictably in certain parts of their body.
Tina Greenbaum: That’s right, and different people feel them in different places. One size does not fit all. There’s a tendency for certain feelings to show up in certain places, but I had one woman who said to me one time she feels her anxiety in her legs, because she had brothers that used to chase her around the house, and she was petrified of them.
Scott Harper: Ah, so wanting to run away. So, when you start to feel these things, what’s something you could do, then, to go from that feeling to asking questions that can help get at that root cause and get past it?
Tina Greenbaum: There’s two things. One is, What is my expectation and what is the reality? I’m sitting in the traffic. My expectation is, “I’m supposed to be in a meeting 10 minutes ago, but the reality is, I’m right here.” So, this is this big in-the-moment thing, which leads to the next question: What’s in my control? What’s out of my control?
Pam Harper: Can’t get out of the traffic…
Tina Greenbaum: Okay, I can’t get out of the traffic. Can I call the person? Whatever it is-
Pam Harper: No, the meeting’s going to take place. The deal is going to be dropped. We’re going to lose the deal.
Tina Greenbaum: If we lose the deal … You see? Then you just take it to the next question.
Pam Harper: Yeah. I mean, it’s a big deal. So, what happens if the answer is, “It really is as bad as I think”? What do you do with that?
Tina Greenbaum: That’s my reality. “It is as bad as I think. I may lose this deal. I maybe didn’t prepare to get here in time.” “Maybe I didn’t leave at home early enough.” So, we come back to, again, What’s in my control? What’s out of my control? I create my own reality. Maybe it had nothing to do with me. Maybe I did leave plenty of time, and there was an accident.
Pam Harper: Some things are out of our control.
Tina Greenbaum: That’s right.
Pam Harper: I liked your question about, What is the best outcome that we can get, even under tough circumstances? Then you’re thinking about what you can do, and that brings some sense of control.
Tina Greenbaum: That’s right, because now this is the deal that we’re dealt. This is it.
Pam Harper: But, when you’re thinking positively about what can happen, what you can do, even under the toughest circumstances, I know it helps me a lot.
Tina Greenbaum: I call it productive thinking rather than positive thinking. Do my thoughts produce something useful for me?
Pam Harper: That’s a good point. I think that that also leads to the third idea, which has to do with managing the times of day when you’re most productive. You had some thoughts about that, too. What’s one immediately useful idea?
Tina Greenbaum: It’s the same thing about, “How do I know myself? When am I the best? When am I the most productive? When can I do the kind of really thought-provoking things that I need to do? When do I need to exercise? When’s meditation good for me?” Some people love to meditate at night. For me, it makes me anxious. It’s not a good time for me. All those things, the central theme is become a relationship to yourself in a way that you may not used to be doing.
Scott Harper: So, it may be helpful, if you want to get on top of this, to start keeping a journal and say, “At this time of day, what’s going on? How am I feeling about this?” You can start to see a pattern emerge.
Tina Greenbaum: Always good. I just want to bring in the term mindfulness, which is now a big, big, big term. Mindfulness means becoming aware in the present moment without judgment.
Pam Harper: Aware in the present moment without judgment. This has been a fabulous conversation. Are there any final thoughts that you want to leave us with with regard to this?
Tina Greenbaum: My final thought is, for the C-Suite and the people who are leading other people — it’s so important for you as the leader to have this level of awareness, because everything that you do and you say gets seen by everybody else and it comes all the way down through your organization. If you had everybody on the same page, you would have an amazing, amazing, amazing culture and organization.
Pam Harper: It’s a great way to move forward. Again, Tina, thank you so much for being our guest today on Growth Igniters Radio.
Tina Greenbaum: My pleasure.
Scott Harper: Thanks, Tina, and thanks to all of you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To get show notes and resource links for this week’s episode, go to growthignitersradio.com and select episode 150.
Pam Harper: Until next time, this is Pam Harper…
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper…
Pam Harper: … wishing you continued success and leaving you with this question to consider.
Scott Harper: What conversations do I need to have with myself and with others so I can master the stress that surrounds me and create a better life?