12 hour days? Rising burnout rates? Perfectionism without end? MDI consultant, team and HR leader Elisabeth Oppenauer lives the topic of mindfulness at MDI and explains in her new personal blog post her thoughts on how you as a manager can simultaneously respect and strengthen yourself in order to perform with motivation and joy.
About the author
Elisabeth Oppenauer, also lovingly called Elli by the team, has been with MDI for 2 years and is a consultant, HR manager and team leader. She is deeply involved in empowerment and leadership impact, both privately and professionally, and today shares her personal thoughts on how leaders become true empowering leaders and where she gets her daily dose of inspiration for being strong and empowering herself.
We don’t save baby whales.
For me personally, out-of-the-box thinking and empowerment, in the sense of empowering myself, is very important. I find it incredibly important to be able to admit to yourself: You don’t always have to function. We’re not saving baby whales. Or we don’t do open-heart surgery. Those are typical sentences my team keeps hearing from me. I think it’s important to tell yourself this from time to time and to know that it’s okay if certain things aren’t so feasible. Mental illnesses such as burnout are now widespread all over the world. Austria, for example, is above average in Europe. These are warning signals that I personally would like to send to the all leaders out there.
You have to find a way for yourself that’s still healthy. When you’ve reached the end of your life, what do you want to have achieved? What would you like to look back on? I think there are few people who will then say: “If I had just worked more than twelve hours” or “If I had spent more time in the office”. It is again more about family and the appreciation of the time together. It’s also less about how many hours you work a day, but about having so much energy that you simply work with joy. You have to pay more attention to it, and this is in my opinion an important mindset-thing. Let’s take, as an example, one of today’s tech giants: Google. Google doesn’t like to see you still working after 5 pm because it’s seen as a warning signal that indicates that you can’t manage your work. Actually, it should be possible to complete your work in the given time.
Overtime ≠ Performance
Ultimately, however, everyone must decide for himself/herself individually how he/she can best and sustainably perform. In my opinion, it is a matter of company culture, especially in organizations, where the age structure is still an older one, i.e. where many managers come from generation X. I’m part of Generation Y. The generation after that is Generation Z. Generation Z is even more concerned than Generation Y with finding a purpose in their work and leaving impact. Leisure time is also becoming more important than ever. At the same time, however, you can also see what performance these people can bring in a company when they see that they are in good hands. But still, performing doesn’t mean working twelve hours.
As already mentioned, everyone has to decide for themselves. Personally, can I live with someone thinking, “He/She’s already leaving at 5 pm?” Or am I thinking, “My job’s done, I’m leaving. What I have not managed today, I will manage tomorrow, because I’ll have my batteries recharged again”.
Those timeslots to recharge your batteries have to be actively taken and also actively communicated to the outside world. For example, I always have a timeslot twice a week at 6 pm where I go to the gym. This block is also clearly visible for others in my calendar and there must happen something very big that I skip this block.
It’s really important to have fixed timeslots, lunch breaks and to really take breaks and move away from this overtime culture and hectic work and give your body the chance to recharge its batteries for new power.
I believe that in the long run it really makes sense for the health of the team members but also for the success of companies to pay more attention to their energy-levels and their well-being. One must also consider the economic consequences of high burn-out rates. Increased sickness rates, for example. It definitely pays off to start and invest at this point. There are so many people under 30 who are our future. We have to leave these 12-hour days behind. I know that in some jobs this is simply not possible in any other way, as with doctors, lawyers, nurses, etc. But it is definitely not necessary in every industry and company.
How do I personally manage to successfully implement the aforementioned principles in my daily work? In order to have the motivation to empower others and contribute to a better world in my role as a leader and consultant, I get inspiration from different sources. Especially inspiring in challenging times is Denzel Washington’s ceremonial closing speech of a 2011 graduating class. I think the core statements draw attention to exactly what matters every day in my job and private life. Right at the beginning he quotes Nelson Mandela: ” There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” (Nelson Mandela). Nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take some risks.
In a nutshell: If you want to get ahead in life, you have to risk to fall down, but each time you fall it also means falling forward, namely by learning from these mistakes and coming out stronger again. He says, “If I am going to fall, I want to fall forward.” It’s about passion, seizing opportunities, not being afraid of mistakes and also thinking outside the box. Mistakes are inevitable and belief in oneself is the most important thing.
For me, the statements of his speech are particularly valuable, since I myself have a rather perfectionist disposition. This way of thinking helps me very much not to let myself get down if something doesn’t work as I imagined it would. Just don’t stand still or even go back, but really come out strengthened from such cases. In this sense: Be bold!
Thank you, Elli for your wonderful, personal thoughts!