29 March 2023 |

How to get the “fire” back

By Gabrielle "GB" Blackwell

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt burnt out.

As sales managers, we are not above experiencing burnout. In fact, a recent survey from Slack found burnout is highest amongst middle managers compared to individual contributors, senior management and executives. 

Knowing we’re the group who is most susceptible to fizzling out, burning out, or becoming energetically overdrawn, it’s crucial we learn how to bounce back from these moments.

The question then becomes – how do we do it?

Go back to your ‘why’

Imagine this – you’re chatting with your boss and giving them a run down of how your team is doing. You give your boss details of activity and performance. Maybe you have someone on your team whose performance is slipping and your boss asks you to share what’s going on with them. Then your boss asks, “What’s their why? What’s the thing to keep them going even when it seems tough?”

Being reminded of your “why” isn’t just for reps. It’s for managers too. Some of y’all see leading as a meaningful mission because of your opportunity to positively impact others, some  find meaning from being in service to something bigger than yourself. Remember to reconnect to your unique, meaningful mission in management.

It’s time to get real 

Once you’ve reconnected with your “why”, you’ll need to be really honest with yourself about what’s been getting you off track.

  1. Are you ignoring your self care needs?

Early on in my management career, I was oblivious to the importance of self care. When I experienced a stress-induced health crisis that took me out of the workforce for over a year, it became brutally clear to me – nothing can get taken care of until I first take care of myself.

To support taking care of your needs while managing, there are two tools I’d recommend considering:

Tool #1: Daily feelings tracker

At the end of the day every day, ask yourself the following questions:

  • When did I feel most like my best self today?
  • What was I doing?
  • Who was I doing it with?
  • What helped me feel that way?

Do this reflection exercise for at least two weeks. At the end of those two weeks, review your responses. What themes do you notice? And how can you create more moments where you feel most like your best self?

Tool #2: Self care checklist.

Overworking is a vice of mine. When I’m feeling stressed out, it’s really easy for me to grab my laptop and work on projects or listen to Gong calls until the late evening. The initial dopamine hit of feeling accomplished gives just enough satisfaction to calm my restlessness. But, this doesn’t calm my stress – it feeds it.

Something that actually calm my stress while dampening my urge to anxiety-work  going through my self care checklist. These are all the activities which bring a sense of joy, play, gratitude and love – going to hot yoga, talking to my grandmother, cuddling with my dogs, getting my nails done, making myself a home cooked meal, sitting out in the sun, etc. 

Rather than picking up the laptop to work, start checking things off your self care list.

  1. Are you lacking support and resources?

The other day I was chatting with one of the C-suite leaders at my company. I shared a bit about things I wished were different. The leader paused for a moment and responded , “if you feel like there’s something you need and you’re not getting it, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Say it with confidence and from a place of force and strength. You won’t always get a ‘yes’, but there are going to be times where you do. I want my leaders to ask for what they need.” 

Hearing someone in the C-suite reassure me about the importance of asking for what I need was a huge sense of relief. I didn’t need to be as stressed as I was. I simply needed to make my boss aware of what I needed to be better supported in my role.

If you feel like you’re burning the candle from both ends at work, it may be because your needs aren’t being met. If this is the case, the first avenue to explore is expressing your needs to the appropriate people. 

A helpful tool to use when expressing your needs is the Non Violent Communication Process. It’s incredibly helpful for making sure you communicate in a way where people are more receptive and less defensive.

  1. Are you in the wrong environment? 

There comes a point where you have to let yourself off the hook. If you’re doing the work of taking care of as much as is in your control – reflection, self care and speaking up for yourself – and you’re still feeling spent day in and day out, it may be time to reassess if where you’re at is where you need to be.

Note: If you realize the environment you’re in isn’t one where you can grow and thrive, this doesn’t mean you need to leave right away. Identify ways to maximize your experience while you map out an exit plan to something better suited. This can look like:

  • Identifying unmet needs from your current work environment.
  • Getting clarity on what companies and people can meet those needs. You can accomplish this by researching, networking and putting out feelers to people you trust.
  • Based on where you want to go, reflect on how your current position can help you get there. What are 2-3 skills you can develop where you’re at? What relationships at work can you build to increase your professional capital? And are there events or coaching opportunities your company will sponsor or provide to you?

You owe it to yourself, you owe it to your reps

As managers, we very likely will succumb to the experience of burnout or passion fading. And, we owe it to ourselves and to our people to learn how to rebound better and faster from these experiences. By knowing how to navigate feeling burnt, you’ll be better able to help your people successfully navigate these feelings too.