In the tech industry, burnout is a very real thing. Things move so fast in tech that if you are sick, you’re out and replaced. That is why the key to being a leader in the tech industry is to find space for yourself. Take a pause so you can come back stronger and more creative. Have faith in your team so they can help you because the tech industry is brutal and you need help. Just because you are a leader, doesn’t mean you know everything. Join Alicia Couri as she talks with the CEO and Leadership Strategist of RLD Group, Lisa Duerre. Lisa is also the host of the Ctrl+Alt+Delete Podcast where she helps tech leaders lead their teams to be more successful. Join Alicia and Lisa as they talk about burnout and how to avoid it. Lisa shares her story of almost having a heart attack from overworking. Discover the realities of the tech industry and why it needs to change. Find out how to lead your team by building relationships with them. Don’t be a know-it-all leader, be a driven leader.
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How To Avoid Burnout: Self-Care Tips For The Driven Leader With Lisa Duerre
Practical Advice From A Recovering Overachiever
I have a special treat. I so love my guest. She is so real and authentic. She gives it to you straight from the heart. I want to introduce her with her bio and then she’s going to dazzle us. Before her bio, we want to give you tips to be confident in what you’re doing. She has a story of burnout and this is what we’re going to focus on. We’re going to focus on how to avoid burnout as a driven leader. She’s going to share some of that with us.
Lisa Duerre has helped over 25,000 employees get faster results at work, make a bigger impact, and be better business leaders. Her favorite part of it all is the end result of each of these leaders creating a more meaningful connection between work and life in the process, so they are present for the moments that matter.
In 2017, she deleted her corporate executive role to work with leaders in tech all over the world. Prior to that, she was leading highly successful teams and exceeding business objectives in the areas of talent development, field engineering, customer education and support, sales development, and marketing inside organizations for many years. This gave her a front-row seat to see some of the most professionally successful tech leaders flame out in their careers, relationships, health, and life.
This was almost her story. She almost became a statistic herself, but Lisa is on a mission to show leaders the way to lead with their heads and heart. This integration is what fires her up. She advises and coaches leaders on how to get kick results, build high-performing teams, and be present for the moments that matter. Clients getting these kinds of results is what makes Lisa say, “Hell, yes, dude.” When we’re in a coaching session, she’s like, “Dude.” When she yells, “Dude,” you know that you’re getting it. She loves that each and every time. Welcome to the show, Lisa.
Alicia, it’s so interesting to hear you talk about me in the third person. Thank you for having me. I am honored. I am lit up and on fire. I’m sure I’m going to say dude. For anyone reading, dude has no gender connotation. It would be like awesome, snap, or anything else that I might age myself with. I’m excited to have that conversation.
I talked about you almost being one of those flames out that you experienced burnout and this is why I wanted you to talk on this topic because it’s something that you’ve experienced and I want people to understand what those symptoms are leading up to it before they get there to where you were. Before we get to the symptoms, share with everyone what you were leading, where you were at that time, and where you ended up, which is in the hospital.
It’s interesting. I like to tell the story from the middle because the middle is where we tend not to pay attention. It’s the messy middle because you’re all in it, but I was in the hospital. Picture this, you’re my husband and you get the phone call. “Honey, I’m in the emergency room. Everything’s okay. I might be having a heart attack and I have this presentation due tomorrow. I brought my laptop. You stay home with our daughter. It’s all going to be fine.” That’s a phone call I made. What?
“I’m having a heart attack, but it’s all cool. Don’t worry about it.”
“I have a laptop. Keep our daughter safe.” At the time, she was two. A colleague of mine drove me to the hospital because we were working late. It was around 7:00 PM at the time when it all started. I had this radiating pain up my arm and into my neck. I thought, “Women have heart attacks all the time.” I started googling heart attack symptoms. I thought, “If you’re googling heart attack symptoms, you might want to go to the emergency.”
I opened my door and leaned out, “I’m going to make my way over to the emergency room real quick. I want to check something out, but I got my laptop. We’re going to get this done. I’ll be back.” My colleagues are like, “Why are you going to the emergency room? I’m not supposed to ask medical questions, but I need to know. Are you okay?” “I might be having a heart attack.” If you are on the verge of burnout, your colleagues already know. She’s like, “Here’s the deal. I don’t want you killing someone on your way to the hospital. You don’t need that on top of this. I’m going to drive you and I’ll bring my laptop.” She drove me and we went.
You’re a driven leader. The attitude is always, “I need to get it done. I have to get the work done. You’re secondary.” What you’re going through is secondary. “It’s all going to be fine. Don’t worry about me.” You’re not even worried about yourself even though you’re headed to the emergency room. You’re like, “I still got to get the work done.” If you are so hyper-focused on getting the work done because you have a presentation, but you’re on your way to the emergency room, that’s a big red flag.
It’s a huge red flag. Honestly, I didn’t see it. This is why I want to start in the middle. I can tell you how we got there and what I did after, but that was a compelling moment in time. The signs and symptoms are your colleagues already know what’s happening and waiting for you to ask for help or drive you to the emergency room. Your family already knows what’s happening. When you make that phone call, they already know like, “I can’t talk you out of this. You’re not going to listen to me anyway. You’ve got it all together.” My husband’s like, “I’m going to go get a babysitter. I’m not going to tell Lisa this, though. She’s going to say no.”
“She’s going to say I’m fine. It’s all good”
My colleagues like, “We’re finally here. I got to do something,” and I’m worried like, “This presentation must happen. Who else could do it? Who can I delegate it to? Where can I ask for help? Is it that important?” Talk about being present for the moments that matter. It was like, “It’s on me. I’m responsible. You can count on me. The crazy thing was they ruled out a heart attack. It took a couple of hours. I finished the presentation. I was very proud of this.
It was about midnight when I decided I should probably tell my boss because he hadn’t seen the final draft in his email and I knew he was up. I snapped a picture in the hospital of me and my colleague with my laptop as a moment of pride and said, “Boss, I want to let you know that the reason it’s not in your inbox yet is I’ve had this little thing going on over here. We’re good. No heart attack you. I’ll be there at 9:00. Here’s the deck.”
Not, “Can you present for me? I might be tired.” No. You can count on me. The picture at the time, I was so proud. This is another symptom. “You can count on me.” As a leader, one of the things that we need to start reassessing is the BS that comes with you can count on me as a badge of loyalty and performance.As a leader, you should really start reassessing the BS that comes with 'you can count on me' as a badge of loyalty and performance. Click To Tweet
Pride and honor. “Look at all the work that I’ve done.”
It is such BS and it’s not healthy. I’m glad I took the picture so I could remember, but I’m horrified that I took the picture that I was that far off the track of what matters most right now, so I never want to forget that. Thank you for letting me present that, but I’ll get to the punchline. What happened was the doctors couldn’t figure it out and they were like, “You’re fine. Go home.” My husband did not come to the hospital because I knew. I’m like, “He’s going to get a babysitter. I need to get this presentation done. Stay home. I got this.” Talk about the pull and the push in your relationship.
I did the presentation and went to the follow-up appointment. My primary care doctor said, “Lisa, you have Silicon Valley-itis.” I have no bronchitis and there are all kinds of itis. I’m like, “What?” He says, “This is the number one reason I see people in my office every week.” He’s like, “Welcome to tech.” I’ve been in tech for a very long time at that point. I didn’t believe him. What had happened was I had taken the third round of antibiotics because I had had chronic bronchitis. I was coughing so much.
I was worried about presenting my slide deck. I asked for some antibiotics. My primary care doctor did not give me those antibiotics. The on-call doctor did and didn’t check my records to see that I might have a reaction to this. What had happened was I was having muscle pain and tendons ready to rupture because of the reaction to this antibiotic. That’s scary.
I was basically trying to manage the fact that I had had bronchitis for so long. The antibiotics kicked in. I had this weird muscle pain and I paid attention, but he says, “You have Silicon Valley-itis. The reason you have chronic bronchitis, you’re not sleeping. You’re not eating nutritionally and hydrating. You’re not moving. He says, “Tell me about your average day.” I’m like, “Get up at 6:00, mother as best I can, get to the office in the car meetings. I can’t find my car when I leave because I don’t remember where I parked. The barista at the Starbucks inside my office has my Dirty Chai ready because it might not double whammy that sucker and then, in the afternoon, has me ready.
I started articulating back-to-back meetings. I don’t have enough resources. We don’t have enough time. At the end of it all, I ended up taking a medical leave, but my doctor wanted me to take one immediately and I said, “No,” as my husband was coming to the emergency room. “No. We have this big customer event for 4,000 people. I can’t let my team down. I need to be there.” We coordinated and then I took it after that event. What happened was I kept working. I’m on medical leave and I’m on my phone checking in, making sure, and worried about everybody. “What are they going to think? They’re going to think I’m broken. They won’t need me.”
My husband is so mad. He calls my doctor and says, “She’s still working.” My doctor called me in and at that point, he said, “You’re not taking me seriously. This is life critical. Don’t blow it off that you didn’t take the right antibiotic and you think that’s all this is. This is a massive wake-up call. You are that close to a heart attack. You didn’t have it this time. Let’s do what we need and you need to go rest.”
People think I’m burnout and they’re stressed out. Burnout is chronic stress that’s unresolved. The World Health Organization identifies it through this list. Here are the symptoms I had, insomnia. I was probably sleeping 3 or 4 hours a night. I had a two-year-old at home. She needed me, too, teething and all this fun stuff that goes with it. I felt that I couldn’t remember things anymore, like where’s my car? You get foggy-brained because you’re not sleeping enough and your nutrition and hydration are off.Burnout is chronic stress that's unresolved. Click To Tweet
I didn’t drink a lot of water because I didn’t want to stop to walk all the way down the hall to go to the restroom because my meetings were back-to-back. I was eating crap food and the vending machine was right outside. I grabbed something and go. I wasn’t thinking ahead in planning. I was very cynical. I felt that everything had to do with, “I had to get it done.” I couldn’t trust anybody else to get it done. I didn’t think that anybody else was ready to get it done. I felt like the system was against me. My mindset was impacted.
My husband will tell you I was grumpy and weepy, always on my phone, and never present for the moments that mattered. My relationships were suffering and my mindset was way off. I’m happy to go deeper, but I want to land some of those examples because you don’t see it when you’re in it, but the people around you can tell you instantly. They’re like, “You’re not yourself.” My husband said he didn’t even know who I was anymore.
That was my next question. Should we be asking people? “Have I changed? Have you noticed a change in me? What have you noticed? Are those some things that we should be as a leader who is driven, overstressed, and overwhelmed? I don’t want to say overwhelmed because you won’t think you’re overwhelmed.
Honestly, I did feel overwhelmed, but I thought that that was the norm.
That’s part of the course or required, but if you find yourself with short tempers and very agitated all the time and you’re working until midnight, most nights waking up early and getting things done, ask people around you if you’re a joy to be around.
It’s interesting because you got to be careful with the question and who you’re asking. The number one thing you can do is pause. You can ask the question, but my husband and I would fight. He’d be like, “Why are you so grumpy all the time?” “Do you see what’s on my plate?” How you asked the question matters.
You didn’t ask the question, though. He was telling you that you were.
He was like, “When will this stop? When will you have a vacation? When will things slow down?” I’m like, “Never.” The thing about tech is always on and never good enough where we place you tomorrow. Your amygdala is in the hijack. You never can get to the prefrontal cortex for innovation, creativity, or problem-solving because you’re stuck in safety. You feel like you’re the next part of the layoff.
The number one thing that I learned, the power of sleep or a good night’s rest, and what I’ve done since then and what I try and remember are there are days right now as a business owner, I could absolutely go into the burnout lane. I have to remind myself, how much am I sleeping? When you sleep, it’s restorative. You can settle your amygdala enough to where you can have clear-headedness in the morning to tackle the big things and whatever decisions you need to make. Decision fatigue happens and as a leader, you’re constantly having to decide.
One of the biggest shifts, once I was rested, I would sometimes sleep eight hours a day and drop my daughter off at preschool when we were getting her ready for kindergarten because my medical leave didn’t happen right away, as I said. She’d go to school, I’d go home and crawl right back in bed, and then I would set an alarm and I’d wake up before it was time for her to come back because I wanted her not to miss out.
What I found is that the more I did that, I would wake up and go, “I feel like I’m in my body again.” Not on autopilot. I would say sleep is everything. Check your sleep. The first thing someone in burnout’s going to say is, “I don’t have time to sleep.” That’s why the medical leave for me happened, but the question I would invite people to think about is, “Do you have time to sit outside for ten minutes? Could you give yourself fifteen minutes of breathing space?” I’m not going to suggest everyone go take a nap because they won’t when they’re burnt out, but what can you do? How might you give your nervous system a break? That’s a good question.
I’m reading a book now called the Peak Mind about mindfulness practices and how important it is. It’s all about attention. How are you paying attention and what are you paying attention to? That’s great. She says twelve minutes a day can restore you.
Twelve minutes a day is magical. When you think about burnout, it basically means your battery’s dead. There’s nothing left. That’s why I slept so long, but imagine a world if you gave yourself twelve minutes a day, so you never get to where I was. What’s impossible? We can find twelve minutes a day, but when you get to where I was, it’s eight hours a day. Do you want that?Burnout basically means that your battery is dead. Click To Tweet
That’s how I started my workout routine. I thought, “If I can’t give myself ten minutes in a day, I’m not worthy of me.” If you can’t find ten minutes to take care of yourself, then you’re not worthy of yourself. You have to find it. Find twelve minutes and check the book. It’s Peak Mind by Amishi Jha. You left the corporate world and start your own business. As you said, you can get burnt out very easily as a business owner because now you don’t have anyone to delegate to. The buck stops with you.
From the frying pan into the fire, but what I love is that because of your experience, you are dedicated to helping leaders in tech recognize these things and help them create more balance in their professional and personal lives. You’re not just focused on the professional because it each affects the other. You’re not a life coach because you’re not a life coach. You’re a business coach. Helping them in business helps them have the ability to focus on their personal life as well. First of all, what are some of the trends that you’re still seeing happening with leaders when it comes to overwhelming or burnout in tech? What is still happening?
I might wild-up on this one because I wish it wasn’t, but this is why we do what we do. One of the main things I’m seeing consistently across the board is the lack of creativity as leaders. They’re stuck back here. Now, there are whispers and worries about a recession and layoffs are already happening in a lot of startups.
We’re coming out of a pandemic where a lot of people lost their job anyway and now, they’re losing again because of this recession.
When I think about what’s happening, when you’re not resourced, in other words, you’re not hydrated nutritionally sound and haven’t slept well. It’s hard to make these tough decisions. You go into what I’ll call autopilot or reactionary. I’ve seen this forever and we’re working very hard with our clients to help them to get back into the prefrontal cortex and then have the innovation and the creativity because tech is supposed to be innovative. When it comes to managing people and budgets, the de facto is still layoffs. When your de facto is a layoff, you’re going to have everybody around you worrying. This is what drove me. I was like, “I better be the one doing that presentation.”
“I have to be indispensable. I cannot show any weakness. They have to feel like if I’m not there, everything’s going to crumble because I take care of them so much.”
What’s crazy about this is I see this all the way at my work with C-suite leaders all the time, in my opinion, and in my experience, what I still see happening is this giving your power away and not recognizing that the wisdom is in the collective. The world has changed. The wisdom is not you anymore. The world is moving too fast. It’s way incomprehensible, non-linear, anxious, and brittle. If f you still subscribe to, “You have to know it all and be it all,” this is what’s still happening.
You’re behind the eight ball.
This is the problem.
It’s team dynamics versus individual leadership that drive innovation and everything. You have to be able to rely on the team, not me.
You and I do some amazing work together using one of your instruments, Kolbe. When you say rely on the team, they rely on the team is true. I believe that at the senior leadership level, the person who is responsible for the care and feeding of that team, you got to be clear about how to get yourself grounded and present and not burnout because to rely on the team means you have to own your power, claim your power, trust, and understand that as a team you’re stronger.
That takes real muscle building. In our world, we call it firm leadership. It’s about being flexible, intuitive, resilient, and mindful. As a leader, when you feel triggered, overwhelmed, or getting into the burnout lane like me that you can pause and then scan your team and figure out who’s best suited to take the lead here. It doesn’t always have to be me. I did great work and I did a lot for my team to be able to grow, but at some point, I stopped them because I wanted to make sure I was indispensable. What made me indispensable was when I allowed everybody to shine. I was completely dispensable when I was on medical leave. That didn’t work.
That did not work too well.
That’s not what happened. I went back to work. I stayed for over a year because what I wanted to do was figure out how much of this is me because, at the time, when you’re cynical and burnout, it’s everybody else’s fault.
It’s hard to do personal responsibility.
How am I scheduling my time? Where am I delegating? Where am I asking for help? What am I doing outside of work to feed my spirit? How might I feed my spirit more at work? I did a lot of that before. I see this all the time, “This place sucks. I’m going to leave.” They go somewhere else and then a year later, “This place sucks. I’m going to leave.”
There’s a common denominator and I’m not here to blame the leader. I’m here to invite the leader to look at where you are giving your power and voice away, and what limiting beliefs you are holding about your team. As much as my colleague, they were all standing around waiting, “When is she going to give us? When’s it coming? I can help.” I didn’t do that at that point in time.
None about proactivity. You have to empower them to be proactive. You said the tech culture is this particular way, which leads a lot of people to burnout or are on the edge of burnout. The thing is, “Who decides the culture?” You can’t say, “As a default, this is how tech is. We have to start redefining what that culture needs to be. It can’t be this dog-eat-dog. We’re going to run you into the ground because there are 100 more like you out there waiting for an opportunity.” Where’s the leader that’s going to step up and say, “Not in my organization? That’s not going to be our culture.” It has to be people focused.
It’s happening. When we look around, people labeled this exodus that we’ve been experiencing lately, the lack of talent in tech. I put another tea in there for you. There’s this Great Resignation because of where I land and the way we look at things. I call it the Great Reboot. This is the control alt delete that is happening.
I want to circle back if I can to land this. When I said, “This place sucks. I’m leaving.” That could come across as me blaming the leader. I am not blaming the leader. I want to be very clear about something. The invitation for that leader is to take their power back, but the message that gets sent across tech is, “If you’re broken, move aside. We got somebody else.” That needs to change because we need to start valuing the humans inside of tech. We need to start valuing the fact that they are full human beings with lives outside of work and that they can do amazing things when you support them. By the way, when they’re disengaged and stuck in place, your tech and coding are at risk.
As you said, creativity is gone.
It’s gone and they don’t care. The thing that breaks my heart sometimes because I see this message to the employees that they’re broken. “Here’s a yoga wellness retreat,” and then they have these mental health recharge days. If you checked how much email goes on those days, those are catch-up days. That is not, “I’m outside in the sunshine taking my twelve minutes.” That’s, “Now, I can catch up.” That’s not helping.
That’s, “Bring your laptop to the hospital Day.”
“I can lay here but still get my work done.” There needs to be more comprehensive programming when you’re saying, “We’re taking these mental health breaks.” It’s not about catching up on email or trying to figure out how you can get more work done with nobody watching.
Honestly, I even got good about scheduling my emails so they wouldn’t be showing at 12:00 or 2:00 AM when I was up. I would have everybody get hit around 8:00 in the morning, but it’s all a facade. The bottom line is that you need to upskill and re-skill your teams in the world of understanding how to resource yourself as leaders. Basically, what’s happening is the demands are exceeding the resources you have within your own existence to do something with. You need to start having conversations about staffing levels and priorities. How many times are you not ending a product because the marketing team or the product team thinks, “We’ll lose our jobs?”
We keep running all these exercises on people and it doesn’t even matter. All because someone is like,” “I’m afraid I’m not going to be needed anymore.” It’s about values and culture at a system level. It is not an individual leader’s problem. They are part of a bigger. At the individual level, you can absolutely do your best to protect your group, and at the same time, “What does protection mean?”
There’s no such thing as safety. Safety is an illusion. It’s not real. You hear that cliche all the time that you could step out and get hit by a bus. There is nothing called safety. The best opportunity you have, as you said, is to re-skill and upskill your people so that they’re giving you better results and they’re also having balance in their life.
The work that we do with Kolbe is about understanding your individual strengths and the strengths of the team around you so that you can lean into those. You can lean into your own strengths and stop putting people in positions that are working against them. All day long they’re working against their grain, which is harder, it’s more stressful.
We want you working with the grain. When something comes up on your plate that’s against your grain on your team who has the strengths innately to handle those things so that you can partner up or buddy up and get it done faster instead of you trying to grind it, we always feel, “We have to grind it through. We can’t ask for help because that’s a sign of weakness.”We are all a team, so we need to understand how the team succeeds. How do we all succeed?
The work that you’re doing is phenomenal and you have a podcast called Control Alt Delete. How can people listen to your podcast and what is the mission of your podcast?
Thank you for bringing that up because it’s a cool thing when you think that you can leverage this podcast as a team resource. The official name of the podcast is Control Alt Delete with Lisa Duerre. From a trademark standpoint, we are not going to trademark control alt delete, it’s not ours to do, but when it comes to Lisa Duerre, that’s the podcast. If you’re searching for it, it’s everywhere. YouTube, Spotify, Spotify, Apple, Amazon, and every podcast platform. The cool thing is it was rated that one of the top ten leadership and tech podcasts by BuzzFeed, which is pretty cool when you think about it.
That’s a dude moment.
It started because I was going on LinkedIn live a lot and talking about what I was seeing in our client base trying to add value for free and the podcast is free, but what happened was, I’m like, “I’m not reaching enough people this way.” This was early on in LinkedIn. I was one of the early LinkedIn livers. My team said we needed to make this a podcast. It needs to be digestible for people. We turned it into a podcast and we’re in season two.
What’s cool about it is the mission of the podcast is I bring on amazing thought leaders and we have a conversation much like we’re doing, where we’re keeping it real. We’re not going to give you this academic, never been in your shoe conversation. That’s not how this rolls. If anyone ever comes on my podcast which hasn’t been in tech, it’s a specific invite for me because of what they’re talking about and then I tie it back in.
I have clients who are getting our newsletters, emails, and our blogs. I’ll get these texts, “When you said such and such right here, this resonated and I played it for my team.” The biggest thing for people to know is that you could listen to an episode of the topic of your choice and then you might even bring it into your team meeting to open up a conversation because if I take it back to what you said, the reason we do this is we want to put it in the hands of everyone so that if you are struggling with it, it’s a safe way to bring something up. If you go, “We should try this at work,” it’s a way for you to engage in a conversation.
I know that we used to be in a world where you could be that expert at an individual level, but the world has rapidly changed and grown so exponentially complicated that the real expert is the combination of your team. It’s the experiences and the knowledge across the board back to your points on the different strengths. I try and pull that through every episode to make sure that we’re coming at it through the lens of the individual and the organization so that we can help move cultures where they need to go based on the leader’s self-selecting and bringing it forward.The real expert isn't you, it's the combination of your team. It's the experiences and knowledge across the board. Click To Tweet
It’s all about burnout and leadership. It’s not like, “Let’s hear Lisa talk about her burnout story all the time.” We have everyone talk about their burnout or overwhelmed story and what they do to get out of it. It’s very practical. There’s a playlist too of songs to help people take their energy and keep it with them all the time, which I love because music helps me re-center and get energized.
I love it. One day, I’ll be on the podcast.
You are. The only reason you haven’t been so far my friend is my schedule.
We’ve tried to reschedule several times in the past.
I think it’s been at least two so far. Here’s what’s interesting, when we think about it, the level of interest and work that RLD Group is doing has grown so much that I’ve had to reschedule podcast episodes. On one hand, I’m like, “That’s awesome,” and then on the other hand, I’m like, “I can’t wait to have you on there.” This could lead to burnout too, of shame and, “How come I haven’t done it yet?” Instead, I celebrate that our relationship is where it is and that we know it’s going to happen.
It’s going to happen. I got you here because your schedule is crazy as mine and I’m so thankful that I got you on and said yes. I’m going to go into the rapid-fire in a moment before we do. I want to get your take on some of the work that you do. You also use several different tools to help your clients, but if a leader in tech is reading this, what are some of the things that they need to look forward to if they’re looking to climb the ladder of leadership in tech?
I’ll use our model. RLD Group’s model is I, we, and us. As a leader, you have to know your own triggers and strengths, what energizes you, what takes your energy away, what you enjoy doing, and where you hold yourself back. You have to start with I to be able to then inspire and lead and even join in a relationship with someone else or your team, which is we.You have to start with 'I' to be able to then inspire and lead with someone else or your team. Click To Tweet
The I is not a selfish I. It is so important for us to know ourselves. In fact, my Seven Steps to Audacious Confidence starts with know and love yourself. You have to know the good, bad, and ugly. You have to get it all out, especially what’s holding you back. If you’re trying to elevate in leadership, you need to know why you’re holding yourself back because we hold ourselves back.
This is why we resonate. Know yourself. We is your team. Once you know yourself and understand what you’re motivated by, what you piss off, and where you’re triggered. We go through so much about personal power. We look at mindset. We help you figure out politics and how you show up because most leaders in tech don’t want to play politics. Yet, if they’re in a political system, then how do you figure that out?
We is how to look at your team overall, your goals, objectives, KPIs, OKRs, and how you lead that through who you are as the leader and what your team brings so that you’re stronger together. The us is at the organizational level, which then bleeds into your customer’s community and your family. As you’re going up in your career or as you are leading, you have to go back to I, we, us every time. It’s an infinite loop because the higher up you go, the larger your scope, the bigger your span, and the more complicated things can be. You got to get right back in because each time you go up it’s like, “I’ve got it, and then all of a sudden, “Do I know what I’m doing? Is this going to be okay?”
Impostor syndrome and everything else.
The thing that I see organizations failing their leaders at is they promote them and they don’t support them with that transition. “You got there. You must know how to do it. Keep on going.” No. You got to go back to I, we, and us. You have to circle back. Specifically, in tech, I can speak to that they’ll take leaders who are brilliant from an engineering standpoint, off the charts, nobody can compare, and they get rewarded and recognized for that so much, and then somebody says, “You should go lead a team.”
That engineer who’s been rewarded and recognized for their PhD in Electrical Engineering, all of a sudden now, responsible for people. When you say it out loud, it’s ridiculous to think that they’re equipped and attuned to figure out how you inspire, motivate, and support the people to elevate because your de facto will be technical skills. That is not going to help you retain and engage and get the best out of your people.
Not at all. From a Kolbe perspective, a lot of times, they take them out of their zone of genius or brilliance and puts them in a situation where they’re not in their zone of genius. The brilliance that was showing up over here, they expect to show up, “I’ve given you people to lead and they’ve put you over here,” and then it’s not showing up over here, and then they’re like, “What happened to you?”
What happened to you is you pulled me out. They were strong implementors, not implementers, where they built programs and were very good at the technical stuff at building, creating, coding, and putting all those things together and you’re putting them in a situation where now they have to do a lot of paperwork, follow KPIs, and all this stuff. You’re taking them from that implementor mode and putting them into a follow-through mode when that’s not their strength. You’re wondering, “What happened to you? We gave you a promotion. Go on the high wire. No net.”
Every time. What happens is that leader has so much shame and self-doubt.
They don’t how to go back and ask. “I’m not supposed to ask. I’m supposed to be born knowing what to do here.”
You’re going to go back and go, “I’ve always been recognized for my awesomeness,” and now I feel like I suck at everything I’m doing. That technical leader doesn’t want to talk to the engineer whose sales team is complaining because of the body odor. They don’t want to talk about that, but as a people leader, you’re going to have to address that.
That’s where conflict and all kinds of stuff are coming on.
I’m giving you the simplest thing that happens all the time. This is a conversation that has to be had. It’s very important. It’s high stakes, and that implementor, the person who loves writing the code, now has to handle the leadership conversation and then I see it fail. That’s a basic example, but let’s take it one level further.
You’re hiring a senior VP level, someone from the outside. You’ve spent thousands upon thousands of man-hours searching. You’ve spent hundreds of thousands on talent recruiting fees. You bring the person in and then you give them no support. “You’re at that level. You should figure it out.” They know a new person is not going to be like, “What are the unspoken rules here? What are the strengths of my team and what happened before? How might I accelerate? Is there someone who could mentor me?” No, because I’ve got the title. It is irresponsible and negligible. You wanted to be always on, “Never good enough where we’ll place you tomorrow,” bring in someone at the senior level and don’t support their assimilation.
That’s what’s going to happen. It’s like a baby now learning to stand and you move all the furniture for them to support themselves on. It’s like, “You could stand.” You move the table and the desk. “Go. Walk. Let’s see you.” Don’t do that.
I don’t think this is malicious. They’re in back-to-back meetings all day and they’re like, “Thank God I filled that wreck. Next?” It’s not, “How do we help this person hit a home run?” It’s, “I have too much pressure. No time to reflect. I’m not taking my twelve minutes. I’ve got my third round of bronchitis. There are other things going on in the world. I’m preoccupied. Any twelve minutes I have, I’m doom-scrolling. I’m not thinking about onboarding and helping someone thrive when they’re new on the team.” That’s what’s happening.
This is such a fascinating conversation. I’m so sad and bummed that I’m going to have to wrap it up, but we’re going to do a couple of fun things. I’m going to throw some rapid-fire questions at you and then we’re going to wrap this up. First question. What was the biggest leadership mistake that you ever made or were a victim of?
Unconsciously, giving my power away and not testing assumptions or questioning things.
What’s the best leadership advice then that you’ve gotten that you still implement?
Set your intention before every meeting.As a leader, set your intention before every meeting. Click To Tweet
We did that before this. You asked me that. This is a fun one. If you were a castaway on a deserted island, what are three things that you hope washed up ashore or were airdropped to you? One of them can’t be a cell phone.
Sunscreen, my family, and water. It’s all about survival.
Freshwater because you can fish.
Those were boring answers, but those were my answers.
No, that’s very practical of you.
If I could give one unpractical thing, it would be some way to hear music because music is my life and force and it’s very important to me.
You’ll find something to beat like drums. Knock some coconuts together or something. This one always stumps everybody. If you were a song or a song title, what would it be and why?
I am Light India by India Arie. It is my vision, my mission, and my calling to bring light, shine light, rise the vibe and help people see what’s possible. I am light every day, always.
I love it. That didn’t stump you one bit.
I’m the music person.
Final question, what are you reading now, or what are your top three favorite books?
I’m reading The Lymphatic Code. It’s a book about your lymph system and I’m trying to learn more about that because mine’s a little sluggish. I’m trying to learn about my body. If I had to pick my top one favorite book and you can tell how much I love this book, Conversations Worth Having is about bringing light into organizations in every conversation and it’s through the lens of appreciation, which is life-giving for all.
I need to get that one.
I’ve said this a million times, Permission to Be Human. This is a framework for values at work to bring your highest and best self forward through values and alignment. It’s a fabulous book, and then my third is Leading Well from Within, which is about stress management, mindfulness, and all of the amygdala work that I’ve been talking about and getting into the prefrontal cortex. This is a playbook on how to do that.
I need all of those.
They’re fabulous. Unfortunately, Dr. Daniel Freeland was scheduled to be on the podcast, but he’s no longer with us. I send him so much love and gratitude to keep his work alive, but I do have podcast episodes with these other two books, so I highly recommend checking them out.
I will. Thank you so much, Lisa. This has been inspiring, encouraging, and informative. Any last words that you have to share with our readers or anything I didn’t ask you that you would like to make sure people know?
Thank you for having me. What a fabulous conversation. Thank you for your work to help people find their audacious confidence because when you are in burnout, you cannot have audacious confidence. They’re not possible because you have shame, brokenness, and feeling not worthy, and everything that you stand for is not found in burnout.
I’m always so grateful that you bring so much life energy and insight into what it means to stand in your awesomeness. It’s important for the world. We can help people with this episode to move closer into your world and what you talk about and out of the world of burnout because it’s the opposite of what you stand for. Thank you for letting me shine a light on that.
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I want to close off by telling everyone reading that I’m encouraging you to lead yourself, lead your team, and lead your organization or the I, we, and us with audacious confidence. Until next time, I will see you.
- Lisa Duerre
- Peak Mind
- Control Alt Delete With Lisa Duerre
- RLD Group
- The Lymphatic Code
- Conversations Worth Having
- Permission to Be Human
- Leading Well from Within
About Lisa Duerre
Lisa Duerre has helped over 25,000 employees get faster results at work, make a bigger impact, and be better business leaders. Her favorite part of it all is the end result of each of these leaders creating a more meaningful connection between work and life in the process so they are present for the moments that matter.
In 2017 she Ctrl+Alt+Deleted her corporate exec role to work with leaders in tech all over the world. Prior to that she was leading highly successful teams and exceeding business objectives in the areas of Talent Development, Field Engineering, Customer Education and Support. Sales Development, and Marketing inside organizations for 25 years. This gave her a front-row seat to see some of the most professionally successful tech leaders absolutely flame-out in their careers, relationships, health, and life. Which she was almost a statistic of herself.
Lisa is on a mission to show leaders the way to lead with their head and heart. This integration is what fires her up!. She advises and coaches leaders on how to get kickass results, build high-performing teams, and be present for the moments that matter. Clients getting these kinds of results is what makes her yell “Dude!” each and every time.
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