EP 23 // Burnout - Better Leaders are not Stressed Out (Denial About Burnout)

Ep 23

Today Akua dives deeper into a topic she has mentioned many times on the Open Door Conversation Podcast. This topic is a major problem among corporate companies, leaders, and entrepreneurs. Today Akua covers burnout; what is it, how we recognize it, and how we avoid it.  

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by extreme stress. When you lose the passion, excitement, and reasoning behind what you do, the effects of burnout become much more prevalent. As humans, we are not meant to work until we drop from exhaustion. We need rest, inspiration, and to set realistic goals and timelines for ourselves in our workday.  

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What's Covered in this Episode About Workload Management

  • What is burnout
  • Difference between burnout and stress 
  • The effects of burnout
  • Akua her 3 step process to identifying and overcoming burnout
  • Using mindfulness to control burnout 
  • Creating a supportive environment for your team and employees
  • Performing in a way that aligns with your values and lights you up 

"You often feel tired not because you've done too much but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you" - Alexander Den Heijer, Nothing You Don't Already Know.

Quotes from this Episode of Open Door Conversations

  • "We tend to forget that we are human beings. And so the first thing to keep in mind, and the first thing that we need to remember is that there are small steps that we can take to make sure that we are in alignment, right to make sure things are resonating with us to make sure that we are enjoying what we're doing." Akua Nyame-Mensah

  • "Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion that is caused by excessive and prolonged stress." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

  • "If you feel like your complaints are being ignored, your management has clear favourites, or the workload is not shared equally, this might feel like you're not getting the support you need in order to move forward." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

  • "No workplace is perfect, we're all going to have to deal with issues at some point, we're gonna have conflict at some point. But making sure that you have people around you that can support you." - Akua Nyame-Mensah

Mentioned in Burnout - Better Leaders are not Stressed Out (Denial About Burnout)

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Learn more about your host, Akua Nyame-Mensah.

Akua is a certified executive and leadership coach, recognized learning and organizational development facilitator, speaker, and former startup executive. 

Since 2018, she has had the opportunity to partner with amazing organizations, from high-growth startups to multinational brands all around the world, to maximize people, performance, and profit.  Outside of her coaching and corporate speaking engagements, she is a regular mentor, coach, and judge for various entrepreneurship-focused organizations.

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Here’s the transcript for episode 23 about Denial About Burnout

NOTE: Please excuse any errors in this transcript; it was created using an AI tool. Akua Nyame-Mensah 0:07 Welcome to the open door podcast. My name is Akua Nyame-Mensah Chaos respond to Aqua. And yeah, I'm a certified executive and leadership coach recognised facilitator and former sort of leader that loves supporting reluctant buyer fighting and overwhelmed leaders. I've worked with them to help them clarify where they should focus their time and energy each and every day so that they can love themselves, love their work, and ultimately love their life. If you're looking to learn leadership information and hear different perspectives, you are in the right place. My aim in this podcast is to help you see that one of the most productive and profitable things you can do is deeply understand yourself. Understand how you show up, understand how you thrive, and allow yourself to align everything in your work in your life, and in your business to support that, think of this podcast as your weekly opportunity to receive leadership support. And remember, there is no one right way to lead yourself or others. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. Let's get started. Hello, and welcome to this episode of the open door conversations podcast. I've been talking about recording this podcast for so long. I'm really excited to be sharing with you my three step process to identifying and overcoming burnout. So in this episode, I'll be covering what burnout is. And I also want to make sure that everyone listening to this understands that I am not a medical professional. But I do tend to work with a lot of leaders that are burnt out because they are reluctant firefighting or overwhelmed. Alright, so please keep in mind, I'll be sharing things from the perspective of a coach, right? Someone who's supporting someone to think about how they can do something different or better into the future, right? I am not diagnosing anyone. All right, so first and foremost, we're gonna be going over what burnout is. All right. I'll also be talking about the difference between burnout and stress the effects of burnout. And last but not least, I'll be going through my three step process that I use to identify and overcome burnout with my clients. And before we actually jump into the episode, I just really want to recommend that you take a second to complete my free leadership style quiz, that's going to give you an opportunity to see where you are right now, with leveraging your leadership style. And it will get you started with personalised resources that you can leverage right away. I have hundreds of blog posts actually, on my platform, my podcast episodes are increasing week by week. And so I have so many opportunities and so many resources to share with you. And by taking this quiz, it will give you and it will direct you to the resources that can support you right away. Okay, so let's get into the episode. Burnout is a complex state. I think that there is so much misinformation around burnout is and what it isn't. So I think it's very easy to get confused. Here's the main point, or here's the main thing that I see when I look at my clients that say that they're burnt out or feeling the effects of being burnt out. If you're ambitious, and you've achieved your goals, you still may find yourself looking for more, right, I need to do more. I haven't done enough. I actually just had a conversation with someone today who actually had two exits. So this woman has sold two of her businesses and she's still like, Nope, that's not enough. And so I think the first thing that comes to mind when I'm thinking about burnout, or dealing with burnout symptoms, or even when I'm thinking about my own self when I came close to burnout was that we tend to forget that we are human beings. And so the first thing to keep in mind, and the first thing that we need to remember is that there are small steps that we can take to make sure that we are in alignment, right to make sure things are resonating with us to make sure that we are enjoying what we're doing. And most importantly, getting enough rest, right and I did record a podcast episode all about rest and the things that might be getting in the way of us getting the rest that we need. We also need to remember that burnout is usually tied to what we spend the majority of our time doing. And so that is typically being in the workplace or working. So I'm going to share how to make better decisions moving forward as a leader as it relates to burnout. And I think that the things I'm going to be sharing shouldn't just be kept to you, right? It's not just for you, but for the people around you and the environment that you're trying to create. Right because as a leader, as a founder as a CEO or even as someone who works for themselves. We are all creating environments, right we are all being support by different people, and how you show up and how you come across does have an impact on others, whether it's explicit or implicit. So by educating yourself, you can gain a deeper understanding of the factors that impact and contribute to burnout. So you can stay mindful and not overwork yourself. So do you want to know how to avoid burnout? Let's get into the first question. So the first thing I'm going to cover which is what is burnout, okay? So burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion that is caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Okay. And I think that so many of us only focus on the physical aspects of burnout. But there's so much more to it's a huge part of burnout actually has to do with the lack of a connection to your why, right? Why am I doing this? What is the overall impact? What is my purpose. And so there's some really interesting research on how burnout is connected to this feeling of, I'm not in control, right. So connected to a lack of control, obviously, we cannot control everything, right? You cannot, no one can control everything. But when you feel a lack of control in how you spend your time, when you do not feel connected to what you're doing, and you're so caught up in the day to day, or when you're not getting a sense of fulfilment for your work, or have lost your initial vision, it's going to be a lot easier for you to burn yourself out. And there's this one quote that I wanted to make sure that I actually referenced and this podcast, because I think that it really does help to capture how many people who experience burnout feel, you often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you. And I think that this is such a great quotes, I will make sure that I include it in the show notes. And I think it's something that we all need to think a little bit more about, really trying to make sure that we're injecting joy, love, gratitude, and what we're doing day to day, and that actually can really help to make sure that we're taking the rest and giving ourselves the rest that we deserve. The next thing I wanted to talk a little bit about, because I know that for so many of us, would you say things like, Oh, I'm just stressed, I'm just stressed. So what is the difference between stress burnout and stress. So here's the difference between the two. Stress is typically something that you might feel occasionally, okay, and that is when something beyond your control maybe happens, a chaotic situation, something in your personal or your professional life, maybe you have it when you need to hit a deadline, or you have an important conversation with stakeholders, okay? Or there's a big project that needs to happen within a short period of time, okay? So stress is often on, but burnout is chronic, okay? So if you have burnout, you constantly feel overwhelmed. You constantly feel like you are emotionally drained, you constantly feel like you're unable to meet the demands of your work or your business. So if you've been in burnout for so long, who start to begin to lose interest, okay? And the motivation that led you to take that opportunity, that position or start to build that business in the first place, you become apathetic, you no longer care, you're so exhausted, so drained, it doesn't matter any more. And this is definitely something that I've seen with people, both in my personal life and also within my professional life. They just lose interest. They're going through the motions, they're just doing it to get it done. But there is no emotional connection to it, there's no joy that comes through it. They're not even happy about the fact that they have to do this, right. It's not even that they even care necessarily. And so it's so important that when we start to recognise or we build our awareness around how we're potentially showing up, or maybe even someone pointed out to us to start to think about what are the effects of having burnout, right? And recognising that this is not normal, right? This is not the way that you have to show up. And this is not being an adult, right? This is something I've heard from some people Oh, but that's just how it is. That's just what I need to do. I really would recommend that you have a conversation with a professional to really try to start to understand where you are. Okay. So what are the effects of burnout. As a leader, we have a lot of influence over how we show up and how our teams and our employees and our clients show up as well. So if you're not creating an environment where you feel like you're in control, it's going to be hard to be productive, you're not going to be able to perform, you might start to become cynical, resentful, or even hopeless. Okay, all of these are actually some of the things that might come up if you're starting to feel burnt out. And burnout can really impact every part of your life. And so it really can spill over into your personal life if you feel like this is coming from your professional life. And if you don't take it seriously, it can have a huge impact on your relationships really, really start to complicate your decision making in your ability to connect with others. So you may find yourself explaining away those situations similar to what I shared earlier on, like, I'm just an adult, this is how things happen. When you're an entrepreneur, things are just crazy, right. And you might be saying things to yourself, such as, it's just a really busy time right now. But it always seems like it's a really busy time for you, right? That's just what needs to happen. Or that's just what's necessary in order to succeed, or I have to do that that's what leaders do, or That's what entrepreneurs do. So if you hear yourself saying some version of that, it really might be time for you to reflect on whether you're justifying behaviours that are actually not serving you, or whether or not there really is something going on that you need to deal with, so that you no longer fall deeper and deeper into potentially burnout. So my work is all about making sure people don't get to this point. And once again, this is also something that I've seen in my personal life as well, where people are going through the motions, having to deal with lots of stressful situations, I used to live in Lagos. And even now that I'm in Accra, like day to day, there are so many things that are out of our control day to day having to deal with traffic and electricity, and water, all of those things can really add up and really have a negative impact on how you're able to show up and both your business and your personal life and can lead to feeling burnt out. So we're always going to go through ups and downs in business, we're always going to have ups and downs wherever we live, and we work. But the key is to make sure that those downs aren't as hard and to have a strategy in place to really work through those and process those downs. And so I follow and I leverage a really simple reset process with my clients. And this is something that I also worked through myself pretty much all the time as well. And this is probably going to sound very similar to some of the other conversations that I've had on the podcast around how I think about supporting others. So the three step process, it's pretty straightforward. Number one, cultivate your self awareness. And I think that this is so key, but first, you need to take the time to see where you're at. Once again, if you do take my leadership quiz around the leadership styles, that's going to give you I think, a really good starting point to think about where you might be at and help to really build your awareness around what potentially could be the issue, whether it's your time management, whether it's the people you're surrounding yourself with, whether it's the work that you're doing, there can be so many different things that start to shift how you feel and start to have you feel like you're potentially burnt out. But when we're thinking about cultivating self awareness, one of the things I think that's so important is recognising that value alignment might be off. So value alignment is about recognising that you're more likely to burn out if you have values that are in conflict with the organisation that you're working with. And that's why for me, it's so important when I work with my one on one clients to really start off with, what are your values? And then what are your company's values? And then how do you show up in that way? Right? Are you actually exhibiting those values? Or are you just saying that those are your values, because you think that's what leaders need to say, or what CEOs needs to say or what VPS need to say. So really take the time to build your awareness around what your values are, feel competent to apply those values at work. Okay? So if you're saying that honesty is something that's really important to you, but you work within an environment where people aren't really honest, and you're not allowed to give feedback that might be really difficult for you. So it's a question of, can you build structures to be able to make sure that people are able to give honest feedback? Or do you need to find another environment where you feel like you can actually contribute and show up in a way that allows you to feel good about yourself. also recognise though, that when you're suffering from value conflict, whether it's with a co founder and employer or company value, I mean, company environment, it's really important right? To be able to communicate that voice that and know that and you'll only be able to do that if you cultivate your self awareness and start to reflect around what's happening. Why am I showing up this way? Why am I feeling triggered? If you're working somewhere that negatively impacts your values? It's a key indicator that that might not be the best environment for you to flourish. And that's okay, right? We shift we change as human beings we evolve. And sometimes an environment that we found ourselves in at 2025 is not the environment that we want to be in at 30 years old. Building your self awareness can really help you to understand whether or not you're walking down a path to burnout. So a second point around cultivating your self awareness. So that first point is really around on that value alignment piece, that second piece might be around fairness, right? And if you look at any research related to burnout, one thing as human beings that can lead to those feelings of burnout is feeling like things are not fair. Okay? And fairness is about diversity, recognising that all of us think in different ways, because of our diverse life experiences. So as human beings, if we feel like we're an environment that isn't fair, we're more likely to burn out. So if you feel like your complaints are being ignored, your management has clear favourites, or the workload is not shared equally, this might feel like you're not getting the support you need in order to move forward. And so once again, might lead to those feelings of resentment and helplessness, right and apathy. Like, who cares? Why should I care? This work environment doesn't care about me, right? My workplace doesn't care about me. So why should I really do anything. So if you're able to cultivate your self awareness, you're less likely to go down the road of burnout, right? So be conscious of your values, right? And you'll be aware of how you make decisions. And you'll know when you're being treated unfairly, so that you can either demand better, or look for a place that is able to really provide you with the environment that you need to really thrive. What is that second step? Okay, that second step is all around engagement and really engaging with others and leveraging others. And this is really a step that I've really always had an issue with. And one of the reasons why I actually turned to coaching, I was introduced to coaching to learn how to build better relationships, to learn how to build better rapport with others. And once you've cultivated your self awareness, it's so much easier to do this. So none of us live in bubbles, right? None of us work in a vacuum. And so the people that you surround yourself with are going to have a direct impact on how you feel and how you show up, being able to think about the types of relationships you're cultivating. And how you want to manage them will have a huge impact on whether or not you feel burned out. So make sure you're in a safe and constructive community. Another way we talk about this, right within the, you know, coaching, and training space is talking about that psychological safety, do you feel safe, right, and that fairness piece, right, so cultivating that self awareness around the environment that you're in is also super important. So if you don't have that psychological safety, it's going to be hard to show up as a leader, even if you're a founder, right. So even if you think you're at the top of the food chain, if you're not surrounding yourself, right with the right investors, the right co founders, or the right management team, or executive team, it's gonna be really hard for you to show up as a leader. And it's going to be hard to feel productive, and hard to perform as well. So if you have people to talk to, you can defuse some of these stressors, right? So leveraging a co founder having a coach having advisors or investors that you trust, it can help. And I think another thing to also keep in mind with this second point is that no workplace is perfect, we're all going to have to deal with issues at some point, we're gonna have conflict at some point. But making sure that you have people around you that can support you. So you're able to deal with those issues in a more constructive way will really be important. When it comes to thinking about this point of engaging with others, it's also so important to make sure that they're getting something in return. And I talk a lot about this in so many different ways. I think, you know, I had a live I did recently about gratitude and talking about recognition, and appreciation. And that's a really important part of helping to defuse burnout as well. So making sure that you are clear on your why what motivates you to do your best work is super important. And also communicating how you want to be recognised and acknowledged and appreciated, can also go really, really far. So we need to be able to ask for what we need from others. And that's definitely a skill. I'm actually working right now on a retreat, sort of outline where this is something that is so important for us to really think even more about, especially now since many of us are working with in hybrid environments where we can't always walk over to someone we not, we might not be able to see their face when we're sharing something with them. So this skill of being able to ask for what we need from others is so important, right? That's why engagement is so important. If you are a leader, maybe you need uninterrupted creative visioning time, right? We you are not on call for your employees. So being able to have that boundary and communicate that boundary will be key. If you're an employee, maybe you value flexible work hours, or maybe you have expectations in terms of compensation. So being able to have that conversation and also decide whether or not you're willing to accept something will be so important. If you feel like you're not getting enough in return, you'll have what I call an insufficient reward. Right? You're not being acknowledged in the way you want to be acknowledged. So you might actually start to begin to question your motivations in the first place, and feel like time spent at work is not worth it, and maybe even begin to resent those around you. So what I really want to just push when we're talking about engagement and the importance of engagement and asking for what you want in return, is really recognising that what you want out of work and getting a fair reward is so crucial to eliminating some of those stressors that really might lead to burnout. Right? So I hope you're starting to see how all of these steps all of these elements really start to play together and really start to come together. The last step is all around setting those expectations. And here, I actually have adjusting your expectations if necessary. So last, but not least, you need to think about what do I want to achieve? How do I stay on track? What's important to me? And where is my focus? For many people burnout is an occupational issue, right? It has to do with what you're actually doing day to day in relation to your work in relation to how you manage your time, or how you're told you need to manage your time or hit your KPIs or hit your targets. So another key factor here in the research that I did around burnout is being able to manage your workload is key to avoid going down the path of burnout. Are you working too much, right. And for so many of us, we have our sense of self worth really tied to getting things done and quote, unquote, being productive. And I think it's so important that we recognise that just checking things off a checklist does not make us a worthy human. And so I spend a lot of time talking about time management. And I want you to see that you can have a better relationship with time and productivity. And that productivity is about performing in a way that aligns with you, it's about showing up in a way that lights you up allows you to get the things done that you need to get done, but that you still have time and energy to do the things that you love. So when your workload is too much to manage, and you have unrealistic deadlines that are either set by you, or whatever environment that you're in, or whoever is your leader, right, or whoever is your investor, you are more likely to feel burnt out, you need to make sure that your expectations fit with reality. And one of my favourite things actually to do with leaders. And this is actually at all levels. This is something that all of us at all levels, whether we're executives, board members, an entry level intern, we tend to have very unrealistic expectations when it comes to how we fill our time. So one of the things I love to do with my clients is actually have them list all the things that need to they think they need to get done within the day. And then for them to actually look at a calendar with time and try to put in all those things they think they need to get done within the day. This is the reason why I don't really like checklist, I use checklists. And then I actually put it into my calendar to help me write to help me recalibrate my expectations. Because if you had a checklist that just had 10 things, and you felt like each one of those 10, things would take one hour, that would have to mean that you would need at least two days to get all those things done, because that's already 10 hours of work. And that doesn't include your breaks, right? That it doesn't include going to the bathroom, that doesn't include your commute if you have one, and that doesn't include your lunch. So really just recognising that workload, right? And being unrealistic with your workload is a huge component of going down that path of burnout. So once again, just to reiterate, as a leader, it's important that you're that you work on releasing controller attachments. While yes, there are certain things that we can control, there are other things that we can not. And so we need to become conscious of where you're spending your time and your energy. So trying to focus on what you have control over rather than what you don't helps you avoid the road to burnout. Okay, so I hope by listening to this, I've encouraged you to take some time to educate yourself about burnout and think about how you can incorporate some of these methods into your business and into your career for a healthier and more fulfilling work life. Okay, so what did we cover? Once again, in this episode, we talked about what is burnout, we talked about the difference between burnout and stress. We talked about the effects of burnout and how it might show up for you. And then last but not least, I took you through my three step process to identify and overcome burnout, right? So first and foremost, right, that first step of cultivating that self awareness, trying to recognise Am I in alignment, do my values align? Are things fair, right, and really starting to get curious around? How do I feel about this, the second piece of engaging with others and really recognising that we need that psychological safety so that we can show up and our employees and our teams need that psychological safety in order to show up and really be their best selves. And last but not least, number three, adjusting our expectations and really getting curious around our Are we working too much? Right? Does this work actually lead to the results that I want, and really trying to make sure that we're showing up in a way that allows us to feel good about ourselves and also get things done. Alright, so I would love to hear your thoughts on what I've shared today. Please let me know if this resonates if you have any questions. And once again, I really just want to encourage you to check out my free quiz. It will allow you to start to get a better idea of what potentially you could be struggling with as a leader right really helps you to think about what is my current leadership style, and what is that leading to, and it will also give you some concrete next steps. So some really specific personalised recommendations on what you can do moving forward so that you do not feel burnt out and you're not going down this path to burnout. As always, thank you so much for taking the time to listen. Stay safe, and stay safe. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to today's episode. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please share it with your friends. We can continue this conversation on social media the links to my socials so that is LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. You can find them in the show notes. If you tagged me in a story and include the hashtag hashtag ask Akua I will share a special little gift with you. Thank you so much once again for your time and I cannot wait to share my next episode with you stay safe and sane.


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