“Would I be a different manager today knowing what I do, and understanding the power that burnout has on the effectiveness of the team?”
In today’s fast-paced society, the line between work and life is fading, making mental health increasingly difficult to prioritize. Most individuals spend one-third of their adult lives at work, which can exacerbate conditions such as anxiety, burnout and depression.
The stress, depression and lack of feeling in control that comes with burnout are finally being formally recognized (the World Health Organization (WHO) recently recognized burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis), leading employers to prioritize mental wellbeing for their employees, making it not only an ethical priority, but a business imperative.
I recently collaborated with UNCrushed.org, a non-profit platform and community for mental health awareness, on a survey focused on understanding the true state of burnout in sales professionals specifically and found a staggeringly high percentage of sales professionals are close to currently experiencing burnout. While it is a small sample, many conversations we have had since continue to validate these findings.
I’m a firm believer that being in sales as an executive or an individual contributor is one of the toughest, yet most rewarding jobs out there. My professional career began in sales and I have had an upfront and personal look into the daily demands of ‘carrying a quota,’ which for all intents and purposes, brings in the revenue that keeps the lights on in most businesses. That type of responsibility can be motivating and paralyzing all at the same time. Sales people work in a fast-paced, high-stress environment, you have to always be ‘on’ and available to your customers- with customer expectations higher than ever. Salespeople work too hard and too often, many times leading to burnout.
Below I share my personal experiences and thoughts on this topic. You can watch my full interview on The UNCrushed Podcast.
My own story is one I have only begun to reflect on – and the roll my actions may have played in the way my team felt about the pace of the job. I had not slept at home for three and a half years, for seven straight nights between 2001 and 2003. I was grinding. I was working in Los Angeles, I was commuting to work in Atlanta- turning Monday, Friday, I was home for two days. Not sustainable. I was absolutely burning out, and I was in the office at 7:00am, I would work until at least 7:00pm every day. I was spending no time on myself, I wasn’t laughing, I wasn’t having fun, I hadn’t seen my friends. I was just traveling, and I was maniacally focused on being the best sales leader I could be, delivering the quota to my CEO, who was a high-powered sales executive in his own right. I wasn’t aware that I was actually burning out. I just felt like, this is what you have to do as a sales, customer service and marketing executive at an internet start-up.
II left that job to join a Fortune 500 company to stand up their very first indirect channel program between 2004-2006. I found a bit more balance from the days at a startup, but not much. The day I made the decision to leave being a sales leader behind was a bit cliche – I was standing in front of a mirror getting dressed for the day. I no longer recognized myself and the lack of excitement I had for the challenge of being in sales. The job, the roll that had given me so much pleasure, financial stability and career success was killing me…not literally, but figuratively. I realized I had nothing left to give, I had to get off this merry-go-round, so I left.
Some who know me might not believe that I actually slowed down when I joined Gartner back in 2006. I had to learn an entirely new skill, being an analyst. I had to give up the thrill of winning a deal and crushing quota, while it was jaring at first, I got my weekends back, I got my life back, I sort of re-injected myself into my family and my friends, all of those things. Once that started to happen, then I started to find my way onto what I wanted to do next. I really had to unwind a lot of bad habits that I had formed over time. I’m not saying that it took years for me to get back on track. It was like six months later, one thing would peel off, six months later, two or three more things would peel off and then finally, I was able to feel like I had much more balance in my life.