6 Signs that You’re Burned Out

Clyde C. Lowstuter

All of us are wired.  We’re synched up.  Hardwired.  Your computer, tablet, e-reader, cell phone, car, home thermostat, security system, and every electronic device that you own has an operating system. Your many OS’s need to be upgraded from time to time to maintain optimal performance.  Likewise, you also have well-developed operating systems – physiologically, behaviorally, emotionally, and psychologically – that require adjustments for you to operate smoothly, lest you get fried.

Each of us is hardwired a little differently and it requires a nuanced approach in order to live an optimal existence. It’s crucial to pay attention when you are stressed or anxious. It may be time to reflect and calibrate how you’re thinking, feeling, and behaving.

You’re Burned Out If You Are:

  1. Agitated, nervous, and exhausted most of the time.
  2. Angry toward everyone and everything and you don’t know why.
  3. Oblivious to the most obvious behavioral clues that you’re out of control.
  4. Feeling rudderless and uncertain about how to act or even what to say at times.
  5. Experiencing an undercurrent of helplessness and zero energy.
  6. Generally unproductive and lacking creativity, on or off the job.

The key to extinguishing your burnout is to immerse yourself in the core beliefs that ground you, while focusing on the underlying values that give you purpose and direction.  Scrutinize the things that have been profoundly important to you and have brought you joy and deep peace.  Maybe you need to lighten up and give yourself permission to take a break . . . or a nap. It may even be time to hang up your Super Hero cape!

To function effectively with others it is critical that you become increasingly self-aware and mindful of what you are thinking and feeling, and how you are behaving.  When I was working on my newest book 35 Truths last year I unintentionally upgraded my own OS.  While the purpose of writing the book was to identify significant learnings over R|L’s 35 years, I received much more.  After combing through years of my R|L speeches, workshops, manuals, and books, I had a huge list of important core values. When I narrowed this list to the top 35, I found myself reigniting around those values.

I felt an increased sense of being even more grounded and authentic . . . and more anchored in my beliefs.  My profound revelation was that we all need to take the time to reboot our beliefs and values.  We must take control of those dysfunctional behavior instant replays that undermine our personal power and effectiveness.  Doing so will reinvigorate our drive and solidify our ability to avoid burnout.

Best wishes for your continued success and may you always . . .
“Create Uncommon Results!”® 

Highest Leadership Imperative – Part 1

by Clyde C. Lowstuter

One word – Feedback.

The giving and receiving of constructive feedback is the most important role that a leader has. In order to achieve an optimal performance out of ourselves, as well as our team, leaders need to provide feedback in such a manner as to elicit clear and immediate change. This can only happen if feedback in your organization is seen as a gift and not a burdensome duty. To do it well –you need a blend of head, heart, and guts.

Best intentions, notwithstanding, feedback feels like negative criticism most of the time. Rather than being open and receptive, we often quickly become defensive and entrenched in our own position. Let’s face it – giving and receiving feedback is rarely performed or received well.

Business Team LookingBefore giving or receiving feedback it is important to remember that feedback is a mindset and trust is a key component. If you trust that the person giving you feedback is highly supportive and is a champion for your future success, then your mental and emotional state would be more one of positive expectancy, not guarded and defensive.


  1. Create a culture of feedback in an open atmosphere of learning and improvement. One way to begin is by being the feedback role model. Ask for feedback from your direct reports: “What might I do differently to achieve even greater results?” or “What more can I do to bring out the most in our team?”
  2. Have a dialogue – not a monologue. Ask for input. After you discuss your report’s successes, strengths, and developmental needs, request her insights and recommendations. Come up with a plan for growth together.
  3.  Learn to read others’ body language to be aware of how your actions and communications land with others. If you see that your feedback is being taken poorly – stop – claim accountability for causing defensiveness in her and refocus the conversation. Say something like: “I’m sorry. You can see that I am passionate about this issue; I may have said that in a tone that came across more harshly than I intended. Let me say it differently.”
  4. Don’t be emotional. If you are highly upset you run the risk of saying things that might irreversibly damage the relationship and crush the spirit of the other person. Evaluate if the “offense” is cause for immediate termination or if it is a situation that can be “fixed” and not done again. Take a deep breath. Calmly discuss the incident and ask, “What’s the learning and what can you and I do to ensure this never happens again?”
  5. To provide constructive feedback that is supportive, practical, and immediately applicable you need to be clear in your expectations, including your commitment to her success. The issue may be less about this person’s error in judgment and more about your lack of clarity about performance expectations. Be authentic and vulnerable, while taking accountability for your own actions. Sometimes, the best way to begin is by acknowledging, “Mea culpa, I did you a disservice in not being more clear…”
  6. Conversely, if a person’s performance or behavior continues to slip after feedback, it is critical that you determine if the issue is Attitude (the person is unwilling to do the work) or Competency (she is unable, as she is in way over her head and does not have the intellectual bandwidth or agility, or experience to succeed). Once you have determined this, discuss your expectations and explore possibilities – further education and training or alternative roles, inside or outside of the company.

Best of luck providing constructive feedback in a manner that enhances performance, trust, and commitments.

I’d love to hear about some of the strategies that you’ve employed that have been highly successful, as well as those approaches that have blown up . . . and what you’ve learned.

Next time, look for Part II – Receiving Feedback…

3 AM Solution: Addressing Tough Performance & Behavioral Issues™

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

In a recent R|L survBusiness Women Conversationey of 1,400 leaders, we discovered that 93% of executives admitted delaying performance or behavioral discussions. Further, these respondents estimated that their organization’s overall performance short-fall averaged 45%, which means that the potential negative financial impact is staggering.

The vast majority of people intend to do well, but they often underperform due to the lack of timely, constructive feedback. Ironically, rarely do direct reports ask for, nor do they receive helpful, game-changing comments. Not addressing issues reinforces negative behavior and perpetuates people being stalled, stuck, and derailed – and possibly being terminated. Not surprising, the fear of an employee’s emotional reaction is the most compelling roadblock to leaders confidently having candid, straightforward conversations.

The two most common questions that get leaders up at 3 AM are:

  1. What can I do to get talented people to perform more to their potential?
  2. How can I address tough performance or behavioral issues without blowing up the   relationship?

For leaders to be truly effective, they must unlearn the habits and beliefs that have reinforced them being conflict avoidant, replacing them with new adaptive skills that allow them to confidently and courageously address sensitive issues.

As a leader, you must have a positive mindset that when you step into a possibly emotionally charged situation.  Your unwavering commitment to the other person will defuse any defensiveness that emerges.  It is essential that you first establish a context of trust and respect for the individual’s capabilities before you wade into the performance discussion. By doing so, it enables your direct reports to listen better and absorb the message of support and the spirit of partnering together for greater performance.

Remember, feedback is a huge gift; people want it and need it to thrive, though they may be resistant and defensive initially. If you knew that you could effectively provide constructive feedback in a manner that would generate greater trust, what would you attempt?

Authentic feedback begins with you – modeling openness and transparency with a willingness to graciously receive feedback from others.

It takes courage to face your fears and push through them to do something that is a bit nerve-wracking – AND do it anyway.

Situational Bullies

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

It might be hard to believe, but some people who are thought of as bullies – aren’t really.  These “bullies” are probably well-intended leaders who are driven to succeed, yet they get triggered by something or someone who is seen as an impediment.  Too often we’ve seen these leaders become explosive and, then, their reaction is perceived as bullying.  When we examine the situation, in-depth, and evaluate what might have triggered an intense reaction, we can often diffuse a situation before it spirals out of control into the red zone.  Here are two examples of when bullying is more situational than it is chronic.

Businessman Offering HandLack of Clarity / Performance
If your boss engages in bullying behavior, I invite you to consider mutual accountability for the upset.  Yes, the boss shouldn’t lose his/her cool.  Yet, also look closely at your performance; how well are you anticipating the needs of the organization?  How often are you delivering extraordinary results?  Nothing makes a leader upset more than talented yet underperforming employees who repeatedly disregard directives or demands for a given outcome.  Ironically, much of a direct report’s failings may have more to do with the boss’s lack of clear directions and vague expectations than the person’s abilities.  However, as the employee, your performance is being judged, not your boss’s directions. You are responsible for taking the initiative and asking for goal clarity if you are in doubt.

Lack of Understanding Style Differences
If a peer is the bully, closely examine the dynamics of your respective interpersonal styles. Your disconnect might be a lack of understanding as to how to approach someone with a different interpersonal style.  This is especially true when diametrically opposing styles are deeply vested in their own perspectives.  For instance, since I am a Creating Style (spontaneous, experimental, and transparent), I generally relate best to people with behaviors similar to my own.  Conversely, the people I naturally relate least well to are Analyzing Styles (detailed, linear, and structured), which are my behavioral style opposites.  The point being, if I’m the boss I could be increasingly judgmental and begin to bully people on my staff if I don’t adapt my behavior for those “not on my wavelength.”  BTW, I am not condoning or ignoring uninspired performance, behavioral, or attitudinal issues; rather I am advocating that everyone raise their self-awareness and master the subtleties of interpersonal styles.

By taking ownership of our own behaviors, thoughts, and feelings in any given situation we remain in charge and do not give in to bullying behaviors – ours or others.


  • Which conditions stated above might you have previously engaged?
  • What other “Situational Bullying” have you experienced – either as the bully or as a recipient?

My hope for you is that you become the best, most inspiring leader you can possibly be!  Trust, respect, and treat others as you’d like and need to be treated.

Dig Deep

By Clyde C. Lowstuter

“What are you going to do for me?” is a question asked by all CEO’s.

Mastering Competency-Based interviewing will give you a leg up on your competition for the perfect job.  If you elevate your skills, I can guarantee that you will have superior interviewing skills to 90%+ of those competing against you for the job you want.

Good news–bad news: your past behavior and performance are predictors of your future behavior, performance, . . . and success.

Woman Being Interviewed

Competency-Based Interviewing, known as Behavioral interviewing, is a thoughtful and rigorous selection process that focuses on experiences, behaviors, knowledge, core values, and skills and abilities that are job-, company-, and industry-specific.

The competencies relevant for you are those characteristics associated with the organization’s culture and the leadership and behavioral traits that superior performers have consistently demonstrated.

4 Success Tips for Competency-Based Interviews

1.  Perform Due Diligence on the Company

  • Conduct research; collect data; identify themes; and ask your network for their impressions of the company and people.

2.  Evaluate the Position Specifications

  • Determine personal leadership and organizational values and characteristics.
  • Line up the job specs against your quantified achievements and their specific impact.

3.  Match Competencies with Your Results

  • Provide examples of when / how you displayed the ideal competencies and results.
  • Identify S.A.R. (Situation, Action, Results) . . . and the P&L impact.

4.  Anticipate, Prepare, and Practice, Practice, Practice

  • Don’t merely show up.  Do your homework.  Boldness, confidence, and enthusiasm are all contagious.  Competency-based interviewing is more daunting and challenging than you might expect . . . but a tremendous differentiator when mastered.