How To Manage Energy And Emotion To Avoid Burnout

“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations.” – Ralph Marston

To understand the roles energy and emotion play in leadership, consider the most influential leader in your life. Likely, they regularly display positive emotion and powerful energy, especially in high-pressure situations, or when you need their leadership and guidance the most. On the other hand, leaders who haven’t been as productive or had the same positive impact on you were likely either displaying negative emotion and low energy, or high energy and negative emotion.

To better understand how energy and emotion affect your leadership, consider the Emotional Energy Matrix.

You’ll see the matrix includes four zones: Survival Zone, Burnout Zone, Renewal Zone, and Performance Zone. We’re all likely to find ourselves in each of these zones at some point in our lives or even move through different zones on the same day. Of the four zones, however, not all of them are optimal for a leader.

Indeed, no one can be high energy and display positive emotion all the time. But, if you learn to make the most of your time spent in each zone, and how to work your way to a more optimal zone, you’ll quickly find yourself becoming a more effective leader. Firstly, you need to be consciously aware of where you and your team are spending most of your time. If you are in a different zone than your team, what can you do about it? E.g., if you are close to Burnout and your team is in Renewal, are you carrying too much of the load? By understanding each zone and how we end up there, you can begin to manage your emotions and energy to maximise your leadership effectiveness.

Survival Zone: Negative Emotion and High Energy

When we’re angry, fearful, anxious, or defensive, we’re likely in the Survival Zone. Emotions are running high, but they’re not necessarily coming from a good place. And with these powerful emotions can come high energy. This zone is where many of us find ourselves spending a lot of time, trying to meet the demands of our professional and personal lives. You can certainly still perform well in this zone, but it can become problematic if it leads you to the Burnout Zone. When you and/or your team are working from within the Survival Zone, make time to regroup and recharge to ensure it doesn’t lead to burnout. Consult with a trusted advisor or friend, and work through the negative emotions that you’re feeling. It’s also beneficial to channel your high energy into a more positive activity such as physical exercise. 

Burnout Zone: Low Energy and Negative Emotion

If you could best describe how you’re feeling as hopeless, burnt out, exhausted, or sad, you’re likely in the Burnout Zone of the Emotional Energy Matrix. To those you lead, you may appear to be apathetic, cynical, or scattered. We often end up in this zone when we don’t “check in” with ourselves, and we end up running out of positive emotions and energy when it’s too late. In leadership situations, a leader’s negative energy often rubs off on others, creating a toxic work environment and inefficiency. To avoid this zone, make sure you are considering not only those around you and how best to lead them but how best to take care of yourself. How can you manage your own energetic needs on a personal level? Decide what fills your emotional, mental, and spiritual cups, and do whatever you need to do to be a positive role model for those you lead. To reignite your team’s passion and energy, consider planning group activities with your staff that reinforces bonds and displays your commitment to the group.  In other words, make time for the Renewal or Recharge Zone.

Renewal/Recharge Zone: Positive Emotion and Low Energy

There are all sorts of benefits to deliberately carving out time for yourself to regroup and recharge. In the Renewal or Recharge Zone, you’re experiencing positive emotion and low energy, which is often how people feel on holiday. While we can’t all be on holiday all the time, there are ways to renew and recharge in your daily life, and this will ultimately make you a much better leader and a happier person. Leaders will find it useful to schedule time in your (and your team’s) diary specifically for reflecting and recharging. Without recharging and renewal, it’s very difficult to reach the Performance or Thriving Zone where many leaders find they do their best work. While the Renewal and Recharge Zone is essential and vital for effective leading, there are things to keep in mind. Perhaps you are getting your job done and feel just fine doing so, but there’s no particular passion or the drive to go above and beyond only what’s “required” of you. Have you become complacent? Has decision-making become a long and slow process for you? Before long, those around you may also become complacent and low energy at work. To avoid spending too much time in this zone as a leader, and to guide your staff out of it to the Performance Zone, create a shared sense of urgency. Unite your team around a common task or goal and set clear definitions of what it means to achieve it. This ensures you make the most out of your time in this critical zone, but it also helps lead you toward the Performance Zone.

Performance Zone: Positive Emotion and High Energy

Also known as the Thriving Zone, the Performance Zone is the optimal zone for many leaders, because, for them, this is where efficiency is at its peak. In this zone, you’re personally motivated to do great work, and you’re enjoying the process of doing so. Similarly, you’re driving your team to follow suit. The Performance Zone is associated with passion, connection, and efficiency. You feel challenged, but not to the point of being burnt out, because you have the high energy to match your high emotion. To reach this zone, manage your energetic and emotional needs on a regular basis, and address them before they become an issue. Often, we don’t decide to take action until it’s too late and survival and/or burnout has already begun. By regularly managing your personal needs, including physical, mental, and spiritual components, you’ll find yourself in the Performance/Thriving Zone more often than not.

Which zone do you fall into most of the time? What about your team? How can you ensure you work from the Performance/Thriving Zone? Contribute to the conversation below. 

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