You may have heard a rumor I was considering closing Stratavize Consulting and the rumor is true.
A recent survey found an astounding 79% of American workers are experiencing burnout. According to American Psychological Association,
APA’s 2021 Work and Well-being Survey of 1,501 U.S. adult workers, 79% of employees had experienced work-related stress in the month before the survey. Nearly 3 in 5 employees reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%) and lack of effort at work (19%). Meanwhile, 36% reported cognitive weariness, 32% reported emotional exhaustion, and an astounding 44% reported physical fatigue—a 38% increase since 2019.American Psychological Association
Exhaustion Sets In
As a business owner and a worker, I was one of the 79% of Americans that felt overwhelmed, disengaged, and burnt out. After Stratavize Consulting weathered the pandemic storm by the end of 2020 I was exhausted. I no longer felt drawn to the work I’ve always loved.
Instead of addressing the root cause of my burnout, I doubled down on work in 2021. I worked even harder to force myself to love the work again. Spoiler alert! I didn’t feel better, I felt worse. By December of 2021, I had sold our home, bulked up my savings, and was ready to close the firm for good.
What’s worse? I was even more frustrated with myself for feeling burnt out because we help organizations address burnout with their employees. How can I help other companies engage their employees when I’m disengaged myself? I felt like a failure.
Understanding The Root Cause
So, what did I do? I took a consultant’s approach to my problem! Before I could truly commit to closing the firm I had to better understand why I felt this way.
I had spent over 5 years building a client-centered consulting firm. To just close felt like a disservice to me, our team, and our clients. I had to understand why I felt the way I did. I decided to set aside time to do a root-cause analysis.
After watching the movie The Way many years ago I wrote down “Walk the Camino De Santiago” on my goal list where it sat for nearly 10 years. While doing my annual business planning in the fall of last year I came across this goal and decided I would do it! I would walk the Camino De Santiago in the spring of 2022. I would use this time to take a break, deeply explore why I felt burnt out, and determine what I wanted to do in the future.
Walking The Camino De Santiago
On January 2nd, 2022 I started hiking to prepare me for the over 500-mile walk. I began with a 2-mile hike and by the end of March, I was hiking 14 miles with a 15 lb backpack.
On April 2nd, 2022, my son and I began walking, the Frances Way, from St. Jean Pied De Port, France to Compostela De Santiago, Spain.
Over the next 4 weeks, I walked well over 250 miles with a 15 lb pack hanging from my shoulders. I traversed mountains, rocky trails, rolling hills, and small communities scattered across Spain.
We met people from all over the world. Slept in Catholic Monasteries, 1000-year-old stone buildings, and private homes. I took my time walking between 10 and 20 miles each day. Ditching my ear pods, I actively listened to nature and my soul. Wrestling with this huge decision with each new day.
All-day, every day, I thought about Stratavize Consulting, my team, our clients, the products and services we offered, and what we do best.
Do What You Do Best
One evening I pulled out my journal and drew a line down the middle of the page. It was time to dig deep into what was fueling my burnout.
First, I examined our project portfolio. I placed each project in one of two buckets, bucket 1: ALIGNED and bucket 2: MISALIGNED.
The ALIGNED bucket meant that the project aligned with what we do best. With this list of projects, we had the capabilities to serve our clients better than competitors. Bucket 2, MISALIGNED, I listed the projects that were not the perfect fit. These projects may have been better served with one of our partner firms.
Second, I conducted the same exercise with every client we had worked with over the past 5 years. I examined the size of the organization and the industry it served. I placed these organizations into either bucket 1 or bucket 2.
This first exercise helped me gain clarity and insight into how we can better serve our ideal clients with the best possible services. This also helped me understand why some projects were more frustrating than others.
Frankly, we cannot do everything for every type of client. This led me to create a list of our favorite partner firms. Having this list gave me the confidence when we were approached by either a client or project that was misaligned, we had a partner firm that could better serve that client.
After walking and thinking, thinking and walking, I pulled out my journal again. After examining projects and clients, it was time to consider my energy level when working on specific tasks. This time I created a 4 square (you know how much consultants LOVE a 4 square matrix) to map out what tasks gave me energy and where I should ask for help from members of my team that were better, faster, or enjoyed the task more.
Additionally, I made a list of what I was most frustrated with about the organization and what activities/things I was doing that increased my level of burnout (working nights and weekends!!). I jotted down what work I got excited about and what work tasks I wanted to avoid.
As I continued walking across Spain, thinking about our work, and writing down my thoughts and feelings, I could sense the burnout dissipating and my excitement increasing. I was crawling out of a 2-year well of work fatigue and despair.
Every organization should go to market with a clearly defined strategy that places them out front of competitors. Stratavize Consulting is no different. Gaining clarity on the work we do, who we serve, and who on the team should do what – it was time to layout our strategy.
Every Leader Should Answer These Questions
After finishing a particularly hard hike day I had a runner’s high with intense creativity and energy. I quickly scrolled down the following questions and went to the task of answering them:
- How can we better serve our clients?
- What is unique about Stratavize Consulting?
- How do we better tell our story?
- What is interesting about how our business was founded?
- What problem/problems do we help our clients solve?
- How should our business evolve over the next 3 to 5 years to improve our client’s experience, helping them solve their problems better and faster?
- How can we change the business world for the better?
- What internal work needs to be accelerated to improve the lives of our clients and our team members?
- How can I better serve my team members?
- What can I do for myself to combat burnout?
At the end of April Hunter and I arrived at the Cathedral. I’ve never felt so accomplished before in my life. Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to walk all 500-miles but, I’m proud of the over 250 miles we did walk. I’m proud of myself for NOT taking my computer with me on this trip. We celebrated the hardest days on the trail and reflected on what we will do differently NEXT time. 🙂
This trip allowed me to hit the REFRESH button on my life and business. It gave me time to appreciate how far Stratavize Consulting has come over the last 5 and half years, while also giving me time to consider the future.
Stratavize Consulting’s Future Is Bright
I’m happy to report that Stratavize Consulting is here to stay. We are more committed to our team members and clients than ever before. We are excited to launch new proprietary products in the coming months to better serve our clients’ Strategy, Leadership, and Team Development needs.
2022 is going to be an exciting year for us and we can’t wait to connect with previous clients and new clients with a renewed energy and commitment to our work.
Don’t Live With Burnout
If you’re a leader experiencing burnout, frustration, or work fatigue, call me! I would love to talk with you. I know how you might feel.
Consider taking this approach if you’re feeling burnt out, or experiencing a lack of work energy:
- Get clear on what is working and not working within the organization.
- Write down what tasks/work gives you energy and what tasks/work that needs to be delegated to others or should stop being done (encourage your entire team to do this exercise).
- Brainstorm a list of questions that will give you clarity (see mine above as an example).
- Make a list of ways to combat work fatigue and burnout.
About the Author
After nearly 20 years in corporate America, I decided to serve the world in a new way. Today, I operate a boutique consulting firm that specializes in Strategy and Management Consulting. In my spare time, I enjoy travel writing, kayaking and biking. Connect with me on LinkedIn.