This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
The classic definition of "burn rate" is the amount of cash that a business – most often a startup – burns through in the form of overheads and investments before it becomes cash flow positive. Once a company is established and cash flow positive, the burn rate doesn't end; it just takes on a different form, a human form: burnout.
During the startup phase of an organization, the financial definition of "burn rate" is highly managed. However, the human definition is set aside because the hopes of a great idea becoming a reality and the obvious goal of making everyone rich is enough to motivate people to work all hours, seven days a week. The 'stayup' phase is still all consuming, but far less romantic. With the proliferation of technology and tools, continuous competition, an unknown economy and a constant 'raising of the bar,' many of us – and our employees – work more hours than we ever imagined, with no sign of reprieve in sight.
Managing my business keeps the wheels in my head turning constantly. Managing and motivating employees causes me stress and heartache. Good people are hard to find. When we do find them, we hold on so tight and rely on them so much that employee burnout can become a real threat. As leaders, in order to ensure the continued success of our organizations, we need to fight burnout in ourselves and our employees.
Here are five things I do at my agency to help manage the burn rate:
1. Hire a coach-in-residence
On a weekly basis, we have a business coach who comes to our office and meets with team members to review personal and professional goals, issues and opportunities. Our coach is an ideal fit for our team. While she is a seasoned professional, she is youthful, energetic and cheeky. She uniquely connects to each member of the team. Having a coach-in-residence is human resources evolved for millennials.
2. Steal time
I strongly encourage everyone who works around the clock to take the time they need, when they need it, even if it is during 'traditional' work hours. Work often leaks into their personal time, so why shouldn't personal time be allowed during "work hours?" Laundry on a Wednesday morning, groceries on a Thursday, a mani/pedi on Friday morning before a 10:30 meeting! I allow devoted staff to manage their own schedules as necessary to achieve work-life balance.
3. Give recognition
A personal note, a public shout out, a reward; whatever form recognition comes in, it is vital. What makes an employee feel valued varies from one person to the next. Regardless of how it comes, the need for recognizing your employees' contributions is essential in order to keep people motivated.
4. Take vacations
There will always be work to do, so there is never a good time to take a vacation. Take vacation anyway, and ensure your staff does the same. A good team can juggle and support each other so that everyone can get a break. Everyone needs a break from time to time in order to avoid burnout.
5. Define and commit to an organizational purpose
This can be the greatest motivator of all. It is a way to sustain the 'romance' of the startup phase and carry it into the 'stayup' phase. When everyone is committed to the same purpose, it is the greatest, most sustainable, employee demographic-neutral motivator.
I've found that employees need to be managed and motivated differently. For many millennials, career choices are lifestyle choices: work and life decidedly managed and threaded together. Many young people now choose careers based on what makes them happy. The reason they will put in long hours is because it connects and drives their spirit.
People who started their career at a different time, often pursued what was going to make them money, get them ahead, and allow them to start a family: different motivations according to different purposes. These differences in attitude mean managing and motivating people no easy feat. But, as leaders we need to find a way to manage the burn rate. It is a key metric in the success of an organization.
Nicole Gallucci (@BOOMbanter) is the chief executive officer and president of Boom Marketing in Toronto.