It was 2007. I was at a networking event, waiting for the keynote speaker, trying desperately to avoid painful small talk. A well-intentioned stranger spotted me at the crudité table and approached. “Hi! I’m so-and-so from such-and-such. I do blah-blah-blah. How about you?”
It had been a rough day. Full of meetings that went awry, deadlines that couldn’t possibly be met, and politics that wouldn’t allow any meaningful forward movement. I was tired.
The adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say…” kept running through my head and so I was stopped cold by her question.
Then the answer came. “I kick asses and give hugs.”
The stranger paused and smiled. “You must be a manager.”
The main skill I was developing at that point in my career was accomplishing a goal through a team while developing them as individuals.
Sometimes they needed a push, sometimes they needed acknowledgment and validation, sometimes a new skill. Whatever it was they needed to continue developing and be their best, I saw it as my responsibility to understand and give.
This would form the foundation of the compassionate management style I would go on to cultivate and share with others.
Including that kind stranger who ended up becoming a friend.
When you’re a manager who “kicks asses and gives hugs” all day, it can be exhausting. Clearing obstacles for your team, pushing them when they need it, and acknowledging and validating everyone, it’s easy to feel depleted.
On those days, I wanted to wear a shirt to work that said, “Out of hugs.”
We get busy helping everyone else and with our own cup empty, we’re easily irritated, unable to prioritize, and everything just feels HARD.
It happens to all of us.
When you start to notice the signs (or someone close to you points them out) of burnout, acknowledge what’s happening and give yourself grace.
Then really look at what’s on your plate and decide what to delegate, delete, or pause in order to carve out time for yourself to think and breathe.
We can’t help others if we don’t prioritize our own needs.
Guard your energy fiercely and protect your most valuable resource – you.