In our industry, most young, successful producers live and breathe their jobs. They put in long hours at the office or on the road, their social lives revolve around networking and referrals, and their family and friends too frequently take a back seat. Leaders of their
organizations may support the behavior, chalking it up to the inevitable personal cost of doing business. Financially dependent spouses may also be on board. But we know that over the long haul the personal cost is way too high—too high for the producer and too high for the organization. After a few years, many producers experience varying degrees of burnout. The hallmarks of burnout include lack of energy and drive, reduced productivity and even the inability to enjoy the wins because the fear of the next loss is so high. Depression and alcohol abuse are not uncommon.
While no one, much less hard-charging producers, achieves perfect balance in life, it is possible to tip the scales in their favor. You can help your top producers self-identify behaviors that lead to burnout early and offer them life lessons so they don’t wind up crispy at the end of the day.
Make time for family and friends. According to Barbara Bush, “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.” Producers sometimes feel that occasionally coming to work a little late so they can attend a parent/teacher conference, leaving a little early to celebrate an important event or taking a real vacation will be frowned upon. They fear that time off may indicate that they are not driven or ambitious. Do your producers and your organization a favor and create a culture of give and take.
In a recent workshop, producers were asked to create a personal action plan. They took one important event—an anniversary, date night or a child’s sporting event—and created a plan to ensure that they would be in attendance. Feedback was positive. Many producers related that the simple act of planning relieved stress, and the ability to be present in their own personal lives reenergized them at work.
Stay healthy. “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it,” said Mother Teresa. So true when a producer is burning the candle at both ends trying to balance work and home demands. One of the best lamp oils is physical exercise. Those who stay fit reap not only physical benefits but psychological rewards, such as reduced rates of anxiety and depression. The irony is that the more tired we are, the less inclined we are to get up early to work out or drop by the gym for some quality treadmill time on the way home.
Diet also plays a part in staying healthy. Not just the food we eat, but the alcohol and caffeine we consume. That second beer may feel like a stress reliever, and that fourth cup of coffee may seem to give us a burst of energy, but in the end, both will make us feel depleted. Help producers stay fit by offering healthy snacks in the vending machines and beverage alternatives during the day and by encouraging group activities or walking programs. You don’t need a full-blown wellness program, but helping overweight, highly stressed employees realize the value of diet and exercise is the fiscally responsible thing to do.
Pace yourself. In an attempt to balance work and personal lives, many producers pile on responsibilities and “leisure” activities. It’s not uncommon to hear a producer talk about their prospects, clients, staff, wife and three kids, church group, volunteer work, soccer coaching, competitive athletic program, travel and parental care all in one breath. No wonder they are burned out—there’s no down time, no unscheduled breaks, no opportunity to recharge or even to enjoy today’s triumph before they start thinking about the next hurdle. Don’t get me wrong. Goals and activities are important and, in the right dosage, energizing and engaging. But too much of a good thing can be as damaging as not enough.
Talk to your producers about finding that sweet spot at work and at home—that place that’s both rewarding and energizing. It’s the key to sustainable success and a satisfying life.
Your top producers are a Type A, determined, ambitious, competitive and aggressive bunch. They play hard. They work hard. They burn brightly. And many burn out way too soon. Help them keep their lamps lit. Include stress management and work/life balance in your producer training and development programs, discuss tips and techniques for balancing the stresses of work with the joys of life, and encourage your producers to take care of themselves. Because if they don’t, there’s really no way they can continue to take care of business.