The Accelerating Pace

an article by Barb McEwen

We are living in dynamic times and in a horrendously fast-paced environment. From boom to bust and back again. Today's fast-paced economy demands that businesses change or die. There appears to be almost continuous reorganizing, then there is the need to be more innovative in order to compete, and somewhere in between we are trying to relate to people and establish relationships.

Few companies are managing these changes as well as they would like and managers are experiencing a whole new type of exhaustion. They have ever widening spans of control, re-organization threatens positions, performance targets have become even tougher and production goes on around the globe and around the clock.

The times that were once reserved for family have now been squeezed by the duty to answer e-mails, voice mails and faxes. What didn't get done at the office, thanks to technology, is now being done at home. The more you do, the more that is expected of you. If you do special projects well, guess what, you are relied upon for more special projects.

So what can we do to prevent burnout?

From the organizational side of things, managers need to recognize that burnout can and does happen and it is not a character flaw. This ought to be acknowledged up-front and plans for handling it put in place. Open discussion about the ramifications of burnout need to be dealt with at the senior management level. Burnout appears to happen most often to those who are conscientious and committed to the organization. It is something that strikes our most talented people.

Managers need to keep track of positions that have been compressed - where one person is now doing the job of 2 or perhaps 3 and to watch for signs of irritability, frustration, or increased introversion. If a particular person is noted for their competence in the completion of innovative projects, don't automatically assume they can be assigned others, without respite. Changes in pace and responsibility could also help to allow people time to replenish and revitalize themselves. Make sure the organization has ways of letting people know that their contributions are important. Many performance appraisal programs actually contribute to a sense of being unrecognized.

Management needs to consider:

Recreational facilities that serve as a place to de-stress. Off-site retreats are another ways that serve as rewards for a job well done. Workshops and regular retraining that help to improve skills in our changing environment. Recognize when time-off would be beneficial for yourself and others. Don't automatically assume that the person who has always been strong can sustain the pace. Listen for key indicators of exhaustion, something like: I don't think it is healthy to keep up this pace. Insist vacations be taken.

One of the most effective measures against burnout is offering the services of a professional coach. Weekly sessions allow the individual to express things that might otherwise be repressed or denied because of organizational design or politics. In coaching, the person explores what really matters most, how to work through their strengths and around their weaknesses, to integrate personal values and begin living a purposeful life.

Individual sufferers need to know that their problem stems from increased expectations, and trying to handle too much. It has little to do personal abilities. Ways to alleviate these pressures are:

Set Your Boundaries

This may include limiting travel, avoiding unnecessary meetings, establishing a reasonable work schedule or declining extra duties -- even though you know you are the best person for the job. Believe me, after time your ego will not be bruised because you have said no, and you will learn to give others credit for taking on the extra tasks.

Keep Your Private Time Sacred

The old saying is true, at the end of our days, nobody says, "I wish I had worked harder." Establishing healthy relationships with those who are most important to us, should not be put off until a better time. The time is now.

Healthy Habits

You've heard it all before. Good eating habits and regular exercise. Bad habits are little things we keep repeating that are doing us no good! We know what they are but haven't made them a priority to change.

Daily Reflection/Meditation

Take a quiet time every day to begin to grapple with what you believe in and why. Give thanks daily for what you have. Actively choose the roads you go down and be careful of the detours other people would have you take.

Feeling Pressured

When you feel you are 'rowing up stream' it is time to take stock. We can choose not to struggle. Think of the rhyme you learned as a child:

Row, row, row your boat Rowing requires you be consistently balanced.
Gently down the stream Nothing in life works well when forced.
Merrily, merrily, merrily Be content, WE choose our mood.
Life is but a dream Life becomes what you make it.

Personal Growth

Understand why you are special and celebrate your unique talents and gifts throughout your life. And remember, happiness comes not from freedom of obstacles and challenges but in living a life that matters.

An old Indian saying goes something like this: When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. When you die, the world should cry, and you rejoice in a life well lived.

Barb McEwen, C.E.C.
Personal Executive Coach
20/20 Executive Coaching Inc

Barb uses Enneagram Personality Theory in coaching her clients.


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Barb McEwen is a Master Executive Coach and Organizational Strategist who works with corporations and individuals worldwide. As founder of 20/20 Executive Coaching and 20/20 Executive Women she has spent the past twelve years working with high potential individuals to help them hone their leadership and management skills. Contact Barb at