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How Constant Online Accessibility is Burning You Out with Jimmy Burroughes

September 25, 2023
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps experts & consultants on the journey to becoming a recognized authority in your field, so you can increase your impact, command premium fees, work less hours, and never have to suffer a bad-fit client again!.

Are you feeling the strain of burnout? Can’t remember the last time you felt genuinely rested? In this episode of “The Recognized Authority”, Alastair McDermott hosts burnout expert, Jimmy Burroughes, to discuss  the challenging terrain of burnout.

From the pressure of working long hours to the pitfalls of constant online availability, they explore the many triggers that can lead to this overwhelming state. Why do some see burnout as a badge of honor? And how does it harm productivity and well-being?

Through compelling personal anecdotes, they sheds light on the importance of setting boundaries, the power of recharging, and the crucial need for a healthy work-life balance.

They also offers tangible solutions: tools, frameworks, and strategies to prevent burnout, from effective communication to prioritizing higher-value tasks. Discover the art of setting personal boundaries, the advantage of time-blocking, and the significance of evaluating what you’re saying “no” to.

For anyone who has felt the weight of burnout or knows someone struggling, this conversation offers a beacon of hope and a roadmap to recovery. Equip yourself with the knowledge and tools to thrive in both work and life.

Show Notes

Boston Consulting Group study

People in professional services believe a 24/7 work ethic is essential for getting ahead—and so they work 60-plus hours a week and stay tethered to their Black?Berrys. This perpetuates a vicious cycle: Responsiveness breeds the need for more responsiveness. When people are always “on,” responsiveness becomes ingrained in the way they work, expected by clients and partners, and even institutionalized in performance metrics. There is no impetus to question whether the work actually requires 24/7 responsiveness; on the contrary, people work harder and longer, without stopping to explore how they could work better.

The study was conducted by researchers at Boston Consulting Group (BCG) over 4 years in several of their North American offices. It involved experiments with consultants taking Predictable Time Off (PTO) from work.

The aim was to challenge the assumption that consultants need to be available 24/7 and show that it’s possible for them to take planned, uninterrupted time off while still providing excellent service.

  1. In the first experiment, a team took 1 full day off per week (so worked 4 days/80% time). They added another consultant to ensure full coverage for the client. Despite initial resistance, the team came to appreciate and look forward to their PTO day.
  2. In the second experiment, consultants took 1 full weeknight (6pm onwards) off per week when working on the road. Again there was initial skepticism but eventually appreciation of the benefits.

The experiments resulted in more open communication among team members, which also led to new processes and ways of working that enhanced efficiency and effectiveness.


  1. Impose a strict PTO mechanism with scheduled, same days/nights off for everyone. This ensures fairness and makes it easier to protect.
  2. Build open dialogue through weekly check-ins on achieving PTO and work processes. This built trust and surfaced issues early.
  3. Encourage experimentation with new work processes like teaming to better share workloads. This improved work quality.
  4. Insist on leadership support through modeling PTO and attending check-ins. This legitimized the efforts.

Overall, the studies show that an “always on” mentality can be challenged, with benefits beyond individual work-life balance. New ways of working emerge that improve quality, efficiency, and retention.The predictable time off at night ensured consultants were rested, so they could be more productive. Having an uninterrupted night off allowed more time for reflection, leading to better ideas. Clients noticed improvements in work quality.

Read the full article: Making Time Off Predictable—and Required by Leslie A. Perlow and Jessica L. Porter
Harvard Business Review (HBR) Magazine October 2009

Guest Bio

Jimmy Burroughes is a leadership expert on a mission to change the way we achieve results. With over two decades of experience as an Officer in the British Military and a track record of success as a people leader in top global organizations. MBA and extensively qualified as a coach and facilitator, Jimmy has developed a passion for building high-performance cultures by making the complexity of better performance simple, and therefore easier to apply. He and his team have developed a proven facilitation-led approach and delivered in some of the world’s largest organizations.

Jimmy hosts his own podcast and is also the author of Beat Burnout – Ignite Performance. It’s the leader’s guide to building a high-performance team. The book was the product of multiple years of research, working with 7 to 12-figure businesses all over the world and taking those best practices and distilling them down into five simple variables. He can share insights incorporating elements of neuroscience, behavioural science, energetics, and a variety of standard leadership concepts Jimmy is a highly engaging guest, who is a specialist in simplifying high-performance concepts into a format that will both engage and encourage your listeners to try new things. Outside of work, Jimmy splits his time between living at the beach in Los Cabos scuba diving, or in central Mexico, hill running, whilst constantly searching for his next property project with his partner and dog.

Learn more about Jimmy here:



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Alastair McDermott, Jimmy Burroughes, Voiceover


Alastair McDermott  00:00

One of my other podcast is called Accelerating Your Authority. And on there, sometimes I speak with people who I want to bring over and run the episode on the main podcast. And today is one of those times. So my guest is Jimmy Burroughes, and he is an expert in burnout, and in how to identify burnout in yourself and in others. And you know what to do about it. And I think this is an important topic, particularly, you know, if people listening to this are trying to create content, you know, I talked about creating content in a very efficient way, it’s still time consuming. And if you’re doing that, as well as trying to do sales and operations, delivery, all of that kind of stuff. So I think that you know, when we’re trying to have high performance for ourselves, I think this is a super important topic.


Voiceover  00:43

Welcome to The Recognized Authority, a podcast that helps specialized consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott.


Alastair McDermott  00:55

Hello, and welcome to Accelerating Your Authority. This is the show to help you grow your expertise based business through six figures and beyond. I’m your host, Alastair McDermott, and I interviewed leaders, consultants and experts in their field, about their business so they can share their stories, advice and insights for growth. And I’m delighted to say that today, my guest is Jimmy Burroughes. And Jimmy is a coach who specializes in avoiding burnout and beating burnout. And in fact, that’s the title of your podcast, right, Jimmy?


Jimmy Burroughes  01:22

The title of the podcast is “The Ways of Working” podcast, the title of the book is “Beat Burnout”.


Alastair McDermott  01:27

Awesome. And so “Beat Burnout – Ignite Performance”. And so a lot of people who are listening to this may be in the, in the stages of burnout, somewhere somewhere along those along those various stages, or they may be concerned about their teams facing burnout, particularly because of all of the pressures, the there’s economic pressures, there’s so many changes with COVID. With AI with all sorts of things happening, the world seems to be in a very fragile state at the moment. And so I think this is a really interesting topic. So Well, first of all, welcome to the show. And…


Jimmy Burroughes  02:06

Thank you so much.


Alastair McDermott  02:07

Can you tell me? What is it? What is it about burnout? That, that we’re able to control? Because I think that burnout is something you can feel like it’s out of your control. And we like to say control the controllables. So can you talk to me about what we can control?


Jimmy Burroughes  02:22

Yeah, so that’s a really fascinating first question. And, you know, what, if I, if I rewind the clock in my own career, I burned out in 2017, I was in a very, very busy GM role, running an eight figure business team of about 40 people traveling the world. And unfortunately, the some of the choices I was making, were what ended up with me burning out. Number one choice being the number of hours I decided to work. And often we can feel like the we are obliged to give up our evenings and give up our weekends. We feel like we have to work into the late at night, we have to work over public holidays. And we have to be always on as a leader. And one of the greatest misnomers in the conversations we have with people who are burning out is like, Oh, well, I just had to keep working hard to try and keep up. And the reality is actually the opposite.


Jimmy Burroughes  02:22

And there’s a there’s a fascinating case study, which came out of Boston Consulting Group a few years ago, where they split their consultant population into three different test groups. And you may know Boston Consulting Group are renowned for taking their piece of meat from their consultants, you know, they regularly work a 20 hour day, they give up weekends, and they do all the things that a management consultant does. And what they said to these three groups was Group A keep working, as you have always worked and let’s see what happens. Group B, we want you to close your laptop at 5pm Once a week, and go home, do hobbies, relationships, boyfriends, girlfriends, go out, catch it with your friends just had taken night off Group C, we want you to never be online after 5pm. And we want you to always have your weekends. And let’s see what happens. And they did this experiment for three months. And as you can probably imagine, the partners of the firm were extremely concerned about the client results that were going to result from our consultants aren’t working around the clock to deliver client outcomes. And you’ve could probably guess the outcome, right? The outcome was a course that group C gave better client outcomes, their level of burnout was significantly reduced. The amount of time that they put into the client work was of higher quality. And they also had some really great sort of side benefits, less divorces, better relationship quality, higher employee engagement, less absenteeism and sickness and everything was improved. And so it can have a shot out the water, there’s this idea that you need to be working all the time to keep up. And there’s there’s some really great neuroscience reasons which which we can go into if you like. But essentially, your brain needs to recharge, so you can do your best work. But when we’re burning out, we kind of get into this hamster on a wheel mentality, I’ve just got to keep going, you just got to keep going. And if you were to make that choice to close a laptop, go home and spend some time with your friends or family, that actually your brain recharges a little bit overnight, and you can come back to work tomorrow, and you make better choices about how you work and you make better choices about how you spend your time. Versus here’s all here’s a task I’ve got to do, and I’m just gonna keep going at it. So I think it’s that choice is probably the controllable to actually consciously say no. But those leaders that are really struggling with their team potentially burning out, it’s often a look at yourself. So one of the things we find is the leader who answers emails at 1am in the morning, creates a culture in their team of oh, well, if the boss is online, I have to be online. And it creates this almost chaos spiral of, well, I’ll reply to that email at 130. And so when they wake up at five, they’ll reply to the email to me, and that’ll create three meetings and, and you can imagine how it goes from there. So again, the thing you can control as a leader is setting a culture of we work when we work, and when we’re off, we’re off, and I’m not expecting you to reply. When I talk to you, you reply when you’re ready to start work. And that will slow the tempo, because I think one of the things that COVID has caused is we’ve all increased our tempo unsustainably.


Alastair McDermott  06:38

Really interesting. And the other thing is that when we’re dealing with people in different time zones, you you see an email particularly so I’m in Europe, and I see, you know, an email coming from a client on the West Coast would late in my evening. So is there is there a desire to hit reply on that or action that straightaway? You know, because it’s you see it there, and we’ve got our phones, everybody’s got our phones near our hands is probably no more than a foot away from you at all times. You know, it’s very easy, and the temptation is there. So is it Is it as simple because, right, you’ve got a, you’ve got a business, a book and a podcast. So clearly, it’s not just as simple as saying, Hey, shut down the laptop at 5pm. And you’re done. So why is it not that simple.


Jimmy Burroughes  07:27

It’s that simple. If you choose to make it that simple. There is no, there is no black and white. It’s not a cast iron rule that you must close your laptop or five. But it’s the is the spirit and the intent of the concept. And what we’re trying to say here is, if you’re that person that is online until 910 11 o’clock every night, if you’re working through your weekends, in my mind, and actually what we look at the talent profiles of people in the organizations we work with, those people are actually performing at a lower level, they’re not as good at prioritizing, they potentially aren’t as good at delegating, and they need some support. So that’s where people like us come in and support them, because we saying, let’s look at the way you’re working, and try and give you some new tools and ideas and frameworks that are going to help change the beliefs that you have, that are driving these behaviors. So it is as simple as closing the laptop at 5pm. But it’s not always as simple as closing that laptop at 5pm. The other piece that we we, I think probably worth exploring a little bit is the is that timezone quandary. And as you say, you’re a consultant, you work on multiple time zones, I think we work across 14 Time Zones now. And so there’s always somebody who’s awake somewhere. And as a leader, one of the things that I think is really important is to have that conversation at a human level, to say, you know, I’m not expecting you to reply to me when I respond to you in my working day. And please don’t expect a reply from me when it’s outside my working day, let’s set that parameter now early in our relationship, that the only reason you’re ever going to email me and expect a response is if you have like a key word of like, urgent or please respond now. And I might see it. But I’m not going to feel bad about not responding if I don’t see that key word. The there’s a bit and it’s about that communication, which is a core leadership core leadership capability, right? We have to be able to communicate really effectively with those around us to influence our network to leverage our network to get the best results. And again, what we find is leaders who are constantly responsive is because they feel like they’re in the service provider mentality because they haven’t had those conversations. So it’s not feeling bad about it.


Alastair McDermott  09:47

Really interesting. You mentioned that people tend to be not as good at delegation, which actually will cause this dispersal that’s that’s really fascinating. And you mentioned tools, behaviors and beliefs. Can you talk a little bit more about some of those tools? I assume that, you know, expectations and keywords and things like that are some of those tools that you’re talking about? Are there any other tools? I’m particularly thinking about those from the point of view of somebody who is either working on their own, so they’re solo, and they’re working. And so now, instead of having one boss, all of their clients, or their boss, or somebody, maybe with a small team of you know, three 510 people?


Jimmy Burroughes  10:30

Yeah, you know, I can give you a really Prag practical example. That is the consultant skirt, which is I have to say, yes, because if I don’t say, Yes, I’ll lose the work. And that can be one of the triggers for us working around the clock, because we just fill our diaries up with saying, yes. The number one thing I then ask a client or, or a person in that situation is, well, when you say yes to that work, what else are you saying no to. And we tend to prioritize work above everything else. So we’re saying no to healthy eating, we’re saying no to exercise, we’re saying no to our hobbies, we’re probably saying no to our relationships, or our significant others or our family as well. And then I say, Well, if I took those things away from you, if I took your relationship away from you, if I took your health away from you, would you still be able to work like you do now? And no, no, no, no, because my partner is my rock and my without my family, I’d be nothing. And without my health, I couldn’t do this. Cool. So why are you saying no to it now. And often that concern a bit of a light bulb on the the other very, very practical thing is your client, your your client, or the person on the other end of your phone call? doesn’t know what’s in your diary. So if you have an appointment, what tends to happen is you go something like, Oh, you want that slot, but I had a dentist appointment booked in that slot. So I’ll just give that up. Or I was meant to be going to my kids Sports Day on that at that point on that afternoon, but I’ll just not go, I’ll just I’ll just do the work. And generally what I found from having done this for a number of years, if you say to your client, I’m sorry, I can’t I’ve got another meeting, then they’ll go okay, well, what else can you do? And you say, Well, I can give you these three options instead? So it’s not saying no, hard? No, it’s no, but here’s some of the options. And generally, I found from experience that 90% of people will go, Okay, well, let’s work around that, because they’re also juggling their diary around you. So we, as a service provider, or as a consultant, we often feel like, oh, I have to just be bend over backwards and relent, or I might lose it. The reality is, you need to keep your personal boundaries in place, so you can be at your best. And also, nobody knows what’s going on in your diary except you. So you can book it based on keeping your personal commitments which allow you to be at your best. And that’s a really, really conscious choice, again, that we start to make. So it’s again, it’s another thing that control burnout is you control your diary.


Alastair McDermott  12:59

Let me ask you about that. Because I’m really interested in efficiency in terms of production, typically, to do with content production, because I think that’s something that a lot of thought leaders should be doing more of. And the big thing that I talked to a lot of people about is, oh, well, I don’t have time. And so you know, there’s a big crossover here. So can you just talk to me a little bit about your a bit about how you see that problem?


Jimmy Burroughes  13:27

How I see making time or I don’t have time? Yeah,


Alastair McDermott  13:30

the problem not having time, particularly for, you know, in the in the important urgence matrix, people, net, people always have time to answer the phone. But they never have time to do that really crucial, important thing that’s not urgent.


Jimmy Burroughes  13:46

That’s a good question. Couple of ideas springs to mind. Number one is are you spending your time on tasks that are below your salary? So there’s a very, there’s a very cool exercise you can do, which is essentially you set your target earning for the year, let’s let’s make it easy numbers, I want to earn $100,000 a year. And we know that there’s 2080 working hours in the year. So you take that $100,000, and you divide it by 2080. And that gives you a number. And I think it’s around $50 Now, and you go okay, well, so my time is worth about $50. Now, am I doing $5 An hour tasks. And if I’m doing those $5 An hour tasks, I’m not doing $50 An hour tasks. So I’m filling my time with trivia, I might be writing a caption for social media or faffing around on Canva or, you know, photocopying something or tweaking that word on my website, when you could employ somebody to do that for $5 an hour. So you can go and do the $50 an hour task and keep generating money and it’s almost there. The consultant or the entrepreneurs trap is that they because they’re not making a lot of money. They can’t afford to employ somebody so they struggle to outsource. So they I consciously kept their earnings at $5. Now, whereas if you can just have a have one good month, build up a little bit of a buffer and get a little bit of support, even if it’s like five hours a week at $5 an hour, so $100 a month, that can make a big difference to your life to breaking through that earning barrier and giving you a little bit of time back. And one of those $50 An hour tasks versus a $5 an hour task is actually sitting and thinking about what’s the most important thing for me to be doing in my business right now versus being the $5 out hamster on a wheel. And that can be a real challenge when you’re starting out and the consultants business or when you’re in a busy consultants, like I don’t have time to work on my business. One of the things I also do is I try not to book a meeting on a Friday, if possible, because Friday is my business day. So if it’s an emergency, then I will. But generally I’m not available on Fridays. And over a period of years, my clients know that I’m not available on a Friday, because that’s my day for writing my blog and making sure that everything’s organized and planning my week for the following week and making sure that invoicing has been checked off with the with the finance team and all those little projects that we’ve got bubbling away like launching a book or running a podcast, making sure all those things are done. So it’s kind of that concept of time blocking, allocate a piece of your week to work on your business. And when you block it out and hold that block, then you’ll find you actually make progress a lot quicker.


Alastair McDermott  16:30

Yeah, and you know, we’re doing this podcast on a Wednesday. And typically I try and do my podcast, kind of like in a triangle. So I’ll do them early on Mondays and Tuesdays, and then I’ll go later on Wednesdays and medium on Thursdays, I don’t do them on Fridays, that also, it strikes me that a lot of this is actually about calendar blocking. And yeah,


Jimmy Burroughes  16:51

I don’t know if you need I don’t know if you knew this is the number one Harvard Business Review productivity tip was putting an appointment in your calendar to work on something that you need to work on. So people can’t book a meeting in your calendar at that time. And you know, a lot of a lot of us are using diary management software’s and Calendly or MCs max or whatever it might be. And if you if your client can’t see that time, they can’t book that time. And so you just block out your days and your calendar for things that you need to do or you block out meetings for yourself. I didn’t realize that that wasn’t a thing. Because it’s kind of seems almost almost common sensical. But when you give people that tip, and like, Oh, my God, that’s blew my mind seems really obvious. But if you’re not doing it, then it’s one of the really ways to get a bit of time really good ways to get a bit of time back.


Alastair McDermott  17:36

So, so simple, but so effective. So yeah, he asked you what is a myth or misunderstanding about burnout that you see that people have?


Jimmy Burroughes  17:51

I think there’s, there’s probably the most obvious one at the moment is the hashtag burnout. Insta craze that’s going on around the idea of burnout, you know about burnout, it’s almost become a badge of honor, oh my god, I’m so burned out like I’m so past it and I’m exhausted and burned out. And the reality is, you’re not, you’re tired out, you may be stressed out, you may be a little bit worn out, but you’re not burned out. And one of the things that we do in the start of an engagement with all of our clients is we do a diagnostic test to find out are you a bit stressed, or are you actually burned out. And if I if I go back to that moment, in 2017, when I was burned out, I woke up that morning and 2017. And I didn’t even know if I could get out of bed. And I certainly was thinking I didn’t even see the point of what I’m doing anymore. This is just, I’m not making any difference ever. I’m putting all my effort in and attempting to be achieving anything. And there’s there’s word that every day is a bad day, I’m just playing constant Whack a Mole. And every problem I solve there’s like five problems that sit behind it. And is like opening cans of worms of cans of worms. So it’s just gets worse and worse and worse. And all the people around me who I’ve leaned on for support are all leaving or burning out themselves or struggling with mental health issues. And this is a real challenge. And you know, my boss has said to me, you need to solve this Jimmy this big problem we’ve got in the business. But also don’t do anything too risky. So don’t be innovative. Don’t be creative to solve it by doing more of what we always do constantly and and there’s no time for any time off. So leave is not going to be approved. So you can’t take weekends we need you to come in on Sunday. And and that look complete lack of dry if lack of any energy, lack of any passion. That’s burnout. When you’re performing hamster on the wheel, then you’re stressed and when that goes on for too long, you get worn out when you’re worn out I’m stressed out and unable to achieve anything because your hands are tied behind your back. That’s when we start to get concerned about people burning out. And so I think if you if you find yourself saying, oh my god, I’m so burned out, really look at what and in the book, we talk about the five different factors of burnout. And that sort of the five variables. If you’re if you’re in the Negative Zone, you’re your high likelihood of burning out, if you’re in the positive zone, your higher likelihood of being a higher performing culture. But it’s knowing those five and going Well, which one of those are really making me a little bit unstable at the moment? And Am I high risk, versus just kind of just got so busy? I’m so stressed, and there’s so much going on? I’m tired?


Alastair McDermott  20:41

Yeah, I think I had that in 2020. Because so one of one of the sides of my business as a web design agency. And that was bigger back then. And it’s deliberately a smaller part of the business now, very, very deliberately so. But I also worked with my local government organization for small business enterprise support. And between those two things, there was a huge demand for that as COVID hit in 2013. And so I look back to my scheduling software. I had 400 calls sheduled, from April to December, in 2020. And those are 400 calls, they weren’t like five minute calls. They were like a lot of them were one hour calls. And so that by the end of that time period, I was very, very tired and stressed. I don’t think I was burned out, though. But it’s interesting to it’s interesting to you know, when you’re talking about that, what I was thinking of I was thinking the burnout, I was thinking of the image of a match, where the flame was actually gone. And now all you’re left is the dead match. You know, that you’ve you’ve, you’ve set on fire and so so like, there’s no spark there anymore. That’s what you sounded like when you were saying, you know, you know, am I making any difference? Like, what’s the point in getting up out of bed? That like, yeah, that kind of state of almost finality, you know,


Jimmy Burroughes  22:03

so and you’re so right, and the analogy we often use with burnout is it kind of feels like you’re mentally and physically wading through treacle, that you you struggle to make decisions, you can’t think clearly you can’t prioritize. Everything is too much, you know, you’ll find yourself in tears, it’s in the old days, it probably was called a nervous breakdown. Where it’s just like, you have nothing left to give, that’s burnout. And when you get to that point, then people like me, needed to come in and help. Because what what our role in organizations is, is to try and talk you off the ledge, so you don’t have to quit. You don’t have to stop earning. So you can keep paying your mortgage, keep feeding your family, keep your reputation and your sense of self intact, your identity intact. But we can just give you some immediate help to get you back to the point where you can function. And if it’s somebody in your team, helping them getting to the point where they can function and keep going. Because the best thing right is to is to win somebody back. But it can really take some time. If you get to that stage. What we’re recommending is if you start to see a couple of the triggers the variables that you act on those because we want to stop the slide.


Alastair McDermott  23:19

Can you tell me for for people who are listening to this? Who are those types of business leaders who might want to look out for those triggers? Or those key kinds of indicators? Can you can you tell us what we should actually look out for in our teams?


Jimmy Burroughes  23:33

Absolutely. So I’ll walk through the five reasonably quickly. The first one is a sense of purpose. So do one of the things we find with people is they don’t even know why were they were put on this planet. So therefore, they are resentful of their role because they can’t see how their role is linked to their sense of inner purpose. They don’t know how their role contributes to their team, they don’t know how good the team contributes to the business and how the business contributes to the world. They’re not clear on that. Or they’re putting a huge amount of effort in rowing the boat in the opposite direction to everybody else, because they’re not clear on the purpose. And this is one of the things we see often when we talk about things like silos and lack of communication and resource allocation and decision making is that there’s a lack of clarity and purpose. So isn’t team clear on the purpose? The simple question to ask is, what’s the purpose of our team? What’s the purpose of your role? And see how close your answers are? And what we want is for the answer to be the same and agreed and aligned. So that’s the first one to look out for is do we have a team purpose that everybody understands and is aligned with and most of these will go IAEA? We’ve got that and then you ask everybody to write it down, and it’s different. So that’s a simple check. The second one is a feeling of abundance, and the opposite of abundance and burnout, a version of that is scarcity, which is are your people constantly in fight or flight or freeze? Are they in a cortisol adrenal reaction which is based on theirs? restructure coming, we’re gonna have to cut budgets, there’s not enough money to go around, we can’t develop a new product, there’s a new competitor in the market resources are short, so and so’s leaving. So you need to pick up extra work. Is that the reality in your business? And if it is, people are constantly in a scarcity, case scarcity response, which has long term health ramifications, both neurologically and physically, but also is one of the key triggers for burnout. So we want to make sure we’re looking around for a way to talent, short business now, are we struggling to recruit people? And are people covering all the gaps all the time? Are people working weekends and evenings to try and catch up?


Alastair McDermott  25:35

That’s, that’s fascinating, because you were talking to me, when you were describing this earlier, I was thinking of the book scarcity, where they talk about how people make bad decisions, when they’re in that mindset of scarcity. And you’ve just tied tied that back loop together. So thank you.


Jimmy Burroughes  25:50

Yeah, I mean, the very simplest version of the neuroscience is, there’s two pieces of the brain that are responsible for good decision making. One is just behind your forehead, it’s called the prefrontal cortex, we can call it the wizard brain. And so when we’re in our wizard brain, we’re super capable executives and leaders. Unfortunately, when we go into a scarcity response, we trigger what’s called the amygdala, which is in the back of our brain, which we can think of as the lizard brain. Now the lizard brain shuts down the lizard brain. So how are you going to make a good decision? How you’re going to prioritize and thinking your best when you’re thinking like a lizard? No, we need to get you back to be thinking like a wizard, so you can do your best work?


Alastair McDermott  26:28

Yeah, and I think the problem is that some people are really good at acting out of that lizard brain, so so they can get by for a very long time with that. But yeah, but eventually that you got to pay, you got to pay the piper at some point.


Jimmy Burroughes  26:43

Exactly. And I kind of use the analogy of a bank account, you’re just constantly going overdrawn. And eventually the bank is going to foreclose, you know, you have a bad relationship, and you go overdrawn. And then every pay packet, which is the weekend to recharge, right, every pay packet, you put enough into get back into a credit balance, and you creep back into your overdraft. And over time, that gets worse and worse. So that’s the second one. The third one that we want to look out for is a sense of connection. So one of the big projects that we do with organizations is employee onboarding, do people feel part of your tribe, because one of the big triggers for for burnout is I don’t feel connected to anything here. I don’t know anybody I have got, I’ve got nobody to go to. I’ve got nobody I can trust. I don’t feel part of the tribe. And we are tribal animals. And if we don’t feel part of the tribe, we don’t feel safe. And if we don’t feel safe, we go into fight or flight, we go into that scarcity reaction again. So you can see how the pieces of research start to stack on top of each other. The second piece of connection is do I feel connected to the plan? Do I know what we’re doing? And I’m able to get on board with that. And the third piece of connection is do I feel connected to growth and development? So am I learning and it’s Dan Pink’s work around purpose, autonomy and mastery. Am I getting better at doing something? Am I learning and growing as I go? Or am I just hamster on a wheel? whacking moles? And we obviously want to make sure the opposite?


Alastair McDermott  28:07

Really cool. And that’s the five. So that’s the third one. Sorry, yeah. Okay. So let’s say this feeling, purpose,


Jimmy Burroughes  28:15

abundance. Connection is the third one. Number four is exploration. So if you think about how you how humans evolved, we like to try things when kids are kids, they like to try things. There’s nothing worse than being in a business and having challenges that are constantly thrown at you. And being told you can’t try things because you have to be constrained within these regulations and compliance parameters. Or we’re too scared to take a risk, because what if it goes wrong, and that’s going to be career ending. And so and so and we see a lot of this in businesses, and people will eventually just burn out because they can’t try stuff. So what we want to try and create is an environment in teams where people are grazing their knees, not necessarily breaking their legs, and encouraged to try stuff. And then learn lessons from it. So even if it goes wrong, we’ve still learned more than we knew before. And businesses that don’t try tend to lose the lose their best people always leave the rest to burn out. So exploration is the second one. And we talk a lot about the concept of curiosity. And we know from research that curiosity is a bigger business driver than health and safety, wellbeing, performance, goal setting, and a variety of other parameters to drive innovation and business development and profit line. So we know that’s a good thing. And then the last one, the fifth one is downtime. So the analogy we use here is you can’t just end somebody on two weeks leave, if they’re looking a bit burned out, because it’s the it’s like standing in a thunderstorm. Going inside for five minutes and then coming back into the thunderstorm. You’re going to get wet again. So we need to do all the work on the purpose abundance, connection and exploration to fix the the triggers for fixing downtime, but there are some ways you can use that. On time, so the five o’clock finish is one, making sure you’re accessing what we call the default mode network of your brain, which is like the daydreaming TV channel in your head when you’re doing the dishes or you’re in the shower. It’s using creative downtime versus substance abuse. So, you know, one of the things that I used to do when I burned out was drink lots of wine to try and come down at the end of the day, and then use caffeine to get back up in the morning. If you find yourself in that spiral, then you’re not recharging properly. So if you see somebody who’s living on coffee, and then drinking heavily, that’s a warning sign.


Alastair McDermott  30:34

Yes, fascinating. And I’m just wondering, because I know your background, you were a British Army officer for a long time, right? And how much of this has come how much of this learning about this space has come from that? And as you look back, like, like, do you think that if you if you had been talking to your superior officers, that they would have taken this seriously? I’m just interested in kind of the personal side of that.


Jimmy Burroughes  31:00

That’s a fascinating, I’ve never been asked that question before. You know, the the time I spent in the military, I went through Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, which is 44 weeks of leadership training. So what that teaches you is how to lead soldiers into battle, how to brief them, how to train them, how to look after their welfare, how to care about them as people. But also one of the things that Santos does is teach you extreme resilience to stressors, and, you know, just push through, because you know, you can do it. And the reality of senior leadership roles, is you’re not in your 20s anymore, so you can’t just push through. So actually, it’s about wisdom and experience of where should we what’s the one thing we should be doing versus doing all the things and running around like a Tasmanian devil into making strategic decisions on letting go of something because it’s clearly it’s clearly a losing bet. And ignoring the sunk cost fallacy that comes with that of all we’ve put all this time and effort into, we must make it work, which is as a junior army officer, you’re taught, we’ll do that and do that, and do that and see what works best. And you’ve got that relentless energy as a supercharged 25 year old versus, you know, the 40 to 55 year olds that we work with, who are now thinking about, well, I’m not I’m not as energetic as I was. So I need to be much smarter about where I put my energy. And actually, the consequences are much bigger. So I need to use my wisdom and experience more. So the Yes, I absolutely use it for the engagement for the interpersonal stuff. Sure. For the decision making stuff, I’ve definitely evolved in the last 20 years.


Alastair McDermott  32:36

This has been fascinating, and I think, far more interesting than I initially thought when, you know, when he told me that we’d be talking about burnout. I think it’s, I think the the neurological aspects of it, the relationship to scarcity, and also potentially the simplicity of the solutions, blocking your calendar, shutting off your computer at five o’clock, telling your team Hey, just because I replied to something, and I have something in my email signature, and I couldn’t, because I saw it from somebody else, which was if I reply to this, that doesn’t mean I expected it. I’m replying when it’s convenient for me not to expect you to reply, you know, simple things like that. And the solutions are all seemingly simple. But I think that, you know, when you when you get into larger organizations, or you get into more complex situations, and trying to it sounds like a lot of this is about trying to change cultures as well, which is a whole whole different conversation to have,


Jimmy Burroughes  33:33

which is exactly what we do, right. So the the way we describe it when we’re working with leadership teams is I’m going to give you a set of tools that are common sensical ly simple. Like, they seem so obvious. That why you pay me a lot of money. My job is to say they’re simple. They’re not necessarily easy. So how are we going to do this as a team? And then we have the conversations in the context of their environment in the context of their culture change. And my job is to build high performance cultures. What how are you going to do that? How and where are the failure points going to be and what might trip us up? And what’s going to make us revert to old habits. That’s where that’s where you earn your money as a consultant. It’s not giving people fireworks, it’s creating icebergs that change landscapes.


Alastair McDermott  34:20

Jimmy, this, this has been really interesting. Thank you so much for taking the time. If people are interested in finding out more about you and your book and your podcast, can you tell them where to go?


Jimmy Burroughes  34:30

Sure. I’m active on LinkedIn, Jimmy burrows, with a funny Spelling Bee, u r. O u GHES. Also got a Jimmy And you can do Jimmy or slash podcast and we’re happy to have conversations with anybody who is just feeling like they need a little bit of support or they just want to throw some ideas around. The podcast is me nerding out with super cool people who’ve got expertise that’s going to give leaders a high performance edge And I genuinely think I’m a nerd. So I’m happy to nerd out with people. The book is more around if it isn’t actually a book. It’s a playbook or a recipe book for if you want to find out the variables, and then you want to do something about it, follow these steps. So it’s a very action focused, step by step guide to building a high performance culture.


Alastair McDermott  35:18

Although it sounds really fascinating, Jimmy, thank you so much for being with us today.


Jimmy Burroughes  35:22

Thank you so much for the opportunity has been so great to talk to us.


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