Get It Done and Look Out for Each Other

Artemis Ward Vice President of Strategy Julia Korns participated in the Denver Startup Week panel Preventing and Managing Burnout: Why Resilience Matters. Below, she shares some additional thoughts on growing — and keeping — strong teams.

November 23, 2020
By Julia Korns

Let’s face it: Even with some glaring absences in our lives these days, there seems to be more competition for our time and energy than ever.

Exercise. Education. Childcare.

Distance working. Distance socializing. Persistent Zoom fatigue.

Protests against racial injustice. Protests against politics. An election season that’s lasted a decade or two. Curfews. Health scares. And there’s that mask that you really need to remember to keep with you 24–7.

Yes, burnout is real — perhaps even more real today than at any other time we’ve known.

In the middle of all of this, it can be hard to keep up with your typical daily to-do list. But the show must go on, including in our offices and workplaces. And while I’ll be the first to admit there’s no silver bullet to eliminating burnout, I do believe managers, directors, and others responsible for the well-being of a team can design systems and solutions that make it easier to handle heavy workloads, stay nimble, and keep focused — all while preserving balance, health, and sanity.

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At Artemis Ward, a global creative agency where I’ve been part of the team since 2015, we produce high-quality work at high volume, which means the expectations we have for our team members are high, too. We ask a lot of them, but we also trust them to make big decisions — or to pull the fire alarm for help when they need it. In fact, trust is one of the defining characteristics of our agency’s culture. And that’s on purpose — because we want people to know (especially in unusual times like these) that it’s okay to ask for backup, just as it’s okay to take informed risks and it’s even okay to miss the mark sometimes, as long as we find a way to grow from it. We’re all moving forward together.

So, while 2020 hasn’t rocked us, it has certainly sharpened our lens on how we do the work we do and how we tee up our team members to perform at their highest potential while steering clear of ever-looming burnout.

As you’re building your own resilient teams, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
  • Burnout happens to everyone. Or it can. Creating a culture where people can raise a hand when they need help builds trust — and giving people a break and a chance to reset puts the entire team in a better position for long-term success. So, design a system that accounts for moments of fatigue, because (as you surely know by now) they’re coming. And make sure that when your team asks for help, help can be dispatched.
  • Make people feel seen and heard. Yes, this is hard. In the right moments, these can be the most powerful words to say to someone who’s feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, or just plain spent. Be sure to show your team that you know they have a lot on their plate and you appreciate the work they put in. Make space for what they may be feeling in the moment, which includes acknowledging when they’re coming to you with an outside situation that may be impacting their productivity (and there are many reasons for that these days). As your colleagues feel more comfortable waving their hands when they’re drowning, you’ll deepen the sense of trust between you and you’ll sharpen your own ability to forecast similar situations-in-the-making next time around.
  • Take the edge off. You don’t have to fix a problem to help lessen the impact of a problem. Whether you’re a senior manager or junior project manager, there’s plenty you can do to contribute to a supportive culture. Begin by asking yourself questions like: What am I able to offer to others on my team? Am I in a position to take work off someone’s plate when they’re drowning? Can I advocate for my team members to a manager? Can I pitch a streamlined process to leadership? Can I be a listening ear when someone’s in a tough spot? By thinking through these questions now, you may be better prepared to throw a life raft to someone on your team the next time they need.
  • Share big goals. It’s easier to forget why we’re doing what we’re doing, so people sometimes just need a reminder of why they’re here and why they’re working so hard. When you sense that people are feeling the grind, reset the conversation and paint the bigger picture of what you’re all working toward. After all, we all want to contribute to something that matters.

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