Terminal Redlining

car speedometer redlining

Redlining (verb): An unsafe, unhealthy, unsustainable condition whereby a leader and/or team are over-worked and under-resourced for unreasonable amounts of time.

When Fast Paced Turns into Redlining

My company was once hired to develop a leadership program for a fast-growing communications company headquartered in the Southwest. The program consisted of leadership ‘summits’ where we spent a day every other month focused on an important aspect of leadership. One of the workshops focused on Leading Culture, which was to help the emerging leaders identify the company’s own unique culture, and to have them consider what aspects of the culture no longer serve the company well and might need to shift. Interesting discussions ensued, and one word started surfacing again and again: redlining.

Everyone enjoyed being part of a fast-growing company. They loved winning work away from bigger and more established competitors and working with marquee clients. They felt loyal to the company leaders and appreciated their openness to forward-moving ideas. And they liked being part of a company where you could receive more responsibility, and more opportunities to make more money, than some of their competitors where younger people had to ‘wait their turn.’ There was an entrepreneurial energy that felt electric like everyone was on a winning team. All of that was uber-energizing. But…

Everyone also felt like they were maxed out.

Everyone also felt like they were maxed out. The fury of incoming orders and the ridiculous workload each order created felt all-consuming. It felt like all the success the company was enjoying was untenable. More than one person used the word ‘redlining’ to describe the experience – like each leader had the throttle all the way open and that every day the company’s RPMs were deeper into the red zone and the engine was about to blow. People were at once energized, exhausted, and…terrified.

Redlining and Burnout

It’s exciting to be a part of a fast-moving company or culture. Every day is different and time flies as we reach the end of the day with still more to do. To keep up with work (and the Joneses) we push past our limits. This would be ok, if this sprint to the finish line was at the end of a race, followed by a long period of rest. But we often spend each day in this zone. Waking up just as tired and stressed as the moment we laid our heads down.

What does self-care look like for you, and what positive impact could it have on your leadership?

When cars are pushed like this day after day, mile after mile, they break. If you have ever watched a big race on tv each car has its own personal team to make sure it can recover quickly and continue to run at the redline for a few more trips around. Often, the best pit stops and crews can make or break a race.

Of course, we aren’t cars. We don’t have pit crews or spare parts at the ready when our engines burn out. So we need to be more proactive. And yes “self-care” is a buzzword right now, but in this context, I am referring to things that can help you shift from the redline to neutral. Help us slow down, cool off and get reenergized for the next day or week.

Shifting into Neutral

Slowing down looks a little bit different for everyone. What does self-care look like for you, and what positive impact could it have on your leadership? And if your first thought is, “I am already overwhelmed and overworked. I don’t have time for self-care.” Then you may need it more than you think! To check out three low-investment, high-return ways of practicing self-care, click the links below:

Today’s furious business environment, and the pressures it comes with, have accurately been described as permanent whitewater; tumultuous rapids with water crashing over big boulders. Take a moment today to think about what self-care might look like for you.

This post is based on a passage from Bill’s soon-to-be-released book Leadership Two Words at a Time: Simple Truths for Leading Complicated People.

Bill Treasurer

About Bill Treasurer

Bill Treasurer is a bestselling author, leadership consultant, and creator of Q Cards. He is the founder of Giant Leap Consulting, a courage-building company, and the author of the international bestseller, Courage Goes to Work. His workshops have been taught to thousands of executives in eleven countries on five continents. For more than two decades, Bill has designed and delivered programs for emerging and experienced leaders from such organizations as NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lenovo, eBay, UBS Bank, Spanx, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to founding Giant Leap Consulting, Bill served as an executive in Accenture’s change management and human performance practice, eventually becoming the $35 billion company’s first full-time internal executive coach.

What People Are Saying

There are no comments yet – why not be the first to leave a comment?

Leave a Comment