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gary simonds

The Impact of Burnout on Leadership: A Conversation with Dr. Gary Simonds

In a recent episode of my podcast, I had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Gary Simonds, a former neurosurgeon with a wealth of experience and insight into the world of burnout and its impact on leadership. This blog post aims to share the key takeaways from our enlightening conversation.

The Journey of Dr. Gary Simonds

Dr. Simonds began by sharing his journey through the demanding world of neurosurgery. He spoke candidly about the grueling residency training, the long hours, and the lack of sleep that affected his proficiency and empathy towards patients. Despite these challenges, he acknowledged the importance of adversity training in preparing medical professionals for the real-world demands of their profession.

The Struggle with Burnout

Our conversation then shifted to the topic of managing burnout in the long term. Dr. Simonds admitted that he may have made mistakes along the way, even joking about writing books on the subject. He highlighted the “suffering contest” mentality prevalent in medicine, where professionals try to outdo each other in terms of the amount of work and suffering they endure. He emphasized the importance of finding meaning in one’s work as a way to lower stress levels and combat burnout.

The Role of Leadership in Burnout

I added to the discussion by mentioning how some leaders inadvertently create a culture where employees feel the need to match their level of dedication and work long hours. We discussed the negative impact of leaders who model unhealthy behaviors and create a culture of suffering in the workplace. We agreed on the importance of leaders prioritizing their own well-being and setting boundaries to promote a healthy work-life balance.

The Wheel of Life

I introduced the concept of the “wheel of life,” a tool used by coaches to assess different areas of one’s life and ensure a balanced approach. We encouraged individuals to invest more energy and engagement in the areas that are important to them, rather than simply trying to shift time. By doing so, they can find greater meaning and fulfillment in their work and personal lives.

Work-Life Balance vs. Work-Life Harmony

We also discussed the concept of work-life balance and the need for engagement in all aspects of life. We shared personal anecdotes about being mentally absent from our families while physically present and the negative impact it had on our relationships. Dr. Simonds emphasized the need to prioritize self-care and not vilify any component of our lives, including work. He suggested creating a graph to evaluate progress and identify areas of improvement in different aspects of life.

I added that balance is not the answer, but rather creating harmony between work and personal life. I used the analogy of a symphony orchestra, where each instrument plays its part in harmony to create beautiful music. I encouraged fully engaging in the moment, even if it’s just for a short period of time, and turning off distractions to make meaningful connections.

The Importance of Self-Compassion and Emotional Intelligence

Dr. Simonds highlighted the importance of self-compassion and emotional intelligence in understanding ourselves and our needs. We discussed the factors that can drain our energy and how to respond to them in a more productive way. We emphasized the need for positive moments and meaningful work to feel fulfilled and avoid burnout.

Making a Radical Pivot

Dr. Simonds mentioned that sometimes people may realize they are in the wrong role or company, and making a radical pivot or finding a better fit can lead to a completely different and more fulfilling life. He used the analogy of a bar graph to illustrate the components of work that bring meaning and engagement, and if those components are absent, it may be time to consider other options.

Wrapping Up

As we concluded our conversation, Dr. Simonds shared details about his novel, which provides a glimpse into the neurosurgical world and explores the idea of a brain surgeon seeing ghosts. I thanked Dr. Simonds for joining the show and invited listeners to check out the video version of the episode on my YouTube channel.

In the end, our conversation underscored the importance of understanding burnout, the role of leadership in fostering a healthy work culture, and the need for balance and harmony in all aspects of life. I hope you find these insights as valuable as I did, and remember, make it a great day!

Guest Bio:

Dr. Gary Simonds was the founding Chief of Neurosurgery and Neurosurgery Residency Program Director at the Carilion Clinic and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, until retiring from clinical Neurosurgery in 2020. He remains a Professor at the Virginia Tech School of Neuroscience and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM). He routinely presents and teaches at various national and international courses and meetings. He has written three books on burnout and building resilience, and has recently released his first novel, a medical/psychological thriller, entitled “Deaths Pale Flag.”

  • https://garyrsimonds.com/

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Small business owners will hit an invisible wall that can stall the growth of the company. The key reason there is a wall is that owners need to shift from manager to leader. The question is, how to do that?

Doug Thorpe. Doug is a coach for CEOs and Senior Leadership Teams with 30 years of leadership experience. He is the president & CEO of Doug Thorpe Group. Doug is also a podcast host.

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