How to Drive Productivity Without Burnout As a Manager, According to Harvard



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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
May 25, 2024 at 2:2PM UTC
As a manager, it's your job to help your team do and achieve more. Of course, in an effort to drive efficiency and productivity, however, you don't want to burn out your employees. 
So how do you challenge your employees and push them to grow without pushing them just... a... little... too... far? Here are three ways to drive productivity without burnout, according to the Harvard Business Review.

1. Know how to energize wisely.

"Be energizing, not energetic," according to the Harvard Business Review researchers. "Here is the paradox: You can actually speed things up by slowing down. There is no doubt that being energetic is contagious and, therefore, a short-term source of momentum. But if you lead by example all the time, your batteries will eventually run dry. You risk being drained at the very point when your leadership is needed the most. Conveying a sense of urgency is useful, but an excess of urgency suffocates team development and reflection at the very point it is needed."
"Code red," the researchers explain, should be left for the real emergencies — the times when your energy is really needed.
So, when "code red" is necessary, you won't have burned out the energy required to dig yourselves out of the ditch.

2. Don't overbear your team.

"Seek self-propulsion, not pace-setting," according to the Harvard Business Review researchers. "If you lead by beating the drum, setting tight deadlines and burning the midnight oil, your team becomes overly dependent on your presence. Sustainable speed is achievable only if the team propels itself without your presence. Jim Collins wrote that great leaders don’t waste time telling time, they build clocks."
Of course, stepping back to allow your team to propel themselves forward may be easier said than done. It requires you to forgo some control and resist the urge to constantly intervene and, instead, allow informal leadership to share the wheel. It means leading from the side-line.
But this kind of leadership will keep you from burning out and it'll keep your employees self-motivated, which, of course, can help prevent them from burning out, as well.

3. Encourage intersectional collaboration.

"Congregate, don’t delegate," according to the Harvard Business Review researchers. "From very early on in our careers we learn that in order to solve big, complex issues fast, we must decompose the problem into smaller parts and delegate these pieces to specialists to get leverage. Surely, you can make good music by patching together the tracks of individual recordings. But true masterpieces come alive when the orchestra plays together."
This means that, rather than encouraging your employees to work as individuals, you promote teamwork. You reward giving behavior. You focus on introducing employees to others who can help them and share knowledge. You facilitate intersectional collaboration. 
When employees work together, tapping into their shared skills and leaning on one another for support, they'll have a better chance of beating burnout.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog,, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.

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