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Put Your Mask on First

February 13, 2019

I recently took a promotion to Director level for our Engineering department. That means I’m responsible for leading our entire team of engineers and making sure they are all happy and healthy.

I LOVE doing this!

One of my greatest joys is helping someone see their potential and operate at a higher level than they thought possible.

I meet with each engineer on my team every other week for an hour or so just to check in and make sure they are doing great. We talk about their workload, stress level, professional development, and just general satisfaction with the job and life.

I’ve seen burnout happen many times. It’s a sneaky thing that you really have to be on guard for. I’ve learned to tune in and have a pretty good read on everyone on my team. Those little interactions throughout the day speak volumes if you listen.

A huge part of my job is creating an environment where my team can really thrive and be their best selves. I spend a lot of effort getting professional development budgets approved and making sure we are working efficiently so we can spend time learning and growing.

Last night something happened though… I hit a wall. My team is doing great, but I got burnt out.

Nothing crazy happened. Just the normal compound stressors piling up.

The problem is I wasn’t doing proper self-care to make sure I was recharged and maintaining health. I wasn’t doing the very thing I preach to my team weekly.

So I took the day and worked away from the office. I went to a new coffee shop I hadn’t yet been to. I read a couple things that had been on my list. I listened to some new music while I did my work.

If you have ever flown with kids, you know the flight attendant tells you to put your oxygen mask on before you try to help your kids. The same is true with leadership.

I can’t protect my team from burnout if I’m burned out. I can’t be in tune with their stress level if I’m not in tune with my own.

I’ve adding a new one on one to my calendar every week as a personal check-in. It’s time for me to turn off the distractions and ask myself the same questions I ask my team.

What things do you do to prevent burnout for yourself and your team?


Jaymes Downer

All posts written by Jaymes Downer who is VP of Product at F&M. Follow him on Twitter or learn about his work history on LinkedIn