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Find peace in your safe place: How to avoid occupational burnout (#142)

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Jean Latting
May 7, 2024
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In this podcast, Hamza Khan and Jean Latting engage in an animated conversation about leadership, resilience, belonging, and burnout.


Jean 0:11 

Meet Hamza Khan, author, educator, and entrepreneur. His TED Talk received more than 2 million views. His book, Leadership Reinvented, offers a roadmap to productivity, resilience, and constant change.

Jean 2:23 

What's going on today that you are talking about?

Hamza 2:48 

We're seeing the world get smaller for people who identify with different intersectionalities. I identify as a South Asian man, as a Muslim man, as somebody that is neurodivergent, who has struggled with mental illness, as somebody with different communication styles.

For us to acknowledge those intersectionalities, for us to feel comfortable in spaces, is becoming increasingly difficult.

Jean 8:59 

Governor Abbott of Texas has eliminated DEI from the public universities.

Hamza 9:19 

This is the final gasp from a dying institution to want to make the world smaller for people whose worlds are already tiny, whose foundation beneath their feet has been crumbling since the inception of this country even before then.

Hamza 15:14 

I was surrounded with biodiversity of people during my formative years. The same thing happened when my family then moved to Scarborough, Ontario, in Toronto, in Canada. This was really interesting because we were also in a new immigrant haven, but this time it was much more homogeneous. It was so diverse, that it was homogeneous.

But then university happens. And then my first job happens. And then my second job happens, and my third job happens. And I'm like, "Holy smokes! I'm the only person of color here. I'm the only Muslim here.” I'm still the only person more often than not in the spaces that I'm in.

Hamza 18:59 

I feel galvanized to say that the same structure that produced colonization has also passed through history, and manifests in the form of economic systems, political systems, manifests in the form of the traditional nine to five, Monday to Friday workday. You can actually trace the legacy of colonization to the way people show up to work today, and I was punished for it.

Jean 23:11 

This is the way the system is set up and others feel the same way. And then once you got that understanding, you jumped on board to help lead the train, not to sit on the journey crying.

Hamza 23:47 

I found a very accessible keyhole issue with which to explore systemic oppression: occupational burnout.

People are literally dying at work. What are the system level reasons why I burned out? A lack of fairness in the workplace, unsustainable workload, insufficient uncommunicated values, insufficient reward, lack of control, poor/toxic community.

What creates those conditions in the workplace? You keep on peeling back that onion, and you'll eventually arrive at the dark core of personality, which is human beings' hardwired capacity to accept, neglect, or provoke the disutility of others in order to maximize their own utility.

And that is fundamentally what's at the heart of broken systems of systemic oppression. It's people who are propping up the status quo. And the status quo isn't the avoidance of a decision. It's a continuous past decision.

Hamza 28:20 

We human beings are hardwired to seek equilibrium, we actually don't want to change, we actually don't want to be uncomfortable.

People are not malevolent, but they are accepting and neglecting the disutility of people who are not in that moment with them. And that is the problem with the status quo.

Hamza 30:03 

People just see me as somebody that is remotely connected to ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the enemy of the day. But then when I actually show up in person, I subvert all of the news and information and preconceived notions they've been forming in my absence, because I'm hanging out with them.

Suddenly, I'm joking, we share the same references, we're playing games together, we're laughing, we're singing. We're aligning on things that go beyond food and occupation, recreation and dreams, we're talking about values, we're talking about shared visions for a country, and suddenly the walls disappear.

Suddenly, they don't see me as a South Asian Muslim man, and I no longer see them as a White. The outward identities dissolve, and we start to actually connect, frankly, at a spiritual level, which is what I think is possible here.

Hamza 33:11 

We've moved from transactional leadership, we're in the era of transformational, but where we ultimately need to go is transcendence. What are the steps that we need to take from the present moment to usher in an age of transcendent leadership?

Jean 34:06 

I tell people to learn to respect their gut intuition, to believe in themselves, and how to distinguish between gut intuition and fear, and animosity, and all of the negative things. Because the transcendental impulse, and the negative and the fear and anger and all of that stuff, travel the same neural pathways.

How do I know if that's an impulse that's literally protecting me from harm? Or if I'm reacting to a stereotype that I was raised in? The answer is, do you feel agitated or at peace?

Hamza 36:19 

You talked about the first brain where we process and the neurological pathways receive information. But there's two other brains, there's our heart and there's our gut, which are at least 100,000 years old, or 10,000, with no significant upgrades since then.

We're processing information in our bodies before we actually become conscious of them. And so many of the reasons why leaders are making bad decisions in the modern era is because their head, heart, and hands are not aligned.

Jean 37:39 

When intuition hits, and we know what's right, we say, "This is right. And I'm prepared to face anybody who says it's not." We almost have a feeling of peace, we just know it.

My motto is never argue with the universe. When the universe speaks to you, you don't argue with it.

Hamza 40:26 

It's counterproductive. I was finding myself in a very radical hostile space where I just felt like it wasn't the right fit for me. This lack of accommodation on their part was a blessing in disguise, because I found a program that spoke to me, and it was at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Jean 44:04 

Your book is trying to teach people by giving them role models of how to effect change.

Hamza 44:32 

I'm calling for a reinvention of leadership because we received a system shock during the early days of the pandemic, which is when I wrote this book.

What needs to change, and what I talk about in Leadership Reinvented, is there are four values which I believe leaders must invest in: the values of servitude/servant leadership; innovation; diversity with equity, inclusion and belonging; and empathy.

To know that you've succeeded as a leader is when you've operationalized and maximized servitude, then it results in belonging in the workplace, it results in thriving. When you've operationalized and maximized innovation it results in sustainability in the organization, it results in belonging.

And when you've operationalized and maximized empathy, it results in a compassionate culture. And that's ultimately what we want.

Jean 49:27 

I want one sentence about servitude. A sentence about innovation, just more of a definition.

Hamza 49:50 

Servitude is about putting the needs of your people before your own needs. It's about wanting for other people what they want for themselves, and it's about centering the employee experience.

It's truly about inverting the traditional leadership pyramid where we believe as leaders we exist at the top of a structure and everybody serves us; servant leadership is the opposite of that, we serve the people. It's about truly being a servant, in a prophetic tradition of being a resource to everyone and helping them thrive. A true servant leader makes themselves obsolete because they empower everybody else around them.

Jean 50:31 

Does innovation have to be a great big thing like invention of a computer, or can there be small things that can be considered innovations?

Hamza 50:44 

What innovation does is it allows us to harness a thriving workforce. Innovation allows for the maximum generation of new ideas, new creative thoughts, and new imaginations. Innovation is not about the technology.

Jean 52:11 

By diversity, do you just mean people of color?

Hamza 52:13 

No, I'm talking about diversity of age, diversity of education, diversity of marital status, diversity of political ideology. I'm talking about diversity as holistically as possible.

But diversity without inclusion is also meaningless because diversity is being invited to the dance, inclusion is being asked to dance, and equity is creating the optimal conditions to allow people to dance as fully and freely as they would like.

Jean 53:12 

What do you want people to take away from this conversation?

Hamza 53:17 

I want them to really meditate on this idea of agitation and peace, that dichotomy and how it connects to belonging. If you want to feel like you're belonging, do a quick gut check and ask, do I feel agitated in this moment in this space with this person? If you do, there's something about the interaction, the person, the environment that you're in that doesn't allow you to feel like you belong.

Or do you feel at peace? Turn that question over to the people that you serve and ask them how they feel in an organization. Are they agitated? Are they at peace?

Jean 55:15 

Thanks for listening.

I encourage you to check out his book, Leadership Reinvented, and of course, I also encourage you to check out my new book, Conscious Change, which will be out on July 9. You can preorder it now at your favorite website. If you want your local bookstore to carry it, please let them know, and also send us the name of the bookstore and how to reach them and we will approach them also.

Hamza Khan

HamzaKhan is a best-selling author, award-winning entrepreneur, and world-renowned keynote speaker whose TEDx talk "Stop Managing, Start Leading" has been viewed over two million times. He challenges audiences and organizations to rehumanize their workplaces to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth. He is a visiting scholar, top-ranked university educator, and respected thought leader with actionable insights featured by the likes of Inc., VICE, and Business Insider. The world's leading organizations trust Khan to enhance modern leadership, inspire purposeful productivity, nurture lasting resilience, and navigate constant change. Khan has spoken on various global stages, from the World Youth Forum to TEDx, and works with clients such as Microsoft, PepsiCo, LinkedIn, Deloitte, Salesforce, TikTok, and hundreds of colleges and universities. Through his writing, speaking, teaching, and executive coaching, Khan empowers people to thrive in the future of work.

Questions to ask yourself

  1. Are you burned out? What does burnout look like to you? How does the status quo maintain itself by burning out workers?
  2. Whether working or teaching or writing… do you feel you belong? Why/why not?

Conscious Change skills
covered in this blog

  • Build effective relationships
    • Develop skills in inquiry and openness
    • Distinguish intent from impact
  • Bridge differences
    • Address underlying systemic biases
    • Check for stereotyping tendencies, unconscious bias, and blind spots in your behavior, especially as a dominant group member
    • Call others in rather than calling them out
  • Conscious use of self
    • Accept responsibility for your own contributions
    • Maintain integrity
    • Seek to understand others’ perspectives
    • Recognize your power and use it responsibly

#LeadershipReinvented  #OccupationalBurnout  #Leadership  #Belonging

Coming July 9th!  Available for preorder:
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Leading Consciously

We are a leadership development firm that helps people and organizations create resilient, sustainable, multicultural, and inclusive settings. The ability to lead consciously can help you gain true awareness and earn the respect and trust of others.  

It’s the assumptions we have about people’s lives that are the biggest obstacles to growth, awareness, and success. We help you understand how those assumptions are preventing you from becoming the best you can be as an organization, an inclusive leader, and a person.

Let’s start a conversation. Email us at jeanLC@leadingconsciously.com