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  • Mark P Stevens

Learning is...knowing the secret to avoid burnout


A typical issue with learning professionals is burnout. Have you every experienced it? Then I have a story for you...

There once was an inner city school teacher in Philadelphia. She taught at Overbrook High School, famous not only for Will Smith, one of it's graduates, but also for teacher burnout. And although she started out with good energy and intentions, eventually she succumbed to burnout. Teachers are vulnerable to burnout because...although they interact with students everyday it can take years for them to see any impact from their work. The burnout tendency also applies to firefighters and others in service positions. However, further study has shown some have avoided burnout and thrive. So what was the secret?

Adam Grant, told the story in his book Give and Take referring to it as "Giver Burnout."

Seeing the impact of their work when helping others was the secret. Eventually, the teacher started to mentor individual teachers and students that asked for specific help. Here she could see immediate results in an individual life. She had a sense of impact. And she was re-engergized to continue the work. He wrote firefighters tested out the same way. When helping individuals and seeing the impact - they were energized to continue their work.

If there is no way to see impact people simply aren't motivated and will burnout. And no motivation class or company town hall is going to change it. We humans need to "make a dent in the universe," to borrow a phrase. Seeing the impact of our efforts can energize even a burned out worker.

Grant also sites the excellent example of Medtronic, a medical device company. At their internal meetings they regularly showed examples of life saving work done with their products to employees. Tears were often shed as the impact was profound. When the workers saw the tangible results for their hard work and sacrifice it was invigorating. It gave their work a higher purpose rather than putting in hours for a paycheck.

Have you seen the same? When you see a change in someone's life as a result of your work - isn't it energizing?

#learningstyles #teaching #burnout

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