Stanford Payne: Does a CFO on 'sabbatical' actually have burnout?


An Expert Insight by Executive Coach Stanford Payne.

More and more you hear that staff, colleagues, other CFOs and business partners are considering a 'sabbatical'. Many of you know someone that is on a sabbatical as you read this. But what is a sabbatical really all about and when do you need to consider yours?

A sabbatical literally means a 'ceasing' - it is a sort of rest from work, a break, often lasting from two months to a year. The source of the concept runs back thousands of years. In more recent times, sabbaticals have come to mean any extended absence from work in the career of an individual in order to achieve something. In the marketplace corporates are even granting paid and unpaid sabbaticals for people wanting to take career breaks. Up to 20% of companies in the UK have career break policies now.

'A break'
If one really tries to get to the bottom of this definition, one comes to the conclusion that a sabbatical 'buys' time. It provides time to catchup on personal goals or other career goals not possible within current work structures of a CFO. But should you really need to take a sabbatical to achieve these things? Or should these achievements have been possible within the framework of your current career -and lifestyle?

The balance
As human beings you are connected to your 5 foundations - body, spirit, self, relationships and career. If you address all 5 at the same time and create equilibrium for all you should be a most content person; happy and fulfilled.

But unfortunately in today's race against time most of us don't spend time on some of these foundations. 'Burnout', experts say, is your body's wakeup call to tell you that your life and career are not sustainable. Burning out tells you that your current way of operating at work and in your career has become untenable. It indicates that the story you have constructed about who you are, your purpose in being here and what gives you meaning, is no longer appropriate for the context in which you find yourself.

This is not a bad thing!

A wakeup call gives you the opportunity to reclaim your agenda and help set you on your best path yet. If you are able to create balance (which is unique to every individual) you should not end up in desperate need of a sabbatical or 'off time' to recharge. The key is to know what your boundaries are before 'burnout' mode is reached. If you find that spot, you should be able to master it before it masters you.

Will your day look differently from your today? Unfortunately and fortunately that is the only promise I can give you - YES! There will be lots of changes if you realize you are on the verge of burnout. But decide to be the driver of changes in your life and not the passenger. Be proactive about what needs to be different in your day to day life

You need to ask yourself if you are willing to create equilibrium in your life and perhaps stand out from others due to the boundaries you discover and set through honest reflection.

Go forth
If you need a sabbatical to create that balance - please go for it! If on the other hand this column has prompted new insight into the state of your work/life balance, you should put time aside to bring about the necessary changes in your life in order to avoid burning out. You might not need a sabbatical to catch up on that life list that you built up the last 20 years. You can just start with it - doesn't that sound exciting?

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

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