guest column

4 leadership tips for managing compassion fatigue from this Houston expert

Most leaders are so preoccupied with the health/well-being and engagement of their teams, they forget the steps necessary to take care of themselves. Photo via Pexels

Age-old advice for stressed caregivers typically shared by concerned friends and relatives is ‘take care of yourself first or you won’t have anything left for others.’ With or without the advice, many caregivers continue to selflessly do for others at the expense of their own health and well-being because it is in their DNA.

The workplace is no exception, especially for workers in leadership roles who have supported the emotional and physical needs of their staff nonstop for two years. Many leaders, from CEOs to frontline managers, have not only dealt with their own issues as a result of the pandemic, but also those of their teams, leaving them exhausted and suffering from compassion fatigue because they failed to follow their own advice.

Below are four ways leaders can manage compassion fatigue.

Lead by example

Leaders have spent countless time promoting company policies, programs and benefits that help employees deal with increased levels of stress in their professional and personal lives, which can have an impact on mental health and well-being. One of the first things leaders should do is set an example by utilizing the programs themselves to address compassion fatigue. Practicing what they preach not only supports the mental well-being of leaders, but it also demonstrates a culture that cares about mental health issues. Taking the initiative can encourage peers and others to take advantage of a company’s employee-support mechanisms.

Take time off

There are numerous reasons why many leaders are hesitant about taking time off, but the most common reasons are fear of being viewed as dispensable or worry that work will not get completed. It is not unusual for leaders to carry over weeks of PTO, or even lose it completely rather than use it. Disconnecting from work by taking time off is critical for renewal and emotional health that leads to rejuvenated leaders who are highly engaged and more motivated to lead their teams. While taking time off benefits leaders, it also builds confidence in staff because they recognize the trust that has been placed in them while the boss is gone.

Reach out to HR

Based on the widespread occurrence of compassion fatigue, chances are other leaders are experiencing the same feelings. Reaching out to HR can help get the ball rolling for additional programs designed to support leaders. For example, hosting lunch-and-learn sessions with medical professionals for advice, offering training sessions that cover relaxation methods, and creating a buddy system that pairs leaders for increased connections and mutual support. When leaders throughout the company realize they are not alone, they will feel more comfortable seeking help and participating in company-sponsored programs.

Develop a peer-to-peer accountability system

For higher-level executives who report directly to busy CEOs or a board of directors, there are fewer levels of oversight to address compassion fatigue. In fact, these may be the very individuals in most need of support. Executive teams should develop peer-to-peer accountability systems to support each other via biweekly mental health check-up chats, periodic PTO usage updates, quarterly retreats with dedicated downtime to relax, and weekly walking meetings. When executive teams create accountability systems, it helps to support mental health and well-being, build greater trust, and nurture stronger relationships that position leaders to better serve the organization.

It is no surprise that most leaders are so preoccupied with the health/well-being and engagement of their teams, they forget the steps necessary to take care of themselves. Leaders who embrace a popular philosophy – as go the leaders, so goes the culture and the company – should feel compelled to combat compassion fatigue by leading by example, taking time off, reaching out to HR and developing peer-to-peer accountability systems, putting their best selves forward to serve the needs of their teams and organization.

------

Sherry Waters is vice president of field operations for Houston-based Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

Trending News

Building Houston

 
 

Ty Audronis founded Tempest Droneworx to put drone data to work. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

Ty Audronis quite literally grew up in Paradise. But the Northern California town was destroyed by wildfire in 2018, including Audronis’ childhood home.

“That’s why it’s called the Campfire Region,” says the founder, who explains that the flames were started by a spark off a 97-year-old transmission line.

But Audronis, who has literally written the book on designing purpose-built drones — actually, more than one — wasn’t going to sit back and let it happen again. Currently, wildfire prevention is limited to the “medieval technology” of using towers miles apart to check for smoke signals.

“By the time you see smoke signals, you’ve already got a big problem,” Audronis says.

His idea? To replace that system with real-time, three-dimensional, multi-spectral mapping, which exactly where his company, Tempest Droneworx, comes in.

When asked how he connected with co-founder Dana Abramowitz, Audronis admits that it was Match.com — the pair not only share duties at Tempest, they are engaged to be married. It was a 2021 pre-SXSW brainstorming session at their home that inspired the pair to start Tempest.

When Audronis mentioned his vision of drone battalions, where each is doing a specialized task, Abramowitz, a serial entrepreneur and founder who prefers to leave the spotlight to her partner, told him that he shouldn’t give the idea away at a conference, they should start a company. After all, Audronis is a pioneer in the drone industry.

“Since 1997, I’ve been building multicopters,” he says.

Besides publishing industry-standard tomes, he took his expertise to the film business. But despite its name, Tempest is a software company and does not make drones.

That software is called Harbinger. Audronis explains that the real-time management and visualization solution is viewable on practically any device, including mobile or augmented reality. The system uses a video game engine for viewing, but as Audronis puts it, “the magic happens” on the back end.

Harbinger is not just drone-agnostic, but can use crowd-sourced data as well as static sensors. With the example of wildfires in mind, battalions can swarm an affected area to inform officials, stopping a fire before it gets out of hand. But fires are far from Harbinger’s only intended use.

The civilian version of Harbinger will be available for sale at the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024. For military use, Navy vet Audronis says that the product just entered Technical Readiness Level (TRL) 5, which means that they are about 18 months away from a full demo. The latest news for Tempest is that earlier this month, it was awarded a “Direct to Phase II” SBIR (Government Small Business Innovation Research) contract with the United States Department of the Air Force.

Not bad for a company that was, until recently, fully bootstrapped. He credits his time with the Houston Founder Institute, from which he graduated last February, and for which he now mentors, with many of the connections he’s made, including SBIR Advisors, who helped handle the complex process of getting their SBIR contract.

And he and Abramowitz have no plans to end their collaborations now that they’re seeing growth.

“Our philosophy behind [our business] isn’t keeping our cards close to our vest,” says Audronis. “Any potential competitors, we want to become partners.”

The company was just the two founders until five weeks ago, when Tempest’s size doubled, including a full-time developer. Once Tempest receives its SIBR check, the team will grow again to include more developers. They are currently looking for offices in the city. As Audronis says, Tempest Droneworx is “100-percent made in Houston.” Paradise may have been lost, but with Harbinger soon to be available, such a disaster need never happen again.

Dana Abramowitz and Ty Audronis co-founded Tempest Droneworks. Photo courtesy of Tempest Droneworx

Trending News