The first question is: Who takes care of those tasked to take care of others?

Burnout is a real problem in our workforce, especially in the tech industry. Forbes Magazine reported in 2018 that over 57% of us report suffering from burnout. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as: “A syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Burnout was a problem prior to 2020’s triple whammy of COVID-19; deaths due to systemic racism; and increasingly inflammatory rhetoric in US politics.

Key side note: Brian and Michaele are not medical professionals or therapists. They strongly encourage those who need help in dealing with depression and medical issues to see professional help.

Second question: Where do I go once I’m out of this burnout tailspin?

To go beyond burnout and move intentionally toward being our best selves, Brian and Michaele mashed up the 12 Agile Principles with best self concepts. The cornerstone of achieving greatness is summed up in our first Agile Best Self principle:

Agile Best Self Principle #1: Our highest priority is to be our best self and enable others to be their best selves.

Just like the 12 Agile Principles, the 12 Agile Best Self Principles can be balanced and prioritized against each other based on the current situation. This loose framework of principles allows each individual to inspect and adapt and figure out the best path forward in any given situation, on any day. It is not easy, but it is worth it to become well versed in leveraging and balancing these principles.

Unlike the 12 Agile Principles, the Agile Best Self Principles are focused inward, not toward being the servant leader of a team. Ultimately, you only control yourself (and on some days, even that it a stretch). Agile Best Self Principles help you focus on the hard, internal work that each of us need to do to become a better person. This isn’t using a Kanban board at home to help with chores and schoolwork. This framework is taking a good hard look at where we personally get in our own way, and giving up habits, approaches and interactions that we have used in the past, but no longer are achieving the outcomes we want.

Check out this heartrending, heartwarming talk wherein Brian Elliot shares life changing advice from Seth Godin gave him: “There is no prince charming in this story. There’s no rescue boats. No one’s coming. Stop waiting to get picked…” That advice changed Brian Elliot’s life and helped Brian Elliot move out of the victim’s back seat and into the driver’s seat of his own destiny. Seth’s amazingness aside, I think of what a great gift that comment was. Who takes care of those tasked to take care of others? We need to learn how to take care of ourselves.

Note from Michaele: In the spirit of frank, open and necessary conversations, Brian and I offer up our Agile Best Self mindset as a mental framework that can help others focus on being their best selves in their way, in their time frame. Turn up the good!
2020 Update: Brian and I started this work pre-COVID-19, pre-global protests and riots that were partially initiated by George Floyd being murdered in Minneapolis (we both live in the Minneapolis area). I can say the time, thought and reflective practice we have put into Agile Best Self has helped me maintain a high level of resiliency in the face of all of this unimaginable, unprecedented VUCA world.

Note from Brian: Michaele and I have come to understand how the principles of agility can apply to creating our best self. I like to think of it as creating the next best version of yourself, or “leveling up”. Having done a lot of this lonely, hard internal work myself (and there is SO much more to do) I can state with great confidence that it has made me better aligned, and happier more of the time.

Copyright © 2018 – 2023 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson

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