Reducing Burnout & Reigniting Culture: Interview with Chris Gould

In just a few days, we are hosting a panel event on Reducing Burnout & Reigniting Culture. Our Business Development Director, Chris Gould, is a panelist at the event. 

I wanted to talk to Chris before the event to get a feel for how he’ll approach the conversation, what he wants to learn from the panel and his experiences with burnout. 

Tell me a little bit about your professional background.  

I’ve been in the digital marketing space for the last 16 years. After I graduated from St. Johns, I worked at a handful of ad agencies in the Twin Cities and later spent time client side in the manufacturing industry. I’ve had the opportunity to execute digital campaigns as not only an individual contributor, but also the opportunity to lead large digital teams internally. I recently joined Brandpoint as Director of Business Development. At Brandpoint, I pull from my digital experience from both the agency and client side to help our clients maximize their digital efforts. 

What have been your experiences with burnout, both during the pandemic and more recently? 

I’ve definitely had my bouts with burnout over the last few years. When the pandemic began, my wife and I pulled our kids from daycare for the first few months which meant we were both working from home while also taking care of a 9 month old baby and 4 year old child. To say this period of time was challenging is an understatement. My wife Chelsea is a 5th grade teacher, so she was teaching a classroom of students remotely while I was on what seemed like endless Zoom calls throughout the day. 

We somehow survived changing diapers and handling toddler meltdowns while both working full time. The burnout was overwhelming. Even when we sent the kids back to daycare the seemingly weekly closures due to COVID cases kept us continually exhausted and running on empty trying to do our day jobs while also caring for children. 

Can you give examples of how you’ve been a part of a supportive company culture? 

I’m a big believer in leading with empathy. I’d like to think I contribute to a supportive culture by the way I approach leading teams. I recently saw a quote that read “Company culture is the way your employees feel on a Sunday night” and I thought that was perfect. So how do I try to reduce the “Sunday scaries” for my team and foster a supportive company culture? I do this by caring about them as people first. 

If one of my best employees comes into work ten minutes late on Monday morning am I going to be the type of leader that asks them if they are going stay ten minutes later to make up for it or am I going to remember that this person worked all weekend on that big proposal and they may have just endured an epic meltdown with their toddler at daycare drop off before arriving to work ten minutes later than they planned? 

Leaders must start with empathy and see the bigger picture. We must also remember that we are all human, we have good days and bad days, and people may be dealing with battles we know nothing about. Leaders must lead with empathy and give people grace in the workplace, especially with the onslaught of unprecedented and traumatic events that the last few years have brought. 

How do you continue to motivate yourself and others to combat burnout? 

I’m not sure If I’ve truly figured this out yet but I think the first step to combating burnout is to recognize it when it’s happening. I think too often employees put pressure on themselves to continue grinding through the work at all costs because that’s the hustle culture were used to and they feel as though their self-worth is directly tied to their work. What employees and leaders need to remember is that if we push too hard for too long, we end up running on empty which can do serious damage to one’s mental and physical health and likely results in a decrease in overall productivity. We need to be comfortable asking for help and letting leadership know when we are at a breaking point. 

In my experience, if you work in a supportive culture that’s built on trust you can combat difficult bouts of burnout by having open and honest conversations with your boss about it and come up with creative solutions to try and fix the issue.  

How do you think companies can combat burnout and help reinvigorate their employees? 

I believe organizations need to have honest conversations with their teams about workload and what projects are truly a priority. One large factor that I think is making burnout worse is the amount of people joining the Great Resignation. If a team loses 2 people and a company expects the remaining team members to simply cover that work, you can be assured that you are perpetuating the burnout in the workplace. A better approach would be to pause projects that are not top priority or look into hiring freelance or contract work for projects that need to get done while short staffed. Managing employee workload and prioritizing projects is likely going to be more impactful than any wellness webinar or virtual happy hour. 

You recently started at Brandpoint. What kinds of culture traits do you look for when finding a job? 

Culture is such an important factor when joining any organization, it can make or break an entire experience. One of the biggest indicators of a positive and supportive culture are the interactions I have with the people who work there. Sites like Glassdoor can provide good insight into what to expect but nothing beats a personal recommendation from a friend who works there that can tell you their first-hand experience. My journey to Brandpoint all started at a happy hour when a friend told me I would be perfect for an open role. The following interviews only solidified my interest in joining Brandpoint as I could tell that these employees seemed like a group of down to earth people who were happy to be there. Since joining, I have found that my assumptions were correct about the culture. The people here at Brandpoint care about each other and are great to work with which is my an important trait I look for when joining a new company.  

Why do you think burnout has surfaced so strongly in the past six months?  

The fact that the largest military conflict since WW2 broke out in Europe six months ago may have something to do with the timing. This was one more event over the last few years that adds a layer of increased stress and anxiety when workers were already feeling the burnout. The last six months have also seen a lot of organizations returning to the office which for some people may add to the burnout vs. working in the comfort of their homes. 

[Read More: On Working in Communications During a Global Crisis]

What are you hoping to learn by participating in this panel? What lessons are you looking to gain more insight on? 

The panel has some great speakers and I am excited to learn more about their experiences with burnout and how they have led their teams through it. I think its important to always be learning and that includes learning from others’ experiences. I hope to learn more about what methods have actually worked for their teams and also learn what they have tried but maybe didn’t have the impact they hoped. 

What insight are you bringing to the panel related to the topic of burnout and reigniting culture? 

My insights will be my personal experiences with burnout and how I tried to help my direct reports navigate theirs. Overall, my answers to the questions above touch on most of the insights of gleaned over the last few years. Lead with empathy and build trust among your team so they feel comfortable addressing the burnout.  

To hear more from Chris and three other panelists on how to deal with burnout and bring life back to company culture, register for our panel event on Thursday, August 11.

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