Are You a CEO Who’s Burning Out?

You may want to look at your meeting schedule.
Perspectives Guest

A former powerlifting champion and 2015 New Orleans Entrepreneur of the Year for the success of his corporate health food company, Your Nutrition Delivered, Erik Frank now works with companies as a coach for Petra Coach to develop people and implement strategy that will enable them to win in their industries. He may be reached at Erik@petracoach.com.


In my experience, the No. 1 cause for burnout and frustration for a leader is the “Got a minute?” conversations.

You know that they are — we have all been there. This conversation pops up when a colleague drops into your office or calls you on the phone and says the four most feared words in business, “Hey, got a minute?”

These words may make your stomach fall right to your knees, because you know that these conversations never last only “a minute” and you really have two choices — say no and come off like an unempathetic “too busy” boss or say yes and risk kissing the rest of your afternoon good bye.

And once you kiss the afternoon goodbye, there’s a good chance that the work will come home with you. Do this too many times for too many weeks and the burnout will start to kick in.

So what’s the answer? Set up a meeting structure that allows you to stay informed but keeps to a time limit. I recommend the following:

Daily huddles: no more than 15 minutes for key updates from the day before and key outcomes that each team member is going to accomplish that day. They are also a great opportunity for core value shout-outs.

Weekly huddles: this is a 60-90-minute meeting where the leadership team looks deeply at priority progress, focuses on what customers and employees are saying on the front lines, and “solves” one big item per week. A great practice is to make a parking lot of items that spring up during the week and choose one to solve. Remember, average organizations use meetings as a way to update each other, while great organizations use meetings as an opportunity to solve issues.

Monthly meetings: 2-3 hours. In this meeting each department head will look backwards at how the company performed in the past month, and forward to predict where it will land next month or quarter. These meetings should help guide the CEO’s decisions based on historical data and informed predictions.

Quarterly meetings: (NOTE: no monthly meeting held on this month.) 7-9 hours, preferably offsite. The quarterly planning session is used to review the last quarter, dive deeper into what customers and employees are saying, monitor how the company is doing toward its annual goals, and set quarterly priorities for both the company and each individual.

Annual planning meetings: One 9-hour day with the executive leadership team to look one and three years ahead. These meetings lay out all the things that could be done, and narrow them down to what will be done. If you do a really good job in annual planning, the quarterly meetings will have a great script to follow.

Finally, I recommend a CEO have scheduled office hours of 2 to 4 hours per week that allow team members to reserve time with you online. This scheduled time is completely in control of the leader and usually has an online form that is filled out at least 24 hours in advance. The form might look something like this:

  • Challenge to discuss?
  • What have you done to solve this challenge thus far?
  • What are your next steps?

The form encourages team members to give some real thought and consideration into solving the challenge on his own. The form also allows the leader to prepare, thus trimming down the time needed for the meeting.

The meeting structure that I have laid out here, inclusive of office hours, will take 100 hours per quarter or 400 hours per year, and will stay below 20% of the CEO’s total time. This will ultimately allow any leader to spend more time working on their business and avoid burnout.