Frustration and burnout at work are real experiences that can impact happiness, performance, and business growth.
Among the chief causes are:
- A seemingly impossible workload,
- Poor communications,
- Lack of clarity or focus.
These are just the sort of things a fresh start can overcome.
Major League Baseball
In 2019, Hengchen Dai, assistant professor of management and organizations at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, wanted to know how a “performance reset” affected motivation and output in high-stress environments. So she looked at baseball.
Major League Baseball consists of 30 teams divided into two leagues. In her Harvard Business Review article, Dai explains that when traded from the American to the National League, a player gets a fresh start. His batting average, for example, is reset.
Drawing from 40 years of MLB data, Dai reviewed “269,623 observations of ‘at bats,’” from 701 regular season trades.
She writes, “When players’ pre-trade batting averages were relatively low (e.g., one standard deviation below their league average), a performance reset was associated with a subsequent increase in hit probability compared to players who did not experience a reset.”
A baseball player earning at least $555,000 a year (the league minimum in 2019) is not perfectly analogous to business owners, leaders, managers, or staff members, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to learn from Dai’s observation.
When performance is down, a fresh start might be just the thing to spark a breakthrough.
A Messy Example
Here is a scenario.
Imagine you’re the founder of a direct-to-consumer ecommerce brand. Initially you focused on developing products, setting up an ecommerce platform, and garnering sales.
You then added software and built a network of tools and relationships. You connected the platform to an email marketing tool. You created several subscription forms named “entry_form1,” “special_offers,” and similar — realizing later that you cannot remember their purpose.
These systems and workflows have become messy and frustrating. They’ve become an obstacle.
Should you slog along, working harder, or try to solve the problem?
You’re not sure what the company should focus on. You struggle to communicate with your staff, which has too much work and too little clarity.
It could be a good time for a fresh start.
A Data Example
Here’s another scenario.
A company experiences rapid growth that suddenly stops. Sales have plateaued.
The business wanted to be data-driven and have a culture of experimentation but instead lacked good information. Its data collection, attribution, and business intelligence tools were either broken or wrong.
The company’s marketing team started to experience group frustration and burnout. They lacked direction and clarity and were unsure of performance results. So they worked more.
This, too, is a good time for a fresh start.
A fresh start can take a few forms.
Some businesses might temporarily stop everything and focus on tidying up the mess or addressing the sources of frustration and burnout.
Companies that employ an operating system such as EOS or Gazelle, for example, often take business leaders off-site for one-or-two day sessions, talking through processes and brainstorming new ideas.
At a department level, getting a fresh start may also mean a pause. The frustrated marketing team above may stop all promotions, clear everyone’s to-do list, and focus on identifying and solving problems.
Finally, a fresh start might be identifying and correcting individual work habits that lead to frustration and burnout.
Sahil Bloom is an investor and former college baseball player who publishes a popular newsletter. Addressing the keys to accomplishment, Bloom wrote, “Extraordinary success is simply the byproduct of a large volume of ordinary actions. The quality of our daily habits governs the ultimate quality of our long-term outcomes.”
Don’t be afraid to try something new.