How Alpha Females Can Succeed Without Burnout
Finance Monthly hears from Bianca Best - a global leader in a media agency where she runs an emerging technology division. She has a personal mission to create business cultures rich with empowerment, productivity and kindness.
A certified leadership coach, hypnotherapist and neuro-linguistic practitioner, Bianca is dedicated to energising and motivating ambitious individuals to maximise their impact. She teaches women that balance, joy and optimal productivity are all achievable through conscious and intentional living. Bianca empowers people to flourish as their best selves through wellbeing coaching, events and keynote speeches at global conferences.
Here she explains how alpha females could succeed in the highly competitive finance world without burning out.
There are very few industries as competitive as finance, not least because there are so many challenges from the threat of artificial intelligence (AI) technology ultimately reducing headcounts in addition to the challenges posed by compliance and regulation.
The good news is that diversity within the workplace is improving, as reported in the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter: Annual Review 2018 published in March 2019. As well as more women taking senior leadership roles, the report acknowledges that flexible working, leadership and development programmes, mentoring and sponsorship all have a crucial role to play.
Burnout is now such a significant workplace issue that it is a legitimate medical diagnosis, recently added to the International Classification of Diseases.
If you are a so-called alpha female, one who is highly competitive, has very high standards and is prone to bouts of hyperactivity, you may be extremely successful in the finance world but you will need to be more wary than most on the risk of burnout.
I know from my own experience that burning too brightly, too fast, can lead to a shut-down, and in my case, this meant an immune collapse. Having overcome this setback and now on track with a career I adore, I decided to share my experience in a new book, Flourish, published by Rethink Press, aimed at businesswomen.
Sadly, there are amazing women in the world of finance who aren’t burning brightly. They’re burning out and burning out young. Some are losing respect for themselves and their natural rhythms. In all of the drive to succeed and achieve, they’re also in danger of losing their sense of belonging and community.
Burnout is now such a significant workplace issue that it is a legitimate medical diagnosis, recently added to the International Classification of Diseases, published by the World Health Organisation’s handbook that guides medical providers in analysing diseases.
That’s why I’ve developed the Energy-SCAPE model to help working women hop-off life’s treadmill and achieve rapid success in the areas of life that matter most.
I encourage deep self-awareness, conscious cleansing, positive habits and purposeful action, play and enrichment, teaching women how to honour their personal energy flow to unleash their best self.
So, where do you start? I believe that the most important thing in life is inner energy. I look at a productivity balance system with six elements that need to be addressed.
Sleep patterns – are they restorative or fitful? Is there optimal nutrition in your diet? Do you rely on fake energy, such as caffeine? Do you know how to relax? Do you experience emotional stress and what burdens weigh heavily on your shoulders? Are you prone to extreme productivity through overwork, over-exercise, overthinking and generally overdoing things?
Extreme productivity is an all-too-common energy crime committed by modern women every day and it’s something we, high-achieving women, are proud to have burnt into our psyches.
Extreme productivity is an all-too-common energy crime committed by modern women every day and it’s something we, high-achieving women, are proud to have burnt into our psyches. We almost don’t notice that we’re extreme. We consider it part of life’s plan.
All too often we trip head-long into frantic productivity through social conditioning born of competitiveness and goal obsession, with abominable disregard for other areas of our lives. It’s also a way of hiding from emotional stress.
Top hacks to improve productivity balance for alpha females
My anti-burnout advice includes guidance on how to redefine success.
I’ve recently read a lovely quote from Gemma White QC who was asked: “What is the best advice you’ve received?”. “Not to plan my family around my career”, she replied. As someone who has four children, including twins, this made me smile although you don’t need to have kids to love and appreciate family.
We need to be careful how we judge success because so often we create problems for ourselves because we are unrealistic and feel duty-bound to overachieve, such is the problem with alpha women.
In terms of actionable tips to create more time, energy, impact and happiness, I’ve focussed on some key areas below.
- Create a sanctuary in your bedroom.
- Beware of blue light from screens.
- Soak in an aromatherapy bath.
- Eat no food after 8:00 PM.
- Enjoy silence.
- Allow time for reflection.
- Create space for yourself.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Keep a journal.
- Master the art of listening.
- Gain different perspectives.
- ‘Flip’ your limiting beliefs.
- Identify your values.
- Trust your intuition.
- Stop, retreat and renew.
- Respect the necessity of taking a break.
- Be kind.
- Learn – lessons are everywhere, whether they’re presented as such or not.
- Follow your passion through work.
- Care about others.
- Have inspiring relationships.
- Feed your soul by capturing thoughts and photos that fill you with joy.
- Make your home a haven.
My book includes plenty of practical exercises to test your own self-awareness. When discussing the subject of ‘cleansing’, I encourage you to try Zapper Identification.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, please think carefully whether there is any merit in maintaining the relationship and about how to set up some protective parameters around it, if it must continue. Of course, there are difficult relationships we might have to tolerate in the work environment but if you become aware of energy-zappers, you will be half-way to finding a solution.
- Is the relationship one-sided, in that you give and give and feel the other person takes and takes, rarely giving anything back?
- When you think of this person, do you feel immediately drained and your shoulders droop?
- Do you come away from conversations together feeling exhausted?
- Do they seem to enjoy being locked in their ‘circle of suffering’, enjoying the act of complaining almost more than the problem itself?
- Are they so self-absorbed that they never ask you about yourself or your life?
- Do that talk at you rather than to you?
- Do you get the impression they never listen to you? Does your advice fall on deaf ears? (Despite copious recommendations to help solve their problems, they never take heed and instead enjoy being stuck.)
- Do they love gossiping about others and share private tales you know are breaches of confidence?
- Do you rarely laugh together? This is critical as even the toughest relationship can survive as long as there are decent bouts of shared humour.
If your friend or associate has scored five or more yeses, you should evaluate whether you need them in your life or career and consider how to detach from them. If you must maintain the relationship, design a mini management plan.
A Zapper management plan could be as follows:
Expectation awareness: Don’t forget that time spent with a zapper will be focused on them. Ensure you don’t have any false assumptions that you’ll be able to share your latest problem, story or adventure. Go with a listening mindset, then you won’t come away drained and disappointed.
Time limit: Set limits on the duration and frequency of rendezvous. I have certain people in my life whom I love and respect, but I know time spent with them will be an exercise in tolerance for me, no matter how compassionate I’m feeling. To manage this, I minimise the number of appointments with them and when I call, I state that I only have X number of minutes before I need to be at another meeting.
Communication plan: If you know a phone call with a zapper will be thirty minutes of their download before they even ask how you are – if indeed they get to this at all – how about using text instead? Keep the exchanges as frequent as appropriate. This method allows you to maintain contact and say the right things succinctly while also sharing your news.
For further information, please refer to Bianca’s new book Flourish (published by Rethink Press at £12.99). In addition, the author runs courses and workshops, including a retreat in Portugal in September 2020.