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Are you heading toward burnout?



Contributed by Shawn Johal, business growth coach, leadership speaker and co-founder of DALS Lighting, Inc. He is also an active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Montreal chapter. 

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” —Nikola Tesla

Life is busy, and focus is hard to come by. We have a plethora of responsibilities, and it’s often hard to choose where to focus our efforts. Do you ever feel overwhelmed with no idea where to start?

“Overwhelmed” is often our default mode. Many of us have simply gotten “used to” it. Instead of taking time to consider how we use our energy, we counterbalance feeling overwhelmed by going “all in”. But what if we are going 1,000 miles an hour in the wrong direction?

This tendency to go all in can quickly lead to burnout. As defined by World Psychiatry, “Burnout is a psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors.” It’s that emotional, physical and mental exhaustion we experience when we can’t keep up or when we’re utterly drained by going too hard.

The results of a Gallup poll bring the problem into focus: Of 7,500 full-time employees, 23 percent reported feeling burnt out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burnt out sometimes.

We all have stressors in our lives. It’s how we cope with them that matters most. Manage your energy reserves effectively and you can prevent a complete burnout and even maintain a positive mindset

Follow these steps to help you navigate stress and  protect your energy.

1. Remain aware.

Above all else, you need to know when your energy is at a near critical level. There are different types of stresses—not all of them are necessarily bad. It requires introspection and self-analysis to understand if certain stressors are negative and if a burnout is around the corner.

Stop everything you are doing. Go outside, sit down and breathe. Take a few moments to recognize how you feel. Anger? Excitement? Agitation? Seek to identify any stressors that are causing negative emotions.

2. Write it down.

Once you know there is an issue, write down your thoughts. Take time to journal and document the source of your stress. Rate your energy, stress and anxiety levels on a scale of 1 to 10. The very act of writing down your scores will force introspection.

If scores are lower than 5 in any area, it’s time to create solutions and identify ways to manage your energy, stress and anxiety.

3. Free your brain.

Take a moment to identify every to-do item on your list. Be detailed. Writing down every last item that must be done offers a valuable perspective.

Then, rank them in order of importance and urgency. Begin tackling them one by one depending on where they stand.

Ideally, there are tasks you can delegate or simply ignore if they aren’t important enough.

eisnehower box The Eisenhower Box is a very simple decision-making matrix: It’s designed to help you decide where your energy goes and focus on the tasks that matter most. It gives you the option to step back and eliminate jobs that don’t need to be done—or at least not by you. 

4. Connect.

As human beings, we often have the desire to present an invincible front. We don’t like showing vulnerability of any kind. Yet, we know deep down that we have friends, peers and family members willing to listen to us and offer a helping hand if we were to reach out.

Here’s a trick I use to stay connected to my network. I make a list of the 15 people I most appreciate speaking with. Over a 15-week period, I call one person per week to catch up and share ideas with. I often express my fears or anxiety, looking for experience-sharing that could help me get back on track.

It is incredible how much compassion I find when I am willing to put myself out there.

5. Identify your energy buckets.

A key aspect of protecting energy is understanding where it goes and, more importantly, where it should go. Take the time to identify where you are using most of your energy. There are different ways of looking at energy buckets. My mentor, Warren Rustand, has taught me the value of using the following model: Family + Business + Personal + Community.

Audit yourself: Break down how much of your time is going into each of these buckets. Adjust according to what your ideal situation is. It’s likely you are using too much of your energy in at least one of those buckets, which is creating stress. Find the right balance to help you get back on track.

6. Spend time in nature.

This may sound simplistic, but ask yourself if you are spending enough time outside in nature. I have found that walking and biking has brought tremendous clarity and releases stress almost immediately.

And please: don’t use weather as an excuse. Rain and snow have never been harmful. Fresh air and time in nature is effective at any time of year. Make the most of it.

Once the burnout threshold is crossed, it is a very long road back. Do not underestimate the challenge of gaining back your optimal levels of energy once they are lost. It’s best to invest time before you reach that breaking point. 

If you choose to be honest, the world will reward you with the support you are looking for. You must seek it out. I have always found comfort in openly expressing my fears and trusting those around me to offer their support. Give it a try if you find yourself gasping for air.

Remember: You are not alone.

Shawn Johal is a Scaling Up Certified Coach currently working with several entrepreneurs and their businesses to help accelerate their growth, while finding personal balance and happiness.

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Shame in the Workplace by @HeidiDalzell



by Heidi J. Dalzell, PsyD.

Too many women are terrified of taking risks and making a mistake, socially or otherwise, because they fear other people shaming them.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., Goddesses Never Age

I remember my first experience of being shamed in the workplace. It was before I’d made the leap to a psychology practice and a corporate trainer in a large financial services firm. My supervisor, miffed at something, said to me sternly “I thought you were perfect, but …” It wasn’t in the words, or dismissive tone. It was more in the message I did not measure up.

I felt a deep sense of shame.

There were other similar comments from this supervisor, about the way I dressed and interacted, even that my gloves made my hands look too big.  A coworker who was being laid off from a defunct department did not get a job within ours because my supervisor noticed a thread on her skirt. And so on. While these experiences were a good number of years ago now, I still obsessively check for those hanging threads that could hold me back.

The most damaging thing about these comments: my supervisor was another woman.

And her expectations were unattainable.

Women are routinely shamed within the workplace: for their bodies, their personalities, their dress, and feelings. They may be shamed for being different from the corporate culture. Many such messages tap in to childhood wounds, proving our “badness” again and again.

Because shame is so global, we internalize it, literally taking it into our bodies.

Why Is Internalized Shame So Negative?

 Comments like the one I received don’t provide a growing experience or one that encourages risk taking and creativity. If I could not wear the gloves I wanted, how could I present an innovative new idea in our staff meetings? Or take a risk in trying something new?

Christiane Northrup, in her renowned book on women’s health, identifies shame as hands-down the most destructive emotion that women can experience. It drains women, of their life-forces and creativity. Instead they put their energy into self-hared and self-preservation.

Shame results in feeling unlovable and unworthy. People who are shamed develop a harsh inner critic.

Shame holds you back. Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap calls this an “upper limit problem.” Women who hold on to shame may not feel that they deserve love, freedom or success.

Resolving Internalized Shame

 The good news: we can resolve shame.

If you are shamed within the workplace, there are several questions that you can ask yourself. Is any part of this feedback true? If so, what can I do to change this? What have I learned from this situation?

When the feedback does not fit, it’s also ok to reject it without needing to understand where it came from.

It’s also important to be aware of your inner dialogue. If you are talking to yourself in a way that you would not talk to a cherished person in your life, adopt a more compassionate tone and message.

Opening ourselves to compassion leads to forgiveness of past shame as well as greater self-acceptance. It can be a hard lesson but one that is vital for success in the workplace.



The post Shame in the Workplace by @HeidiDalzell appeared first on She Owns It.

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How Valence Aims to Provide Better Access and Funding for Black Founders & Executives



“I gotta say it was a good day.”

I’m so fricking pumped today. Really, truly. Yeah, Valence announced > $5 million in funding led by GGV and Upfront. That IS a big deal, but I’ll get to that. But Kamala Harris was picked to be the Vice Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. That means she’ll be the first female Vice President of the United States, the first female Black Vice President and the first Indian-American Vice President. I don’t take this for granted, be ready for a fight. But let’s be clear. WE WILL WIN. We might have to fight for it after the votes go our way but let’s get ready for the fight.

So let’s get it.

Guy Primus, CEO of Valence

Valence. It is a company with a mission to create better access and more funding for Black entrepreneurs and executives. Valence is led by a talented CEO, Guy Primus and was the brainchild of my partner, Kobie Fuller. If you want to follow two great Black executives who work at the intersection of technology and venture capital make sure to click on those links and follow them on Twitter.

So what exactly is Valence and why does it matter?

18 months ago, my partner Kobie Fuller was inspired to build a solution for a problem he faced regularly: as one of the few Black partners at a VC firm (an estimated 3% of GPs in venture are Black vs 14% of the US population), he was consistently asked for warm intros to Black professionals, to Black VCs, and to talented Black operators and entrepreneurs.

Venture firms wanted to meet talented Black founders but didn’t know where to start to find them. And Black entrepreneurs wanted access to decision makers but didn’t always have the easy connections. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms I personally get when I suggest that founders should “get introductions to VCs” is that this might reinforce existing racial imbalances by providing easier access to White professionals than people of color.

An imbalance clearly exists in access and networks that has resulted in a tech industry where an estimated only 1% of venture dollars go to Black founders and only 3% of the workforce is Black and a country where Black individuals hold a disproportionately low amount of the wealth — only 3%. As Kobie says, he didn’t have a “magical database” of great Black talent, so he set out to build a solution not just for himself, but also for the community.

Personally I believe that to fund more people of color you need to put check-writing authority in their hands the same way that if you want to see more women funded you need more women GPs. My greatest criticism of our industry is that women and people of color feel the need to leave larger VCs to create their own firms. We have a responsibility to help propel them to the top ranks of our biggest firms to make our check writers more representative of our society overall.

There is a very clear economic rational and strategic advantage for doing so. There are amazing Black entrepreneurs, Indian entrepreneurs, Chinese entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs, gay entrepreneurs and so forth. OBVIOUSLY! If 90% of the check writers are White, straight men then it’s clear if you are different than that you’re going to have an advantage. As I always say, being great as an investor is about having “edge” and edge means knowing somebody or something that very few others know. It’s about swimming in lanes where others aren’t present. Being diverse in the VC industry is a VERY LOW bar and a clear differentiator.

At Upfront we believe in improving access for founders and entrepreneurs to networking, professional development, and economic opportunities, and that’s what Kobie set out to do with Valence, which he incubated in our offices. Huge hats off to Kobie for the idea, energy, direction, evening hours and the foresight and salesmanship required to bring on Guy to take the helm.

Building a mission into a business

By the time Valence launched in late 2019, the team had built the necessary systems and technology to seamlessly engage and onboard the community — not just the users, but also some pilot corporate partners who also believed in the mission and opportunity and who wanted to leverage and support this amazing database of talent. It was also important to Valence to not only connect users, but also to celebrate the successes and spotlight great Black leaders through high-quality content and design.

As soon as Valence launched in November 2019, the business quickly had proven demand from the community, not only from senior business leaders but also from so many young, talented professionals who could benefit from the inter-generational networking that Valence supported so seamlessly. Since launch, the Valence platform has supported more than 5,000 micro-mentoring sessions (AKA Boosts)— allowing the kind of invaluable network support that’s so critical to success and advancement for even the most talented founders and operators.

You can hear more about the importance of mentoring from Kobie Fuller, Valence advisor James Lowry, and John Legend — yes, THE John Legend — in this video from the 2020 Upfront Summit.

So things were going well for Valence in 2020, amazingly even in a pandemic. And then in May the world was galvanized by the tragic murder of George Floyd (and Breonna Taylor. And Ahmaud Arbery. And Rayshard Brooks. And the many Black women and men before them whose lives were taken at the hands of the police.)

When the mission meets a movement

In these months, not only did we see widespread civic protests but so many industries, including ours, faced a reckoning that despite even the best intentions, lip service wasn’t enough. We all needed to take action to address the imbalance of access, and to literally put our money where our mouths are. Suddenly a spotlight was put on everything that the Valence team had been building, and there was even more energy around the business.

I always say that you can judge a startup’s future based on how fast they’re able to execute when it counts. Well, I can tell you that within weeks of the civil unrest, Valence had:

  • Introduced the Valence Funding Network, where GPs from more than 30 of the top venture funds representing more than $60B in assets under management joined Valence with the goal of linking Black entrepreneurs on the platform directly to venture decision makers.
  • Increased membership by more than 20%
  • Hired a CEO, Guy Primus, who was previously the CEO of The Virtual Reality Company as well as the COO of Overbrook Entertainment. He’s been a leader at the intersection of media and tech for many years and we’re grateful to partner with him.
  • Announced their Series A funding round, which Upfront participated in and which was led by Hans Tung from GGV. Hans has been a great peer and collaborator on other portfolio boards and we’re excited for him to join Valence at this pivotal time. We have worked closely with GGV for years and they were a natural fit for helping to build a network like this given their investment in Chief (for women) and The Mighty (which helps families with people facing health challenges).

Since day one we have anticipated great things for Valence and with this groundswell of support at the civic level as well as the industry level, we hope to see meaningful improvements in access and dollars for Black professionals. Please join me in congratulating Guy, Kobie and the team for what they’ve built so far, and what’s to come.

How Valence Aims to Provide Better Access and Funding for Black Founders & Executives was originally published in Both Sides of the Table on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Mistakes I made as a first-time manager



Contributed by Shawn Johal, business growth coach, leadership speaker and co-founder of DALS Lighting, Inc. He is also an active member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Montreal chapter. 

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
–Albert Einstein

It’s almost hard to believe that I have been managing teams for more than 15 years. Time definitely flies!

I had the incredible privilege of being trained at one of the best schools for leadership in the world: Newell-Rubbermaid. As a business, it isn’t necessarily known for a dedication to improving talent, but I can say from first-hand experience they truly care about building each employee into a leader from the get-go.

I received weeks of leadership and sales training, learning from the industry’s best. They challenged me and pushed our entire team to always aim for higher goals.

In today’s fast-paced world, I often come across new managers who have never been trained for their job. The pattern often goes like this:

1. An employee performs very well at their job
2. They are promoted into a manager position
3. They are given a team and told to lead

From there, they are off to the races with an ill-equipped toolbox to learn from their mistakes.

It’s a dangerous game to play. The consequences can often result in poor company culture or a lack of focus and vision. Accountability is hard to come by and goals are either missed or never established in the first place. I don’t blame companies for doing it: We have an almost natural tendency to assume that “A” performers will figure out what to do—and they’ll (somehow) eventually succeed. Sometimes they will succeed, but often they won’t.

Even with great training and mentors, I made my share of massive mistakes as a first time leader. Learn from mine!

From Colleague to Boss

After 14 months in my first role as a sales representative, I was promoted to district manager. Suddenly I had a team of seven reporting to me. Half of them were former peers who worked with me—daily, side by side. Now they were being asked to report to me, and I was being told to lead them.

I decided to take on the “friendly” approach: We were all friends, after all! That failure was an epic one: I was not able to earn any respect and had so much trouble setting expectations and providing feedback. Being liked was too important to me. Ultimately, the friends strategy failed, and I wasn’t able to make the leap from colleague to boss while being a successful leader. Many problems were caused and the first six months were a major challenge.

While I eventually figured out a better way to lead the team, some of the employees left, not wanting to work for a former colleague and friend.

TIP #1:

If you are thrust into a position where you must suddenly manage a former peer, have an honest discussion with them. Set expectations. Be sure to communicate that while it may be an awkward situation, you will do your best to provide leadership and set up your team for success. It’s your team’s choice to respect the roles and perform at a high level.

The Firing Fiasco

There comes a moment in every leader’s life when he or she is forced to fire someone. It is a tremendously difficult moment that often causes anxiety and fear. I certainly felt both emotions when I was faced with this daunting task the first time. I did my best to prepare. I tried to plan in advance what the employee would reply, but things didn’t go as planned.

I came to the meeting with resolve. The problem? I hadn’t practiced what I would say or how I would handle any deviation from what I expected to happen. As always, the unexpected made its presence known quickly.

During the meeting, instead of explaining the reasons for the firing, I simply blurted it out. The approach was insensitive and lacked empathy. My employee began crying wholeheartedly. We were in a coffee shop as we didn’t have local offices. People stared in horror. They were right to do so: The scene was becoming a bad movie. I had unnecessarily hurt someone due to my insensitivity, my lack of planning and my nerves.

TIP #2:

If you are ever put in this situation as a first-time manager, it’s important to be prepared. Understand the facts inside and out. Rehearse what you will say. Write out bullet-point notes and stick to a script, but prepare for a difficult reaction and expect the unexpected.


As a young leader, I was obsessed with showing my boss how hard I worked. I wanted to put in the most hours and prove that, by pounding the pavement, I was the best employee in the company’s history. I was wearing 60+ hours per week on my sleeve as a badge of honor. My second boss showed me the error of my ways.

He explained that it was obvious I was trying to show my “incredible” work ethic as measured in hours—which had zero impact on him. He cared only about results and progress—and he wasn’t impressed with me trying to be a machine (all machines break down eventually, after all). He taught me how to value working smarter, not harder. He didn’t care how many hours I worked, as long goals were accomplished.

Second, he genuinely worried I would burn out and wanted me to care for my mental health. He had experienced burnout in his career and it set him back. Teaching me how to use my time better, while also showing me how to teach the practice to my direct reports was eye-opening. Everyone understood that our culture was based on setting expectations and doing our best to surpass them by always thinking through our actions.

TIP #3

Be clear on what productivity means to you, and learn to measure productivity for your team members accordingly. “Hours worked” will not necessarily be the best key performance indicator. It’s crucial to understand what numbers they need to hit and help them work into that reality. By learning to set S.M.A.R.T. goals (specific, measurable, attainable, timely, realistic), you are setting your team up for success.

As a young leader, mistakes will be made: There is no avoiding it. In fact, we will continue to make mistakes throughout our career.

How quickly you learn from these mistakes will ultimately define your level of progress. Ask for help, ensure you get the right leadership training, and enjoy the process. Leading is both challenging and exhilarating, but the world needs better leaders. Can you be the next great leader? 

Shawn Johal is a Scaling Up Certified Coach currently working with several entrepreneurs and their businesses to help accelerate their growth, while finding personal balance and happiness.

The post Mistakes I made as a first-time manager appeared first on THE EO BLOG.

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