Management Fatigue . . .

Fatigue makes cowards of us all.  ~Vince Lombardi

Two great coaches with unprecedented winning records, Vince Lombardi and John
both believed that fitness and conditioning were the secret weapons of winning teams and each made fitness a part of every practice and the daily regimen of their teams. With fitness comes the mental and physical stamina to execute well and quickly turn an opponent’s mistake into a score.

Over the past several years I’ve noticed a definite trend occurring in business – management fatigue.  Managers are bone-tired and feeling frazzled. And as a result I see good managers making silly mistakes, not always thinking clearly, short-tempered with their peers and staff, less creative and allowing negativity and cynicism to creep in.

One of the reasons they are fatigued is definitely lack of exercise and a general deteriorating level of personal fitness.  Most of us in the management and business ranks are overweight and out of shape.  And it’s getting to be an epidemic the world over.  Fast foods, eating poorly, skipping meals, drinking too much, lack of exercise, all contribute to management fatigue.

Poor Business Process and Mental Management Fatigue

But there is another, more insidious type management fatigue and it’s harder to cure. It’s mental and some feel it even erodes the soul.  This management fatigue is experienced as an overall lack of enthusiasm for the work.  Mental management fatigue is the result of the frustrations of trying to make things happen inside organizations with poor business processes.

For example, more and more there is a growing resentment with meetings.  Most meetings are poorly run, longer than necessary, reach few decisions, and are fraught with hidden agenda, interpersonal conflict and lack of candor and teamwork.  Several managers have described their meetings as trying to sprint through molasses (treacle for my UK friends), lots of energy is expensed (and hot air as well) with little results. After months or years of putting up with bad meetings and trying to get something accomplished, we just get mentally tired of it all.  Then the door is open for cynicism and negativity.  In some organizations, the culture can be described as management fatigue and cynicism.

Meetings are indispensable when you don’t want to do anything.  ~John Kenneth Galbraith

And the “process of meetings” is just one of many internal business processes that don’t work well and need to be redesigned in order to be more productive and eliminate waste. Another major contributor to mental management fatigue is the strategy execution process, or in reality in most companies it’s a non-process.  As a result of not having a robust, horizontal strategy execution process, many execution issues get bogged down in turf wars where managers are bickering over limited resources instead of swiftly moving the strategy forward.

What’s insidious about meetings and strategy execution is that they are daily events. There is rarely a holiday from meetings or trying to move the strategy forward; these issues are with managers every day.

If I were to do a root cause analysis of mental management fatigue, I would find meetings and poor strategy execution processes as key causal factors.  The good news is, we can do something about them, if we’re not too fatigued already!  Oh, diet and exercise also help!

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E |      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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1 Response to Management Fatigue . . .

  1. Ted Browne says:

    I loved this post. It’s funny that you should combine Wooden and Lombardi together. I lead a nonprofit called Beyond Athletic Life Lessons – we’re built on Wooden’s foundation, and then add historically-significant athletes into the mix to teach youth athletes educational and emotional intelligence through their chosen youth sports teams. We begin each season teaching them about Wooden and success, then divide it into 3 components – physical, mental, and emotional. Then we define fatigue using the same 3 components, and break down each one as it relates to the players. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all” is the 2nd maxim they learn after Wooden’s definition of success. The “Fatigue” quote actually came from George S. Patton, and was then made even more famous by Lombardi. Not a bad group of potential mentors, right?

    Ted Browne
    Chief Storyteller/CEO
    Beyond Athletic Life Lessons, inc. (“BALL”) (blog)


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