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Paul Saunders, Founder of James River Capital, Talks Burnout

Paul Saunders, the founder and principal of James River Capital Corp., recently published an article about helping employees avoid burnout. Effectively minimizing employee burnout can maximize the productivity and success of your business.

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In this article, we’ll discuss Paul’s advice for noticing the warning signs of burnout and taking appropriate action to help employees stay motivated.

About Paul Saunders

Paul Saunders is the founder, chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of James River Capital Corp. and affiliated companies. He holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.

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Paul’s lifelong passion for finance led him to a career in investment banking and eventually in investment and trading. Paul was drawn to investment and trading because he felt it was based on meritocracy rather than hierarchy.

He worked in the Corporate Finance Department at Warburg Paribas Becker, then in the Commodity Department of A.G. Becker. He was later Director of Managed Accounts and Commodity Funds at Kidder, Peabody, and Co. until becoming President of KP Futures Management Corp., which later became James River Capital Corp. Paul Saunders has held his current position since 1995.

Paul and his wife of 39 years, Vicki, are passionate about philanthropy. They recently launched the Saunders Family Foundation and have supported numerous charitable organizations.

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About James River Capital

James River Capital Corp. was founded in 1986. Originally, it was the alternative investment department of Kidder, Peabody, & Co. James River became an independent investment firm in 1995, when Paul Saunders and Kevin Brandt acquired the business from Kidder.

James River Capital’s investment philosophy is that “adding alternative investment exposure to a portfolio dominated by traditional investments through a well-diversified multi-manager approach will usually improve overall risk-adjusted return.” To achieve this broad diversification, the company has developed a robust manager selection process.

Paul Saunders on Burnout

Below, we’ll explore what Paul Saunders has learned about managing employee burnout in his decades of leadership experience. You can leverage this expert advice to create a positive work environment that motivates employees to perform to their full potential.

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What Is Burnout?

“Burnout” is physical and emotional exhaustion caused by overwork or stress. Although humans are equipped to deal with short bursts of stress, sustained stress over a long period of time causes the exhaustion, cynicism, and poor performance that characterize burnout.

It has become a pervasive issue that often results in doubts about one’s competence and an inability to meet on-the-job demands. Research shows that burnout is having a growing impact on workplaces, particularly in advanced economies and during times of economic downturn.

For employers, noticing and curbing burnout is key to setting up your employees for long-term success. As Paul Saunders notes, “Their triumphs are also yours.”

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Signs of Burnout

Over the years, Paul has noticed burnout in his employees when there is:

  • Shift in overall attitude
  • Overall lack of motivation
  • Loss of confidence

Burnout is more likely to occur when employees feel inadequate or unappreciated, are in a role that is not a good fit for their skills, have unreasonable demands placed upon them, or feel that their work is never good enough.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to address these warning signs and prevent additional problems.

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Provide a Sense of Control

Paul points out that inflexible policies and schedules inevitably lead to burnout as employees feel helpless and hopeless.

Remedy this by giving employees some degree of control in scheduling and company policies. Give them the opportunity to express their opinions on certain matters, and avoid constrictions that make employees feel trapped.

Paul also suggests encouraging employees to take 10-15 minutes each morning to outline the goals they would like to accomplish. This gives them a sense of control over their workday.

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Be Transparent

Another cause of burnout is when employees feel they are being overlooked for promotions, not properly compensated, or otherwise not getting the full story from upper management. This can create negativity and resentment that leads to burnout.

Saunders stresses the importance of communication and honesty. Provide reasonable explanations about your decisions. Treat your employees as valued partners in the success and progression of your business.

Help Employees Manage Stress

Long-term stress almost always leads to burnout, so it’s important to help employees keep their stress levels under control.

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You may want to offer workshops and other resources to help employees cope with stress. You can also talk to your employees and suggest taking up a new hobby and disconnecting from work when outside of the office. Adequate sleep can also work wonders in reducing stress and, consequently, burnout. Paul especially has enjoyed offering a well-equipped gym, free of charge, to employees as he has found exercise during the workday goes a long way in helping with confidence and motivation.

Help Employees Regain Confidence

For employees, a natural side effect of burnout is questioning themselves and the quality of their work. As confidence deteriorates, many employees disengage from their work and struggle to perform.

You can mitigate this issue by checking in with your employees and helping them set reasonable personal goals. These small, achievable performance goals can help your employees gradually regain confidence and get back on track.

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By being flexible, honest, communicative, and proactive, you can help prevent employee burnout and maximize performance.

Final Thoughts

Left unaddressed, burnout can negatively impact the overall productivity and performance of a business. In brief, Paul advises the following:

  • Avoid inflexible policies and scheduling as much as possible.
  • Encourage employees to outline the goals they would like to accomplish each day.
  • Be open and honest in communication with employees.
  • Talk to employees about the importance of disconnecting from work when not in the office.
  • Help employees set small, achievable goals to regain confidence.

These strategies have been successful for Paul Saunders at James River Capital, and they can help propel your employees and your business to success as well.

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Written by Eric

37-year-old who enjoys ferret racing, binge-watching boxed sets and praying. He is exciting and entertaining, but can also be very boring and a bit grumpy.

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