Mia Russell is the author of the newly released Fired Up! A Guide to Transforming Your Team from Burnout to Engagement. She recently sat down to discuss how the concept for the book came to be and what she learned through the process of writing it with her co-author Girvin Liggans.

What led you to write Fired Up: A Guide to Transforming Your Team from Burnout to Engagement?

Mia Russell: For years I talked with my co-author Girvin Liggins about the idea, but what really led to a book on burnout and engagement is my life and career. I have long been personally challenged with work/life balance and work/life integration.

I was challenged by this idea that burnout, or any other negative organizational outcome, was the employee’s fault. I think it’s interesting that organizations and leaders have control and power to influence the work environment, yet when things go wrong, sometimes an employee is blamed. That’s really the driver of my interest [in burnout]. And then it became really relevant during the pandemic.

The idea of the title “Fired Up” is that employers don’t want people who are sizzling out. We thought about all of those adjectives that would describe an employee that employers want to hire and keep. Those employees have passion and find meaning and purpose in their work. They are exciting and enthusiastic. We couldn’t come up with one word, so that was how we came up with “fired up.” And that reinforces our belief that leaders and organizations should make the work environment conducive for employees to feel that way.

Who do you consider the primary audience for this book, and what can they expect to get out of it?

MR: The primary audience is anybody that is responsible for a team, even if it’s just a project that has several people working on it, because you want to make sure that people can perform their best. We think that employee well-being is important for two reasons because people are important, but also, if they are doing well, then they’re more productive and can perform better. We think any organizational leader is the primary audience for this book, but also those professionals that work with leaders, such as human resources departments, in corporate or academic arenas, chief administrative officers, and some of those functions. And also people who help improve the efficiency of chains and units, such as organizational development consultants.

What experiences in your life led you to write this book?

MR: I think most of my career. I was self-employed for fifteen years, and when you create something, you view it as your baby and want to make sure it’s successful. You can pour your entire self into it, and it’s hard to detach. That is how burnout can set in. I’ve been lucky to be in environments where I’ve really been engaged. But there’s a double-edged sword, and I think that’s probably one of the things that’s most surprising about the burnout research. It’s a good thing to be absorbed and dedicated to your work, but it doesn’t turn out as well when you are unable to detach. I could certainly name many instances, but in general that’s the gist of how my life has informed some of my thoughts around this idea.

Did you learn anything through the process of writing this book? Maybe you experienced burnout during your writing process, or even after?

MR: Yes, I learned that no one is immune from burning out and also that burnout is not the individual’s fault. Whether we look at various industries, roles, organizations, countries—burnout is prevalent. It is a global phenomenon. Burnout is truly ubiquitous. That’s the first thing. The other thing I thought was important was, if burnout is all around us and is far-reaching, how do we think about creating solutions for it? Without having to focus solely on self-care because that is what many people talk about when they’re talking about burnout, “Oh, we just need to take more time to care for ourselves. Create the boundaries.” I think that’s important, but that lays all [the responsibility] at the employee’s feet, and I just don’t believe that to be true.