As a previous leader in third, charity and private health sectors. I was surrounded by amazing and talented individuals bringing so much life and value to their dedicated work in communities.
But there was a gap.
A gap in the time, energy and spaces created to help leaders and teams personally develop, prioritise well-being and create better balance.
Running dangerously close to 'burn out' or 'too busy '.
Often compromising your own development and feeling under-resourced.
Many leaders over the years have shared with me the impact of this workplace culture - and I experienced it myself too when I worked in the sector.
It all came to a head for me one day, many years ago now. As a successful leader managing multiple projects, across differently geographical locations I had come accustomed to needing to be in more than one place at once, quite literally.
One day I was travelling from one office region, to another when I heard my phone ringing.
Glancing down, I saw the name of my 'interim' manager - my usual manger had been signed off with stress.
I pulled over at the side of the road - because I was hoping this was the call I had prompted a few days earlier. Needing to speak with a manager to get some vital clarity on a tricky issue in a project I was managing. That needed a level of authority and decision making beyond my role.
As I answered the call I realised very quickly that it was unlikely I was going to get the answers I needed. On the other end of the phone, my senior manager spoke with pressured speech and relayed a barrage of stressful situations to me.
They were totally over-whelmed and verging on the edge of a possible mental health crisis themself.
All I could do was sit and listen. This was not someone resourced to help me with the challenges I faced myself.
I leant my head against the car window. As I did, my eyes glanced at the piles of service station sandwich packets in the footwell of my car. While a delicious home-made lunch from days before festered in a tupper-wear box on the passenger seat.
In that moment - I took the situation in and a heavy feeling connected in side.
I turned my head away from the debris in the footwell, and the shame and over-whelm that came with it.
All of a sudden I began to sense a softness as my eyes fixed on the forest beyond the verge to my right.
I finished up my call with the manager - having provided some rest-bite for their stress levels. But no less bewilderment for my own conundrum. That would have to wait.
I went to start up my car to continue my journey.
But something in me stopped me driving on.
I turned off the igniting, and got out of my car and walked to the edge of the woods.
It hit me. This immense feeling of safety and freedom- That ignited my creative, wild spirit.
A feeling that had become totally unfamiliar to me, in the hustle and haste of leadership life.
I knew then things had to change. Not just for me.
I saw the place I had with supporting other amazing and inspiring leaders & workers to be kinder to themselves. To prioritise well-being and not to compromise themselves for 'the cause'
Afterall - I had thought- how on earth are we going to start being better ancestors for the future of our world, if we cannot make simple steps to declutter our mind and take better care of ourselves.
I knew for some that help would look like getting out, and starting afresh. But for the majority it was some fine tuning. Some easy tweaks and a whole load of compassion, confidence and courage to change. Within.
Working with leaders, I have shared this story many times.
There are usually familiar nods and a genuine relaxation in stature to know that they are not alone.
Its a system that swept you off your feet. But you don't have to continue that way.
A few themes kept cropping up in leadership conversations - when I worked in the sector and in coaching leaders of all levels and experiences at Where the Mind Grows.
Do these seem familiar to you?
- Breaking your own 'rules' and 'values' around work/life value
- feeling powerless and lacking time to be the leader you aspired to be.
- struggling with the guilt and frustration of seeing your team 'overworked' or allowing yourself to be over-whelmed too
- Compassion fatigue where once you were a vibrant and hopeful leader/worker.
-Saying yes to way to much, then not knowing how to reclaim back your boundaries.
- Feeling like a failure or imposter for not having it 'all figured out'
- No time to celebrate or experience the achievements and successes in business or life.
- Lacking self confidence and experiencing imposter.
- Often feeling under supported and lacking recognition.
-Struggling to have enough energy to do things you love or value
-Feeling tired and often over-whelmed
- Home life being impacted by your busy head, over-whelm or venting.
- Not wanting to ask for help.
The challenge for me was that, very little training met you where you were. And resources and strategies spoke to a world that didn't exist in the sector.
With many experiences wanting you to take on even more, to make any change.
Forgetting to remind of your own amazing capabilities, beyond the exhaustion and over-whelmed brain.
What was important was reminding you that you are the central and most powerful part of your own change. And surprisingly you'll have the resources ( or can learn them) to bring simple and significant habits that can create impactful changes not just for yourself - for your work culture too.
Just like that moment in the car. I knew that the most effective way to help leaders to feel calmer, more confident and clearer of mind. Was to invite you back to nature.
But the benefits don't just stop at reducing your stress and clearing the mind.
Nature helps you re-connect with the wild, wonderful spirit you are. Igniting creativity and helping the brain receptors to seek solutions to the most tricky problems and challenges.
Your time in nature has a moment of magic too - a curious shift that invites you to ask 'what is mine to do' when it comes to the compassionate needs of our earths future.
More energy, more fun, more of your true authentic self too.
Nature needs our help, as much as human leaders do.
So lets make the process one that happens side by side.
After all, we all have a potential to pioneer.
And it doesn't have to cost us everything.