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Time to talk

January marked four years since my return to work after my breakdown.

 

It’s strange to think of how much that time changed my life, as well as the impact it had on my family.  On one hand, if I hadn’t had that experience, I wouldn’t be coaching. But on the other hand, I’d probably have spent the rest of my career teetering on the edge of burnout. It quite literally changed the course of my life.

 

Sometimes with these bittersweet life experiences, you can say to yourself “well, it all turned out ok”. That’s true – I learned some REALLY valuable lessons through the experience – ones I’m profoundly grateful for. I find great purpose in my job and I’m glad that I can help others learn some of these lessons without having to suffer their learning how I did.

 

But that doesn’t stop the fact that it would have been a lot better for everyone involved if I hadn’t gone through such an extreme mental health crisis to learn them.

 

It’s why I’m so passionate about spotting the signs and getting people talking earlier and perhaps more openly than they otherwise would….



The importance of our workplaces

I find that there tends to be several different approaches when it comes to bringing your personality to work. Some people happily share every detail of their lives. Some people remain as enigmas – you might find out what they did on the weekend at a push, but that’s about it. Others are in between the two.

 

There’s no right or wrong. It’s completely a personal choice. It’s important to know what’s ‘normal’ for your team. Changes in demeanour or conversation can be an indicator that someone isn’t feeling themselves.

 

We all spend a huge amount of time at our jobs – whether in-person or remote – giving us a chance to notice if something doesn't quite seem right. You might not see your colleagues as friends, as such, but the truth is that you spend a lot of your day connected to them in some way. It shouldn’t matter if they’re your manager, you’re theirs, or you’re struggling to agree on a work task. You have a chance to be there for someone.

 

We are all our own support structure…


Find a way

The idea of asking someone “how are you really” might fill you with discomfort. If not, then I would urge you to ask that question on a regular basis. But if you’re someone who struggles with finding the right words, doesn’t spend much time with the person you think needs support, or you simply don’t think they’ll react well to being asked, then there are other ways.

 

You could send them an email, or a message. You could leave them a post-it note. You could invite them on a lunchtime walk, where they might feel more able to speak out if it comes up naturally in conversation. At the risk of sounding promotional, you could invite me to do a talk and some follow up sessions.

 

Don’t let fear of getting it wrong put you off. The important thing is that you start the conversation. And if someone does talk to you, make sure to listen.

 

There’s a big difference between offering support and solutions. Often being supportive can mean making a person feels heard – there’s no expectation for you to fix anything and realising that can make it a little easier to offer that support.

 

If you’re not sure which of the two is expected of you, don’t guess – ask…

 

“Would support or solutions be more helpful at this stage?” Listen, don’t interrupt, listen some more – the person will often come up with their own solutuions… (you’re allowed to ask the question more than once by the way and the answer may change later in the conversation).



Better out than in

We've talked here about encouraging someone else to open up, but the same goes for you. Regardless of where you sit in the team hierarchy, you also need to find a way to be open if you’re struggling.

 

Once you’ve felt the relief of opening up to someone and being properly listened to, it’s not so hard to do it again. Like a sweat-breaking exercise class that you drag yourself out to, over time, you dread it less and almost (dare I say it) look forward to the feeling talking gives you.

 

Communication, support and understanding between people makes for a better high-performing team. You’re able to trust each other and not be afraid to be honest, and that means you can all be brave with your decisions.

 

I rarely really know what I really think or feel about something until I’ve vocalised it – the act of doing so is part of increasing clarity..

 

So if you need a concrete reason to try being honest about how you’re feeling at work, or a reason to check in with someone else, let it be that. You’ll be relieving pressure and strengthening the bond in your team – plus, you might pave the way for someone else to do the same.

 

Take care,

James

 

Prioritise your team in 2024


High-performing teams are your greatest assets, but if they're burning out, it's not good news for them or for you. Make a difference this year by giving them space to talk.

 

Ready to take things to the next level? I have capacity for a maximum of six clients in 2024 for a regular partnership and have two more signing up for a February start.

 

If you'd like to be one of the remaining three, drop me a line...

 

 

07855 315 753

 

in: James Pickles (connect with me for my thoughts on imposter syndrome, why coaching is for everyone, and what my 14-year old son can teach us about looking at the bigger picture…)

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