Tired of being a superhero?
How long can I sustain this for?
Would it be better somewhere else?
Is this still my fight?
Does ‘keeping busy’ and ‘getting on with it’ really work?
How can I relax or sleep better?
What do I really want?
These niggling questions can be signals that you are on a slow path to burn out. Yet it can be so hard to take your hand off the hot stove when it feels like the easiest thing to do when you are overwhelmed, is what you have always done.
I am keenly aware that there are a lot of people being driven down this path right now. Only a few months ago, I was reminded of the extreme casualties of stress and burn out when I saw and helped a man and his children after he collapsed on the pavement on the way home from the school run. He was ok, turned out to live close by and has since made a full recovery but he was doing three peoples’ jobs at work and his body had reached the limit well before his mind acknowledged it. The experience of seeing him fitting and foaming at the mouth while a lady knelt and called an ambulance and I tried to calm his screaming children was a call to action for me; to share my own story and to offer coaching to people who feel they could be on the path to burn out and would like help to swerve it.
My own experience of burn out thankfully didn’t end with the calling of the ambulance. After a term of crisis leadership, doing the job of at least three people including the Headteacher, I just stopped sleeping. I only really realised it was a problem when the anxiety-driven nights carried on into the holidays with no let up. By January, my best friend (an NHS consultant), my GP and my union rep at ASCL all told me to stop work immediately as it was making me ill. I was signed off work and eventually resigned.
I now know, two years on, that I was probably slowly heading for burn out about 5 years before that, navigating crisis leadership in turnaround schools with small children at home. I did some great leadership training but the coaching I received didn’t speak to my experience of work and home and didn’t really invite bringing my whole self to the coaching. This was probably made me want to coach; I feel very strongly that school leaders, who are so used to being all things to all people, need a safe space to consider who they are, what they stand for and what they want as their true whole selves with a trained professional who really knows their landscape.
This isn’t helpful work, it’s essential. Healthy congruent key leaders use their superpowers wisely and make a big difference.
You don’t have to get stuck on a track that is draining your magic. There is always another way and I can help you connect with yours. I help leaders in education find their path to leadership on their terms so that they can do more of what they love and be themselves ‘on purpose’.
It has helped me to define what is special about the way in which I lead, and how my values drive my leadership decisions. I walk away feeling like I have a stronger direction and clearer path. This has been the best professional development I have ever had.
Head of Department, The Cabot Learning Federation, Bristol
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