Has your workplace been going through change recently? A while back, we asked our community what you’d most like help with. And Sarah shared a challenge I think many of us will be able to relate to:
“How to cope with workplaces that are difficult… budget cuts, staff shortages, covid restrictions, overstretched and ineffective management who have lots of pressure from those above them to steer things in a particular direction (not necessarily the best one).
How to still work effectively in that environment despite all that?”
We turned to One of many coach Caroline Doran to share some of what she’s been noticing in her work with leaders – and which tools she’s been turning to to help.
One of many sectors where the workplace is going through change
Caroline works with leaders in charities – a sector that, like so many, has undergone significant changes and radical budget cuts in recent years.
For many of the women she coaches, either through group programs or 1:1, what’s brought them to coaching has been a sense that “things can’t go on like this.”
“I do a lot of work around change and it triggers overwhelm. So it’s become a real area of interest for me. And what I’ve noticed over the years is these amazing women in charities are so connected, so dedicated, care so deeply – and are so willing to give of themselves and their time and their energy.
But it leads to exhaustion.
What’s always driven me forward in my work is a feeling that it’s too much of a cost for the world. To have these amazing, brilliant, talented women not leading or even leaving the sector because it’s just too much sacrifice.
And the One of many coaching tools are all just so valuable for working in that space.”
When your workplace is going through change
Caroline’s seen firsthand how difficult the current context is.
“Within the charity sector specifically, there’s been a lot of costcutting exercises. Leaders having to manage big redundancy programs and then having to deliver with less resource and that impacts the wellbeing of teams.
A lot of the organizations I work with want to support their staff, but the system makes it very difficult for staff to feel supported. It’s just so much pressure and the need doesn’t go away.”
So how can you make sure you’re being effective when your workplace is going through change?
#1 Start with boundaries
“The thing that I always come back to with my clients is boundaries. It’s not just about having the conversation, it’s about letting go of any guilt that you’re holding around having these conversations.
Knowing that you being okay and being able to deliver is what enables things to continue. That’s a real cornerstone.
Because if you are a burnt out shell, you can’t affect anything. You can’t implement or change or do anything.”
- Where might you need to set some boundaries, in order to preserve your energy.
- Do you feel comfortable creating the space you need to rest and replenish?
- How could you give yourself more time, and who would you need to talk to to make that happen?
#2 Look at the bigger picture
“As we start exploring these boundaries, that naturally leads us to reflect on the bigger picture.
I think lots of us have found ourselves asking what do I really want in my life now? What’s exciting? What do I want to have learned over the last two years?
Those are really good conversations to be having.
We can get so drawn into the now and the immediate. And I speak for myself here too – there is something a little bit addictive about that busyness as well. We can see our value there. This came up for me in the pandemic massively – I know I’m valuable because look how busy I am!
Often we need to let go of that little bit and ask, what’s most important here?
That can just allow you to get your head up and out a little bit and say, “If I burn out next week, what won’t happen? This list might get done, but what’s not going to get done?”
- What’s most important to you?
- What do you want your impact to be?
- What would you like to be able to look back and say you learned during this difficult time?
#3 What stories are you telling yourself?
“Another important step is to consider what’s really driving you, and what might be blocking you from feeling in control when it comes to your role.
I love using a tool called the “cycle of creation” to explore what meaning we’re making from what’s happened – especially in the case of a restructure or budget cuts.
What assumptions are we making about the senior leadership, and how is that shaping our own experience of what’s happening?
Often the women I work with find they’re telling themselves a story that it’s all on them. And, if they don’t do everything, it’s all going to collapse. If we can lift the lid on that it really can feel like a big weight coming off.
Because unless we can start to give ourselves the space we need, we’ll find ourselves stuck in that cycle of exhaustion, and lack of confidence, and burnout.”
- What stories are you telling yourself?
- What fears are driving you – and what past experiences are they drawn from?
- How might they be holding you back or closing down possibilities?
So – to recap
So – if you’re in a work situation that feels really challenging, with lots of change, pressure, and difficulties when it comes to leadership – where do you start?
Here are Caroline’s top 3 tips if you’re struggling to stay effective when your workplace is going through change.
Take care of your own energy.
Really make the space you need to replenish your energy and recharge. I often use the analogy of elite athletes and their scheduled rest days – they see rest as the fuel that creates the results, not a reward they’ll get after the race. Put yourself first, before you begin to think about making changes.
Take the time to get real clarity around your role, the expectations on you, and your responsibilities. What often happens is that we fall into a position where we’re trying to fix the whole system, and make everything perfect. But that might simply not be feasible – so asking some tough questions about what really has to be done, and what standard you’re prepared to do it to – that’s key.
Look at your values
Finally, spend some time thinking about your values. Often, after change, we find that organisations or leadership have shifted values, or changed what’s most important. If there’s a conflict between the organization and what’s important to you – then perhaps it’s time to look at whether this is the right place for you to be.
When we care a lot, when we’ve invested huge amounts of love and energy and time into an organization, that can be a really hard realization.
It’s really important to reach out for support – from a coach, or a program with One of many for example – so you can feel empowered, in control, and confident about what your next step might be. Whether it’s stepping up into more of a leadership role; shifting what you’re doing now so that you feel more on purpose and replenished; or making the decision to look for a different position that’s more in line with your values.
You’ve got this!
And if you’d like to find out more about the One of many coaching tools, you can watch our free training “The Secret To Coaching Women” here.
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