Erica was exhausted in her new job!

She was struggling to cope and wondered if she was going to keep on going with things as they were. Should she speak to her boss? One incident in particular had tipped her “over the edge” which she then told me more about. This was her first proper role in the workplace. At only 20 years old and on a yearlong work placement as part of her degree she was coping with a lot – the politics in the workplace, the hours and the relentless unpredictability of the business world – when priorities changed from one minute to the next – driving her mad!!

She had been given her first proper “assignment” – to attend an event on behalf of the company and promote the business on social media – recording all the excitement and activity live. She was pleased to be asked to do this but apprehensive about what was involved. This felt like a lot of responsibility and she knew a lot was resting on her to do this well. Being very diligent she went to the event and did what she felt was required of her. In fact she did it so well that before long it was the end of the day and as she packed up she felt overcome with exhaustion – struggling to walk to the car and then get even get herself home.  On the car journey home she was distressed at how physically exhausted she was feeling – and was fearful she wouldn’t be able to get out of bed the next day and would have to call in sick!

We spoke about the quandary she was in – should she speak to her boss or not?

I suggested we explore her role in self-leadership in this situation. She told me she hadn’t felt able to take time to have a break at all during the event – so had had nothing to drink, eat or even taken time to go to the toilet. Self-leadership is about taking responsibility for managing your own wellbeing in the workplace. It’s something that anyone can do – actions that will make positive change happen and so improve your workplace wellbeing. These aren’t always easy things to do – it may involve making a stand in some way – that’s were being a leader comes into it! These changes start with you as an individual – however others may also follow and then before you know it there’s a revolution!

So what would practicing self-leadership involve here?

  • Being comfortable in asking her manager for more information would have helped Erica understand what was expected of her.
  • Recognising that in order to do her job well she needs to look after her own needs, replenish and sustain her energy levels – so bringing lunch and water along with her is an important part of self-care and self-leadership.
  • Unlike machines humans have many more needs than just fuel.  Research shows that our performance drops dramatically when we don’t look after ourselves and have a break. Many people eat whilst they work thinking that all they need to do is refuel their body (aka The Machine)! However the ultimate form of self-leadership is to be aware of your own body’s needs and then act upon them. In this case Erica needed to feel confident enough to lead herself here – telling herself that having a break will enable her to do her job better. So – head held high – she steps away, has a break and her lunch, attends to her bodily needs and then – refreshed – returns to her work!

Who needs to practice self-leadership?

We all do! It’s particularly easy at the start of a new job to want to impress others and show them how hard you are working. Before you know it you are in a routine of working all the time and never having a break – just like your colleagues are doing. To start with you may not notice any negative consequences. But after a while (and how long this takes is different for us all) there will be negative repercussions – perhaps starting with increased susceptibility to coughs and colds, or indigestion and poor quality of sleep – or your mental wellbeing will suffer. You may not be aware of it but despite the increased hours you are putting in you will be less effective. For most people the drain on our wellbeing is gradual and we don’t notice as it creeps up on us. However this changes when we have some sort of a physical or emotional health crisis that makes us reflect on what our workplace is doing to our health. People then decide they can’t go on like this any more and because they feel they have no control over their working day then attempt to get some control by leaving their jobs. Sadly this is the culture of many work places all over the country and as a result a huge amount of talent and experience is lost.

However by practicing self-leadership you can make changes that allow you to look after your own wellbeing in order to give your best at work – and stay doing a job you enjoy rather than feeling you have no choice but to leave. Self-leadership means you don’t follow – you lead – yourself!


How to get help

The Sweet Potato Consultancy works with forward thinking leaders to stop the human and financial waste and attrition found in many workplaces; creating energised, productive and motivated teams. This is done using 3 main approaches:

1.     “Leading with a Difference – Managing Wellbeing in the Workplace Programme” – this 9 month long programme enables leaders to really lead with the knowledge and skills to create an engaged and energised workforce. Using an innovative Inside-Out approach – based on original research – the course equips attendees to understand and manage their own wellbeing and performance, and that of their teams and stops the human and business waste by creating sustainable change in workplace culture.

2.    Wellbeing Supervision – facilitation for leaders who want ongoing wellbeing guidance.

3.    “Self Leadership –managing your own wellbeing in the workplace” a coaching package.

If you would like to get in touch contact me

(Photo Ship Sonja Langford)

Discover the difference a Wellbeing in the Workplace programme could make to your organisation

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