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5 months into re-inventing Mondays

Here is a snap-shot of today, 5 months into re-inventing Mondays:

This morning, a Monday morning, I woke up around half six. I got up, we had tea and the dogs had their breakfast. Around 8am I headed out with the dogs and for a change it wasn’t raining. We did a 5km route, down the river and back again. Not many people were out, but we said hello to the runners and cyclists we passed. Got back at quarter past nine, and shortly afterwards I was on the treadmill, for my first full 30 min run in a long time.

I got to my desk with coffee around half ten, after a shower and some household bits. Posey lay next to me, napping happily after her walk. We had some admin to tackle for a few hours, and got a lot of things sorted.

After lunch and a break, I spent the afternoon working on a project and reports, then I had an hour’s session with a fellow coach in the US, some more emails and… that was the end of my very peaceful Monday.

Not everyday is like today, and I am glad that there is both more excitement and more interaction with colleagues on a regular basis. Despite enjoying a slower day and the opportunity to spend more time outside or exercising, I wouldn’t like this level of quietude on its own. As part of a mix of days however, it is just what I was hoping for when I started this new phase of my career.

At the end of this month I’ll be hitting the six months milestone and there are a whole host of things that I have learnt along the way. Bills have been paid, projects have been completed, certificates have been gained and time has passed. I needed time to move on, to help me change my mindset from where I was last summer, and as we move into a new season I notice how much things have shifted for me. I have processed and reflected on how I got to where I am, and now I am on the cusp of writing a new chapter.

With spring and summer on the horizon, the new path I am taking is starting to feel a little less unfamiliar and there are some things that I am beginning to have longer term hopes for. Projects and people I am getting attached to, and organisations I particularly enjoy working with.

I am also discovering a less lonely way of working in a number of contexts. In my role as a CEO I often felt isolated and lonely. At the start when I first became a CEO, I found being everyone’s boss hard to get comfortable with and being in charge of decisions meant that plenty of people wanted my ear to convince me of their perspective. Representing a membership body was a huge privilege, and yet for me it also brought with it a lot of scrutiny from a range of stakeholders. It sometimes felt a bit like having lots of Line Managers and never being able to please them all.

Even when you have a lot of great people to collaborate with (and I often did!), there are plenty of worries and tasks that ultimately stay with you when you run an organisation and the buck stops with you. This is particularly true of a small one, in which you don’t have a big senior team or many directors to delegate to or consult with.

Moving to my current role, I no longer have that sense of being isolated. At the moment, I have a few projects where collaboration is happening, where partnerships are starting to form, and I am enjoying it immensely. Writing things together, figuring out solutions to problems, creating or organising activities and events… it’s refreshing for me not to always be in charge and instead have opportunities to collaborate on an equal footing, or indeed report to a client. It’s nice not to feel solely responsible for everything all of the time. It’s more than nice. It’s a huge relief.

Unsurprisingly, in the last few months, I have also found that when I need to step up and take responsibility, I have relished it. In my executive role I developed skills and capabilities that come in very useful indeed when a decision has to be taken or a crisis managed. I wasn’t quite sure whether dipping back into that aspect of leadership would feel like a burden, but it hasn’t. It’s felt interesting to see possibilities for taking on leadership responsibilities in a new way, different from how I would have operated in my previous organisation.

This is a really good example of why I wanted to have a change. This opportunity to reinvent myself a bit, to learn about myself and what I enjoy doing in new contexts, with new people and new organisations, feels so valuable. Fifteen years in one organisation meant that I grew up as a professional in only one context and I couldn’t think myself out of that perspective. Now that I have a change of scene, things look different indeed.

In these posts I have written frequently about uncertainty, and how the precariousness of starting over on a free-lance basis worries me at times. And despite the fact that these past few months have gone very well, that worry continues and it surfaces in unexpected ways. What I am learning as the months progress (and what for me sits on the other side of the uncertainty equation), is that the stories I tell myself, the habits I can’t break and the ones I don’t manage to make stick are not related to any particular role, but they come with me. Both good and bad.

This is where the collaboration + community angle comes in again. People around me, colleagues I am working with, are helping me to be accountable to take those breaks, to not work or think about work 24/7, and to get better at sharing how I am doing and what I am interested in. And so, I am re-discovering, reclaiming, the joy of what I am good at, what I can make happen and what I love doing.

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Image credit: CC-BY Maren Deepwell. Sker Beach on the only blue sky day since early January.