Updated: Jul 8
10 weeks ago, I left my job and decided to set up my own business as an executive coach and leadership development consultant. I had a great role in a brilliant organisation, working with some amazing people. However as time passed and I climbed the ranks, I felt that I had got further away from the work I most enjoyed, being on the ground, delivering training and coaching to people in a wide variety of organisations, who were keen to learn new skills and put them to use to benefit both themselves and their organisation.
The stand-out moments were those where people grew in confidence and felt empowered to change how they approached their career. In some cases, they would proudly tell me themselves, at the end of a leadership development programme. At other times, I would be told by their line manager, as part of a focus group to measure the success of a development event. Best of all was when I saw it for myself - being reunited with someone whom I had mentored years before, brimming with confidence and at the top of his game.
I am risk-averse, so leaving the security of a good job was a big step. I am also a control freak, so once I had made the decision to go I had a carefully made plan - but you know what they say about best-laid plans! Due to a number of factors, I left a few months earlier than planned, and the fact that I feel remarkably relaxed about that has confirmed I made the right decision.
10 weeks ago, I couldn’t foresee how the coronavirus would impact not just my fledgeling business, but that of many, many others. Here are three things I’ve learnt from the last 10 weeks, which I’m sharing here in case they are useful to others:
Use your network
I reached out to various old colleagues and contacts, some of which I had not seen for years, to find out what life was like as an independent practitioner. I have been touched by their generosity in making time, sharing wisdom and experience and offers of help. Although coffee shop meets are now replaced by Zoom, this hasn’t changed in the last few weeks, and has been a reminder to me of the importance of maintaining a network at this tricky time, and being abundant with the resources that we do have - even if it's just being a sounding board and a listening ear.
Find a work pattern that works
One of the reasons for going independent was actually to work less, to give more time for family and for the charity for which I am a trustee. I also expected to have some space just to relax, but even before lockdown this hasn’t the case! However, my weekends and evenings are freed up, as I’m not doing work that didn’t get finished or household chores that never got done. Although things haven’t worked out as I’ve planned, I’ve decided that it’s worth having the trade-off of busier weekdays for more time to spend with family and friends on the weekends and evenings.
My corporate role was full-on and I needed to prioritise. With the current restrictions and being in the setup phase of the business, I do have now more time. There is plenty I could be doing on the business - joining the myriad of networking groups that have set up on Zoom, partaking in training, creating products and methodologies and of course, posting on social media. But not all of these activities will have the same impact on the business. I’ve dealt with this in two ways. Firstly by being clear on my purpose and business strategy, attending the Thrive Business Clarity workshop with @ClareGriffiths - this has been incredibly helpful and I would highly recommend it. The second thing is to keep track of what I am spending my time on.
I don’t know where we will be in 10 weeks time, but I hope that by then we are able to travel freely and meet up with friends and family. In the meantime, if the last few weeks have also got you in a reflective mood and you are thinking about making some changes big or small, then maybe then you could consider joining TideRisers UK, launching shortly. I was privileged to be part of a global “intensive” version, just after the UK lockdown started and found it a valuable experience in helping me to focus, set intentions and move forward with support and encouragement from like-minded women.
Where will the next 10 weeks take you?