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From Burn-out to Low Stress Success

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

Why am I here?

I have found coaching to be a valuable tool for improvement and it has helped me a lot, and now I want to help you. There is a lot of power in having someone skilled, host a thinking platform for you, where you can feel safe to explore your thoughts and discover what you want to change.

Where did I start

A few years ago, I was promoted out of a job I was good at, into a management role that I had no idea how to do, and with no awareness of that limitation. On top of that I started spearheading an agile transformation in the company where I found myself at the nexus of stress and pressure. My reports were feeling the strain of my state of mind and despite some early wins, I was feeling the strain too. I was unsure how to get my job done and quickly spiraling towards total burnout.

I really wanted to be consistent with my reports, other employees of the company and other managers, and despite my best intentions, I was failing miserably. I was confrontational more often than empathetic, and I was failing to handle conflict in a constructive way. While I was searching for ways to help others perform better,I lacked the fundamental leadership skills I needed to succeed in the role, so I ended up a helping bully instead. None of which played well with my long term, ongoing anxiety disorder, which was interacting with my asthma in a particularly nasty way and saw emergency services showing up at my home in the middle of the night.

What I thought a coach was

When I first heard the term coaching, I thought of someone that gave advice on

a specific topic that they knew well, and asked questions to make someone learn. During a particularly poor handling of a situation, with a direct report whom I was trying to "Help", they told me that I didn’t know what coaching was, and they gave me a link to a course by the Scrum Alliance on the coaching core competencies. Being in deep fight or flight mode at that point gave me natural resistance to the idea that I was ignorant on the topic, and to prove myself right I went in to look at the content so I could say I knew it already...

How quickly I realized just how wrong I had been. In fact, this person had been right, I had no idea what coaching was, and a new world of supportive depth opened before me. Now it is important for me to note that I had always wanted to help people. As a little kid I dreamed of saving the poor, the sick and the hungry. I even got into leadership to save people (See Michael Bungay-Stanier's Save it Monster, because that was strong in me). However, I had missed the mark and my efforts had interacted with my lack of knowledge to become more monster than savior.

This realization, that I lacked important knowledge about leadership, sparked a fire in me and I started getting hungry to learn more and use it. I didn't stop with this course either, I devoured every free resource I could find online. I remembered that another colleague had gone for professional coach training, which they had reported as being some of the finest available in the world, so I investigated. Coach Masters Academy (whom I now work with as a member of faculty) was where my transformation was truly cemented. Combined with intensive coaching that I engaged with on a regular basis, I and those around me started to see a shift. I was no longer the bombastic bulldozer, roaming the studio in search of obstacles to clear. Instead, I was the calming voice of reason, helping others deal with stress, a curious ear to help uncover a new opportunity, an empathetic shoulder of support. I don’t mean to pretend that I suddenly became the perfect leader, no, we are all human and we all make mistakes, I sure did. Instead, I was equipped with the knowledge and the tools to incrementally improve myself (See Coach hub's ROI of Coaching page 12. "Leadership development and the new ways of work") and avoid getting stuck in the mud of my mistakes.

Since that time, I have had coaching regularly, at least once a fortnight, sometimes twice a week. I continued training and practicing coaching, bringing it to every aspect of my life, including my family and friends. I had truly transformed.

What benefits have I experienced

I have experienced numerous benefits from coaching in my life. On an emotional level I can stay in touch with how I feel when dealing with stress, and I am also more connected with the emotions of others when they, or more importantly I, are under stress.

I can now see the part I played in creating the various situations that I find myself in, and I can navigate those situations to find the role that I want to play towards a better outcome for everyone involved.

My behavior also impacted those around me and created a sense of supportiveness that my team has reported back to me. During an anonymous survey I asked my colleagues to rate me and give me feedback on my leadership approach. Before I had engaged in coach training, they had experienced me as a 3/5, hurting as often as helping. After the training, the average was 4.8/5 with one staff member noting the following quote: “There was a shift from telling you what to do, asking vague questions about what you should be doing to asking questions that promote thought without being frustrating.”

Most important of all, I had become a much better, more patient father and husband. Like I said above, I am far from perfect, and I continue to make progress every day. Self-reflection and a continuous effort to improve carries me to ever greater heights.

Finally, that anxiety disorder I mentioned, had all but vanished. I have not had a panic attack in a long time, and I face no fewer stressful situations. Coaching is powerful and life changing. I know, I have experienced it.


How to tame your Advice Monster presented by Michael Bungay Stanier from TEDxUniversityofNevada via TEDx Talks YouTube Channel

The ROI of Coaching — A Holistic View page 12. "Leadership development and the new ways of work" by CoachHub 2021

Written by Jaques Smit, PCC, 2022

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