Creating a positive leadership culture

By Amanda Coulson, Business Coach and CEO of SVC Solutions

Research suggests that half of CEOs experience feelings of loneliness in their careers with 61% believing this hinders their performance. Being in a leadership role and having to run a business comes with many different responsibilities and challenges. After the Coronavirus pandemic, and many offices moving to a hybrid working dynamic, this has become even more prominent. 63% of team members feel less engaged and three in five say the quality of communication has decreased.

There are a lot of responsibilities riding on the shoulders of the managerial team of a business and sometimes this can be difficult to balance. Amanda Coulson, CEO of SVC Solutions speaks about her experience of leadership and resilience and how to balance looking after your wellbeing alongside the wellbeing of a team.

“After being at an amazing retreat for CEOs near Brighton, I realised the importance of being able to share your own story to help others in a similar position and change the stigma around leaders not being able to show their vulnerability.

I have spent the last three to four years, which seems a very long time, working on myself after having to deal with various issues from a personal and business point of view.

Being in a leadership role and having to run a business comes with many different responsibilities. You have to think about other people and how the business is going to continue to operate in the new world of work and, together with the challenges that most CEOs are having right now such as the cost-of-living crisis, this can be incredibly hard. From cash flow and staffing to keeping up with day-to-day issues, there are many challenges that we find ourselves dealing with.

But on top of that, to actually have things going on in your personal life when you need to stay on your A game is quite tough at times. In the last few years, I have gone through a divorce, lost my sister who battled a brain tumour and had to navigate through grief during a global pandemic and isolation period, alongside a few other things including the menopause. And yes, I’m happy to admit it.

So how does this connect with resilience and leadership?

As a leader and business owner there are skills that we pull on from our experience, training, and development but one of those skills is often not talked about. What if the leader is struggling? Can you show vulnerability? Is it right to do this?

You have to keep the cogs turning at all times. So, when you take a few weeks off to enjoy a holiday, sometimes those days are spent just re charging batteries but not necessarily dealing with the real issues that are affecting us.

The past couple of years have been hugely challenging in as much as having to stay resilient. We have all dealt with the impact of COVID-19 and combine this with all of the above, that’s enough for anyone to have to deal with. I feel it really prudent to put this down on paper because I have had to dig deep, very deep in the last few years to keep things going. How did I do that? It’s been a journey, a very long journey, but a good journey.

There are positives along the way feel rest assured of that. You blame one thing on another like the divorce, or you blame the grief that you’re going through when you lose a loved one. And you think well, you know, I’m only human, it will pass but when it doesn’t pass, when it’s just still there in the back in your mind or it’s still really affecting your own performance, which I’ll openly admit it has done over these last few years, you have to really sit and think how to I navigate through this.

I’ve had to find ways to cope and ways to help my mental mindset to get back to where I used to be. From meditation and yoga to working with a PT and a counsellor, I have been able to learn how to move through the steps of grief and sadness so that I can cope with not only losing a member of my family but also losing my relationship too.

This has really supported and helped me to become not only the CEO that I was, but a better CEO, a CEO that knows her vision, that knows her purpose and has real strong determination. It’s still going to be a journey and it’s still something that I will always work on but the retreat that I had recently really supported that and really helped to show me that hey, you know I’m not the only one and that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.

Another form of support could also be to look at leadership training. Leadership training provides you with the practical skills you need to be able to harness your own experiences and attributes in order to better serve others. This can, in turn, support team productivity, improve employee morale and get to know your people at a more emotional level.

So, does that determination grow? Is it something I was born with?

In all honesty yes. I think an element of the determination I have comes from what I learned over the last few years. From a very young age I was taught to dig deep, keep on going and don’t quit. This has served me quite well doing these difficult times.

But there does come a point where you’ve got to really take a cold hard look at yourself and think, you know what, I’ve got to sort myself out. So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. And that’s exactly why I wanted to write this article because I’m sure I’m not the only person that feels this way and not the only person that goes through divorce or losing a loved one or all the challenges that running a business brings.

I have dug deep, and I have worked on myself, and been able to use my coaching skills on myself weirdly enough, which has supported me through this. Getting outside helps, asking for help and showing some vulnerability has also really helped me to deal with the challenges that I faced.

I can’t express enough the importance of doing that and understanding that. Like I said earlier, it’s okay to not be okay all the time. I’m a very positive person by nature, which is good, but you know, even the most positive people sometimes do struggle. To share how you feel and to get the support needed is a big step forward. Looking after your wellbeing is paramount to being able to perform at your best and to give the support to your team and the people around you.

There’s that analogy about putting the oxygen mask on yourself before the person sitting next to you and that’s so very true. You’re no good to anybody unless you are okay and I’ve really learnt that over the last few years.

To be able to create a leadership culture, it’s important to share our experiences and to develop a wider conversation where we feel it is okay to be open and honest. You never get over losing a loved one and I don’t believe you ever really get over divorce. But you can learn to live with it beside you and learn to move forward in a positive way.”