• As the leader of your own agency, it can sometimes feel like you have no other choice but to keep on keeping on.
• But what happens when you finally hit the wall?
• Join us as Ian Finch talks us through his journey to burning out completely, and how three months away led to his approach to business – and family life – changing completely
“In my second year of business, a client kind of took me under his wing and said, ‘Ian, you’re the boss, that means you’re the swan. It doesn’t matter how frantic you’re paddling underneath the water; you must be graceful on top. You have got to hold it together for everyone else’.”
As the leader of your own agency, it can sometimes feel like you have no other choice but to keep on keeping on. But what happens when you finally hit that wall?
“I think for a lot of us in society this year has been really hard,” Ian says. “From around January I’d started booking off half a day holiday a week, just to create a bit of space to look after myself.”
Around the same time, Ian started attending physio appointments.
He says: “All my upper back and neck had seized. The chiropractor actually laughed when he saw the state I was in, and said, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone this stiff’.”
But it wasn’t until a few months later that Ian really hit the wall, during a one-to-one meeting with another director.
“Ten minutes in and there’s just this mist and fog in my head,” he says. “I could see his mouth moving but couldn’t hear a word he was saying.”
“I started crying and my colleague took one look at me and said, ‘You need to go to a doctor’.”
After a diagnosis from the doctor of ‘physical, mental and nervous exhaustion’, Ian got signed off for a month and let the other directors know. Unanimously, they told him to take three.
“Habitually, I always felt like I needed to be plugged in,” Ian says. “I’d always felt that leadership was about being the first in and the last to leave, checking emails on holiday, often getting home late and missing mealtimes with my family.”
“I realised I’d been really distant and distracted at home for quite some time,” he admits. “Never not there but increasingly not fully there either – like a zombie dad.”
“Now I make sure I’m always present and engaged. My phone gets switched off after dinner and doesn’t get turned back on until the morning,” he says.
But it’s not just his family life that has improved since he took leave.
“That whole time out, I think I had maybe two calls, and the business ran just fine. The other directors and wider leadership team did a brilliant job,” he says. “Not without sacrifice, and not without hard work, but the business ran without me.”
“The wider leadership team really stepped up. Now, we’re thinking about our next financial year, and I feel much more able to look objectively at the business and work on it at a more strategic level than I ever have done.”
Join us as Ian talks through his journey to burning out completely, and how three months away led to his approach to business – and his family life – changing completely.