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Leading From Within in the Charity Sector

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Hannah Massarella  |  Nov 02, 2016
Photo Credit: Jupiterimages

I trained to be a Co-Active coach four and a half years ago. Before that I worked with women who had survived domestic abuse. I worked in that capacity for four years, hearing stories, supporting and advocating as best I could. Until I burnt out and stopped being able to do my job. Luckily, as the universe would have it, I got made redundant at the same time as I realized my health was on the decline. The stress of the job was manifesting as lower back pain – no emotion leading into intense emotion with no obvious source. My lack of passion about the world manifested as feelings of depression and lethargy.

I came across CTI when I was coming to the end of my work in the charity sector. I certainly wanted to move away and gain some new perspectives by building a coaching practice and managing my own time. I have a fierce internal drive for getting stuff done so I built a coaching practice, which was at times, thriving. But one day whilst I was visiting a friend in the beautiful location of Manly, Australia, I started to notice a shift in what I was doing. I loved the coaching, but there was a bigger drive in the back of my mind asking for some attention.

I realized the purpose of my struggle and then my coaching was to bring this work back into the charity sector, in order to ignite individuals’ inner leader by directing them to think about their self-care and self-compassion.

I decided to create something that resembled more of a movement. I imagined increasing the conversation about self-care and resilience within the charity sector. I imagined individuals moving away from the martyrdom perspective so prevalent in non profit organizations. I imagined individuals realizing that when they helped, supported and loved themselves, the work became easier and they became more productive.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in trying to get this discussion off the ground, and I’ve offended more than a handful of people. But I think if you are creating a movement it is inevitable that you share a few truths that others don’t want to hear.

But from what I know of leadership, and more specifically the CTI approach to leadership, when you find your purpose, and put your stake in the ground for what you believe in then the right people to help will come along, and the right conversations will happen.

I’ve started having great conversations with key people in the charity sector, and the conversation around self-care is building.

Coaching is a tool through which I am bringing more self-compassion and self-care into the charity world. The charity sector tends to attract people who are empathic, compassionate and have a sense of common humanity. Through the culture that most charitable organizations work these beautiful strengths are lost by too much work, vicarious trauma and internal politics. But many forward thinking charities are starting to realize that their people are their greatest asset and they are starting to invest in their wellbeing.

The coaching work, alongside training work I deliver through my organization Bird, is a cog in the shifting wheel of the third sector. We work with individuals and groups to identify their stress and to recognize if they are teetering on the edge of burn out. We share and encourage strategies and processes to counteract the impact both have.

Slowly but surely mindful leadership, self-care and self-compassion build resilience in individuals. And when individuals are resilient, organizations become resilient, and when charities are the organizations that are becoming resilient they send ripples out to the rest of the world.

About Hannah Massarella

Having spent much of her career in the not for profit sector, Hannah experienced first hand the toll front line support work can take on a person’s health and well being. Hannah believes giving your all to a cause or a desire to change the world, without taking due care of personal well-being, can lead to burn out. As a Certified Professional Co-active Coach, Hannah believes that self-development is not a luxury, it’s our responsibility if we want to have the impact we were born to have. She specializes in coaching female leaders by helping them connect deeply to their purpose, values and desires. She inspires them to use that connection and resonance to positively change the world.

What People Are Saying

Yes yes yes. We so need more of this in organizations. People work so hard and never feel like they accomplish enough. We are human. When we treat each other as human beings with heart and soul, we’ll not only create a resilient workforce, we’ll also create workplaces that are full of ideas, creativity and innovation.

Totally agree Suzan!

Having seen my husband burn out as an Executive Director, I would like to move more into serving non-profit organizations. His stresses obviously came home with him so family life is improved as well.
Thank you for sharing!

I think the charity sector would really benefit from more coaches providing 1:1 work and group workshops on resilience. I’m spending a fair bit of time at the moment working with charities to explain that investing in such services actually save organisations money in the long run – resilience provision in the charity sector will reduce the sick leave and high turnover they experience.

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