It can be intensely uncomfortable to put yourself out on a limb like that and self-promote, but it is a skill that all good leaders and entrepreneurs have, so I thought it best to pull up my big girl pants and put myself out there.
Rachel Tomlinson a Registered Psychologist who has worked with adults and children in general counseling, education settings, play therapy, refuge and hostel settings, drug and alcohol counseling, trauma counseling, parenting support programs amongst others. She has also provided leadership, clinical supervision and training for other mental health professionals. She has written and delivered talks at national conferences on mental health topics as well as delivered guest lectures at a University. She is a wife, mother to a toddler, currently has three jobs and is writing a book which is due for publication in November 2019.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I feel like I am one of those fortunate people who knew exactly what they wanted from their career and life from an early age. So, I have spent the years since high school working towards gaining my qualifications and then moving into a leadership position in my field. I am a “doer”, I cannot seem to help myself and enjoy being busy. I cannot remember the last time I simply held down one job. I have always had multiple jobs or studied simultaneously, in fact I completed my Bachelors degree and post graduate studies while working full-time and having a second job on the side.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Oh gosh, the pressure when someone asks for a funny or interesting story, all of my hilarious anecdotes disappear. I suppose the most interesting story was how I got my book deal, it was so serendipitous. I got in contact with an editor at a publishing house who a friend had been working with and pitched myself. Basically, she was working on a new project and was researching potential authors and there I was, presenting myself with all the right qualifications and experience. From first contact to a signed contract it was only a matter of weeks…and I hear this is not the norm in the publishing industry. It can be intensely uncomfortable to put yourself out on a limb like that and self-promote, but it is a skill that all good leaders and entrepreneurs have, so I thought it best to pull up my big girl pants and put myself out there.
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
Going back to work after having my little girl was tough! I have always been incredibly career driven and suddenly I had these competing priorities. I was lucky enough that my employers were incredibly flexible and understanding so I was able to ease back into work very gently which allowed me to get used to a new way of carving out that important work life balance. I also had to learn to say “no” and slow down. Now that my daughter is nearly two I have a lot more freedom and time to pursue my career goals and my personal interests as her routines are predictable(ish). So, when she is awake I am with her and entirely present, but when she is asleep or being looked after outside of the home I really knuckle down and work hard.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
I think we have all worked with a great leader, for me it’s the managers who demonstrated respect, were open and available and who inspired me to want to do better. The way that I show this is by being genuinely interested in the people I lead or work with. They aren’t just a number, they are real people who I genuinely want to get to know. If I get to know them as individuals then I am learning what makes them tick, what they like (or don’t like) and how they work, this means I can ensure peoples strengths and skills are being utilized in the best way. I am also very upfront, and will call a spade a spade, gently of course. People are confident in their work, have good self-esteem and work autonomously when they know what is expected of them and where they stand with you. I am always clear about where professional and personal boundaries lay, and I am also available and make time to allay concerns, check in if they have been ill or seem upset and ensure that they feel comfortable and know that they aren’t bothering me if they have questions. I also learnt a long time ago that in order for someone to be able to take in constructive feedback about their work they need to have received around 10 pieces of neutral or positive feedback to counterbalance the constructive stuff (stuff that needs work). So, I ensure that I spend time actively and overtly doing this throughout the day.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are so many people around me who believe me when I say I am going to do something…without the blink of an eye. When you have this kind of support you really start believing you can do anything. My parents and my husband and even my friends are all like this and I count myself very lucky. For me one of the biggest opportunities came when I moved to the UK, I was still studying externally and in my final semester of university. My husband set it up for me to sit my final exams in the squash courts at the school he was working in and arranged for a teacher to invigilate the exam to meet the criteria of my university. I still amazes me that a whole school and my husband got behind me to ensure I was able to graduate and complete my degree. Without my degree, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am.
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
Well yes and no. As a psychologist I am pretty good at being able to compartmentalize and switch off from work. Well you would hope so anyway, as this is something I talk about often with clients and other professionals in the course of my work. I am very strict about work life balance and keep the two as separate as I possibly can, so that I can mentally commit myself to the task or role at hand, whether it be being a wife, mother, friend or employee. I also truly love my job(s) and get a lot of energy and fulfillment from what I do, so its not at all hard to fit business into my life.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
I find I am pulled in so many different directions that sometimes it can be hard to focus. I basically work with my strengths or motivations for that particular day. So, if I am feeling really enthused to write some more of my book, then I do it. If I want to work on my blog, I do it. I also give myself freedom and permission to do nothing. I pay really close attention to this balance and if I find myself feeling too tired, or irritated, or feeling overwhelmed I pull the pin on anything extra and just get back to basics…spending some time with the hubby and our toddler, walking the dogs, catching up on non-work reading and other self-care things. We need to learn how to recharge and be ok with saying no…even to ourselves.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
- Have firm boundaries and stick to them to keep a strong work life balance. If you have finished work for the day, come home and be present for your family. Don’t check emails at dinner or make work calls. Put your phone and laptop away! If you set firm boundaries around this people you work with (and your family) will realize and respect the boundaries you have around quality family time and the importance you place on “presence”.
- Learn how to say no. It’s too easy to say yes, it gives you a sense of satisfaction or self-esteem around being able to help others, and other people like it when we say yes. But it is important to learn when to say no, and how to do it in a respectful way. If you take on too much its much harder to create a good work life balance.
- Figure out what “fills your cup”. Sometimes we can’t help that we have a busy or stressful day so you need to really understand what it is that refuels you, or fills your cup. Everybody is different, so spend some time figuring it out…do you need personal space? A massage? Catching up with friends? A quiet night in? etc. Be in tune with your body and your needs so that you can assess and take action to look after yourself appropriately.
- Do not neglect your physical health! Don’t go to work when you are sick, stay home and rest. Make those doctors/dentists/chiropractors appointments and keep them. Physical and mental health can influence one another, so ensure you take care of both! If you are feeling low and flat it is harder to motivate yourself (which can impact your work and productivity as well as physical health), if you are feeling anxious you might be more inclined to worry, stress about upcoming deadlines or spend a long-time perfecting something. This stress can have a negative impact on the body so make sure you look after yourself mentally and physically.
- Set yourself up a routine. Our bodies and mind crave the recognition and consistency of a routine. It will help you be organized, maximize your time, reduce stress and improve focus, concentration and even self-esteem. If you are organized and methodical, or meet your routines your mind senses this as an accomplishment which helps boost your wellbeing.
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride.
I find this hard to narrow down to just one thing. If it was a personal attribute I would say my compassion. It drives every element of the work I do, the commitment I have to my family and friends and it drives me to achieve, to do better…to do more and keep going. I am also immensely proud of my little family, the people I surround myself with and the hard work it has taken to become qualified and a leader within my field.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Self-care is not a dirty word! So many people assume that to do a good job, be a good leader/manager, parent or partner you need to sacrifice your own wellbeing to meet the needs of others. This is so untrue and this particular thought or perception results in burnout which doesn’t help anyone. My favorite analogy I use as a psychologist (with clients and also when working with other health professionals) is the airplane analogy. Anyone who has flown in an aircraft will likely recall the safety demonstration, essentially there is a message that if the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling you are told to fit your own before you try and help anyone else out. Why would this be so? Essentially because if you aren’t functioning optimally (i.e. enough oxygen to breathe) you are a liability and not much help to anyone else. In my mind this is also how we should think about self-care…its not selfish! You need to be functioning at the best level you can in order to be the most helpful and supportive you can be for others. So please, look after yourselves, it will give you the energy and resources to commit to looking after others, whether that be as a leader or in your personal life.
What is the best way for people to connect with you on social media?