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Sand between your toes- Jo Simpson

Does your job leave you feeling like it’s time to move on? Before you jump ship, work through the issues, says leadership coach Jo Simpson

We’ve all done it, felt the ennui of a job that’s on autocycle, no matter how lofty the title and the office. The temptation when it all becomes too much is to jack it in, find a new role, or start over with something radically different.

However, Jo Simpson, author of The Restless Executive, believes that unless we scratch the itch and get to the heart of our issues, we are in grave danger of merely replacing one autopilot scenario with another.

Simpson speaks from her own experience having spent 25 years climbing the corporate ladder within the banking industry, before realising she wasn’t pursuing the coaching career that she truly craved.

“My own restlessness, and having gone through the journey myself, means I can teach with experience. You have to reclaim your values and love what you do with purpose.

“In fact, although the book focuses on the fictional character of William Cleverley who starts to lose his grip in the corporate world, I think it encourages people to stay in their jobs but find out more about what they really want.”

Simpson’s pivotal moment came while lying on the chiropractor’s table for a weekly session to tackle the pain that her stressful role was ‘causing’. As the practitioner finished the session, she asked what really was going on with Simpson to bring her back so frequently. “As I went out, I turned right instead of left,” recalls Simpson.

“I headed for Kensington Park where I sat on a bench and had my awakening moment, listening to the nudges inside me. I resolved to sign up for my professional coaching qualifications. I saw that my role was not working for me and shifted it to be in line with my values.”

Simpson engineered her own redundancy as she knew that her inner intuition was leading her to set up her own company so she could make a difference to more people’s lives. 

The path ahead wasn’t smooth, and in fact she entered a joint venture with a coaching college to train coaches in Dubai, but the company went into liquidation after 14 months, just as she put down a deposit on a one-year lease for a flat rental.

Undeterred, she refocused and resolved to speak, write and coach through the restlessness that she saw in a lot of people in blue chip organisations. “I believe that people intuitively know who they truly are and how they want to show up,” says Simpson, “but you have to act on those values and lead from them with courage and purpose.”

Simpson’s book outlines a three-step approach to help ‘restless executives’ focus on what they really want. “First we work on discovery,” she says, “but then we have to define what our values really mean to us and what we want which can be the tricky part.

“I suggest a stress test to help people put their values in priority order. Often the thing they think is most important actually ranks far lower in reality and brings powerful awareness and change. 

“Then we work on igniting their core values and getting them started on achieving what they really want. By honouring our values we meet our goals much more naturally.

“Often we expect others to hold our values, but we have to realise that we can’t control others and we shouldn’t get emotional if they don’t deliver. You have to really know your values and go deep on them, rather than be frustrated at the first hurdle.”

Simpson says that while she loves working with many university students at the outset of their careers, it is the 35-55 age group who make up the majority of her clients, as these are more likely to hit the ‘mid-life working crisis’, realising that what was once important might falter and a shift occurs to find more meaning.

Symptoms can include low energy, frustration, fear of the unknown, a feeling that something is missing or of being overwhelmed. On the flipside, some people become restless as a result of having a vision of what they want to achieve and how they want to live.

She also believes that the recent financial crisis has caused many people to shift their thinking and working lives towards what’s really important to them.

“We can’t take security for granted any more,” says Simpson. “We have to have moments where we question everything, and it’s not a bad thing. Part of you knows something should be different and you have to go through a process to come out the other side.”

The Restless Executive by Jo Simpson is published by Wiley.

For more information, visit josimpson.com

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