Challenging The Corporate Image: On The Precipice Of Burnout With Georgie Dickins
Are you aware of the consequences of your success? In this episode, transformational coach Georgie Dickins sits down with Tony Martignetti to talk about her flashpoints and how she challenged the corporate image. Georgie shares her journey from working in the corporate world to moving into coaching and consultancy and the inflection point that motivated her to take a step back and assess her life. Georgie and Tony discuss the inevitability of burnout in the corporate world and the importance of looking at yourself in the mirror. Tune in and learn from Georgie’s experiences of taking a step back from time to time as you work your way towards success.
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Challenging The Corporate Image: On The Precipice Of Burnout With Georgie Dickins
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Georgie Dickins. She is a sought-after coach, mentor and speaker who practices globally. She’s the secret weapon for top performers, successful entrepreneurs, ascending stars and high-level leaders in FinTech, financial and professional services. Georgie curates by invitation only mastermind groups and CEO circles, bringing the most accomplished of her clients together. She is at work on her first book about stratospheric CEOs, exploring the behind-the-scenes stories, the whys and the hows of nowadays’ standout leaders and notable commerce creatives. Also, individuals who are extraordinary entrepreneurs created multibillion-dollar growth businesses in the face of fierce competition, in the context of a cutthroat sector.
Before becoming a coach, Georgie had a twenty-year career in London, holding senior roles at JPMorgan. What our clients have in common is an extraordinary mindset. They all bring grit, courage, commitment and are individuals who make their success rather than waiting for it to happen. She lives in Woodbridge, Suffolk. She lives with her husband and two boys. She loves adventure and challenging herself every day. It is such a pleasure to welcome you to the show.
I’m delighted to be here. Thank you so much for asking me.
Your intro is full of powerful things that I wanted to dig into. You have an impressive background.
It’s interesting when someone is the mirror because I look at my track record. Thank you for the share there because it’s been an awesome many years. It’s full of adventure and creation.
When people say creation and you think of the finance world, it’s not often combining those two things together. I love knowing that together because that’s something that needs more companionship. We’ll dig into that along your journey as we talk. I want to give you a context as to how we roll here in the show. What we do is we talk about flashpoints. These are points in your journey that have ignited your gifts to the world. Along the way of you sharing your story, we’ll stop and see what’s showing up as you share your story. You’ll share what you are called to share and with that, I’ll give you the floor and let you start sharing what you like.
It’s stressful to think that you only get recognized when you play hard.
I love the word flashpoint because, for me, it’s about illumination. If I take that meta-view, that helicopter view and look down, it’s like, “What have been those flashpoints in terms of those beams of light that have been pivotal than inflection points in my career?” The one that comes to mind for me that surfaces initially is around my pivot from working in the corporate world to moving into coaching and consultancy. I’d worked in the city for many years. I loved the city. It’s dynamic, fast pace, stressful and pressurized but you get rewarded. You play hard but you get recognized for that.
For many years, that had been an environment that I had thrived in. It was a moment to step back and be like, “What motivates me? What drives me?” I had a two-hour commute each way to London. I’m nearly 100 miles from London. I used to be in the office at 7:30. I was up at 5:00, back at 7:00. You have to love what you do so when you wake up in the morning, there’s a genuine excitement of, “I’m excited to go to work.” I’d had that for many years, post-children that have diminished.
There was a real incongruency. I was buffering up against it, but the salary had become anew from my neck because I’m like, “What else would I do?” I was busy. I didn’t have the headspace and I didn’t prioritize capacity to give space for reflection. Our mutual friend, Alexis, I remember she said something which resonated for me thinking back on that moment in time because she said, “Your body would always whisper to you with it feather-like.” It’s the only way it has to communicate with us. It will whisper. It will give you signs all the time. If you ignore the signs, it’s going to hit you with a trunk. If you’re not grounded and connected, you don’t hear the signs because you are not grounded enough to hear those whispers.
After with my children, I’ve gone back to the city. I’d had skin cancer, a breast cancer scare and problems with my thyroid. I’d had all these different health-related issues. I remember my mom telling me, “Slow down.” My children, even in their 40s or 50s, I’m still going to cuddle them. They are still my children. My mom and dad were genuinely worried about me. I was like, “It’s fine. I’m going to make a change. It’s all good.” It’s part of least resistance. It’s better the devil that you know. For me operating at 120 miles an hour, even though it wasn’t serving me from a health perspective and mindset perspective. I was on a plane every week.
I say goodnight to them on a Sunday night. I’d see them again on Saturday morning. I looked back now and, “God, it hurts.” The fact that I made some choices there that weren’t serving me, but I wasn’t sure how to step away. Coming to your question about the flashpoint, I was running on not proper adrenal fatigue, but on the precipice. I went to my doctor, who I loved dearly and I said, “I think I’ve got glandular fever.” He said, “It’s interesting that you self-diagnosed it.” I said, “Yes. My glands are up. I know you’re not supposed to give medication for glandular fever, but I’ve taken this day off. If you could just give me something.”
He signed his chart, looked at me and he was like, “You look exhausted.” I only see my face every day. I’ve got no frame of reference, but he only used to see me every year. He said, “You need to take some time out.” I said, “That’s ridiculous. No one in the City of London takes time out.” In my experience working in the city, people come in with flu and sickness bugs. It’s like, “You do whatever it takes.” That’s where the bar is set. I said to him that, “I can’t take this week off. I’m here now, Monday. I’m not at work. I’m being a good person.” He looked me in the eye and said, “Georgie, if you don’t make changes in your life, you’re not going to be there to see your children grow up.”
It was my flashpoint because no one had ever been that brutally honest with me. It was someone who was objective. I felt that he had my best interests at heart, but he was being objective. I gave myself permission. I said, “I’ll take this week off.” As soon as I gave myself permission to do that, I was off for six weeks. My body shut down. I was like, “I have got nothing.” I moved from our bedroom every day to our snug. I watched six series back-to-back. I’m such a social person. Every day my husband’s like, “Do you want to take the boys to school? Do you want to take them to the nursery?” I said, “I don’t want to see anyone.”
My husband refers to it at the time and he’s like, “There has the time you lost your smile,” because I couldn’t conjure up any enthusiasm for life. I had nothing in the tank. I understand what Alexis’s saying. My body had whispered. It was like, “We are giving you skin cancer. Prioritize your own wellbeing and health.” That flashpoint was the biggest gift anyone has ever given me. I thank my lucky stars that I took that day off and I went to the doctor because that six weeks is like my soul caught up with itself. It’s like I had always been a shadow of myself. Rather than being having the shadow around me, I came back in and I’m like, “I’m not having this anymore. This is not my life going forward. I can choose. I’m not obligated to be in the city. I can choose the path I want to take.”
I freaked my husband out because he’s a 5 and 10-year planner. My salary was great. I came to him and said, “I’m quitting my job.” He’s like, “That’s not how the five-year plan.” I’m like, “I can’t go back.” I did go back but what happened over that period is a friend of mine was a coach. I don’t need a therapist, but I need to connect back to me. I don’t know who Georgie Dickins is now. I don’t know who I am. I know who my corporate face is. To the outside world, Georgie is this fun, loving, gregarious, outgoing, smart, but when the mask was off at home, totally broken, fragile. No one knew. My husband knew, but I didn’t want anyone to see the real me because everyone’s seen me operate from this position of strength. I didn’t want them to see that. It’s like the stars were aligned because my friend, who’s a coach, I met her and it was such random meet years ago. She took me on a path to reconnect, understand my value set, understand who is Georgie Dickins and what I need from life. I heard my voice that had been suppressed for so long.
I did go back to my corporate job but I went back knowing that I was leaving. It’s like when you make the decision and once the decision is made, then you are putting all the building blocks in place. I’m not very good at taking a leap of faith. When you are at university, some people are good at naming their dissertation, like pulling an all-nighter for two nights solid before the deadline. I’m the person that’s like “As soon as we are given the dissertation, I’m mapping out my structure. I’m putting together my framework because it feels comfortable.” I’ve got some confidence and control. I went back as a different Georgie Dickins because I’m like, “There is a new path for me.” I think it’s coaching. We kept coming back to coaching.
I’m now with the book. I went into research mode. I spoke to everyone I knew at a senior level who’d had a coach. How they impacted? What were they doing differently? How would it transform them personally or professionally? I’m like, “Let me get all my data in place.” If I’m making a decision to leave and move into coaching, it comes from an informed place rather than just being a woman. There are two flashpoints there. My doctor told me I wouldn’t be alive to see my children. That is a proper sucker punch. Me giving myself permission and my children have always loved Shrek. We talk about the layers there. Onions have layers and I peel back. I de-armored. I was no longer putting a facade on to the outside world. It was a rollercoaster. I’ve always liked to hold the mirror up.
One of the things that I find interesting is that some burnout happens while you are on the job, you are in it and you completely crumble. Yours was like a corporate detox. You went through this moment where you’ve got that warning from the doctor, something like that just sticks in your head and you say, “You can’t let that go.” That’s a thought you can’t let go of because it is ingrained in your head like, “This changes my life,” to know that it’s there. It’s like, “I’m not going away.” When you stepped away from the corporate life, you went through withdrawals of like, “I put all my meaning, all of my worth into that corporate life. Now, I don’t know how to be in the world anymore.”
If you're not grounded and connected, you won't hear the signs your body gives and you burnout.
That’s what I understand and it’s powerful because I can only imagine what that was like. It’s a powerful detachment. The other part of this is that one thing that I understand was this element of who you were in the workplace. You didn’t want to show up anywhere because your face was always about the image that you put up. Now, you had to peel back the onion. I love that metaphor. It’s like your corporate image, which oftentimes I hear from people is that in the workplace, a lot of senior leaders tend to have this image preservation. They want to make sure they look a certain way. They care for themselves a certain way. As soon as that has been challenged from the inside out, it can shake the foundation.
It’s the corporate safe space, I had seen weakness had been and people were sidelined and let go. What was modeled from the top-level down is don’t show your vulnerabilities, insecurity and weakness. It’s a bit like your child. What you’re modeling to your children has such an influence and there were examples. If you show weakness, you say you’re feeling burnt out. It’s like, “Let’s move you to the side because you are not strong enough character to be in our organization.” That’s modeled. I look back at my corporate role and I’d say 90% of the people were on the precipice of burnout.
One of my clients was burnout and exhausted. He runs a trading desk. He went to his bosses and said, “I’ve got nothing. There is nothing there.” Rather than them say to him, “How can we support you?” They were like, “We can’t afford for you to take a time out. We’re going to give you more money.” I know things are changing. I had to be bold and courageous enough to use the word self-worth. When the doctor had that conversation with me, when the consequences were about my children and not about me, it shifted my thinking because when it’s like, “You’re going to get sick.” It’s like, “I’ll get sick. I’ll bounce back,” but it’s like, “Your children then may not have a mother.” My husband lost his mother when he was young and I see the impact that has had on him. You have to understand that it’s not about you anymore. The consequences of far-reaching and it took that conversation to shift me.
I can relate with this idea of you’re like, “Maybe coaching is something for me,” but you are still hesitant because you’re like, “I don’t know about this coaching thing,” and you have to play that out. I loved how you attacked the approach to coaching because you’re like, “It’s still at a structure.” You use a structure like a warm blanket, “When I put structure on anything, it helps me feel comfortable.”
It is my warm blanket, but it’s like when I joined a marathon. I knew every day what I was doing. I’m doing a 5-mile or 20-mile run, and the structure feels like it thither me.
There is merit in that. At the same time, throwing out the structure and seeing what shows up is also liberating in its own way.
It’s a blend. I now have a very good blend. It was all about playing around with it to be like, “What feels right for me?” Sometimes we’re making a change. If we try and accelerate and coach too fast a cadence, it doesn’t work. It’s about playing around like, “What’s the right frequency for me?”
What happened once you started to have those conversations with people and you said, “Maybe coaching is something for me. Maybe it’s time to do something outside of this corporate world. It’s time for me to take that leap.” Talk to me about that moment in that time.
It was a rich period because it suddenly opened my eyes to there being another path like I was on a roundabout and I’m like, “You can do the country road. I can do the A road.” It could be A road, the B road and the most way. It’s not these choices here. I’d experienced some coaching from my friends but I wanted to understand how this works in the corporate space. Is it like how people experience change? Is it something they go through the motions or have they genuinely experienced intrinsic value personally and professionally?
I was in data-gathering mode and I would ask them and say, “Have you had a coach before?” If they were like, “Yes,” it’s like, “How did that shift and change you? What was the value of you extracted from that?” I’d ask them to, “How good was your coach?” How effective?” For the ones that they were like, “This coach was awesome.” I’m like, “Can you do a warm introduction?” I built up this coaching community of people that were like the eight-player coaches. This is pre-me being part of the rich Hitman for PC World.
I was having conversations with the people that I wanted to be working with and at the same time, I was like, “How does this work from a business perspective? What does the structure look like for the program?” All the practical side of things. For me, it was important to every stakeholder in that relationship to understand, “How can I build a business?” I need to add a certain amount of money. How does that look like? I’m like, “I don’t want to be top 1% or 10%. I want to be 0.001%. How does that look?” I also met coaches and I go, “I know I show up more powerfully than you.” That was interesting for me because I thought if they’d be rated highly, I’m like, “I know when I show up, I’m going to show up differently.” It was real research and I did my accreditation. From confidence credibility, I was like, “I wanted that certificate.” It was a journey in itself, but it was an awesome journey.
Every conversation I had, I was starting to tune into the gut and I was like, “Give me more.” The path was organic, but what I loved was I then started to work out exactly what I wanted to take from the coaching relationship. I started to do pro bono coaching. Everyone wanted to have pro bono coaching for my network because it was like schools on the doors. Cut your ass off in the evenings or weekends before work. Find your voice. Where do you show up powerfully? Where do you come alive as a coach?
90% of the people are on the precipice of burnout in the corporate world.
I didn’t know if I needed a niche. I didn’t know where I was going to position myself. I did a lot of pro bono coaching because I was still working in my corporate career and that was incredible because it allowed me to practice in a way they weren’t paying me. If I fumbled or if I was a bit messy, it’s like, “That’s okay,” but I knew they were taking real value away from it. I did a lot pro bono right at the beginning because I'm like, “Find out who you are as a coach and who your people are.” That was a lengthy but interesting journey.
I love that you brought that in here because it’s not for the coaches. It’s for any business you want to start or anything that you’re feeling drawn to like, “Do the research. Have the conversations.” Through that, you’re gathering data, information and people are getting to know you for what you’re into. They get to see you light up in this new world that you’re entering. There is so much value in that. In this day and age, everyone is sitting behind a computer, but the more you can be seen and show your passion for what you’re interested in, there has power in that. That’s the most valuable lesson to share right there.
It was about the experiential side because, as you said about visibility, what was obvious to me in the corporate space is a lot of people were like, “Is coaching like therapy or mentoring?” There was a lot of me informing and educating on the distinctions between those different pillars. I’m like, “Let me coach you. Experience it because we don’t know what we don’t know.” Therefore, I wanted people to experience it, understand the transformation and the shifts that can happen when you have someone sitting there listening intently, pick you up on all your body cues and tuning in to your body language. I had never experienced anything like that before. I have seen it as like another training thing. I wouldn’t have given it the value and the waiting it deserved until I experienced it. I have my own coach. If it’s coaching or whatever it may be, if you can give a potential client an experience, then their decision is coming from the experience rather than them having read your website or you having had just the initial conversation.
As you started to move along in this journey, you’re taking the right steps to build that foundation to become the coach you have become, what was the biggest challenge you faced along that path?
There are two things that come to mind. Firstly, confidence. I left the corporate space where I got my monthly salary and you get your bonus at the end of the year. The confidence is like, “Right now, someone is paying me. They are paying me for how I show up.” I’ve been in corporate for years. I had never had that conversation. I was delighted when my first client signed with me. I look back now it costs me more to coach him than he paid me because of my commute into London. There was something about that coaching contract that would always be special because I had external validation that what I was doing had a place in the world. I needed that one in the bag to then be like, “I’m now credible. I have the platform.” I did a big jump up in my fees. The other piece was when you are in the corporate space or a bit like if you’re a football player, you have regular feedback from the other players, referee, crowd and manager. You’re always getting feedback in terms of how are you performing and how are you doing.
I’m a real perfectionist and overachiever, which has served me well but equally, there was a shadow side to that. I was suddenly out there on my own and there is no buffer. There was no manager or boss above you. I gave myself a hard time in the first few months. Every session, I was like, “I should have done that better. I could have done that better. Was it valuable enough?” There was a real self-critic piece going on and I had to reframe that because I wasn’t getting any feedback. I could ask the client. It was the feedback piece as well. I was getting confident in knowing that what I was doing was adding value. It’s like I had always needed someone to tell me, “You’ve done a great job.” I hadn’t needed to put that hat on and be able to give myself a pat on the back when I deserved it, and equally to tell myself where I needed to pull my socks up or when I needed to do improve or get better. That was a shift for me as well.
That was the other value of having a coach too. A coach having a coach is that being able to have a sounding board around those challenges that you wouldn’t necessarily want to share with your client, but you want to be able to say like, “This is what is coming up for me.” I want to make sure that I’m tackling that. How are you continuing to manage the challenge that brought you out of the corporate world and into your world to ensure that those demons don’t show up?
If you look at most of my 2020 calendar, that frenetic frazzled state has been a recurring theme in my life. However, 2021 and 2020 are different because it comes from a place of passion and enthusiasm. I love what I do. I have had to pull myself up is I only have one energy tank. Irrespective of whether I love what I do and it comes from deep passion, that doesn’t mean I still can’t move towards that burnout line. I have had to be so disciplined at creating space and also ruthlessly prioritizing. That is not something that comes naturally to me. It’s a muscle I have to exercise because when there’s space, I can do my best thinking. I can get creative. When there’s too much noise, it’s like if I’m in the City of London for days at a time. With the noise and the busyness, I find it claustrophobic.
If you go to the beach for a day and it’s sparse, it’s the ocean, there is something there about being able to see the horizon and all that kind of stuff that matters in your head settles. I hadn’t created the space. 2021 has been a very interesting year because of COVID. We have pivoted the business. Everything is virtual. I don’t think it would have been as busy had it not been for the pivot, but I recognize the importance of grounding myself. If I go and take a massage, I don’t see that as a timeout. As Matt would say, our mutual friend, “That was time invested,” because I’m showing up differently to my clients. I’ve taken some time to do stuff for me, which I certainly wasn’t doing the first year of the business. When you are on the arc of that growth, a lot of us would be all in, but now we’re in a position where it’s like, you need to take a step back, refocus and restrategize so you can operate with ease, flow and still have a very healthy business.
They are muscles I regularly have to exercise. If you don’t exercise, you fall off the wagon. They get rusty bloody quickly. I do a lot of intention-setting first thing in the morning and that is the rudder of my day. I ask myself a question, “What are the three things that are going to move the needle for me now?” That is in my diary. I have it as a calendar entry, so I can’t ever forget. If there are any three things I do, aside from coaching clients that I’m working with scheduled, what are those three things? One might be a small thing, which is to send a certain person a WhatsApp message. They don’t have to be profound things. They could take ten seconds but they can move the dial. That is a question and that has helped me get real clarity and laser focus as well in terms of where I spend my energy.
We’ve covered a lot of ground and I feel like you have given so much. Is there anything that you want to share that lessons you’ve learned or things that you feel you need to get out and share with this audience?
It goes to Alexis’s point. It’s such a mental tattoo for me, but it’s about listening to your body whispers. We can override that with analytics, data and all manner of things but your body is trying to serve you. It wants to keep you safe and well. The only way it can communicate is by giving signs. We have a choice in terms of which path do we take. I took the wrong path for a long time but by taking the wrong path, it then took me to the right path. I wish I had listened.
How you do something is how you do everything.
It’s never too late to turn around and start to listen to those whispers and do something about it. That is the power of having that moment. Having that flashpoint is that you are able to wake up and create this beautiful body of work. I’m excited about what you’re going to do next. What is one book or multiple books that had an impact on you and why?
I’m going to go with the one I’m reading because I love it. It’s a total surprise for me. That’s Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights.
Is it going to be good?
I’ve seen him as an actor. I didn’t know where the depth was. He has been journaling for many years and you listen to it. He was on Rich Roll’s Podcast and he has got some interesting lessons. That is what I’m reading and I wouldn’t have picked his book up if I did not hear him on a UK Breakfast show. He has got the most beautiful dulcet tones. It’s lovely to listen, but it wasn’t about the dulcet tones. It was the fact that he is incredibly good-looking. I find his lessons interesting and the journey he has been on, there are many lessons. I find it a good book. It’s different. A lot of authors I like are Deepak Chopra, Ryan Holiday and Jordan Peters. I thought it was off-piste, however, it is quite Tim Ferriss’. It’s a good read.
Thank you so much for coming to the show. This has been truly amazing having you on. Your story is remarkable and your insights are valuable. I also want to make sure I give you the opportunity to share the places where people can find you if they want to know more about you.
All my handles are at @GeorgieDickins.
I am honored to have you on the show. I know that I’m thrilled to have the audience with us on this journey, which I'm sure they were walking with so many great insights.
It’s been an absolute privilege to be invited. Thank you for asking me to share my story. It means a huge amount.
Thank you for coming on.
Thank you, Tony.
About Georgie Dickins
Georgie Dickins is a sought-after Coach and Mentor in London, who practices globally, both in person and virtually. Her clients are top performers, successful entrepreneurs, ascending stars and high-level leaders in fintech, financial and professional services.
Her corporate clients include Liquidity Edge, R3, Tradeweb, JPMorgan, Phoenix Group, Barclays and Schroders Private Wealth.
Before becoming a coach, Georgie had a 20-year career in the City, holding senior client-facing roles at JP Morgan, Reuters and ICAP. She has a business degree from Loughborough University and is an Accredited Practitioner of Transformational Coaching.