Oct 21, 2020

It is okay not to be okay: CEO shares her personal experience during COVID

On Tuesday 6 October, I cried at work. I was on a zoom call with a bunch of other CEOs from the sight loss sector in the UK. I cried because things felt hopeless and I didn’t have my shit together and someone asked if I was okay. Do you know what happened?

It resulted in us all talking about how none of us were okay. We talked about how we have spent the last six months fighting to keep our organisations, our staff, volunteers and the people we support alive. We talked about how we had hit the point where it felt too difficult. ‘The relentlessness of everything’ was the phrase.

Did we give up? No we shared our worries and our sorrow and we supported each other and we will keep going.

What happened next surprised me even more. I shared what had happened on LinkedIn and it went viral (in a non-Covid way) and has been viewed nearly 2 million times, had 50,000 reactions and over 2,000 comments. Hundreds of people have connected with me and messaged me about their own situations and thanked me for being honest and giving them the courage to open up.

Covid 19 is a nightmare and we are all impacted in different ways. We have all had different experiences and we have all reacted differently, but nobody hasn’t been impacted. As CEO of a health and social care charity specialising in sight loss, I have been impacted more than most. During lockdown I joined my team on the frontline delivering care to our residents, sleeping at our main centre on a camp bed and doing my CEO job at night. Over Easter weekend, I worked over 60 hours in four days and spent a night holding the hand of one of our residents as she passed away as her daughters were shielding and couldn’t be with her in her final hours and I wouldn’t leave her alone.

As charity, we have faced the challenges of the financial impact that all charities have faced. We lost almost £700,000 ($1.3 million) worth of income over lockdown. That, coupled with the continued COVID-19 restrictions, meant we had to remodel our offer and sadly had to make redundancies. We are a family at Beacon and it broke my heart to have to share that message over a video call rather than face to face. What really hit me was the response of my amazing team. So many of them, even those at risk of loosing their jobs, called and messaged me to see if I was okay, because they knew how hard this was for me. They knew I had taken pay cuts to save as many jobs as I could and they knew that I cared about each of them as well as all the people we support. 

People have told me I am unusual as a CEO, not just because I am willing to roll up my sleeves and work alongside and learn from my team, not just because I care about all my team as people not just employees, but because I am willing to share my vulnerability. 

I hope I am not unusual as a CEO. I know that there are others who have been through the same challenges as me and felt the same. So whatever your role, whatever your experiences, it is okay not to be okay and it is okay to cry and it is okay to be vulnerable. Look around you and check on your colleagues, managers and leaders, we are in this together and honesty will help us all get through this and learn from our experiences rather than shutting them away.  

Beacon Vision

Image: Marina Zg, iStock.

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