Business partnership exit.
Followed by an almost immediate pandemic.
Followed by an economic downturn [and its associated impacts].
Particularly on our industry.
And just when I thought, “wow. That was a lot!” … perimenopause went and “entered the chat” and can I just ask, “how are AFAB women genuinely working throughout perimenopause and menopause?!”.
You’re all heroes to me, because I’ve been having a rough time of it. That said, I’ll say this: as an Autistic woman, I’ve always been described as having a wildly strong pain threshold [read: nobody knew I was in labour] whilst simultaneously navigating a low tolerance for discomfort.
Pain? No problem.
Discomfort? Get TF outta here [lol].
My recent encounter with perimenopause has introduced an entirely new set of challenges as a 40 year old CEO, but within all o’ that? It’s also simultaneously reshaped my leadership approach for the better in some really profound ways.
First? Let’s confront the unseen struggles
Perimenopause – for me – arrived unannounced, bringing with it frequent headaches and migraines [one of them hospitalised me, and I’m now the proud owner of a hemiplegic migraine. Lucky me]. Then there’s been the debilitating brain fog, relentless hot flushes [ask my team. lol], and really intense fatigue. These symptoms weren’t just physical discomforts; they were barriers that made my day-to-day leadership role more challenging.
The migraines and headaches have become so “norm” [and yes, ruled out by medical as being linked to anything more sinister other than ol’ mate perimenopause] that I’ve honestly just learnt to somehow find a way to power on through my CEO day with an every day “liquid brain” headache niggling away.
When the headaches becomes the migraine? I’ve had to step away from my desk, sometimes during crucial decision-making processes [my team have been incredibly patient, just like they know I would be if the roles were reversed].
… don’t even get me started on the brain fog, and the hot flushes [oh my lawdy. lol].
So then? There’s been a shift in my leadership
This journey has redefined my understanding of strength and leadership. I’ve learned to lead not just with my mind, but with my heart. Accepting my vulnerabilities and adapting to them has not been a sign of weakness, but of resilience.
Leading with empathy: understanding my own struggles has deepened my empathy for others. I now approach my team with a heightened sense of awareness and consideration for their individual challenges … and if/when my team hit perimenopause/menopause? I will speak fluent accommodations and understanding, cos’ … been there.
Embracing flexibility: recognising my own need for occasional breaks or adjusted schedules has led me to champion more flexible working conditions for my team, understanding that everyone benefits from an environment that accommodates personal needs.
Fostering openness and support: I’m taking steps to ensure that menopause and its symptoms are not taboo topics in our agency. By sharing my own experiences, I’m encouraging a culture of openness and mutual support.
… and yes, that bluddy typo on our Slack channel there made that all-important moment where I normalised menopausal conversations in the workplace > become comically funny, and very accidentally “sexual” in nature.
Lessons, and moving forward
This chapter of my life, albeit challenging, has been instrumental in shaping a more inclusive and empathetic leadership style.
Here are some key reflections:
- Resilience in adaptability: learning to adjust and find new ways to be effective despite the symptoms has been a crucial lesson in resilience.
- The power of transparency: being open about my experiences has not only been liberating for me but has also encouraged others to share and seek support.
- Creating a supportive culture: implementing policies that acknowledge and support those going through menopause is a step I plan to take towards a more inclusive workplace. #KnowBetterDoBetter
As I continue to navigate the complexities of perimenopause, I am more committed than ever to using my position to foster a workplace where challenges like these are met with understanding and support.
My journey through menopausal Manager’hood is about more than enduring symptoms; it’s about evolving as a leader who champions a culture of empathy, flexibility, and strength in vulnerability.
Follow me on LinkedIn where I transparently chat about all things relating to leadership, and now? Menopausal will be a new conversation piece within that overall piece.