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How to recover from setbacks

How do you recover from setbacks?

Do you have a particular process to help you when things don’t work out as planned?

Today I have a guest post to help you learn about recovering from setbacks. It’s been written by Matt Batten, Director of Communication and Outreach at the Diocese of Llandaff, Church in Wales.

Matt recently spoke at the Diversity in PR conference organised by Priya Bates and Advita Patel from A Leader Like Me.

During the conference he revealed his personal experience of recovering from setbacks. I’m delighted he agreed to share it with All Things IC’s readers so we can hear what we missed.

His story is one of courage and conviction and I hope you find it as inspiring as I do.

Matt leads on the digital comms transformation of the diocese as well as outreach and engagement in social justice. Prior to this he worked for a leading nursing union on internal comms and organisational development.

Regular readers of my blog will know he recently wrote an article called What online church can teach IC.

If you don’t follow him on Twitter @CommsGuyMatt, I encourage you to do so. He’s not only a wonderful communicator, but incredibly kind, compassionate and dedicated to helping others.

I had the pleasure of finally meeting him face-to-face at the CIPR Inside conference in Birmingham, UK, last year after years of Tweeting each other.

Here’s Matt…

Matt Batten

How to recover from setbacks

An unexpected health crisis three years ago triggered a period of depression that had a profound impact on my self-confidence and ultimately my career. It was both the best and worst of times but the lessons I learned along the way have been priceless.

I spoke about this at the recent Diversity in PR conference, organised by A Leader Like Me, and Rachel asked if I would share my experiences with the internal comms community. I hope some of what I learned along the way can be of some help. 

Then

I had been feeling ill for a few months – tired, forgetful and with low to no energy. At the time I was leading a major employee engagement project and an opportunity for promotion had presented itself. So pushed through it and carried on. Big mistake. 

Eventually I ended up in A&E with suspected appendicitis. A few days in hospital and a couple of weeks recovery at home. You’ll be fine, said the Doctor. 

Turned out to be testicular cancer. A complete shock to hear.

Cue months off work for chemotherapy and recovery. The timing couldn’t have been worse. That glistening promotion that I had worked so hard for was sliding away. It was a devastating blow to both my physical and mental health.  

Recovery was slow and I completely lost my confidence. Down and down I went into a spiral of despair.

What was happening to me?  Where was that person with energy and drive and creative ideas? He seemed like a complete stranger from another life.

Now

Flash forward three years later and I am the Director of Communications and Outreach at the Diocese of Llandaff, Church in Wales. And I love it!

Part of my recovery was reconnecting with that stranger and letting go of the past in order to move on with my career. 

So let me share four things I learned along the way. 

1. Take care of yourself

Seriously, why do we never listen to this advice? I mean, who on their deathbed ever says, “I wish I spent all the hours working!” No one! 

This was a painful lesson to learn. I should have gone to the Doctor sooner. I should have listened to my body. I’ll never make that mistake again.

If you don’t look after yourself you’ll crash and burn. Don’t be a hero – take that holiday, turn off your phone, delete some apps, do mindfulness, finish early, or in my case – go to the Doctor.

Whatever it takes please look after yourself! You will never achieve your goals otherwise.

2. Accept it. 

We’re human and stuff happens. Much of what happens in life is out of our hands. You can only control what’s within your gift. 

My initial coping strategy was to blank all that happened and move on. But that just made me angrier. And more depressed. So with the help of talking therapies I learned to accept what happened and learn from it. 

I listed everything that went wrong, what was in and what was out of my control. What I would do differently next time, what went well and how it made me feel.

Suddenly I was in control of my destiny. I had big white boards of this learning stuff all around my study. It did wonders for my confidence! I had a plan and a clearer path to recovering my career and confidence.

I wish I didn’t have cancer. I wish it didn’t derail my career. But it did. And I learned from it and emerged a far better person from it. 

Matt Batten Quote

3. Find your community

Don’t do any of what I have said alone. Find your tribe. Find your community- whether it’s online or in person. There is nothing you’re going through that someone else hasn’t already already experienced. 

I found some wonderful friends through cancer support groups and we are still in contact. They helped me make sense of the emotional impact of having cancer – I never thought I’d laugh about it but we have some of the funniest conversations!

I found my professional community on Twitter and I wonder if they truly know how much their support has meant to me. Their advice and guidance continues to play a huge part in my career progression.  

My advice would be to join a professional body because that’s a great place for networking and focusing on your professional development.

Get involved in Twitter chats and online book groups and slide into conversations – the internal comms community are a welcoming bunch. I owe them a lot. 

4. Be the best version of you

I have become far more focused on taking care of my physical, mental and spiritual health. Counselling helped me and I always recommend it. Ask your employer if they have an Employee Assistance Programme because often counselling is free through them. 

I also had an amazing mentor through the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) mentoring scheme and those sessions helped me land my current job. I became obsessed with logging my continual professional development (CPD) because it kept me focused on career development which in turn boosted my confidence. 

Being the best version of me is a habit I’ve kept up. As far as habits go it’s a good one to have!

If you are going through a tough time then I hope some of this advice helps. And never ever doubt that you’re not good enough. You absolutely are and sometimes a helping hand is all you need.

 

Thank you very much Matt for sharing your story with us.

As ever, I’d love to know your thoughts, feel free to comment below or find Matt or I on Twitter @CommsGuyMatt and @AllThingsIC.

Further reading: The continuation of chaos or time for a fresh start?

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Thank you to everyone who has got in touch to share their feedback. I love seeing communicators investing time in their professional development.

Feel free to Tweet me @AllThingsIC or tag me on Instagram @rachelallthingsic to share your notes. I love this pic from Carine Lavoie @CarineLav in Ontario, Canada, who has printed out a page from one of my workbooks.

It says: “Remember – we need to communicate with, not to employees.”

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Thank you stopping by,

Rachel.

Post author: Matt Batten.

First published on the All Things IC blog 25 October 2020.

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