Don't get stuck in Groundhog Day

Gill is a career and mindset coach who has walked the walk when it comes to PR jobs. She helps PR and Comms professionals who are at a career crossroads with how they want the rest of their life to shape up.

From crisis comms, TV publicity and tech PR during her 10 years at the BBC to consumer, charity and arts PR elsewhere, Gill has first hand knowledge of the pressures and peculiarities of the day job.

And she knows just how the very attributes that have made you good at what you do can be the very things that start getting in your way as you head towards the leadership level.

She says: “I believe when people are opened up to possibilities and start being kind to themselves they can make more progress. When people have their head down, just getting through it all, they don’t even notice how stuck they are until there’s a crisis of some ind.

I want my clients to feel understood, listened to, depressurised, slowed down, more peaceful, capable and strong. I want them to feel confident about the career decisions they are making and recover from traumas they have experienced in their line of work.”

Don’t stay stuck in Groundhog Day, and don’t blindly head into burnout just because you didn’t take the time to understand your situation a little better.

Gill Munro

Career and Mindset Coach

Key Topics:

“I think it’s more common than most people realise. Um, I was mentioning to you just before we started this recording that I started, um, talking about my business as a coach back in November. And I was really stunned to be totally honest with you to find out just how common this feeling was. I started working with women primarily, although I do sometimes work with guys as well. I think they’re a bit more reluctance to come forward. Um, and every single one of them said to me that they recognised very much what I was talking about. And the kind of things that I was talking about were, you know, you have a really enjoyable, successful career. That is how it looks. You’ve got a, you’ve progressed up the ranks a little, you maybe you’re at the middle management level, something like that, you always get great appraisals your colleagues really respect you, you’re considered a safe pair of hands, you’re very creative, but something inside you is not matching up with that description. And I think so many people feel the gap between what they are delivering, what they, and how people perceive them around them and their bosses and so on and how they actually feel on the inside. And I think there’s quite a kind of hidden, well of anxiety and worry about loads of different aspects of the job. So it could be things like, you know, what results you’re gonna get, how successful is your campaign gonna be? Are your stakeholders, you know, cross with you? Think you’ve not done enough and this is constant kind of driving people to go “I must do more. I must be on the ball all the time.” I just think that is really rife. And from, you know, back in my career, I was just getting people messaging me going, “oh my God, I can’t believe you’re talking about this because it’s definitely true.” And with sort of client after client, I’ve heard the same, not the exact same story, cause obviously people lives are different and they have different circumstances going on, but that fundamental thing of being trapped in a kind of plate spinning cycle with zero time for yourself is rife.”

“I think guys are a bit more reluctant to speak out and I think that’s primarily the reason, um, why my clients don’t tend to be guys, but for women, it is the well documented issues that we all know about it, the issues show up very, very commonly for women when they have got to a stage in life where their responsibilities beyond work have increased, and their free time just gets completely taken away from them. So that could be things like having children, having a family that certainly really, really common, or the other thing is, I think post pandemic, there’s a real issue as well, where perhaps women who are looking to move on with their personal lives and get what they want from that maybe they’ve spent the past couple of years, you know, in a flat share just with our flatmates or living alone and work has been the only thing, that’s been going on for them consistently in that time.

And the other things that they enjoy in life, meeting new people, their personal interests really have taken a backseat and friendships have become trickier to, you know, run as fluently as they did in the past. And so work has kind of expanded to fill the space. And now they’re in this position when they’re readjusting and they’re actually thinking, what do I really want? And they need to get work, work life and work thinking back into perspective of the overall picture, you know, of their life or women with caring responsibilities for, you know, parents or more, more elderly relatives in the family. So it’s, women’s whose time time gets squeezed, I think more often.”

“What I work on with people is those are all the external factors that are going on. But the fundamental thing that people really need to think about is how they’re getting in their own way and the choices that they are making, that are perpetuating a situation that they find anxiety stimulating, or just relentless. And that’s really where coaching comes in to support people. It is talking to people about why they, why they choose to behave that way. So for, you know, looking at the examples for my own life, for many years, I had all these feelings, uh, you know, I would be described routinely and significant crisis comms situations. I worked on the Saville story at the BBC press office and various, various other, um, things that were making, you know, all the front pages and attracting global interest for sustained periods of time and I think I became quite acclimatised to that level of pressure and stress. And I stopped, I just kept servicing that. I was choosing to always be completely ready to handle whatever came next.

The choice that I needed to make for my own life was actually to downgrade the importance of that in my own life. Of course, it’s still important to the organisation and it must be served, but it’s not my responsibility to solve the problem all the time. It’s just my responsibility to show up to it an appropriate way for the role I’m assigned to do, if you like. So I think that’s really the other thing for people to look inward and start to think, what am I doing here? And I think that’s the thing that often prompts people to come to coaching is they’ve sort of got to that point. They realise, you know, I’m gonna have to change something here because none of these external factors are gonna change. They’re beyond my control. What can I actually do differently? And then that’s when we get into the really interesting conversations about how people can make changes.”

“I think anyone can benefit from coaching at any stage. But I think it’s the kind of issues that they bring to coaching change over time. So one of the things I talk about sometimes is how senior leadership and executive, level people will be provided with a coach. They get to that stage in their career. And the business is like, okay, here, you can have some executive coaching now because we really want you to operate at your most efficient and the best way for you in the business, because that is going to be the thing that helps you at this stage in your career and helps our business the most.

And then I think that people slightly further down the chain. So middle managers and below are sort of unaware of that. Like I don’t, it’s just not really talked about that much, but I think ironically, if coaching was provided at every level alongside skills training that people at earlier stages in their career still definitely need and benefit from, then what you get is people who not just become really skilled as practitioners, but become skilled as personal kind of your operators alongside that. And that benefits everybody because people enjoy their jobs more. People enjoy their lives more. And also in terms of staff retention, it helps people feel engaged with the place that they work and wanna stay there longer. And that only has benefits for a business. So it’s an investment in people. And often we’ve thought about that in terms of skills training, but I think coaching across the board and you just coming to that at the relevant, you know, point with what, whatever issues are, are big for you at that stage in your career would really be a benefit.”

“For me, where I start with everybody is looking at why they behave the way that they do, why they feel the way that they do. That often comes from, I mean, it come, it can come from something specific within work, like a particular issue that was traumatic for you to deal with or a particular project that, that was difficult to be involved in, or just sometimes the relentless pace of things. But it always comes down to, You know, what do you want from your life? So not just, what do you want from your job? What do you want from your life? How do you want your life to feel? How do you want to feel when you are at work? And if you get those kind of end goals, very clear for somebody and they talk about the things that they might want. So it could be things like, they want to feel a greater sense of peace and calm in their life generally. They don’t want to feel kind of frenetic and switched on and a slave to the news cycle all the time. Once we establish those clear goals, then we can look at kind of breaking the behavioural patterns that people have that have kept them in that position that they no longer want. So it’s breaking it down into manageable little things and, making small achievable goals so that people can make the differences that they want to feel. And it can take them from, you know, a situation where they’ve got a job that they used to love, but they don’t anymore. And maybe they want to get that good feeling back, or maybe they want to move on in their career. And they want to step from one level up to a more senior level. And it is about how their behavioural patterns can be adapted. So that they’re ready to take that step into the next more senior job too.”

“I think there’s two things. There’s employers who really get this, line managers who really get this sort of thing and they can see it in their people, but they don’t really know how to solve it. A line manager will often say to someone in their team, who’s experiencing a bit of doubt or a bit of a down spell, they’ll say, “Oh, but you’re great. Everyone thinks what you do is great.” And they just offer that reassurance, which is lovely, but it doesn’t actually support the person with practical kind of steps to make the changes so that they feel what everyone else can see. Yeah. So I work with larger employers or corporates where the employer will fund coaching for their team members and the kind of team members that tend to benefit from it are the ones who are, you know, been in an organisation for a couple of years. They know the lie of the land. They don’t need skills training now they’re good practitioners, but they just want to, I guess, fine tune and kind of upgrade the way that they feel in their day to day, at work. I think the other thing that employers can do, and if there’s employers listening to this who think, oh, this doesn’t happen in my team or that isn’t, that isn’t something I’ve really noticed. I can 100% say to those people that is a case of you just not seeing something because you’re unaware of it. It is definitely there. I don’t think there would be a single comms team around where there isn’t at least one person experiencing this. So I think the onus is on leaders to swat up about it, read the books, follow the people on LinkedIn that talk about this stuff, educate themselves, and then ask the questions. Because one of the things I think comms people are very, very good at, and I was very, very good at this is, is telling a story that people want to hear. Right. That’s why we’re good at our jobs, but we can also apply that to ourselves, in conversation with other people so that the people we think may judge us like our manager, we tell that story to them that they want to hear. And so the manager carries on in blissful ignorance. It’s not the manager’s fault. They’ve not done anything wrong, you know, but the person needs to be, you need to kind of chip behind the protective, you know, coding that they’ve put around themselves so that they appear like the perfect employee and just really ask them.


“I think that’s one of the things that I first, when I first noticed CommsHero, I could tell that that was a sort of movement that was quite aligned to the way that I think. Um, and you’re absolutely right. People are doing heroics. And I think some people might quibble with the use of the word hero, right? Cause we think of hero as, you know, the firefighters or, or all that kind of thing. But it’s the same as similar to the way I think about the word, you know, trauma, we think, you know, our first thought when someone says something traumatic, we think of like a really awful tragedy, but actually heroism, trauma, they all happen on a smaller level all the time, every day. And people can take heroic actions by just stepping out their comfort zone to, you know, tackle a project that’s really difficult that they’ve, you know, been tasked with that can think about doing something in a new way and take a bit of a risk to tell the story they’ve been tasked with telling. And those are, you know, little heroic moments for that person who’s doing it. And I think it’s so important that we recognise that because celebrating the wins right, which is what CommsHero is all about is absolutely vital because having people genuinely celebrate their wins, connects them with how they feel. And if they’re connected with how they feel, then they can have a much more realistic, kind of conversation with themselves about what’s going well, what’s not going so well, what they wanna change. And it is just a complete shift away from this idea of must be perfect robotic corporate employee that’s yeah. Presented in a certain way the whole time. So I, you know, I love it.”