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Management consultancy, change and mental health

My name is Simon. I’m a change management consultant and I have a mental health issue.

We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world – full of great opportunities to exercise our consultancy skills and knowledge, to make a difference to clients, to create a better world.

Our curiosity, commitment and energy provide rich rewards. Our leadership guiding and supporting clients through challenge and change is pivotal.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created an almost unique set of circumstances. The pace of change has felt relentless – but burning platforms do encourage a journey of transformation.

Yet increasingly the executives I work with look, and act, burnt out. You see it in their eyes, hear it in their communication, feel it in their actions (or inactions). Many of the most secure, resilient and supported are on the edge. I’ve seen ‘imposter syndrome’ in many clients and I feel it myself.

Burnout takes its toll on those around us. Our teams, our families and even client’s management consultants. Many clients are opening up publicly for the first time about their mental health issues, be that depression, anxiety or something else. In consultants, perhaps less so.

But consultants aren’t made of rock and no one really expects us to be.

So if you are sensing you’re starting to struggle, what might you do? I offer some thoughts based on personal experience:

  • Make time for yourself every day – take a break, go for a walk, enjoy a hobby (mine is Lego), perhaps meditate.
  • Take things an hour, a task, a day at a time – projects can feel overwhelming but the next call or page of a report rarely is.
  • Reach out and ask for help – it’s not weak, if you had a heart attack or systemic pain you wouldn’t think twice.
  • Develop your professional (as well as personal) support bubble – one or more people to share with.

For years, the flexibility of assignments has enabled me to function on dark days and periods of intense challenge without impacting overall results. The understanding of others has got me through painful phases of projects. And realising excellence does not mean perfection, that very good will be good enough, has enabled me to crawl over finishing lines.

So I ask you to “Put on your own oxygen mask first” – it’s not selfish, it’s practical. And remember you’re not alone. We will get through this together. 


Dr Simon Davey

Tuesday 23rd February 2021
Hands on typewriter