TaVona Denise is a Master Coach peer who has moved from coaching burnout to coaching entrepreneurs. Listen here to her thoughts about Physical Therapist burnout, resilience, launching products and much more.
Find TaVona at https://www.tavonadenise.com/
Hi everyone, my name is Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout To Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, my friends, I am delighted today to welcome a fellow coach onto the call, and we're gonna talk about many things, business and burnout and wherever else it takes us. So let me just welcome TaVona Denise, who I will ask, please TaVona, introduce yourself. Oh, thanks. I'm so happy to be here. I am TaVona Denise, I'm a Master Certified Life Coach, former physical therapist for almost 20 years before the pandemic took me out of the hospital and out of practice, and I'm actually very grateful for that. And I am speaking to you right now from Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where I have been for almost a year. And I came from the Atlanta area, but I'm originally from the DC area, so we can talk about some or all of that too. Well, maybe a host of other things. Thank you for the intro. The first thing I really, really am interested about, because you're a coach and because you've worked in burnout before, and now you've shifted to a different area of coaching, so obviously my audience are mostly people with stress anxiety, burnout, and that sphere of experience that we work with. So I'm curious, really first off the bat, what led you away from burnout and into your current line of work, which is working with entrepreneurs and launchers? Yeah, that is such a great question because I got into the burnout space being a physical therapist working in the hospitals, and I had taken actually a little hiatus from coaching to go back and take care of my mom when she was having a medical issue. So when I went back into healthcare, into the hospital, the people that I saw that were so vibrant and in love with healthcare and their jobs and life, and they just looked haggard and they looked worn down like life had beaten them to a pulp. And my heart just bled for them, because I knew what it felt like to be burned out, and I had come out of that space and I just wanted to help because just like you, I had the tools to help them, and so I started doing that work. However, I am a business coach at heart, and that was what I started with. And so as I was working with people in burnout, what I realised, at least at the time with the people that I was working with was they wanted a lot of them to just complain about their current state of affairs, and they were oftentimes very afraid of creating something new or changing careers or going out into entrepreneurship. And so I just decided that I wanted to work with people who really wanted to do something about that station because I could absolutely help them with the burnout, and we would get them to a place where they felt better about life and about themselves and about their career, but they still wanted more. And my background as a physical therapist puts us in a position where there is this... It's not a glass ceiling, it's a very hard ceiling, and there are very few positions for people who are healthcare practitioners, especially physical therapists to ascend the ladder. If you don't want to open your own practice, if you don't wanna go into management, you basically get capped out as a practitioner. And so for me and my love of business, I was like, "I really, really wanna help those who see that in their future, to be able to do that if that's what their desire is." That's kind of similar to me really. I mean, I work with people in burnout, but my basic reason for that is people don't need to stay in burnout and it's excruciatingly long term painful. But really, I bring them out so that we can work on leadership and ambition and future goals and who they wanna be and what their legacy might be and all of that, so I can really relate to that. But I'm curious, when you went back... When you said you went back into healthcare, when was that? Was that a COVID related thing or was it before? No, no, no. Actually, COVID kicked me out of the nest, I say. I went back into healthcare, let's see, 2016, '17, something like that. And so I was out... I wasn't out long, maybe about six, seven months. And so you were into the... Was that when you were working with entrepreneurs and launchers, or were you doing something a little different then? When I came back in in 2016, '17, that's when I started doing burnout coaching for the healthcare professionals, and from there I went into helping those healthcare professionals be able to make the transition from patient care to a coaching business because I noticed that a lot of the people that were attracted to me in healthcare got in there because we wanted to do real healthcare, we didn't wanna do sick care. We also, a lot of us had been really into personal and self development and were non traditional practitioners of our crafts. And so a lot of us were drawn to prevention, but we found ourselves working day in and day out on rehabilitation and working with people once they had dis ease in the body. And so a lot of us who had experienced coaching, had experienced personal development, had had those kinds of breakthroughs, we were like a lot of us were doing more like coaching with our patients. And so what I ended up doing was helping them be able to do that in a more formalised way, and then from there, I got into... Because I often host big events and often ran groups, you have to fill those groups, and so that's how I got into the space where I teach people how to launch and then also teach them how to not be burned out when they launch. Because what I have found is for so many of us there's a saying that, "How you do anything is how you do everything." And so if you are a person that is an extremely hard worker, by any means necessary, do it or die trying and you have no access to how you are feeling while you're taking action, you just say, "Okay, it's this thing, it's the job that's making me feel this way, and so the way to get out of it is to change the thing." So then you change the thing to, for example, a business, you say, "I know what I'll do, I have more freedom if I go into business for myself." And we take the same mentality and we take the same inability to connect to ourselves and our emotions into this business, and we say, "Okay, well, they... " They, the is they. "They say you work hard, you're gonna be able to be successful and have X, Y, Z." So we just work harder 'cause that's all we know how to do. And so what I do is take people through a process to have that success in their business, to be able to do these launches, these events and fill their groups and group programs, and be astutely, acutely aware of how they are feeling throughout the process, how they're thinking throughout the process, really learning to trust themselves and their decisions and really asking themselves as probably nobody's asked them before, "What lights me up? What do I want to do here? What sounds like fun?" And to me that just makes business so much more fun, you know? Absolutely agree. And funnily enough, I'm doing a webinar next week in Self coaching Scholars about this very thing, "Hustling To 100K Without Burnout." I guess the whole world... That sounds sexy. The hustle thing, the being an entrepreneur somehow is equated with hustle, and hustle really means quite aggressive hyperactivity to get towards a goal. If you look at the definition, it's pretty interesting, and I think that's such a shame because a lot of people who come into coaching, or indeed any business or entrepreneurship in general, don't necessarily come there because they wanna hustle. Well, right, and to me the definition of hustle is just like doing a bunch of random activity without paying attention to ourselves, without any regard for, is this part... Is this a preference of mine? Do I even wanna do this? Is this a strength of mine, is there any other way that this can be done? It's just like being on a treadmill kind of, just like doing a bunch of activity but not actually going anywhere and not... Really just not checking in. Yeah, I would agree. I think you and I have had somewhat similar experiences. I mean, I came from a background of kinesiology and Reiki and NLP, and I was also working with dis ease instead of goals at that time, and that's what got me into coaching too, is I need to help people help themselves not stick a band aid on their problem. But I also think this, if we're a type A style person and we leave our job for entrepreneurship, what do we take with us? We take the type A, we take the workaholism with us, and we think that's gonna kill it. Right, but what I also find is with that mentality, we think, "Okay, well, I have more control over this, I didn't have control over the job but I have more control over this, and so if I just hustle hard enough for long enough, then I'm gonna achieve the goal, and then I'll be able to rest." But the false... What's not true about that is every time, at least it's been my experience when I coach people through this, every time they get to one goal, there's no celebration, there is no rest, there's no anything, it's just, what's next, what's next, what's next? And so we find ourselves even in what I believe to be a worse position sometimes then being an employee, because when you're an employee, you can call in sick, you can fool around for a few days and nothing really happens, you have other co workers that might be able to pick up the slack and the paycheque is still gonna come. Try that in your business if you want to. Are we gonna laugh so hard about that 'cause we've probably tried it, but... What do you do then? So you're running your own business now, you've pretty much done the same thing, you've gone from being employed to running your own business, to entrepreneurship, how do you maintain your own equilibrium? Boundaries. And so in various areas for me, my phone, 99% of the time is on silent, I don't have notifications on, I try to find the things that boost my energy. So I think sometimes people look at, okay, well, make sure you take breaks and things like that, so you can recharge your batteries, but then there's also things that add to your batteries without you having to take a break. So I find so often my type A people, and I was and probably I'm still a bit guilty of this is like, work is fun, and we have no other outlet, and so you're like, wait, but don't work all the time, and so if I'm not working, then what else am I doing? And so it requires... And it's actually quite gruelling and painful for some people to say, "Well, what do I like to do? What activities do I get lost in with pure joy?" What is that? For me, it was reading or listening to fiction where I can just let my mind be... Instead of just television, I don't know why, but there's something a little bit different than listening to a book of fiction rather than watching the television, so I like to do that or actually turn the pages, being on my hammock is one of my favourite... That's my happy place, just being on the hammock. Oh, I love it so much, except when it's super hot outside. Dancing, singing, karaoke is my thing, so really... And it was hard, it was like, really be intentional, make a list because for me, Dex, one of the things that it was all about, well, when I get my business to a certain level where I don't have to go to the hospital. And then when I get my business to six figures and it's sustaining itself and all of these things, and then you get your business to that place where I was maybe working... Maybe working 10, 15 hours a week, and I was like, "I don't know what to do with myself." And so it became this process of figuring out what are my energy boosters, what are my energy drainers? And making sure that I'm putting some protocols in place to address those. Interesting, everything that you said is really resonating for me. I mean, I have a habit each morning of going to the beach, that's my kind of happy place, that's where I have fun with a bunch of people, we go down there together, we have a swim, we have a laugh, we have a coffee, do a bit of body surfing. Good, and it takes time for a lot of people that I work with to discover that about themselves, "What do I enjoy doing?" It's alarming, really, that we don't know what we enjoy, but we don't know who we are outside of our work or even a workaholic context, 'cause our answer to everything in burnout is, "Let me just chuck a bit more energy." Yeah, it's so interesting too, Dex, because I recently had a conversation with a client where one of the first things that I do is look at a person's calendar, look at their schedule, what is the ideal schedule for you? What's an ideal week? And we create around that because I'm so intentional about creating a business that serves our lifestyle. And so I'm asking them, "What are your non negotiables? Is it date night with your partner? Is it yoga or girlfriends night, or what is it? What is that thing? What are those non negotiables?" Put those things that mean something to you on a calendar first, and then we fit the business in the place, and it was so interesting to watch this client squirm and resist and push back on it, where she said she had an idea for how many hours she wanted to work, and it lined up perfectly that she wanted to work 35 hours, it was 34 hours, and then she freaked out. And I was like, "What is this about?" And as we dove into it a little bit more, what we discovered was fascinating that she thought that if she didn't work hard, it would separate her from her mom, because her mom worked so hard to do so many things, and that was her connection to her mom because they both worked so hard. And so if she... She had this thought like, "If I create a business where I don't have to work hard, where I don't have to work myself to the bone to make this money, then what connection do I have to my mom?" And so I think it's so fascinating stuff like that when it comes up and really we have to be mindful of it. It's like, okay, most of us get into business 'cause we say we wanna have time and financial freedom, but when it's right there staring us in the face or knocking at the door, then we become uncomfortable with it, and so that's something that I'm sure you help your clients with as well, we get to be with and then see like, what's that really about? Yeah, and I think a lot of that centres around family as well, because a lot of people come to me and they're not giving the love and the time and the attention to their family that they would like to, or if they're with their families, they're not enjoying it very much 'cause they're too frustrated and still overthinking about work the whole time, don't wanna give any more time, and they're very time conscious, and all of that appears to be quite high up the list for men. Yeah, I haven't worked with as many men on burnout as I did women, but one of the things that a lot of my clients really appreciated when we did this was, I would ask them to just take a small spiral notebook, it doesn't have to be fancy or anything and keep it in the car. And so at the end of the work day, they would come to the parking lot, get in the car, write whatever they wanted to. If they wanted to fuss somebody out, they would fuss them out in the notebook. If they had something they wanted to say that was left unsaid or a question or an idea or anything that was left unsaid or undone related to work, they would write it in the notebook, and then close the notebook as a symbol of it's done. Because then that way the brain had a chance to say what it needed to say, and so that way... And also closing the book put a symbolic boundary around it so that they felt free to leave it at work. But I think, at least it's been my experience that sometimes people don't have that outlet, so then their spouse or their partner becomes that outlet, and then there's the bleeding of the lines between work and home. And so I just found that the notebook seems to... I say it saves marriages sometimes. And that's probably an element of your business as it's an element of mine. A lot of people are in marital strife as a kind of side effect of being in burnout when they shut down and they get tense and they get irritable. I think of coming out of burnout as a little bit of a marriage saver in many cases. What do you think? Do you have a perspective on the difference... 'cause you work with physical therapists now who've become coaches, do you have a perspective on the difference... Where the difference between women's experience of burnout and men's experience of burnout, or you just haven't worked with enough men? So when I was doing the Burnout Resilience Program in the hospital, a good, 30%, 40% were men. And it's... Even in the research, what I have found is the men tend to shut down and get even quieter or they become very cynical and detached from it, and the women tend to internalise everything, and it's like, "Oh, it's me. Everything's wrong about me." And so that's the biggest difference that I see. Like the guys just became so ornery and grumpy about everything, especially in healthcare, they were like, "This patient's beleaguering and this person is never gonna get better, and so and so is back." And it was just very... They just had no positive thoughts about anything, and I really unfortunately feel like it sometimes hurt the patients because when the patients are looking at us to say, "Okay, I'm hurt, you're the person that knows, you're the authority." Whether good or bad, that's how the patient sees us, and the person staring back, "Well, this is the best we can do." Or, "You don't have much... " Like... It doesn't help the healing process. That's interesting, I also work with a lot of physicians, nurses, other professionals in healthcare, and I've found that a lot of them reflect a lot of the burnout on the system, which has changed a lot over time, and which certainly does have its challenges and pressures. I haven't really found anybody who couldn't recover nonetheless, and I also don't think it's particularly useful to notice how bad the system is. Yes, you know that the system is bad, it's good to acknowledge it once, but after that, since you don't have agency over it, it comes back to, "Okay, how can I support myself even though the system is what it is." Yeah, I mean, I don't disagree at all. And I think that is... It just kinda reminds me that Michael Jackson song, "I'm starting with the man in the mirror." It's like, okay, it is what it is, and I can spend my energy and my time and my words and my thoughts on the system, or I can start with myself. What makes... What lights me up? What can I change here? And we did some incredible work by just getting one person by one person to do what they could, and it ended up being like this snowball effect. And I'll just tell you my little secret, Dex, what I used to do in the hospital is I would go find the young nurses, I would go find the new ones that hadn't quite got there to the burn out yet, and I would just place this vision of possibility on them and show them what they could do to help. And it was so... I'll never forget this, I hope never in my life, I remember this walking program, I worked in cardio pulmonary, and so it's best that you get those patients up and they walk and everything, and so we were trying to improve the hospital outcomes, and I couldn't get the more seasoned... I won't call them older, the more seasoned nurses all on board with this, but this is what the physicians were trying to get postoperatively. And so I said, "Okay, I know what to do, I'm gonna get the lower young nurses... " And we talked about it 'cause they had just come out of school and they knew that this was important and we made it fun, and I showed them how to do it safely, and we gave them tools, blah, blah, blah. And so it got to a point where the younger nurses would walk with their patients around, and then it gets to the point where some of the patients would be in their room and they would stand at the door, or they would call their nurses, the more seasoned ones and say, "I wanna walk. Why are they getting to walk and I don't get to walk?" So then it forced the more seasoned nurses to start doing it, and then they realised that they enjoyed it, and then soon everybody was walking. It was great. Wow, that's amazing. It sounds like such a tiny change but such a vital one to the connection? Mm hmm. Yeah. I'm like, I'm not gonna beat myself... My head up against the wall trying to deal with the people... Or like you said, the system that is slower to change, I'm gonna find the... Like when you... I got so many analogies I could state, like when you play Jenga, I'm gonna find the one that moves the easiest and move that. Why would I try to pull out the piece of wood that's kind of stuck? So that's how I did things. It sounds wild. I can hear the joy in you when you're talking about it as well, and I think this is when we discover how much change we can effect with self coaching and coaching, I just think it's an amazing resource for anybody who will access it. But let me just ask you one question about women. So you said women kind of internalise burnout. How do you approach that when you're working with them? Because you must still get people now, even though you're working with entrepreneurship and business, do you still get people who are a little bit crispy around the edges or not really? Well, they're approaching it again, right? So what I see happens, again, how you do anything is how you do everything, so they may have had a high pressure corporate job or a high pressure healthcare position, they come in, they start working hard, so they have the relief, right? So it's like having a new mate, you're like, "Oh, this person is amazing, look at this and look at that." And then after a while... Why are you laughing? It's true. And so then after that... It sounds like falling in love. "I'm falling in love. I've got a new friend, I've got a new job." Exactly. So we're like, "That one sucks, that one sucks, so we're gonna go over here." And then we feel good, but we don't realise that we feel good because of the thoughts that we're thinking about it, and then inevitably with time, business is a little bit more challenging, we gotta work hard and then they get to this place where it's hard, and then they think, "Oh well, it must be about me, it's about me." And so they try harder, and then they're even more tired, and a lot of them think that it's only them going through it, that's why I think group coaching is so important when you have burnout, is because it's something about knowing that you're not the only one, then it's not a character default... Not default, what is the word? Defect. Thank you, I remember it was one of those. Defect, it's not a character defect, it's not something wrong with you, it's just you're experiencing something, and so that's what I experienced with the women, just they really take it personally and they initially try to work harder and then they realise that that doesn't quite work. So do you have a tactic for dealing with that when people come to you, they're fresh into your coaching world? How do you approach that, what tools or what methods do you use to help them kind of move away from that a little bit? Well, if we're talking about burnout with healthcare professionals and things like that, and I would imagine it's kind of the same in businesses too. In business, I'd say reconnect with the mission, reconnect with the people that you're doing this for. Most of the time the people that I work with are service providers, they're very heart centred, mission driven people, so they got into this because they saw something that was wrong, but they saw some place where they could help, and as they get into the minutia of it, they lose sight of where they were going, why they were going there, who they were going there to help. So that's what I would say there. And in more traditional burnout, I just ask people to reconnect with why did they, why did or why do they love the profession in the first place? There was the reason that you got into this. What is it? What aspects of it are still present? And remember those, because what has happened for one reason or another, is that the brain has started to default to all of the negative things, it's gotten so good at seeing those that it has forgotten, it can't even see sometimes what is still good. Yeah, I find that really strong as well, because we need meaning, we need purpose. That's where a lot of our fulfillment comes from as humans. Even so, I work with a lot of people in healthcare, and that certainly comes into play in their choices for going into that profession, but I also work with people in accountancy, finance, construction, all sorts of other things, and all these men, they come to me and they've lost their purpose, but they're really, generally speaking, very heart centred people, they're really altruistic people. And my discovery is, when you scrape the surface of almost anybody, they're all givers, they're all heart centred people, but that's been thwarted in them by what they see as the system or their experience at work, or how they're expected to show up at work with a piece of themself closed away in a let's shut my emotions down and go to work sort of thing, it's quite truncating. But I think that's in... It seems to me to be in everybody that I ever work with. It's interesting. So what do you think... On all the things that we've just said now, is something coming to mind that you wanna say about... Anything about your coaching business or... Well, about my coaching business in general, I would just say for anyone who... Because when I'm working with people who are trying to create something big, like, we are trying to have massive impacts in the world, you cannot hustle your way to helping the number of people that you wanna help. So part of that work becomes slowing down sometimes, taking a look at what you have. Sometimes it means looking back at the mission, because to me it's not necessarily about all the time about doing less work, but it's like, do you have joy while you're doing the work. Because sometimes people say, "Oh well, I just wanna do less." And I'm thinking to myself, especially if you are accustomed to where you really enjoy work, you wanna work, you wanna work hard, you don't want everything to just be... You just lay there and everything comes to you, but how do you feel when you're doing your work? I think if there was a take away it would be, how do you feel when you're doing your work? Whether you're an employee or an entrepreneur, that makes all of the difference to me in terms of burnout, because they're certain... When I think about launching, I think about them like throwing parties. I think about them like events, telling people, "Hey, I have this thing for you." And parties, weddings, any big event, they have a lot of moving pieces, all of those pieces are necessary for the success of the event, so we don't necessarily wanna do this, we just don't wanna feel like crap while we're doing it. And so we have way more control over that than we think. Yeah, I would agree. When you think about your own business, how do you think about that? Tell me what you mean? Well, in terms of constraining what you do and having boundaries and loving your work, I mean, you too may still wish to work hard, but when you think about your business as an entity separate from you, what kind of a relationship do you have with that business? Well, it's like a partner because I know we're going to change the world, we're going to change the industry, and sometimes I do get frustrated. It's not like it's daisies and roses all the time. It's like a real relationship. Sometimes things are flowing and sometimes I'm a little frustrated, and in those times, I've gotten a lot better at stopping and slowing down and checking in and saying, "Hey, what's going on here?" Also, not to be in a rush to make it produce anything, because I know it's coming, and I think that's one of the other things that I had to learn is, when we know Christmas is coming or we know vacation is coming, we're not stressed out, we just know... It doesn't matter what happens between... The recording, this is June, so between now and December, it doesn't matter, we know Christmas is coming. So I try my best, not always great at it, but I try my best to say, "Okay, I don't believe that the creator, universe or God, whatever you say, is going to give me a vision to have something without also giving me the means to achieve it." And so if I really, really believe that, then Christmas is coming. And if Christmas is coming, then I can calm down. If I can calm down, then I can be creative. I'm enjoyed when I'm creative, think about the little two year olds that run around doing their hand painting, drawing on themselves and your walls, they are happy when they are being creative, and we can't be creative if we're freaked out. So that's how I keep myself grounded. Yeah, good one. Anything else you'd like to chip in, anything else you wanna say to listeners or anything else you got going on at the moment that you wanna talk about? Well, I have something called the Launch Clinic, and so the purpose of the Launch Clinic is if you are launching a group program or course or something, and you're feeling a little bit overwhelmed and frustrated and stressed out, and you want to get your work out into the world with more joy and simplicity and ease, then you can come to my website, TaVonaDenise.com, that's T A V as in Victor, O N A, Denise, D E N I S E dot com, and join the Launch Clinic. It is a mini course on the things that you need to think about that will help you just calm down so you can get back into your creativity and joy. Ah, it's wonderful. Calm down again to creativity, I think it's something we're all trying to get to, and we've lost our way a little bit. And I think also culturally, to me, the culture has changed in the last maybe 20, 30 years, so significantly that now this kind of stress, anxiety, overwork, overwhelmed cycle, most people seem to be stuck in it. Yeah, unfortunately, it's like you gotta keep up and I'm like, "Keep up with who?" And then when they can't answer that question most of the time, or when they do answer it, they are aware that they don't even wanna keep up with that person. And so I think one of the other things that is very important is to redefine success. So either define success if you haven't done so ever and you're just kind of running around doing random stuff and burning yourself out on a treadmill of life or work, or to redefine it because sometimes we defined success based on what somebody told us we should have, not what we really actually want to have. And so sometimes it's important to redefine success because when you have taken the time to figure out what success means to you, then your path becomes clear in how to get there, and some of the things that you have been doing will naturally fall away and ease some of the burden. Absolutely. One last question. What's on your bucket list? What's on my bucket list? The Maldives. I went scuba diving for the first time a few weeks ago. So scuba diving in Cozumel, which is... I can see it from where I stay, so there are some prime scuba diving places that I wanna go check out once I get certified. Yeah, I heard it's good over there. Well, thank you so much TaVona, it's been delightful speaking to you today. I had about another five million questions I could have asked you, but I'm very happy that you've been here today and shared your experiences with our listeners here, so thank you very much for coming. And thank you for having me, Dex. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout To Leadership Program. You can book in to tour with me at burnout.dexrandall.com, just tell me what's bugging you, and let's make a plan to fix it.