Listen in as I interview Melissa about her experience of her physician husband taking the Burnout to Leadership coaching program.
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. Hi people, what I'd love to do today is introduce to you a very good friend of mine, and also a peer and life coach, pediatrician, just generally a very, very good person, Melissa Parsons. I will let her introduce herself in a moment, but really, we got to know each other as coaches, and the reason that I'm keen to have Melissa talking on the podcast today is that she referred her husband, who's also a physician, to me for burnout coaching, and I think that that's a perspective that some people might be interested in, to hear her kind of observations of the journey and what she wanted out of it and what she got out of it too. Fair play? Alright, and so Melissa... Sounds good to me. Melissa, love you to introduce yourself now, please. Alright, as Dex said, I am Melissa Parsons. I am married to Jon Parsons. We have been married since 1999. As Dex said, we both are physicians, we met very romantically over a dead body in Cadaver lab back in 1995, and we are the proud parents of two sons. I am a pediatrician. I actually retired from my job in paediatrics in April of 2021, so just, gosh, eight months ago now, and came to coaching myself personally in 2018, and have worked with several coaches, and now I say I have a team of coaches. I certified for coaching through the same school that Dex certified in, which is The Life Coach School, and finished my certification in 2020 and have been happily coaching folks since then. I coach women, I say I coach women with brains. So really, similar to my job in Paediatrics, where people could come in with any problem with their kiddo and we would work to figure it out together, I take all comers in terms of women, and really coach them on any issue that they have. And Dex and I became friends because we are in the same business coaching school, I guess we would call it. I don't know, what would you call it, Dex? Same business coaching mastermind. Yes, school program, yeah. Yeah. And I had seen him coaching in the Life Coach School and self coaching scholars and that type of thing, and I knew that he was coaching on burnout, and I knew that Jon had kinda seen the progress that I had made with coaching in terms of just really starting to like myself more and questioning my old stories that I had about me, the old stories that I had about our marriage and that type of thing, and I worked with Maggie Reyes, she is a marriage coach who also of course, trained at the same school that Dex and I did, and I think he saw the progress that I had made in terms of working on our marriage, and he, of course, because he is the person that he is and is very... I think I'm allowed to say that he's a very lovey guy, and he wants our marriage to be the best that it can be, so he participated fully with me in all the homework that Maggie gave us, and read all the books that she suggested. And I think he saw the progress that I was personally able to make and that he and I were able to make together after working with Maggie, and he was like, "Okay, if this coaching thing works for Melissa and it works for our marriage, maybe it will also work for me," and the things that he was struggling with in terms of work burnout, and just trying to be the best dad he could be, trying to be the best hubby he could be, trying to be the best son he could be, that type of thing. So Dex has definitely helped him with all of those things, so we're eternally grateful to Dex. Thank you so much. I'm just curious if him asking was actually the trigger for you referring him on, or if that was another trigger. We had been talking about it, and I was planting seeds of, "This has worked so well." I think he was resistant to going to therapy because he didn't really want to do a lot of dredging up of the past and that type of thing, and I think the idea of coaching being kind of future focused, and like, this is where you are now, this isn't where you wanna be, but we can plan together where you wanna be and trying to use the future as a focus to get out of burnout and that type of thing, I think that idea really spoke to him. But there was a fair amount of me saying, check this guy out, like check out his website, or listen to Dex and self coaching scholars and that type of thing. And so it wasn't like I was like, "Hey, this would be a good idea," and he immediately jumped on it, it was him kind of slowly coming around to it with a fair amount of cajoling by me. Oh, that's so interesting. I didn't know he had watched any of that material. Oh, yeah. Because a lot of the men who come to me come in really cold and they don't know anything about coaching, sometimes they've got a connection in the coaching industry somewhere, but personally, they're normally a little bit leaping... A leap of faith into the unknown, for a lot of them. Yeah. I think that he had no idea what it would actually be. You can see someone speaking, but until you actually are sharing what's going on with you, I think it's really hard to know. I think Melissa may be having a few sound problems, so I do apologise for the remainder of this podcast, if you hear a little bit of audio disturbance on that one. But anyway, let's get back to it. Melissa, what did you think was gonna happen when Jon started coaching with me? What did I think was gonna happen? I really had no idea. I was hoping that he might get some clarity and some ideas about why he was burnt out, and that you might be able to help him see that the model was working, whether he knew that it was working or not, so that his thinking was creating some of the results that he had in his life. So I was hoping that you would be able... Well, I knew if he was open to it, that you would be able to coach him through any topic that he brought to you. We don't talk really much about his coaching at all, he's not somebody who comes up, like, I like to say to him, "Listen to what Maggie said to me and listen to what we came up with," and that type of thing, and he's open to listening to what I'm working on and that type of thing, but he doesn't really wanna share what he's working on, which initially would have been a problem for me, but because I have my own coach, I know that it's really none of my business what he's working on, and he really... I just knew that working with you, that I... Through working with you, that I could definitely trust you to take good care of him, I guess is the crux of it. Very kind of you, thank you. And I think it's a really good point you raise, because quite a lot of the men who come to me in burnout are referred to me by wives or friends in the coaching community. And personally, I find it very important that people own their own coaching journey and have the privacy in that, because I think we bring, all of us bring quite an amount of vulnerability to coaching, we're tackling issues usually that we haven't been successful working with. And in burnout, there's already considerable amounts of pain and suffering going on, so to be honest, I tend to encourage people to only share their journey with their spouse or with other people if they should wish to do that, and I think it's pretty normal for people to take that transition process a little bit privately. Yeah, and I think that... I know that it makes sense that he would be willing to go deeper into the journey with you if he knows that it is completely private, and that he can share with you things that he wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable sharing even with me as his wife. So I think that's a pretty powerful relationship that a coach has with their client. Yeah, I think you're right. I think it is an invitation in coaching, to share the real painful stuff that most of us haven't wanted to admit to another human being before. There is a little bit of that, 'cause if we didn't have that, if we didn't have this kind of disappointment in ourselves or this little bit of shame sometimes in burnout, then probably we wouldn't be the kind of person who'd go into burnout in the first place. So I do like to hold that. But I think it's also a wonderful gift to anybody to be able to leave them to their coaching journey a little bit. Yeah, I've had several friends now that have referred their husbands to you, and depending on where you are I think as the wife, on your coaching journey, if you are a coach or you've had coaching, there might still be that want to kinda control the relationship. And I've advised my friends, like, "You know what? You will have your husband get so much more out of it if you are willing to back off and let the control be between your hubby and Dex," and I think that my friends have taken that advice, I don't know if they have or not, but I think that just most of us, especially those of us in medicine, I think we are at work and we have so much control at work, we feel we have this illusion of control, and then we come home and that controlling personality that we can be at work, it doesn't necessarily work so well at home, especially if your spouse is also in medicine. You're both coming in and trying to control the other, and it just doesn't work so well. So yeah, I think it's helpful. And I think also, I encourage people to find a path of recovery through letting out the goodness that's already inside of them. And it's their personal goodness, it's their relationship with themselves that normally is the contact point and the fuel for recovery. For sure, for sure. Yeah, because, I'll speak just from my personal journey with Jon, I know and I have known since I married him and met him that he had so much goodness inside of him, which is why I chose him to be my hubby, or I said yes to him being my hubby, I guess. We chose each other, I guess, I should say. But it's just that I think willingness and the vulnerability to let your true self out, after you might have been thinking that it was better to keep that more private, I think that's where all the good juice and stuff is. But Jon's been in coaching with me since October 2020, so it's just something over a year now. What do you think has actually happened, looking in from an outside perspective? What changed? You know, I think it was really him just owning how amazing he really is, and being willing to see that through multiple lenses. Because, I mean, if you asked anybody who knows him, I don't think that they would think that he's the type of person that would need any help from anyone whatsoever, right? So from a true outsider's perspective looking in, they might not understand like, "Why does Jon Parsons, or Melissa Parsons for that matter, need a coach?" But I think it's just the confidence to be fully yourself, for him and for me really, and really, I guess any person that is on this journey, just the confidence to come back to yourself, I think that that's really what, personally, I help women do, come back to center, come back to finding what really excites them, what really lights them up. And most of us, I think don't... We get so swayed by outside forces, whether it be our spouse, or our kids, or our friends, or our co workers, that type of thing, who want us to be all different kinds of people to them. If we can just come back to what it really is that makes us happy, and makes us tick, then we can find our center and make decisions from there. So I think for him really, it was just like seeing his amazingness from the inside, instead of looking for other people to validate him. Does that make sense? It's kind of a roundabout blathering. Oh, it makes total sense. And I think all of this journey is about that. It's about letting the inner goodness shine out. And so I'm interested... I'm always interested to see that... I can always see the goodness in everybody I work with. And I'm always really delighted to see people uncurl a little bit, and let some of that goodness out. I'm also keen to hear from you, if you think you've noticed any changes outside of him. Oh my goodness. Yeah, I mean, I have no idea what he was like at work before. I definitely have noticed that he has better boundaries, so when he's not at work, like for example, he and I went on vacation in November, to Aruba. It was the first vacation that he and I had been on, due to the pandemic, in a couple of years. And it was the first time ever that he wasn't checking his work email, and he was fully present with me. And we just had so much fun because he had that boundary, and he told his folks before. And really, they've been pushing him to have boundaries, his admin, and that type of thing, had been pushing him to have boundaries, way before he was ready for them. So I didn't have to conspire with his admin to not have him get emails, and that type of thing, he actually stood up for himself and made the boundary ahead of time, and was able to honor that. And yeah, definitely, with our relationship, much less reactive, much more willing to offer grace to me when I'm not being my best self, much more willing to ask for grace for himself when he's not being his best self with me. So just totally that vulnerability piece, just being heart wide open and willing to say, "This isn't... " If we have an interaction that's not beautiful, willing to say like, "Hey listen, I screwed up. That's not who I wanna be anymore." We talk about like... We just had a situation yesterday where he said something to me that went after one of my wounds. And we had the conversation today, like, "The reason that I got so upset is because that's one of my wounds. And I want you to know that so that you can choose whether you really wanna poke it or not." So just being willing to say, "Hey, this is why I reacted to that," and we both are doing that now, instead of just me saying, "I know it's just my brain telling me that your saying this means something about me, but it really means nothing about me, it's just something that you said." And then definitely, I would say he's always been, in terms of parenting, he's always been better than me at seeing the 30,000 foot view. That our boys are nice people, that they know how to act when other people are around, that other people think that they're amazing humans, and when they're here with us it's okay if they're less than perfectly respectful, and get upset and yell, and scream, and have tantrums. But it doesn't happen much anymore 'cause they're young adults, but yeah, I would say he's even gotten better at zooming out, and not getting stuck in the minutiae of being their parents, and really, now Drex is more consultant than parent, since he's a college student, so yeah. And I mean, just his relationships with everybody. It's been remarkable to watch, from an outside perspective, knowing kind of what's happening kinda sorta, just because I'm a coach, but not really knowing. Just from an outside perspective, it's been fun to watch his growth. Yeah, and I love to watch my sons grow as well, I must say. And so you referred Jon into me, which is epic. I really, I'm very appreciative of people who refer clients into me. And one of the reasons for that is 'cause men in burnout don't necessarily have access to this resource, they don't even know it exists, they don't know what it does, they don't know anything about it, and some of them even when they find out about it can be a little bit reluctant, because one of the aspects of burnout is self reliance, is being able to bail yourself out of your own problems. So sometimes some men find it difficult to come forward to me, so I really do love getting referrals from anybody who has perhaps a little bit of more perspective on what coaching can do. And I wonder, what do you say when you talk to other people about burnout coaching specifically, whether it's men or women? What do you tell them? Well, if they're a man, I say, "Just do not pass go, and go to dexrandall.com." But there is a fair amount of burnout in women as well, right? So most of the people that I know who are women, certainly, if they're looking for coaching, I say that I can help them find someone who specifically is targeting burnout. There are lots of resources through the Empowering Women Physicians group, The Institute for Physician Wellness, so there are lots of resources there, and I think that it's becoming more and more accepted to admit that you're in burnout, because our whole culture, going through medical training is basically just put your head down and pretend like it's not happening, and just keep going, and the patient is paramount. I think that luckily, it's kind of swinging... The pendulum is swinging the other way, and we're realising that if we don't do something to support physicians in burnout, whether they be male or female, I don't know about you, Dex, but I'm not getting any younger, and I want there to be good physicians who are there to take care of me, and to take care of the people that I care about, so I'm all about finding people resources, and sending them your way, and to the ways of other coaches who are specifically dealing with burnout. Yeah, and it's such an important message, I think, particularly about physician burnout, which is really in epidemic proportions. And I actually do work with quite a lot of physicians. I work with a number of female physicians in my other role at the Life Coach School as well, and as well as... But basically, I work with people in professional burnout, so there are some headline occupations, law, teaching medicine, a few others that are real standouts, but I will work with anybody who's a professional in burnout. I have a particular soft spot for people in medicine in burnout because it's such an epidemic now, because these are the people who are looking after the rest of us with every last puff in their body. I find it very important... I mean, globally, I think there's a pandemic of burnout now in general in the developed world. Particularly, I'm noticing in a lot of countries the escalation in the levels of burnout has just gone off the charts, particularly adding on COVID, and all the complications of that. I'm doing this work because I have a passion to help those people in burnout, and because I would like to sow the seeds, even a tiny bit, just to reverse that trend, even in a localised bunch of people, because when one person recovers from burnout the other people around them get to benefit as well. Yeah, that's so true. That's what I tell people, like, you can be the example of this is possible. You can go from feeling so terrible and not wanting to go to work at all and sitting in your car and crying before a shift, to being the one who is like, "I saw 26 patients today, and it wasn't that bad, and all of my charts are done, and I get to go home and enjoy the evening with my family," and that type of thing. I don't know that you have to have experienced what you're coaching on in order to be good at it, but it certainly lends credence, since you yourself were in burnout, and saw all the ill effects that it had on your body, mentally, and physically, and that type of thing. I think that that just adds an additional layer like, "Hey, I really do get where you're coming from, and it is possible, there's a little glimmer of hope over here if you're willing to see it." Yeah, I think it really does help that I have my own professional burnout, but I think it equally helps that that's what I specialise in, and I've got a very intimate knowledge of the dynamics of burnout, and therefore how to come out of burnout, so I find it very available. The recovery from burnout is very available to the people who come to me, which I find very exciting, 'cause a lot of other methods of treating burnout I've seen are not working particularly well on a kind of global or commercial or government level, are not working that well. So, I'm very excited to do that. The other thing I was gonna say is, I am actually opening right now as we speak, so this will probably be around December or January. December 21, January 22, I am opening up to a couple of female in burnout. Okay, good to know. Yeah. I just think the number of people in burnout now, we need a lot of feet on the ground, we need to spread this message a lot more, particularly because the organisational level of response to burnout hasn't been particularly effective, and I do think we can help people a great deal, but when people get back on their feet from burnout, to me, they are champions of themselves and also naturally then champions of other people. And examples of leadership of other people, which I find incredibly empowering in the workplace as well. Yeah, absolutely. Jon is an excellent leader at his job right now, and I think he's probably only gotten better over the past year of working with you under incredibly challenging circumstances, in being in charge of a lot of the COVID response at a major university medical center. So I just can't wait to see the future, because I know that in my estimation, coaching is for people to take them from surviving really to thriving, and then the more you're willing to do the work, it's just like putting gasoline on the fire, so I can't wait to see how he takes this and runs with it. So it'll be fun to be a witness. Well, I am absolutely thrilled to witness his development myself, both at work and at home in the family and wherever. And now, of course, he's a TV and media star as well, which is epic. You have anything else you would like to say that we didn't cover today, by the way? No, I think that the only thing I will say is that this is, in my estimation, going to... Just one person working with a coach can really change the entire dynamic of the generation of your family going forward, so I'm so proud of him for signing up, and continuing to sign up and that type of thing. Our family definitely has experience of our family before coaching and experience of our family after coaching, and I think that each of the four of us would say that we never wanna go back to where we were before, and I'm so happy that my boys are at the age where they're gonna recognise mom and dad saw that they had issues, they were brave and they were willing to step up and do the work and find the people that could help them, and so I'm just so proud of our family. So that's all I wanted to say. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for being here today with us, Melissa. I think it's a very important voice for people to be hearing out in the community, and for anybody who wants to find out a bit more about Melissa, there will be a link to her website in the show notes, and you can contact her that way. Thank you so much for being on the podcast. I would love it. Thank you, Dex, thank you for helping change our family. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can look in to talk with me at burnout.dexradall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.