Leadership & Menopause

I wasn’t prepared for this—menopause. Recently, I saw my doctor, and I have been feeling irritable and exhausted. I can’t lose weight and have constant brain fog. I can’t sleep either and seem to lose motivation for my work. What is happening, I thought to myself. Then my team dared to tell me they worried about me as I am always energetic, passionate and positive. The doctor confirmed it via a blood test and a little assessment on an app called Balance. It’s the M word – Menopause. I thought I was going crazy, to be honest.

Guess what…

Research shows 8 out of 10 women ‘never discussed menopause at home growing up’! Yep, this is me.

Why aren’t we talking about it…..

The lack of open discussion about menopause can be attributed to various factors, including cultural taboos, societal norms, and personal discomfort. Here are some reasons why menopause may not be openly discussed:

  1. Stigma and Shame: Menopause is often associated with aging, and in many cultures, there’s a stigma attached to getting older, particularly for women. Some individuals may feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about menopause due to societal pressures to maintain youthfulness and vitality.
  2. Lack of Education and Awareness: Many people, including women themselves, may not fully understand what menopause entails or the range of symptoms and experiences associated with it. This lack of awareness can lead to silence and reluctance to discuss the topic openly.
  3. Gender Norms and Expectations: Gender norms and expectations can influence how menopause is perceived and discussed. In some societies, women’s health issues are considered private or taboo subjects, leading to a reluctance to talk about them openly.
  4. Fear of Judgment or Discrimination: Some women may fear being judged or discriminated against if they openly discuss menopause, particularly in the workplace. They may worry about being perceived as less competent or fear negative repercussions from colleagues or employers.
  5. Cultural and Linguistic Barriers: In certain cultures, menopause may not be openly discussed due to cultural taboos or linguistic barriers that make it challenging to find appropriate words or expressions to talk about reproductive health issues.
  6. Lack of Supportive Environments: In some workplaces or social settings, there may be a lack of supportive environments where individuals feel comfortable discussing personal health issues like menopause. Without spaces where open dialogue is encouraged, silence and stigma may persist.
  7. Historical Context: Historically, women’s health issues, including menopause, have been marginalised or trivialised in medical and scientific discourse. This historical legacy may contribute to the continued silence and lack of attention given to menopause in public discourse.

Despite these challenges, there is a growing movement to break the silence surrounding menopause and promote more open discussion and awareness. Advocacy efforts, educational initiatives, and supportive communities are helping to challenge stigma and empower women to speak openly about their experiences with menopause. By fostering greater understanding and acceptance, we can create environments where menopause is recognised as a normal and natural part of life.

Leadership and Menopause

You know, I will talk about this as Leadership is my space. It impacts my ability and passion for leading. Leadership and menopause intersect in several ways, often influencing each other personally and professionally. Here are some considerations:

  1. Health Challenges: Menopause brings physical and emotional changes that can affect a person’s energy levels, focus, and overall well-being. Leaders experiencing symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, or insomnia may find it challenging to maintain their usual level of productivity and effectiveness. Understanding these challenges and taking steps to manage them, such as seeking medical advice, adjusting work schedules, or practising self-care techniques, can help leaders navigate this transition more smoothly.
  2. Emotional Intelligence: Effective Leadership often requires a high degree of emotional intelligence, including self-awareness, empathy, and the ability to manage one’s emotions and those of others. Menopause can amplify emotional experiences, leading to mood swings, irritability, or anxiety. Leaders going through menopause may need to consciously regulate their emotions and communicate effectively with their teams during this time.
  3. Workplace Support: Creating a supportive workplace culture where menopause is openly discussed and accommodated can make a significant difference for leaders and employees. Resources such as flexible work arrangements, access to healthcare professionals, or educational materials on menopause can help leaders feel valued and supported during this transition.
  4. Resilience and Adaptability: Dealing with menopause while maintaining leadership responsibilities requires resilience and adaptability. Leaders may need to adjust their leadership styles, delegate tasks more effectively, or prioritise self-care to manage work and personal life demands during this time. Developing coping strategies and seeking support from peers, mentors, or professional networks can enhance resilience and help leaders navigate the challenges of menopause with confidence.
  5. Role Modeling: Leaders who openly discuss their menopausal experiences can help reduce stigma and promote understanding in the workplace. By sharing their stories and advocating for supportive policies and practices, leaders can create a more inclusive environment where individuals feel comfortable discussing their health needs and seeking the support they require.

In conclusion, Leadership and menopause intersect in complex ways, impacting individual leaders and their organisations. By recognising the challenges associated with menopause and taking proactive steps to address them, leaders can continue to thrive professionally while effectively managing their health and well-being.

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Menopause Affecting Leadership

Menopause can affect your Leadership in various ways, both directly and indirectly. Here are some ways in which menopause might impact your Leadership:

  1. Physical Symptoms: Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, fatigue, and insomnia can affect your energy levels and overall well-being, impacting your ability to focus, make decisions, and engage effectively in leadership tasks.
  2. Emotional Changes: Menopause can bring about hormonal fluctuations that may lead to mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or depression. These emotional changes can affect workplace interactions, decision-making processes, and leadership effectiveness.
  3. Cognitive Effects: Some women may experience mental changes during menopause, such as memory lapses or difficulty concentrating. These cognitive effects can impact their ability to process information and strategies and communicate effectively as leaders.
  4. Self-Confidence: Menopause can sometimes be accompanied by feelings of self-doubt or a loss of confidence, particularly if you’re experiencing symptoms that you find challenging to manage. This can affect your assertiveness, decision-making, and ability to inspire and motivate others as a leader.
  5. Work-Life Balance: Managing the demands of menopause alongside your leadership responsibilities can be challenging, mainly if you’re dealing with symptoms that disrupt your sleep or require additional time for self-care. Striking a healthy work-life balance becomes crucial during this time to maintain your overall well-being and leadership effectiveness.
  6. Navigating Stereotypes and Stigma: Unfortunately, menopause is still sometimes surrounded by stigma or misconceptions in the workplace. As a leader, you may encounter biases or stereotypes related to menopause, which could impact how your Leadership is perceived or how your colleagues treat you. Awareness of these biases and advocating for a more inclusive and supportive workplace culture can help mitigate their effects.
  7. Adaptability and Resilience: Successfully navigating menopause while maintaining your leadership role requires adaptability and resilience. You may need to adjust your leadership style, delegate tasks more effectively, or seek support from colleagues or mentors to manage the challenges associated with menopause while continuing to lead effectively.

It’s important to prioritise self-care, seek support from healthcare professionals if needed, and communicate openly with your team about any challenges you may face. By taking proactive steps to manage the effects of menopause on your Leadership, you can continue to thrive professionally while prioritising your health and well-being.

How to Lead through Menopause

Leading through menopause requires a combination of self-awareness, resilience, and effective communication. Here are some strategies to help you navigate this transition while maintaining your leadership role:

  1. Self-Care: Prioritise your physical and emotional well-being by practising self-care techniques such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep. Taking breaks when needed and managing stress through relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing can also be beneficial.
  2. Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to seek support from healthcare professionals, such as your doctor or a menopause specialist, to help manage your symptoms. Additionally, confide in trusted colleagues, mentors, or friends who can provide emotional support and understanding during this time.
  3. Educate Yourself: Learn as much as possible about menopause and its potential effects on your health and well-being. Understanding the physical and emotional changes you may experience can help you better manage them and communicate your needs effectively to your team.
  4. Communicate Openly: Please be open and open with your team about what you’re experiencing. You don’t need to share every detail, but letting them know that you may be going through menopause and how it could impact your work can foster understanding and empathy.
  5. Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries to help manage your energy levels and workload. Delegate tasks when possible, prioritise your most important responsibilities and don’t be afraid to say no to additional commitments if they’re not manageable during this time.
  6. Adapt Your Leadership Style: Recognise that your leadership style may need to adapt to accommodate the changes you’re experiencing. For example, if you’re feeling more fatigued or experiencing brain fog, you may need to rely more on delegation, collaboration, and empowering your team members to take on greater responsibilities.
  7. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself and recognise that it’s okay to prioritise your health and well-being during this time. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re unable to perform at the same level as before – give yourself grace and acknowledge that menopause is a natural transition that may require adjustments.
  8. Advocate for Supportive Policies: If your organisation doesn’t already have policies to support employees going through menopause, consider advocating for them. These could include flexible work arrangements, access to resources and support groups, or education and training for managers and colleagues to understand better and accommodate the needs of individuals experiencing menopause.

By prioritising self-care, seeking support, communicating openly, and adapting your leadership approach, you can effectively lead through menopause while maintaining your health, well-being, and professional effectiveness.

By Sonia McDonald, CEO of LeadershipHQ and Outstanding Leadership Awards, Leadership Coach, Global Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur, CEO, and Award-Winning Author.

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