Lel O’Connor is the Founder of Team You Coaching and creator of The Team You Mindset.
*Article read time: 8 minutes. For a shorter introduction to Lel, you can go here.*
‘Well, that’s great’, you might be thinking, ‘but it doesn’t tell me much. What’s her story?’
Lel is originally from Scotland and lives in London, UK. Lel’s background is in Marketing and Product Management, and she has worked with some of the biggest retailers and consumer brands in the UK over the last 10 years. Lel founded Team You Coaching to live her dream of empowering people to create change in their mindset, lives and businesses.
But life has definitely not been plain sailing for Lel – her own honest, personal and inspiring story is one of success, failure and renewal through mindset change.
Where to start, but at the (humble) beginning...
“I’m really just a Small Town Girl in the Big City. I came from a very modest upbringing; growing up on a council estate in a small seaside town on the west coast of Scotland, London looked like a different world on television.
My parents were sometimes together, sometimes not, but were united in having big plans for my brother and me. They worked incredibly hard to ensure we valued education, stayed out of (too much) trouble and had opportunities beyond the manual jobs and financial struggles they endured.
I was the first person in my family to go to University, and graduated in 2004 with a First Class Honours degree in Politics, receiving the Court Medal for being top of the year on my programme. All this while working 25 hours a week in a local hotel so I could afford to live.
Not bad for a binman’s daughter I suppose…”
Big City, Bright Lights...
“I had big ideas of my own, and after hitting a ceiling on my career in Retail Marketing in Glasgow, I decided to move to London. I doubled my salary in a year, and tripled my salary in 5 years. I lived in a leafy, sought-after neighbourhood and had a series of fantastic, challenging roles in my career.
I launched digital products into two of the biggest retailers in the UK. I worked on huge brand launches. I built and developed teams of talented people. I managed a multi-million pound budget.
One of the things I enjoyed most was coaching and mentoring, and I supported a number of people in achieving promotion, securing new jobs or changing their career entirely. It was exceptionally rewarding.
My life was good – I spent my time going for dinners and drinks in London; roadtrips to the coast and holidays abroad; buying nice clothes and pampering myself with beauty treatments.
I was also able to treat the people I love – taking them on holiday, gifting family and friends money if they needed it, spoiling people with nice dinners and presents.”
And then... everything... started... to go wrong...
“My professional life was becoming more and more stressful.
I know now that I placed all of my self worth and value on achievement – from school, to University to my career. When things got really tough, I didn’t have anything to fall back on, because I hadn’t placed enough intrinsic value on just being me. Being enough.
I also wasn’t particularly fulfilled in my professional life.
Although my career was challenging and exciting, and I worked with seriously smart and talented people, I wasn’t really living in line with my purpose. In fact, I rarely even thought about it. I didn’t have time!
So as things got more stressful at work, I didn’t have the resilience which can come from doing something you really believe in.”
And self care just wasn't there...
“I stopped doing all of the self care activities which had been keeping me strong.
I went from having a balance between work and relaxation, exercising regularly, eating nutritious food and spending time with friends – to working evenings and weekends, living on takeaways and caffeine, drinking too much wine and spending weekends isolated because I was so exhausted.
I was also exceptionally hard on myself. My absolute worst critic.”
Of course, this was completely unsustainable...
“Following some increasingly alarming physical symptoms including nosebleeds and chest pain, I went to my doctor and was eventually diagnosed with depression.
I knew my current role was breaking me, so I tried a different job, then another one. Less stressful positions. And although the physical symptoms improved, mentally and emotionally, I only got worse. And worse.
So what put a halt to the downward spiral..?
“I suppose I hit rock bottom. I guess that needs to happen to some people, right?
It took my father being admitted to hospital and diagnosed with heart failure, for me to realise my life needed completely re-assessed.
I had been trying to soldier on, with the same mindset, having the same issues, living the same life. And it was not working!
I was broke – no longer earning my previous salary, I had spent my savings and was really struggling financially. My depression had got progressively worse and was now severe. I had developed anxiety, mainly in the form of panic. I had started to feel suicidal, frequently – that was new, and it terrified me.
I could so easily have given up. Everything was such a mess. But there was one thing I still had.
Hope. Genuine hope, that things could be different. And to have any chance of things being different, I needed a completely different approach.”
When enough is enough, try a new approach...
“I decided to take time out. From work. From everything. I decided I would approach my life like a work project.
I’d been a Digital Product Manager in a previous role, and had used Agile methodologies to develop digital marketing products. I thought Agile was brilliant.
Agile is a mindset more than anything else. Being Agile is all about taking small steps every day.
Having a clear vision and breaking that down and down into small goals that you deliver quickly.
Focusing on the most important stuff and putting all the other stuff to the side.
Not striving for perfection, but identifying what value you can add now – and then delivering it.
Team You is Agile – it’s one of the core principles. You can read more about The Team You Framework here.
As Steven Covey says, Start with the End in Mind...
“I started by carving out my life purpose. It might sound a little ‘airy fairy’ (and one thing I am not is airy fairy) but it was a critical first step.
What did I actually want to do with my time on this planet? What would bring me joy and fulfilment? How could I feel I was achieving my potential?
I had to get super clear on my why. Then I moved on to my core values. Those values which were truly, fundamentally important to me. If I wanted to live true to myself, I needed to know what I really stood for, when everything else was stripped away.
I also immediately started setting myself goals. Small at first, then bigger. Always in line with my purpose and values.
I got myself a white board, a marker and some post-it notes. Like I said – approaching it like a work project!
I still have this board, although it’s changed a fair bit, and I review it or update it every day of my life.”
Developing The Team You Mindset from an idea into a system...
“All the while, I had identified people I needed on this life project to help me succeed.
I decided I needed a therapist. However, it became obvious that therapy was not going to be available to me, in my area on the NHS i.e. free of charge. So I thought – fine. I’ll be my own therapist!
I learned about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I researched and read, A LOT. I practiced, A LOT. No, it’s not a replacement for actual therapy. But practicing CBT exercises and activities can and does drive meaningful, lasting change in your mindset.
I learned about Neuro Linguistic Programming – I am fascinated by the concept that small, intentional shifts in our mindset can create big changes. NLP is used a lot for improving leadership performance, but it is also exceptionally helpful in day to day life.”
Who else did Lel need on her team to succeed?
“I needed someone on my side 100%. Supporting me, telling me it was ok, I was enough, and things would get better. And what’s more – I knew this had to be me. I had to be on my own team. Learn how to give myself a break rather than constantly criticise.
I needed a cheerleader. Someone to point out all the great things I was achieving, big or small, when all I could focus on were the negatives. My shortcomings. And again – I knew that person had to be me. I had to learn how to notice the good stuff and say hey, well done. Great job. Go Lel!
I needed a coach. I was lucky enough to know a fantastic Life Coach, who worked with me to uncover some deeply ingrained and damaging beliefs, which were holding me back and causing me pain and anxiety – whilst also supporting me towards my goals.”
I took all the people I needed, all the different roles – and I developed a system. One which enabled me to draw on their support and strength in my own mind. My Team You.“
*You can learn more about The Team You Mindset here.*
So what did The Team You Mindset deliver?
“I started noticing little positive changes almost straightaway. Within a few weeks, I couldn’t believe how much my mindset had changed.
“The suicidal feelings disappeared. I don’t pretend that part was easy. There were some long nights and dark days. But it’s true. My depression and anxiety became less severe, then manageable, then the symptoms started to disappear entirely.
Now, am I saying you don’t need professional help in this situation? Absolutely not. Team You Coaching is NOT a substitute for medical and therapeutic intervention. I was lucky enough to have a great GP, even if there was no other professional support available. All I want to do here is provide an honest account of my own unique experience.
And please – feel zero shame in investigating your options. Therapy is transformative and even life-saving for many people.
Do I think I’m ‘cured’? I have no idea. Maybe it’s something I’ll always have to live with. And I too feel zero shame about that.
What I do know is depression and anxiety moved from being the drivers in my life, to being the passengers, and now they’re rarely even in the damn car. The Team You Mindset wasn’t solely responsible for this, but it had a huge impact.”
Before long, Lel was living her life very differently...
“I was able to start building healthy habits. Waking early. Achieving things before the sun even came up. I don’t even snooze my alarm anymore, and if you knew me personally, you would know that’s basically a freakin’ miracle.
I also finally felt brave enough to make big changes professionally. I knew I could go back to my career if I wanted to. But I wanted something more for my life.
“I decided to enrol on a Diploma in Life Coaching. And not one of those ‘purchase it online for $99‘ type of certificates. The Real Deal.
A trainer with 20 years experience. A course which consisted of 8 modules equivalent to 300 hours of learning, 50 recorded hours of coaching practice, intensive full day workshops and a 3,000 word thesis.
I wanted to know I had equipped myself with the best training possible.
I decided to set up my own coaching practice. I knew I would be happier and more fulfilled working for myself – and doing something I completely believed in.”
Ultimately, Lel realised two important things...
“Firstly, for me, mindset coaching is literally the definition of my life purpose, which is:
To live a joyful, healthy and inspiring life, empowering people to create change in their mindset, lives and businesses.
And secondly, going through this whole experience had equipped me with the insight and knowledge to support other people
Without my struggles, there would be no Team You Mindset. This was my chance to use my gifts, my own unique insights and my experience to empower other people to create change in their own mindset and lives.”
So, personally... how is Lel now?
“I suppose you might be wondering, so do I have it all figured out? Hell no!
“Am I still in the process of learning, and growing? Absolutely. In fact I hope it never stops.
Am I still that person who was lost, suicidal and depressed? Actually, I barely recognise her. But I am aware now that I must always stay focused on the mindset and behaviours which keep me well and strong.
Do I believe I can use my insights, knowledge and experience to support others? It genuinely gets me jumping out of bed in the morning excited to start my day.
So… do I live my life now in line with my purpose and values? Definitely.
And do I feel joy, achievement and contentment? Every day.”