Back Chat #9

Hannah Massarella

October 23, 2018

Hannah Massarella is founder of Bird, a team of expert coaches and facilitators who specialise in resiliency coaching and training for the non profit sector. Their mission is to prevent burnout and stress amongst individuals involved in purposeful work, believing that self-care is a priority, not a luxury. Working with a number of clients – including WaterAid, Farleigh Hospice, Age UK London, Touchstone, ACEVO,  and ShareAction – Hannah has spent over three years understanding, and learning how to overcome, the current wellbeing challenges of the third sector.

09/10/2018, 12:55 - Hannah Massarella:

Hi! I’m ready when you are

09/10/2018, 13:29 - BTF:

Yay! As a reminder, this is all very informal. Just answer whenever you can (and no matter if we dont finish today).

09/10/2018, 13:30 - BTF:

To get the ball rolling… can you tell us about yourself. What do you do for a living, on the side, and for fun?

09/10/2018, 13:49 - Hannah Massarella:

Lovely! So, I run an organisation called Bird 🐦 (not our logo but I like it!). Bird is a team of coaches and facilitators who support people working in the charity and public sectors around building resilience, dealing with stress and avoiding burn out. We work 1:1 with people and we deliver workshops. I don’t really have an on the side as I am all systems go with the business, but I do sometimes partner with other organisations that deliver wellbeing work in the corporate sector. For fun I live by the seaside in Brighton so spend a lot of time being near the sea – walking and running, as well as walking in the South Downs. I love Yoga, meditation and doing parkruns. My favourite thing to do is travel – I’m off to Cyprus on Monday!

09/10/2018, 14:50 - BTF:


09/10/2018, 14:50 - BTF:

Nice! Very jealous of Cyprus… how long are you away for?

09/10/2018, 14:51 - BTF:

And Bird sounds fascinating. How did the idea for the business come about?

09/10/2018, 14:52 - BTF:

(And why Bird? Great name 🐦)

09/10/2018, 15:01 - Hannah Massarella:

Just a week but it looks like wall to wall sunshine! The idea for the business came from my own experiences working in the charity sector. I used to work in the VAWG (violence against women and girls) sector supporting women who were experiencing domestic violence and homelessness. I did the work for about four years and wasn’t looking after myself very well. I ended up completely burning out and experiencing what I now know to be vicarious trauma. Towards the end of my time there I came across CTI (coaches training institute) and learned how to support others. I thought the skills I had learned would be really well received in the charity sector and so I set up Bird. The name came when I was sat in my friend’s apartment in Sydney when I was visiting a few years ago. I was picturing the people I was supporting and thinking about what they wanted – the words freedom, fluidity, flight, dexterity came up and then I looked out the window to see these lovely birds fly by that seemed to sum that up! And so Bird 🐦 was born!! I have since learned that the beautiful birds I saw are considered a pest out there – so the magic was lost slightly! 😂

09/10/2018, 15:48 - BTF:

🐦🐦🐦 No birds are pests in our eyes – we say great name choice!

09/10/2018, 15:50 - BTF:

And what a story. It sounds like you have had a very adventurous – and at times very intense – career. How wonderful to be able to assess your own situation and turn looking after yourself into looking after others. Bravo!

09/10/2018, 15:50 - BTF:

Is there a link to VAWG you can share? They sound like a v important org to be aware of.

09/10/2018, 15:51 - BTF:

And are you able to give us a flavour of the kind of clients you now work with? Has there been a recent project that you’ve found particularly motivating or inspiring?

09/10/2018, 16:02 - Hannah Massarella:

Actually VAWG is more of a sector within the not for profit sector ( I worked for a couple of orgs one of them was Refuge which does really great work.

09/10/2018, 16:07 - Hannah Massarella:

On a 1:1 basis the type of clients I mostly work with are senior level individuals in the not for profit sector, I work with a lot of CEOs and project directors. We look at how they can remember what their values, vision and purpose is both in and out of work, and we do work to keep them connected to the authentic version of themselves (it’s very easy to just go into firefighting mode when working in the sector). When delivering workshops it’s a cross section on the not for profit sector who attend. Recently we did some work with a fantastic organisation called Touchstone Support up in Leeds, we worked with their managers and SMT to develop skills to help with stress, perfectionism and focus. Touchstone are brilliant because they know that this kind of work is ongoing for everyone, and they brought us in as a preventative measure rather than as a reaction to a bad situation. They are really leading the way in terms of innovative and forward thinking charities.

09/10/2018, 16:07 - Hannah Massarella:

And my battery is dying!!

09/10/2018, 17:25 - BTF:

Eek! 📵

09/10/2018, 17:25 - BTF:

Dont worry – just chat to us whenever you can. Theres no rush at all.

09/10/2018, 17:27 - BTF:

Aside from battery life… what do you think is the biggest challenge facing you, your organisation, or your sector? It might be nice to think about this one on two levels – the biggest challenge for your clients (you mentioned a tendency to slip into ‘firefighting mode’) and then the biggest challenge for, and Bird.

09/10/2018, 17:27 - BTF:

If that makes sense…

10/10/2018, 10:58 - Hannah Massarella:

Hi Joe – sorry for the delay!

10/10/2018, 11:02 - Hannah Massarella:

The biggest challenge facing people in the sector is overwork and too much pressure. CEOs have pressure from the board, the team, the media and the public, fundraisers have the pressure of keeping the organisation afloat, service delivery staff experience vicarious trauma as they are dealing with lots of emotionally challenging work, and comms folks hear story after story of challenge and have to process that. I think the biggest challenge is that there isn’t necessarily the space, time and funds (or the perception is there doesn’t seem to be space, time and funds) to allow staff to process and self care effectively.

10/10/2018, 11:02 - Hannah Massarella:

The biggest challenge for bird if I’m really honest is cash flow! Curse of the small business!

11/10/2018, 08:20 - BTF:

Ah! Grappling with some huge challenges there – from the psychological right though to the fundamental and practical (damn cash flow…) We find it so inspiring talking to people working in or around the third sector who have started their own business. Its not easy to begin, and even harder to maintain. So bravo!

11/10/2018, 08:22 - BTF:

Speaking of inspiring things – are there any other projects or orgs, related to Bird or further afield in the world of charities, the arts and social good, that you’ve found particularly inspiring recently?

11/10/2018, 09:23 - Hannah Massarella:

Thank you! We work with quite a few interesting partners who are doing great things in the sector – like ACEVO who support CEOs. I think the CEO role is a very isolated one so ACEVO play a vital role. I’m inspired by charities that are forward thinking and progressive like Movember and Coppafeel, the Coppafeel festival last weekend looked amazing. There are loads of charities and educational organisations and hospices and government agencies we’ve worked with recently who are incorporating regular wellbeing weeks or days into the year which I am super inspired and excited about. Oh also I came across this awesome charity recently called Reach to Teach who are doing loads of work to bring education to hard to access areas in India. And am loving what Global Giving are doing too – a platform which makes it easy to fund projects all around the world. There are a lot of inspiring things happening in the sector!

15/10/2018, 08:08 - BTF:

Its so wonderful that you are able to list off so many exciting examples – and examples that cover such a large range of topics and issues. As you say, it does seem like there is a lot of energy and excitement in the sector at the moment.

15/10/2018, 08:09 - BTF:

The work with CEOs actually segways rather nicely into my next question… What is the best advice you have ever been given (by a CEO or otherwise!)

15/10/2018, 08:30 - Hannah Massarella:

Morning!! My coach actually said to me two things that have really stuck ‘ask for what you want and stick around long enough to negotiate for it’ which of course relates to so many different situations in life – we too often don’t actually say what we want and then if we do manage to, we get scared and defensive when trying to find the middle ground. The second thing she said was ‘Grab the day before the day grabs you’ which I love, and try to follow as much as possible – right now I’m sat on my yoga mat whatsapping you after doing a half hour practice! I’d love to ask you the same thing – what’s the best advice you’ve been given?

15/10/2018, 08:41 - BTF:

Wow! We got two for one on that question – and both excellent mantras to remember. I also love the ‘grab the day’ advice – very, very impressed with the yoga 👍 particularly on a monday – youre grabbing the whole week! As for me, and the best advice Ive been given… there is a lot to pick from (ive been lucky to work and spend time with lots of talented people) but a good one in a similar vein is simply ‘write it down’. Its very easy to forget that when you have ideas, no matter how exciting, th first major step is just getting it out of your noggin and on to a single piece of paper. Seems so simple but if you dont commit to doing that quickly, often the ideas are lost, or lose their momentum. Or worse, they start to happen but without a clear focus or plan. But broad and general, but a similar thing to grabbing the day – grab the idea before the idea grabs you (kind of thing!)

15/10/2018, 08:42 - BTF:

And now – last question before you can run away and go on holiday (lucky!) Interpret this one however you like, too – what’s your one big recommendation?

15/10/2018, 10:10 - Hannah Massarella:

Love that! Totally sold on writing things down!! My one big recommendation is to watch or read anything by dr brene Brown. Her two ted talks are incredible – I will send links. She’s just written a new book on being a daring leader which I can’t wait to get my hands on. She has changed many peoples lives and her work is what we base a lot of our workshops on…

15/10/2018, 10:11 - Hannah Massarella:

15/10/2018, 10:12 - Hannah Massarella:

16/10/2018, 09:47 - BTF:

Phenomenal video – her battle with vulnerability is so honest (and so true for so many people!)

16/10/2018, 09:47 - BTF:

Thank you for sharing – we’ll look out for the book, too.

16/10/2018, 09:48 - BTF:

That brings us to the end of the back chat – cheers so much for taking part (and apologies it was a bit stop-start, you’ve been v understanding and v inspiring) 😊👍

16/10/2018, 09:49 - BTF:

We hope you’ve enjoyed it!

16/10/2018, 11:03 - Hannah Massarella:

Thanks Joe! It’s been great to be a part of it!

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