• Madeleine Bonser

Spotlight on Donna Smith - Burn Bright Not Out

At Spotlight, we’ve had the opportunity to speak to Donna Smith, director of Odonnata GTC, who has taught us about burning bright, not burning out.


I have an extensive range of experience in Coaching, NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Leadership & Management Development, MBTI, Talent Development, and workshop facilitation. I am passionate about working with people who have reached that stage where they say ‘enough is enough’ and they want to make a change for the better, they want to move forwards instead of staying stuck.

After making the move from my career as a solicitor in Nottingham and Leeds, I spent a number of years in the HR Profession, working across a range of sectors including retail, travel & leisure and local authority. Since then, I have made my dream of running my own coaching business a reality, qualifying as a Coach and an NLP Practitioner in 2017 and launching Odonnata Growth & Transformation Coaching that same year. I now work with a growing number of clients in the Legal Profession, helping them to ‘Burn Bright’, not out!

Making the move to coaching

I decided to train as a Coach because, essentially, that is what I was doing most days with my clients as a consultant yet it felt false as I had no solid coaching credentials (I later realised credibility is one of my values so this makes perfect sense now!). Through my training, I had the realisation that coaching was the ‘thing’ that would enable me to fulfil my passion. Except, something had changed. It was no longer about ME helping others and making a difference FOR them. What I really love to do is to enable others to HELP THEMSELVES and make a difference FOR THEMSELVES and that is what coaching is all about.

Burning out

I am someone who has burnt out, someone who has faced several career crossroads, someone who struggles with perfectionism and that feeling of not being good enough. Basically, the types of challenges so many of us face every day.

I got help with working on my mindset and limiting beliefs with a coach, a mentor and a mastermind group together with numerous self-development tools involving affirmations, meditations and tapping (Emotional Freedom Technique). It is a forever journey and one that I now thoroughly enjoy as I learn more and more about myself and what I am actually capable of every time I break down another limiting belief.

One of my biggest challenges is believing in myself. The fear of not being good enough and of failing has caused many sleepless nights and, in some cases, delayed me taking steps which I knew ultimately would move me forward if I could only just get out of my own way. So part of my recovery has involved some serious and frank reflections on how I got to where I am in the first place, researching how to recover from things, avoiding it happening again in the future and realising that burn out is all around us.

Burning Bright

The Burn Bright (not out!) focus came about when I suffered a major burnout in June 2017 which took several months to recover from. Everyone I spoke to about my experience, either had a similar experience to share or could recognise that they were on the same path as I had been prior to my burnout. Essentially, the Burn Bright Programme is a culmination of the tools and techniques that helped me to recover from my own burnout.

How To Avoid Burning Out When Starting A Career

Choose a career that is linked to what you are passionate about because that is what will get you up in a morning with a spring in your step and help you push through the challenges and the tough days.

Be ruthless with your wellbeing and development. Make them a non-negotiable every day/week. If you are not at your best, your career cannot be at its best.

Ask for help. Find people who are already successful at what you want to do and ask them to mentor you. Get a coach to support you on achieving your goals and hold you accountable. Build a support network around you of like-minded, advancing people to share ideas/challenges/wins with. I learnt that I cannot do it on my own. Especially since starting my own business, the biggest shifts I have made in terms of professional and personal growth have been when I have asked for help and/or accepted it when it has been offered.

The Future Is Burn Bright

The future looks very exciting for my business now that I have taken the step of moving what I do to be predominantly online. As a result, the world is my oyster from a geographical perspective and so I am working on developing strong relationships with Law Societies and Junior Law Divisions around the country. I really want the Burn Bright message to get out to as many junior lawyers as possible so they can see how it is possible to prioritise their wellbeing and development AND be hugely successful in their legal career as well.

If you’re feeling like you’re burning out and are in need of Donna’s coaching, check out Donna’s website here, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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