Now, more than ever, mental health and wellbeing is at risk for all. Fatigue, stress, burnout and workaholism are increasing – but these are also preventable, foreseeable risks – morally, legally and economically. Leaders have a duty of care to self, as well as a leadership, legal and commercial obligation to all those around them. Managers are often good thinkers, but you can’t think your way to good mental health. You have to live it.
Organisations or leaders can’t completely fix someone’s wellbeing, but they can create the conditions in which employees feel empowered to look after themselves. This begins with leaders who model good ‘Self Care’. This then earns leaders the right to engage in ‘Other Care’, and a key ability in this regard is to dial up the skill of empathy.
In practical terms this looks like the following:
Dial up your observations of those in your teams. Look out for their emotional states and possible clues as to how they are doing. Do they seem happy? Out of sorts? Ambivalent? Tired? If applicable, how are they managing this new hybrid existence? Are they stressed out by the looming cost of living crisis, or distracted by world events?
Dial up your deep listening skills to actively understand what life is like for your team members now. Don’t assume. Listen without judgement or agenda and allow what emerges to inform any actions you may need to take.
Bring yourself into your interactions with the team. Share your own personal experiences (and vulnerabilities) and disclose how you might identify with the challenges the team and individuals may be facing.
Project yourself into the shoes of the other – actively imagine what the view from their world might be and consider how that might translate into a different perspective for you.
Catch with compassion
Guide yourself to acts of compassion – with and for the team. Sustainable performance is an outcome of mental balance and emotional intelligence. Paraphrasing the words of Michelle Obama, who talks great sense on this topic, ‘putting yourself at the top of your own to-do list is a great way to begin the journey to better mental and physical health’.
Rob Bravo is the coaching director and head of wellbeing at Talking Talent, which helps organisations accelerate advancement for under-represented talent.