Holistic Leadership - Why Wellbeing Matters
Health and happiness at work
A healthy, happy and engaged workforce is essential to a thriving organisation. But one in six employees struggle with mental health issues in normal times according to the Mental Health Foundation. The impacts of the pandemic have added new stresses and removed some of the built-in support for many workplaces.
Insight in brief
- Discover Zühlke’s approach to promoting mental health and wellbeing.
- Learn how leader Lynne promotes wellbeing at work.
- See the practices she’s putting in place to support her team.
At Zühlke, we’re constantly looking to improve the ways we support each other and how specific management actions can create a comfortable, open environment that supports each person’s emotional, physical, social and mental wellbeing. We’ve spoken to Lynne Johnson, Senior Head Competence Unit to explore her approach to supporting her team.
Mental health and wellbeing - It starts with awareness
For Lynne, it’s key that as a company we’re self-aware about mental health. While we’ve taken steps to train mental health first aiders who can assist in a crisis, we’ve also been running small training sessions to increase awareness for everyone.
Such conversations really help reduce stigma and normalise talking about mental health. And it needs to be an ongoing conversation Lynne believes: “We haven’t stopped because you can’t just introduce an initiative and then walk away. You have to keep working at it because if you don’t, people will forget about it as they get into the stress of the day. So we reiterate the mental health initiatives; everyone – all the way up to the CEO – is getting involved and talks about it. It has become part of our DNA.”
An active listening approach
Lynne cares for people as part of her role. As a certified life and leadership coach, she brings a wealth of experience to the job.
For her, supporting colleagues is about taking action, not ignoring the issue. “If I think someone seems stressed or unhappy, I’ll book a one-to-one conversation,” she says. “Or if someone is not coping well, I recommend that they take time off - just like they would if they were physically unwell. To keep on doing the amazing work we do at Zühlke, we need to take mental and physical well-being seriously.”
Lynne has been increasingly vigilant during the pandemic by making sure she’s in frequent contact with her team. Her coaching background has been a great benefit: “I teach listening skills and I ask open questions that can elicit profound answers. One of my most useful skills is helping colleagues uncover the answer themselves by asking the right questions. My team tells me they really appreciate that I’m not telling them what to do. I’m helping them take control,” says Lynne, “And if they need to talk, I’m here as a sounding board.”
Mental health first aid
In tough times, timely support can make all the difference. During the pandemic, changes in the ways we work have collided with new stresses in people’s home lives.
For us, support includes practical help—both in people’s home lives, e.g. by offering people the equipment and the flexibility in their work schedule to homeschool or look after their children, or to care for relatives—as well as investing in our internal well-being resources.
As a part of the latter, Zühlke has trained mental health first aiders from diverse backgrounds to provide advice and support when needed. They’re trained to recognise symptoms, approach people who may be struggling and guide them to available support resources in our Employee Assistance Program, such as therapy or counselling, so employees can access the right kind of help early.
A culture of care as basis for mental health and wellbeing
We also recognise the value of keeping an open dialogue about workplace wellbeing issues. Project Manager Caz for example has recently written a blog about Team Health Indexing practices to keep track of a team’s mental wellbeing and to be able to react quickly.
Mental Team Health Indexing
Caz Farrell, Principal Agile Project Manager
Caz on how to collect, understand and action relevant insights to support the team's mental health.
Alignment, flexibility and autonomy
The work itself can also affect our mental wellbeing. Therefore, Lynne tries to assign projects that are aligned to an individual’s professional ambitions and interests in her capacity as a staffing manager.
“The best thing is to make sure that people are going on a project that they’re into. Something they can learn from”, Lynne says. And it’s important to have this conversation with people to show them what it is that they can gain from a project. Giving them context and managing expectations really helps to settle people into a project.
And when it’s sometimes not possible to offer people their dream project, it’s even more important to discuss how a new project fits into the wider spectrum of their aspirations and build a sense of purpose. There may be opportunities to learn new skills or to build a network that will help them move forward in the future.
Once the people are in a project, Lynne puts a heavy emphasis on a smooth lift-off: “We have a discovery period with sessions where we get to know each other, define how we’re going to work together, what values we’re going to work by and how we’re going to collaborate. If you lift off your project properly rather than fixing things as we go along, you have a better chance of having happy people and a successful outcome.”
Motivation, mentorship and holistic leadership
We’re at our happiest when we feel there’s a sense of direction in our work. “From the moment you join Zühlke, we’ll ask you where you see your career going and what your ambitions are,” says Lynne.
Starting from probation, she works with her team members to set goals aligned to their projects and empowers them to learn the skills needed to achieve milestones. She also helps build communities for her teams to get together on their own and share ideas and knowledge.
Lynne believes in creating objectives and success criteria to help people measure their progress. “If one of my people says, ‘I want to be an architect,’ then we’ll create a plan that’s achievable and work together—so it happens. I love nothing more than seeing my team succeed,” she says.
Cultivating wellbeing from the top down
Our approach to mental wellbeing is always evolving. As we learn and understand more, we find better ways to care for each other.
After attending CTI’s coaching training, Lynne plans to introduce a ‘Coaching for Leaders’ workshop at Zühlke. “Not everyone needs to become a life coach, but skills such as active listening are really useful for everyone,” she says.
Of course, there’s always more work to do, but setting an example and treating colleagues with compassion and empathy is a strong foundation.