Ensuring 'mental wealth' for your people
People first commonly seen in paper & heard in conversations normal in the new normal yet mental health of these people is in dire state. Why? Leadership needs to be taught how to use the oxygen mask themselves so that they can help others use it correctly. Star performers get promoted & tend to become bigger jerks as they think only about themselves. In their life, it’s ‘my way or the highway’, leading to a narcissist ‘what’s in it for me?’ attitude. Worldly success at any cost leads to an internal vacuum of happiness & contentment. Happiness after a point is largely a function of the inside and not the outside. Anxiety, depression, stress, fear, zoom or tech fatigue etc. are increasing their market share like crazy. Still, there is a lot of taboo around speaking up on mental health & this leads to a huge loss as employee wellbeing keeps decreasing. People have different needs mentally - while one likes a pat on the back, another doesn’t like touch. “I don’t know what I don’t know” should be sowed early in life. This keeps people curiously curious & open to ideas. Leaders need to realize that most times, we don’t fully understand the actual situation of any person. So it’s important to know when to assist & when to lay off. Supervisors felt that they were supporting 101% but a lot of the team members never felt that they were properly heard/ received that support in reality. Being the throughput of a safe & secure bridge is the best thing that any organization culture can offer. The same applies for our personal life as people who have a secure base with their partners are happier.
Our mind keeps absorbing things from childhood & validating every minute of it. As most of us believe that we carry some traces of our past life or karma therein, today I am focusing more on the workplace wherein it’s normal to focus on worldly success. Here, it’s all about I, me and myself & how I can move up the ladder. People start playing games to win, stay ahead of others, pleasing the boss, fooling the customer - just to succeed at any cost. How is it possible to keep a wholesome approach to life of self & others? The need is to have a Culture wherein we all progress & move on - as a team. Not all can become CEO, but each one can be the CEO of their life/actions/mind.
How can we expand the ability of individuals in terms of the various options available & the scenarios that may emerge/exist at that time? As a support giver it’s important that I generate different solutions that may hopefully have a workable option for most. This requires deep thinking, and forecasting both expected & unexpected scenarios. It’s alright to not know everything but being open to partnering for a solution that works e.g. Yoga/deep breathing/pranayama/meditation / wellness apps as options may work for one, but not for another. The practical ground reality is different for each one lie e.g. say there are maybe still areas where there is no power so at times charging a phone, laptop etc. can become issues, people maybe need to set up box offices in their backyard or rooftops or inside their flats or cars, infertility can be a concern for women, biases of color, gender etc. can be an issue too. Leaders need to be adept at understanding their work & know how to deliver in uncertainty & ambiguity a fairly personalized solution. They are humans who have to learn the difficult art of balancing compassion with objectivity. Here wisdom has a big role to play e.g.
Our offices were known to be extremely spick & span with cleaning happening twice daily. In the COVID-19 times since attendance was quite low this continued under the pretext that who knows when we may need to come in. These people got no respite from work & so much water, chemicals etc. we’re getting wasted daily. A hr. manager with ESG lens came into action. She devised a plan that anyone who wanted to come in the office needed to inform ideally a day before so that their desk area could be properly cleaned. Table fans would be put up as the central AC would be closed during winter time an exception would be made for people who needed AC by operating the window AC in the meeting rooms. Regular cleaning would be done only 3 days a week unless there was more attendance. Solar panels were installed wherever possible. This led to a huge savings in cost, water, electricity & physical energy of staff. The same set of people now we're playing the role of health support staff by ensuring support in various forms available to those who needed it at home – like a single parent wanted a babysitter while at office work at home, planting trees & tending to the garden, better maintenance of all motors & pumps etc. In the pandemic it was much easier have a known office person to support their cause. A manager wanted someone to take their dog out & be fed as they had to go off to attend to parents as a caregiver. These people now doubled up as both.
With great leaders, trust is a value that’s experienced by people around them & is a given. Their being + doing is well aligned. They understand that each individual is unique & it’s their responsibility to create a culture wherein asking for help is normal. Speaking up without fear, listening to each other’s points of view & then working towards the committed decision is the normal way. Hard hitting conversations, questioning the status quo, challenging poor performance is a must, yet it has to be done with compassion & wisdom.
Mental health demands much more focus on the top leadership group as these people who can largely make or break it. These individuals need to be nurtured with good habits that become a way of their life. The 4 pillars I believe are helpful are - listening, speaking, caring & sharing. When these seeds are sowed top-down, each one plays the role of a gardener; watering & pruning things appropriately. E.g. When I proposed dinner being sent to each employees’ home once a week with a movie telecasted for all to join it was smirked at, but soon was rated as the most popular benefit by most. The icing on the cake was that we sent an extra box of cookies asking people to help the needy with that and anything else they wanted to add the next day. One could only walk or cycle as we wanted to avoid using car to save on pollution & fuel. This distribution became a weekly affair across the co. The best example I am very proud of to share is that a lady who has been sleeping in the pathway to my house whom I want to not allow to sleep there I seem to be quietly putting food stuff, money etc. in her open bag while she is asleep. One morning when I was telling some co residents that we need to move her out. One of them said you talk all the time about caring how can you say like this. I said I agree it’s sad yet look in her bag I am putting food to help her without telling her. I have also requested for help to get her into a shelter or to her family.
Tough conversations happen often, but with grace & a human touch. The idea is to enable the success of the desired output. A lot is at stake with our top people as they can make or break a lot of things. At times, it’s a good idea to put them through an assessment & then, 1:1 Coaching as it is here that they drop some of their vulnerability. I have had cases wherein at times the negative reaction of the boss was becoming an issue of constant anxiety. A small course correcting self-awareness session on both sides separately helped. The boss was made aware of starting the feedback with a smile, acknowledging the good work with appreciative enquiry & to discuss the points that needed change. It’s all about conversations making relationships better not bitter. After a point it’s the softer issues that can make them effective or ineffective. A coach who has displayed these wholesome values, understands human sensitivity, can create a safe space & can show the mirror clearly without scaring the Coachee is needed. I am one among the many good ones around who keeps learning & unlearning to relearn with each session. I have done & experienced role play of a Caregiver, Caretaker & Care receiver.
Collective Wellbeing wherein performance becomes a byproduct of great people management & planet wellness is the need of the hour. It’s all about not talking or putting in place policies (like say a long maternity/paternity leave yet no tolerance during office hours to attend to a child who is ill on a particular day) but it’s about being sensitive to the needs/ emotions of a parent after they join the workplace. Of course work cannot suffer in the name of being good but when goodness takes over people automatically take the extra effort to make both performance & wellbeing work. Small thoughtful actions can make a huge difference. Leaders are needed at all levels to keep circulating around the eco system acting like an oiling machine which keeps smoothening things.