World Mental Health Day: Supporting my team’s wellbeing, as well as my own

Published by Bupa guest author

09 October 2019 . International

Written by Mairi Doyle, Director of Internal Communications and Wellbeing

One of my favourite leadership quotes is from Simon Sinek, when he said: ‘Leadership is not about being in charge, it’s about taking care of those in your charge’. With the increasing focus on both the physical and mental wellbeing of our teams, this is a sobering thought. 

Mairi Doyle

The whole issue of emotional wellbeing at work is a huge topic and as a manager and leader it can sometimes feel like I’m out of my depth. But adopting a positive mindset and focusing on what I can do as a manager has been really helpful.

Before jumping into what I can do for my team, I first, must self-reflect and think about my own emotional wellbeing.

When we are at our best, we perform at a higher level seeing ‘challenge’ vs ‘threat’. A positive mindset has a powerful impact on how we approach life and work. So, what techniques can we use to retain a positive mindset? For me, I try to reframe any negative thoughts into positive ones and I often talk to a trusted colleague to help me do this quickly. I know of other managers who are great at putting things into context and proportion; keeping a gratitude diary that refers to past achievements can help too.

Our energy levels, including our mood, effectiveness and ability to concentrate, is psychological. It is affected by exercise, diet, sleep, relaxation and time spent with friends and family. These are more important in busy and stressful times.

Adequate, quality sleep is also key. If I don’t get enough sleep, I find it hard to keep things in proportion. Spending time with people who energise me and keep me grounded helps me from getting anxious about things at work. When I’ve optimised my own energy levels, I’m in a better place to think about my team and how I can support them. Trust and support from a line manager is one of the most significant factors for an employee’s wellbeing and mental health.

Do I encourage my team to prioritise their wellbeing? I like to think that I do but here’s the real challenge; do I do this especially during periods of pressure and change? Maybe not so much, if I’m honest. Being open about our own lives and feelings is a foundation for honest conversations. A conversation early on can reduce pressure or worry and head-off bigger problems further down the line.

Thinking about the people who report to us, do we believe they would talk to us if they had concerns, or were struggling, professionally or personally? What could we do to encourage this?

As leaders and managers, we often feel we need to be invincible. Showing our own vulnerabilities can sometimes help our teams to be more open about asking for support. We’re all human and regardless of our titles we’re all susceptible to periods of poor emotional wellbeing.

People are disproportionately influenced by what their manager says and does. So what habits am I passing on to my team? How are my working practices affecting my team? Have I had a conversation with them about it, what could I do differently?

Email is a big culprit here. Managers should have a conversation with their teams about what is expected. I’ve heard managers say that it suits me to send an email at 10pm on a Saturday evening. Well that’s fine…if you’ve explained to your team that there’s no expectation of a response until Monday morning.

Recognising the influence, we have on our teams is huge. Don’t assume. Have the conversation and be clear about expectations. Share what strategies you use to keep you emotionally balanced.

It’s a privilege being a leader and manager but also a massive responsibility. I guess, when I optimise my own energy and resilience and then enable my team to look after their emotional wellbeing, it at least goes some way to ‘looking after those in my charge’.

Bupa guest author