Host: As we think about the impact of COVID-19, economic crisis, and continuing racial injustice in the United States, it’s key that internal comms, HR, and leadership teams support the mental health of their employees. On this episode of ICTV, Co-Founder of Bravely Sarah Sheehan shares coachable skills for employees to improve mental health in the workplace.
Sarah Sheehan: There’s a lot of fear around what’s happening in the country right now. We’ve seen over 150% spike in sessions related to stress and anxiety over the last eight weeks. I think a lot of people, including yourselves are probably asking like, “How do I continue to stay focused, sane even, while driving myself and my team forward?” So we’re going to talk about three different mindsets, embracing vulnerability, building resilience, and reinforcing agility.
The first mindset is embracing vulnerability. We think of this as being emotionally open to the point of risk. When I say the point of risk, I mean, typically we are not talking openly or as openly as we may right now about our personal lives or the impact that that is having on our professional life, and so for many people that is incredibly daunting. It can feel very scary.
The first thing you need to do is recognize that your example sets the stage and the tone for your entire organization. So, framing this conversation around COVID and now with what’s going on right now in terms of racial injustice. Your employees are looking to you to lead them through the moment, right? So very important for you to, one, yes, set the stage, but give yourself permission to remove any masks that you have and invite in empathy. So what does a vulnerable leader look like? They’re acknowledging the reality of what is happening. Any leader right now for example who’s not speaking openly about what has happened in the last week, their employees are paying attention to this and they are going to make note of it.
Secondly, you need to understand the specifics of how individuals on your team are doing, and that means that we have to ask more questions, not just the general how are you? If you aren’t willing to ask those specifics, you won’t know how you can support people, and so that’s an important component for you to share with your teams, any managers you have on your team, and if you are the leader, to make sure that you’re paying particular attention to, and then following up on that in every conversation that you have so that they know that, one, they have this space to talk about what’s going on in their personal life. But it also demonstrates that you will not grow weary or you will not grow tired of hearing what’s happening with them.
So the second mindset we want to talk about today is building resilience, right? So creating the capacity to recover quickly from adversity. When we think about developing coping mechanisms, each one of us has our own set of things that we know can help us. Exercise, sleep, meditation. By doing these things, by making sure that we take the time, we are allowing ourselves when we do start anew every day to figure out how to respond and not react in moments, right? So we do this in order to not burn out ourselves, but to also not burn bridges.
So, building resilience in others. Again, we’re thinking about like how do I get my team to get up every day, come back to center and hit the ground running. Clear direction makes it easier for everyone to weather the storm. My team, we start out every week knowing what we’re going to do completely changes every single week and that’s okay. Then we just reset and we keep going, but we just continue to modify these plans but as the leader, somebody has to keep getting up in front of everyone and setting the agenda or setting the focus, and that helps people know what they’re going to be facing on a daily basis. Your job as the leader also is to remove obstacles or barriers that may derail your team.
I think we can all remember a time when we’ve been recognized and how that makes us feel. Resilience is built in appreciating people, recognizing them, reinforcing that you have their backs. Sometimes people, they’re not able to find that energy every day to get up and face what’s in front of them. But if they know that you are there and you have done all of these things to make them feel appreciated, they will show up for you even if they’re not willing to show up for themselves. Then eventually, through your leadership, they can show up for themselves too.
The final mindset is fostering agility, right? So this is cultivating the ability to move quickly and easily. If three months ago someone had asked me like, “How agile are you?” I would have said, “I’m literally like the most agile person you could meet.” Now, as I shelter at home with a six month old baby and eight month old daughter in the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis and racial injustice, I am not that person anymore. So I think it’s important for us to take a step back and ask ourselves, “How agile am I?” Am I capable of what I was capable of before? After you think about what am I comfortable with, and then applying that to then how comfortable are you asking your team to do this.
Be mindful of when you can fold your team into decisions whenever possible, and when you can’t, over-communicate so that the minute a decision is made, everybody understands why it was made and what the next steps are.
Finally, I think there’s a lot of fear right now. I think it’s important here for us to frame things in terms of the opportunity and that if we can just wait this out, if we can just get to the other side of it, I think, what people will find is that getting through this moment makes them way stronger in terms of their personal and professional development.
Host: In times of crisis and unrest either at your company or in the world, it’s key to look out for the well-being of your employees by embracing these three mindsets: embracing vulnerability, building resilience, and reinforcing agility. If you liked this episode of ICTV, share and subscribe.
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