So today 871 people and I will start a month long challenge to raise money and awareness for the charity MIND. We have each set ourselves a goal of the number of miles we will run during the calendar month of May.
This has got me thinking a lot about the impact we can have as leaders on the mental welfare of those in our care. Many of us come into work and we don the mask of the person we want others to see. But all too often that mask hides many personal challenges and in some cases emotional stress or pain. The awareness of mental illness is growing rapidly and it is far less of a taboo than it used to be. Many more people are willing to hold their hand up and admit that they struggle to cope with the challenges of day to day life. As someone who has personally battled with the daemons of panic and anxiety over the years I understand how difficult it can be.
Last week I had the real honour of hosting a workshop where a group of amazing people shared their own personal stories. They let their colleagues see the real them that sits behind the role they perform. It was a humbling and deeply emotional experience and just helps you to understand that whilst the mask may appear strong behind it each and every one of us is dealing with our own difficulties and trying the best to live our lives to the full. What struck me most about the session last week was the immense strength of each and every one of the leaders. To stand in front of their colleagues and share their innermost thoughts and feelings – that took real courage.
When I was struggling to cope with my own thoughts I found it impossible to tell others what was going on. I kept all these difficult thoughts and emotions inside and felt I was in some way failing for having them. The reason why I am such a keen supporter of the initiative to run for MIND is that it was through exercise that I faced into my own mental challenges. I found that by setting myself physical challenges such as long walks, trekking across the Sahara or running a marathon, I found the strength to also face into my emotional and mental challenges. Through building my body I also built the courage to let others help me face my own emotional and mental challenges.
As leaders we need to be aware and tune into the emotional needs of our teams just as much as their need for direction, clarity or access to the right tools and guidance. One of the things I have been saying increasingly to leaders is that we manage people not role. People who come with their own back story and their own challenges and part of our role as leaders is to lean in and provide support and foster the kind of relationship where our teams have the confidence to share their issues and challenges.
If you are personally dealing with your own emotional challenges I encourage you to talk to someone – be it your partner or a friend – find someone to confide in. You do not have to face anything alone and the very process of opening up and talking to someone about the way you are feeling is the first step to finding a way forward. In my video blog this week I spoke of the courage of taking the first step and when it comes to mental health this is more important than ever. That first step takes immense courage and bravery and is a sign of your real inner strength – and is never a weakness.
If you are leading a team just ask yourself how much time you devote to really check in with those you lead? Are you creating the time, and the right type of relationship that provides the space for your team to be open about how they are doing and the help they might need from you?
Every step I take as I run for MIND this month will be taken in the knowledge that the greater awareness and understanding of the importance of mental well being is another step closer to helping people accept that its OK to struggle and its OK to need help from others. At Mindset Associates we take a very human approach and work with leaders to help them to understand that their principle responsibility is not to deliver objectives but to help their people be brilliant every day. This includes creating the environment where people can express themselves and be at their best.
Haydn Bratt, Pioneer, Mindset Associates