On 9th November we were among those attending the ISMA Growth 2018 conference in London, marking the 20th anniversary of National Stress Awareness Day and the very first Stress Awareness Week. Carole Spiers, the brains and engine behind this event, brought together over 100 wellbeing professionals to discuss and share best practice in the field of wellbeing.
Top of the agenda for the keynote speakers was a topic which is currently taking pole position in numerous boardroom discussions: how do we support and promote mental wellbeing in our people?
Leading Through Trauma
Up first, with the opening address, was Dany Cotton, Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, who shared her very personal and poignant experience of leading her firefighters through the immediate events and longer-term aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire in London, June 2017.
As the room listened, Dany explained her ethos and approach to taking care of her firefighters, both then and now, with a specific focus on mental health. What became clear was that in order to effectively lead her firefighters through that period of time, she also had to lead herself. Following on from Grenfell, Dany personally accessed counselling and treatment to help her process and make sense of the events. She chose to speak openly about this and took the important decision to ensure that counselling services were immediately available to all firefighters involved; not just on site before they went home, but also as a continued resource for everyone over subsequent months. Supporting wellbeing, she explained, was not just a one-off, it was a constant and by role-modelling a positive approach to proactively managing her own mental health, she had encouraged and inspired others to do the same.
In the aftermath of Grenfell, leadership within the fire service has sought to truly embrace the principles of a ‘caring organisation’ and work continues across the board to foster open dialogue, ensuring all personnel have access to support and resources which proactively promote personal wellbeing.
At the end of her keynote, Dany was asked what her advice would be to other leaders. Her response was:
- Be honest and talk openly about your own experience; lift the lid and in doing so, you’ll set the tone for others to do the same.
- Be proactive and have an intervention in place before something happens; your people are the biggest cost to your business and also the biggest risk if something goes wrong.
Dany Cotton’s address reflected many of the discussions we have with our clients about the role that leaders can play in truly shaping a culture of wellbeing. How leaders talk and act creates a series of explicit and implicit permissions that inform the culture of an organisation. When employees feel supported to proactively maintain their mental health, they are stronger and more resilient for it.
Reflecting on your organisation – does your top team demonstrate resilient leadership? Are your people informed on how to support and maintain their wellbeing?
If your answer to either of these is ‘not sure’, why not get in touch and find out more about how we can help foster a climate of healthy high performance in your organisation.
Mental wellbeing– MHFA accredited and tailored mental wellbeing workshops
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Want to get 2019 off to a flying start? Check out our open courses here.
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