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Why Leader's Emotional and Mental Wellbeing Should Be a Priority

Firstly, let me start by saying that, of course, everyone's emotional and mental wellbeing is important. We should all be taking action to improve our resilience, look after ourselves both inside and out, and work on balancing our inner critic with our inner cheerleader.

And it was fantastic to hear that many leaders and CEO's were prioritising employee wellbeing in the first year of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the latest CIPD report into Health & Wellbeing At Work (published on the 5th April 2022) shows a small but worrying drop in the engagement and focus of management on employees' mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Seven in ten (70%) of HR respondents agree that employee wellbeing is on senior leaders’ agendas (down from 75% last year) and 60% believe that line managers have bought into the importance of wellbeing (down from 67% last year).

This is concerning because the leadership of an organisation is pivotal in making sure health and wellbeing practices are underpinned by high quality research-driven methods, are taken seriously by everyone involved, and are fully embedded in everyday people management practices.

The senior leaders of an organisation are like the captains of a ship. They are typically the people employees reach out to for guidance, advice, or support, and they have a defining influence on the culture of the organisation.

They are the people your employees watch to learn how to behave, what is accepted in your organisation, and how they should interact and speak to others; often consciously or subconsciously looking for clues that will help them progress in their role and achieve success.

If employees see leaders trying to get ahead by working longer hours, rarely taking breaks and prioritising work over their wellbeing, they will start to believe that they should be doing the same; longer hours = greater success, right?

Whilst you might be able to sustain these practices for a while, they are not worth the cost to your physical and mental health; increasing your risk of sleep deprivation, heart disease, depression, stroke, and diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Add to that the research that indicates being a CEO though industry wide turmoil can shave of 1.5 years of your life and suddenly the need to take protective measure becomes increasingly important.

Give up the delusion that burnout is the inevitable cost of success.” Arianna Huffington

But in truth, working longer hours, and having an unhealthy ratio of personal and work time, only leads to a decrease in mental capacity, energy, creativity and resilience; and an increase in errors, stress and exhaustion. It's the old problem with 'do as I say, don't do as I do'. It doesn't work.

Conversely, when leaders advertise that they prioritise the wellbeing of their team (and themselves), people give greater value to positive practices and consequently develop protective wellness habits that act as a buffer against burnout, stress, anxiety and depression. These include, taking a proper break at lunch, leaving work on time, not sending or answering emails out of hours, taking a wellness day, speaking positively about themselves and what they/others are doing, and actively enquiring about other peoples' wellbeing. Simply keeping the wellbeing conversation going.

Mentally and physically 'well' leaders will have greater clarity and more energy to engage and connect with people in a more impactful way. They will feel calmer and be able to manage their emotions and behaviour, experiencing increased resilience and creativity when faced with problems. This will ripple out through the organisation, creating a culture of wellness, engagement, productivity and enjoyment at work.

Just remember, the ripple effect of leadership can be positive or negative. As the CIPD report states, 'Now, more than ever, we need leaders who are not afraid to show compassion, who consciously role-model healthy working practices and foster an environment where people feel safe to speak about health issues and seek help.'

We also need to acknowledge that this has been a very tough two years for those leading their organisations through the global crisis and they may be in need of support themselves.

Make sure leaders are included, and are taking an active role in, all wellbeing at work company initiatives. Not only will it benefit them on a personal level, it will increase the impact of the provision on all employees; especially if leaders go on to talk about and share their own experiences.

You might also want to ensure they are offered the time and space to confidentially share any mindset, wellbeing or resilience issues they may be experiencing. Executive coaching for wellbeing is a good place to start.

At the most basic level, we need leaders to keep this conversation going and not let wellbeing at work initiatives continue to drop off the agenda. We should be working as hard as we can to boost people's wellbeing at work, increase resilience, and build positivity and self-esteem. If we've learned one thing from the pandemic, it's that you never know what professional and personal challenges lie around the corner. Now is the best time to act.

To find out how my executive coaching sessions can help your leaders improve their resilience, mindset and wellbeing, build self-esteem, and set and achieve valued personal and professional goals, get in touch here.

I offer a free 20min coaching discovery call and would love to discuss how my workplace resilience, mindset and wellbeing training session or coaching can help you create a more positive workplace culture.

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