If you’ve experienced burn-out for yourself or had time off for stress or anxiety, then you know it isn’t a pleasant place to be. Similarly, if you’ve seen it happen to somebody else then you will know that it isn’t pleasant to witness. When it happens to somebody in the workplace, I’ve often heard “we didn’t see it coming” but I don’t believe that is always true; often, there have been little warning signs and clues for some time and lots of missed opportunities to change things for the better.
Time and time again, I’ve seen people struggle with their resilience when they lose their perspective on things; A big challenge become crushing, a mistake seems like the end of the world, or working harder than is healthy starts to become normal.
One way to help people retain their perspective is to make sure that they have powerful support networks, that they have people with whom they can pause, think, reflect, and talk openly and honestly about how they are really doing. One of the first elements of the work that I do around resilience is simply to get people talking, to help them have high-quality conversations about how they are really doing and I’m always delighted at the powerful conversations that people have, given the opportunity.
I like the ‘personal Board of Directors’ approach, as mentioned in the HBR Guide to getting the mentoring you need. The idea is based on the idea that a company has a Board of Directors comprising people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This way, there are challenging discussions with different perspectives that result in good decisions. My own experience as a Non-Executive Director is of full and frank exchanges of views, and lively debates which result in good, solid decisions. So, if you were to form your personal Board of Directors, who would be on it? Who would be the set of people that would support and challenge you with a diversity of powerful contributions? There might be somebody to (briefly) listen to you moan, somebody to tell you to do something about it, somebody to inspire you, somebody to support you in going against the grain, somebody to challenge you, somebody to hold you accountable for the things you said you would (and wouldn’t) do, and somebody to help you retain your perspective. The diversity of contributions is powerful. I’m not suggesting that you get these people together for a meeting, rather that you ensure that you have these people in your support network. My own preference is to have a ‘Strategic Latte’ with different people in my network where they can provide me with support and challenge and I can do the same for them.
I’m a huge fan of much of Gallup’s work, but I must admit that I’ve always been cynical of their ‘I have a best friend at work’ question on their Q12 engagement survey. Maybe, though, having a best friend at work means that we have somebody that we can really talk to. A powerful element of any wellbeing initiative should, I believe, be helping people to create and sustain the support networks that give them the opportunity to talk.
There are some excellent materials for the #TimetoTalk campaign at the time to change website (led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness).
We didn’t see it coming? We need to be better at talking and helping others to talk.
Note: This is one of a series of blog posts I’ve written for The HR Director Blog