Ideas and Insights


You don’t need to be an expert: practical ways to help employees with mental health issues

We know that globally one in five people (20%) suffer some sort of mental health problems at least sometime during their life. Therefore it is likely in most families and work groups that there will be people with mental health issues. In working with many leaders and managers one of the major concerns that is increasingly verbalized is how to best to approach and help people in their team who are suffering some sort of mental health issue. Clearly and thankfully awareness as to the prevalence and seriousness of mental health as a workplace issue has risen enormously in the last 10 years, but still many feel ill-equipped to know where to start of what to do if someone they work with is showing signs of poor mental health.

Recently I listen to Jim Al Khalili, on one of my very favourite podcast series A Life Scientific, from BBC Radio 4 talk with Peter Fonagy on his life, career and contribution to mental health care.  Like many people who make outstanding contributions to our lives and well-being, Peter has suffered very much in his early life. Indeed, he says that it only through having experienced trauma which personally caused him significant mental health problems, that he was able to make such a contribution.

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Feedback: the how

Many companies try to help managers navigate this minefield by standardizing a feedback/ review process, even going so far as to have printed out mandatory questions with blank spaces for the recipients’ answers….  And in doing so they are trying to equip managers with a tool to help them succeed in the conversation (and avoid HR complications). 

People take feedback differently, in terms of their emotional reaction, subsequent motivation, engagement, input, openness, honesty, follow up output and much more. Feedback is not a one size fits all or each performance review and coaching session would be perfect every time. 

Unfortunately, this way of thinking often addresses the dimensions of content and formal process.  There’s another, equally important focus to consider… the ‘how’ – the informal, hidden or tacit process.

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Going beyond information exchange: good questioning skills

As far as we are aware, humans are the only creatures that ask questions. This shows a level of self-insight: that we don’t know or understand everything about a situation. Questions take us beyond the obvious.

Generally, questions are seen as ways to elicit or exchange information, but much more importantly questions can,

  • unlock learning
  • fuel creativity and innovation
  • reveal how another person ticks, and
  • build relationships

The use of carefully framed questions is an undervalued tool in organizations and teams. Unfortunately, our education system does not seem to recognise the value of questions or the skills required to construct and use questions. Questioning is a skill to be honed. Our education systems emphasize advocacy at the expense of skilled inquiry.

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Creating psychological safety in teams

I get to work with teams and groups of all shapes and sizes; from dusty mining crews, to cool urbane executive teams and all in between.  You do not need to be with them long to get a sense of how well the members of the team gel. In other words, the level of trust in the group.

Back in 2013, Steve Zuieback wrote an article, Trust: Cause, Effect or Process, building on the work of Jack Gibb. His Trust Cycle shows 6 steps or actions, that if repeated builds trust in teams. These include,

  • Sharing critical information
  • Experiencing openness
  • Experience more trust
  • Commit to common work
  • Learn as you go
  • Create and document results

In addition to these, my colleague Tim Dalmau often talks about “creating safety” in groups. By this he means psychological safety.

Psychological safety means that there is certainty (in terms of behaviors and decisions by those in power) and people feel safe. Read more…

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The right frame – person or position?

Cathy  Taylor provides an example of where choosing the wrong frame to operate from as a leader, reduces performance and functionality of groups and people. The frame relates to ‘ways of being’  – either from role (or position) or on a personal level.

In the workplace to operate and lead effectively we need to operate both in role (or position) and on a personal relationship level. It is when we confuse these two ways of being that we create confusion for the people we work with. One of the important roles of leaders is to provide ‘psychological safety’ for our teams.  This mean that people feel comfortable to say what is on their mind without fear of negative consequences.

Click here for additional information on the  ‘Person and Position’ frame.

 

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Leading complex organizations

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A business reporter for the BBC recently posted a story that caught my eye. It was titled, Why businesses may need to start hiring biologists. (Click here to to watch the video). It attracted my attention because my initial training was as a biologist, and I had always thought that my background gave me many advantages and ways of understanding organizations, teams and people that I have come to work with. On the other hand I have not encountered many biologists in the business world except in organizations focused on the environment or perhaps healthcare. Read more…

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A celebration of Dick Knowles’ eight decades

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Dick Knowles

We have had the privilege of working with Dick Knowles for just under twenty years. Tim Dalmau first met Dick at Sundance at a conference on self-organizing systems theory .

He recalls the first encounter: “I listened to this guy outline how he had brought about a fundamental and deep change in the worst performing Du Pont plant in the world to the point where it became the best, and stayed so. I thought if this is real, then he has something I should know about. I went up to him and asked him if he had used the company’s safety consultants to engender this dramatic and sustained shift and I remember his reply vividly: ‘Hell no, I wouldn’t let those guys near my plant’. This immediately validated his credibility in my mind.”

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Behavior change – lessons from the health sector for all leaders

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Creating the conditions for, and facilitating, behavior change is a core competency of great leaders and managers. It is also perceived to be one of the most difficult things to achieve and requires approaches and skill that, although may be intuitive to some, the majority find challenging and perplexing. However, research and experience have shown us that there are some clear frameworks and simple skills that can be taught to give leaders and managers huge assistance in more elegantly and successfully influencing behavior change. The health sector provides us with a useful example and model for this. Read more…

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When Leadership for Change Works!

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It is not often I sit back in wonder, surprise and with some delight when conducting a meeting for a client. But that is exactly what happened when meeting with about 70 managers and executives of a government corrective services department recently. Yes! A prison’s department!

 

My image of most corrective services agencies is one of organizations that are change averse, where executive leadership has to struggle to achieve engagement and where militant industrial dynamics are the norm.

 

So it was with somewhat limited expectations that I met with this group of 70-odd people recently for a one-day workshop. They were all members of working groups set up in the various corrective services facilities that make up this government agency. And they were gathered for a regular review of what was happening in their agency, where it was going and what challenges it faced in these austere times. Read more…

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Performance: The Holy Grail of Leadership

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Click here to view or download a paper exploring useful concepts related to how leaders can approach the sometimes elusive improvement of performance of their organizations, teams and  people. It describes the nature of changes that need to occur for breakthrough performance to be achieved.

Jill Tideman

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