Over at PH7 we have had a highly inspiring afternoon taking part in the Forward Ladies ‘Leadership Online Summit’. Rebecca Jane, who heads up our mental health charity PH7 LIFE and most of you will know from her relationship management in PH7 Health gives us the run down on the day’s events.
The title was ‘Championing Cultural Change in the workplace’ and the panellists I heard today certainly did that. My passion is looking after mental health in the workplace, and I have been delighted to work with many of you helping us flagship positive and passionate corporate change.
During the event I heard from 6 leaders, Abigail Marshall-Katung, counsellor of Leeds Council, Lara Oyesanya, Chief Risk Officer of Contis, Helen Aboah CEO of Urban Zen, Matt Turner CEO of Dining Club Group and Founder of TasteCard, Arti Hali and Griselda Togobo, CEO of Forward Ladies.
So what did the leaders challenge me to think about today.
Firstly, We’ve all learnt how to work from home, but do we want to!?
This has been something I have advocated for weeks. Yes, we have all adapted to technology and we have discovered HOW to work from home, but no, I do not want to! Please do not get me wrong, the flexibility is fantastic and one of the great lessons I think we should take away from COVID. However, as an organisation that delivers mental health therapy services, there are just some elements technology cannot help us with. Can a counsellor see a tear running down a clients face over a video call, can you sense the energy of the room and more importantly are we getting the basic human interaction we are all designed to thrive by?
I echo the views of Matt Turner, founder of TasteCard. ‘We’ve only been able to work from home because of the amazing culture we have created. I am very much looking forward to getting back into the workplace’.
The pandemic has made us all stop and reflect. Rightly so, we were running our lives at 100 miles per hour every day. We have learnt to adapt to a slower pace, and this needs to live on. Humans need interaction, plain and simple. Too much of one thing will always be a bad thing. I personally vote in favour of a new flexibility, but carry on creating those strong bonds with our colleagues – IN the workplace.
You must be confident and brave enough to make changes quickly.
Griselda had already given up her office because of the amount of time she travels, but the events side of her business took a different turn thanks to COVID. This is the reason the Leadership Summit Online was created. ‘The pandemic gave us a reason to take risk and be bolder in our decisions. I am embracing that side of it and moving forward.’
‘In business we are used to taking calculated risks, but we do not really have the luxury to do that right now’. Helen, CEO of Urban Zen elaborated further on this point and explained the way in which we can give ourselves the permission to take the risks. ‘We can’t have an overarching strategy anymore; it is time to make decisions and not be afraid. We are the business, but our customers are riding the wave with us. We have to meet them half-way, making radical decision for them but always keeping the customer first. If you have a team that says they want to create something, let them roll with it. What is the worst that can happen? ‘
Creating a Culture of Openness
Here at PH7, the first rule we like our partners to follow when we work on a mental health strategy with them is creating ‘The culture of openness’. This will always be the first rule of thumb with any organisation that wants to challenge stigma and break the mental health mould. It was refreshing to hear Matt echo our views and opened the discussion with an example of how he leads from the front.
As soon as lockdown was announced Matt emailed his staff to reassure them that their jobs may not be safe indefinitely, but there’s money in the bank to look after them after 15 years of running a successful business. He even included his personal number for staff to call him if they were worried and continued to email his staff every 3-4 days.
‘We’ve had the worst crisis of a generation and we need to be open with not just our customers or staff’.
Arti agreed with Matt and elaborated on the reasons why. ‘Trust is already there with your staff, and they will be wanting to hear what you have to say more than the government. Communication is paramount, and a quality a leader requires.’
The Importance of Vulnerability in a leader
‘Important qualities in a leader are consistency and strength but you also have to show a degree of vulnerability. At one point I felt we may lose our partnerships with some clients, which would have had a significant effect. I sat in the gym with tears streaming down my face. If I lost this business, it defines me, and I wouldn’t know who I was anymore. I had to show that level of honesty during a board meeting and to my staff. Sharing your vulnerability is important, when the time is right, and you have got through the storm. It demonstrates that we all have worries.’ Matt
Griselda echoed Matt’s view and went on to discuss the practicalities of vulnerability. ‘We used to hide the kids when we had a call, but because we’re home schooling, everyone became ok with it and it took a lot of pressure off. No one has all the answers, you could see how the leaders in government didn’t have a clue and it’s ok to let people know you don’t have the answers, but you’re working hard to find them.’
We asked the panel what they thought the top qualities of a leader are:
Helen – vision, empathy (I cannot stress that enough) and resilience.
Matt – Vision, empathy, and strength
Griselda – Empathy – what good is a leader who does not feel. Resilience and influence, a leader is someone who can change minds and bring people along.
Arti – flexibility, the need to be adaptable rather than operating in your comfort zone.
Lara – When you wake up, you must decide to have a positive attitude. It is a choice. I also do not make excuses, so I will not accept them either. Do not make a decision based on emotion, because it will be wrong.
Both Matt and Helen both echoed that the three qualities of a leader adapt from business to business. In the words of Matt, drive energy passion enthusiasm are all the qualities required at the start of a business but, as time develops, you need to be humble and adapt the qualities required.
Take Your Seat at The Table.
I will leave you today with some fabulous words from Leeds Councils first black female counsellor, Abigail Marshall-Katung.
‘I realised that as a woman, I was memorable, so I decided I had to go for it. At the end of the day, if you are not sat around the table, decisions will be made for you. You have to decide to take your seat and the table and go for it.’
I would like to send our thanks to Forward Ladies for putting on the summit and providing us with a very inspiring day, in these very bizarre times.
If you want our help in looking after the mental health of your workforces, please see our website PH7Health.co.uk and for the innovative work that our charity provides, PH7Life.com.
– Rebecca Jane – PH7 Group Operations Director
With the PH7 EAP plan, your employees will have access to 24/7 mental health support line, face-to-face counselling sessions and full digital support with the online health e-hub app.
We can help you to boost your productivity levels and reduce mental health-related sickness in your workplace.
Call the team to find out more 01282 479 929