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10 lessons for building healthy and happy organisations

Something amazing happened recently.

A group of conscious leaders – bound together by their belief that it’s actually people who make organisations successful – gathered in a den of consciousness to debate, trade information, and exchange ideas on one of the most critical questions of our time: how will we take care of business and people in the future workplace?

The occasion? A celebration of the launch of my book: an event organised and sponsored by Clear Review.

Where? The Den, Bedford Square, London.

High performance the responsible way

Conscious leadership – the theme of my book – is an approach that recognises sustained high performance can only be achieved in a responsible way.

As a former HR Director – I delivered for my employer at all costs, until I eventually burnt out. Everything about my life was centred around my work.

It was neglect of my own wellbeing that led me to what I advocate today: a conscious way of working. I now help companies understand that when people are equipped to look after their wellbeing, they do better at work.

At the heart of conscious leadership is the simple supposition that people and their wellbeing matters. When employees feel their wellbeing is looked after, they deliver great things.

And after all, people matter.

People matter

Nobody at my book launch believed that leaders don’t care about their people. But they did believe that the characteristics of today’s workplace make it very hard for leaders to pay attention to what matters to enable people to work effectively.

We are miles away from creating the right environment for people to achieve their best at work. In fact, there’s an abundance of facts and stats that tell us we’re getting it very wrong:

●      One in four adults experience mental illness.

●      We have one of the lowest productivity rates in the G7.

●      15.4 million days each year are lost due to stress, depression or anxiety.

These numbers (and I can dig out a hundred more) are telling us that something’s not working in the workplace.

When employees return home after a day’s work, they’re often feeling worse than when they came in. And the environment we’re creating as leaders, is contributing to that.

And what’s more, the government is increasingly looking to employers to fix this, as it’s at work where most people spend the majority of their time.

How conscious leadership helps

Conscious leadership bolsters wellbeing because it’s centred around knowing what you need to be your best self – plus what your teams need to be their best too.

It’s about operating with intent and purpose rather than on the autopilot – whether you know it or not that’s where most of us spend a lot of time.

It involves:

Being awake - that means committing to developing deep self-awareness, understanding what you need to improve your own wellbeing. This then leads to you demonstrating great behaviours to your people, by showing them how to take care of yourself. 

Having resilience - acknowledging the human challenges we all face and learning how to deal with the bad stuff, without crashing and taking it out on your teams. This involves choosing the way you look at difficult situations, plus knowing what you need to be able to bounce back from set-backs, and learn from them.

Working together - creating an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work and recognising that everyone needs to matter and it’s up to you to make sure that they do. It’s where you’re partnering with your teams and treating them like adults – by giving them guidance and not dictating to them.

Providing a purpose - where your people know why they’re at work, why they’re doing what they’re doing and what they’re contributing to. They’re driven to succeed because there’s a compelling why and they are enabled to focus on the work that matters most in service of that why.

Having a growth mindset - knowing that you and your teams aren’t the finished article and never will be. You’re all capable of developing and improving yourselves and you’re all on a journey. So things will break, things will go wrong, and then you’ll figure out why and what to do next time.

Insights from the den

During our day of consciousness in ‘the den’ – HR gurus, workplace specialists, positivity psychologists, people officers, performance management professionals, and employee experience experts – all came together to share their insights into how conscious leadership needs to manifest itself in a new era of work, where employee wellbeing is at the forefront of employer’s minds.

10 things organisations must do:

  1. Recognise that wellbeing drives great performance. But it’s complex and involves helping employees to fulfil a range of different needs, including emotional, social, financial, physical, and digital.
  2. Understand that the world has evolved, and employees are looking to bring their whole, unique selves to work each day – not a corporate mask. And what’s more, the work practices inherited from the industrial age – where productivity was king – are no longer acceptable.
  3. Leaders need to focus on two things: set direction by creating clarity and then keep out of the way of employees so they can do their job!
  4. Encourage leaders to role model the right behaviours, so they visibly demonstrate that wellbeing is a sign of success and long hours is no longer a badge of honour. 
  5. Spend the money you’ll have to spend on the right people activities, proactively looking after employees (e.g. through rewards, learning and development, etc.), instead of investing in reactive people tasks (e.g. sickness and grievances).
  6. Design workplace environments that are centred around the needs of teams, recognising that the physical place people work in, impacts on their wellbeing and must be continuously reinvigorated.
  7. Understand that people are facing real and serious human challenges beyond work that not only affect their performance at work, but also their wellbeing – like menopause, dyslexia, money management, anxiety and depression. Employers must create a culture where these every day issues can be discussed and supported.
  8. Appreciate that in every other walk of life – things are personalised – and so the employee experience must be too. Where people are encouraged by their employer to craft a job that means they can bring their best and whole self to work.
  9. Allocate resources fluidly to tasks and projects that need to be done – play to the strengths of the individual, for the benefit of the business. Rather than keeping people in rigid and immovable roles for long periods of time.
  10. Realise that artificial intelligence and robotization will replace tasks, not people – and humans will be expected to do more complex work. Employers will therefore need to help teams to cope with the pace of technology, rather than planning to replace them.
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