- Steve McEwan
Leadership and Mental Health
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m still learning about leadership. Although it’s a passion of mine that I often study, some lessons are learned best in real life. I recently sat with a couple of our employees and got some feedback I would like to share. I’ll preface this with my philosophy – to treat people like adults and be open and honest with everything, so this conversation was very welcome. If you surround yourself with rational people and emulate this rationality, there is very little you cannot overcome.
My mental health – for the most part – is pretty good, especially when it comes to work. I’m more excited than stressed when it comes to working. Do I still get stressed? Sure, a bit, but I think if you asked my wife, she would agree that I’m not losing sleep at night. Why am I telling you this? Because my team mentioned that I do not appear to get too worked up in most situations, which is important – not for me but actually for them.
These two employees expressed they had been feeling stressed and anxious about a project recently. We discussed the project, as well as the desired and probable outcomes , and ultimately determined the parts that were causing them to worry aligned with my anticipations from the beginning. They thought they were letting me down, but all along, I had no worries about the project. However, now I had to explain I felt this stress—stressed to learn that my employees were feeling this way. This open communication taught us that our unspoken perceptions of other’s reactions are causing the stress.
With the lines of communication now open, they encouraged me to be more forthcoming with expectations and desired outcomes. They’ve also asked that I provide context as to what would constitute something that is stress-worthy.
So, what I’ve learned about the mental health approach so far in our organization is this:
Leaders make more of a difference than you think in workplace mental health. I was telling them that if I’m not stressed then they really do not need to be. More importantly though, is that you as a leader need to tell them exactly why you are not concerned with this issue or that, as without context they don’t fully understand how to approach the issue and maybe why exactly it is not as big of a deal as they may perceive it to be.
Benefits and more products are not that answer. From a total rewards perspective, yes, you need to provide tools like an EAP, Telemedicine, and Practitioner coverage, as well as products to help employees handle their stress and anxiety—since 1 in 5 are most likely dealing with issues. However, more must be done by the leadership. Alongside the products to be fully effective, you need to have leaders promote and walk the talk on mental health initiatives. I realize mental health initiatives go well beyond products since leaders need to do more personally.
Maybe I need to learn more, but a lot of this is just more communication, and it comes down to being a good person. If you generally care about the well-being of your employees, then we need to talk to them and check in with them more – just clear communication.
Here’s the upside: it is free. Haha. You cannot just buy this solution and know exactly what to say or how to do this better, but I would think many leaders are lifelong learners, so being open to hearing feedback and improving is the first step.
I am so happy that I had this talk today with these employees! I learned a lot. Now I have to implement on this feedback.
COO & Co-Founder