Championing Mental Health in 2024 – How Leaders Can Shape Thriving Teams

Mental health might be your number one concern as employee or even a manager. Have you ever worked in an organization, a department or a company where the boss was, for lack of a better term, a jerk? Yes; manipulative, controlling, spiteful, narcissistic, rude, woefully critical…the whole shebang. It must have felt like every time you were walking a tightrope, on jagged rocks or nails. When you got home at the end of the day, you must have used up all your mental and physical energy. And you probably contemplated quitting that job every day you worked under such a bad boss.

Now, the roles are reversed. You are now a manager, a departmental head, a senior executive, or even the head honcho in your organization. Don’t let the lessons of the past escape your memory. In this context, that would be that an exhaustive boss – such as the one we described earlier – can take quite the toll on your mental energy and health.  

In this quick one, we’ll explore the role of bosses as the custodian of their team’s mental health. As an employee, you’ll discern when you’re dealing with such a boss and take the right actions to protect your mind and energy. As a boss, you’ll be able to recognize any of these negative symptoms within you and work to quickly remedy them. 

Leading by Example

Leaders wear many hats in organizations and departmental teams. They are the chief strategists, visionaries, change agents, decisions makers, and facilitators, amongst others. One key overlooked role of leaders is the custodian of their team’s mental well-being

Leaders set the tone for their team, and have the power to create a positive and supportive environment where their team can not only work, but flourish. As a matter of fact, recent studies such as by the Workforce Institute at UKG survey have revealed that managers have an equal impact on mental health as spouses or partners. The same study also highlights the fact that nearly 80% of surveyed employees would prioritize positive mental health at their workplace over a salary increase. This case study alone shows how powerful the influence of leaders is over the well-being of their teams. 

Leaders who embody the aspirations of their teams will naturally be empathetic and predisposed to listening. That means, for you as a leader, your priorities will also naturally align with creating an environment where there is trust, tolerance, respect and goodwill. That translates to a culture of open communication, and where people are not walking around on eggshells. 

Toning Your Leadership Style Through Empathy 

But what if you are a naturally combative, assertive, dominant,  must-be-heard and never-questioned type of leader? What if your experiences have shaped you and you must have plowed through a thousand other bulls to get to where you are? You can’t take no for an answer, are willing to criticize your team members openly, and can’t listen to any other opinion? 

Well, you’re exactly the type of leader that will cause mental health issues for your juniors. And if you find yourself naturally exhibiting some of these traits without malice or ill intent this article is not to judge you. But rather to help you with a quick retooling. 

#WorkplaceMentalHealth #LNN #LillianNgala

Empathy is the key that helps you to unlock your team’s potential. While the pressure to deliver results can easily lead to prioritizing productivity at the expense of employee well-being, empathy offers a nice trade-off. Empathy isn’t about lowering expectations but rather about empowering employees by prioritizing their mental health and well-being. These are the foundations of humans flourishing and peak performance. 

Yes; a good leader has the power to transform lives, even beyond the workplace. 

The Path to Effective and Empathetic Leadership

To navigate this shift towards empathy and effectiveness, there are four key areas that leaders can focus on:

  1. Mindset Shift: Instead of managing people, be an enabler of their success. Move beyond focusing solely on process and performance evaluation. Instead, promote psychological safety through open communication and providing support. That will empower individuals to take risks, learn and grow. 
  2. Culture Change: We already mentioned earlier about some of the outdated models of being a boss, including being unquestionable and all-knowing. Promote a culture of collaboration and open feedback. That will foster teamwork and make folks work for instead of against each other. 
  3. Embracing Agility: Ditch rigid job descriptions and embrace flexibility in work. In the dynamic world that we live in, intrinsic motivation is desired over quick but temporary wins. Lead your employees to discover their passions and values, and nurture their interests and aspirations. That will bring out the best in each of your team members. 
  4. Leading by Example: Move away from command-and-control tactics and embrace the role of coach and motivator. Create optimal conditions for your team’s well-being and performance. Be firm and establish clear goals and expectations. Lead from the front and provide ongoing feedback. 
  5. Prioritize self-care: As the captain of your ship, your team’s mental health starts with your own. Stress and anxiety are infectious, and easily transferable, especially in workplace settings. Take breaks when needed (yes; you need that 30 days off) and encourage your team to do so to prevent burnout. Normalize conversations around mental health and create a safe space for individuals to seek help when needed. 

Building a Supportive Ecosystem

Remember to foster a supportive work environment that encourages open conversations. Be accountable as a leader by actively listening to concerns and ideas. That will get your whole team behind you, and create a culture of trust and respect. Additionally, promote diversity and inclusion, ensuring everyone feels valued and respected for their unique contributions.

One final rallying call for creating a mentally-sound workplace is its ability to untap your team’s strategic network potential. Networking begins with your team, extending its wings outward. When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to engage in strategic networking with colleagues. That translates to stronger collaboration, knowledge sharing, and ultimately, improved performance and innovation.

Your Team Is Your Most Valuable Investment 

A healthy, engaged, and motivated team is a force to be reckoned with. This is a team ready to overcome challenges, collaborate strategically, and drive innovation, leading to a thriving and sustainable organization.

By prioritizing your team’s well-being, you are not just making a positive impact on their lives, but also investing in your company’s success. Remember, true leadership goes beyond the bottom line; it’s about uplifting lives, creating an environment where your team can flourish. That will shape a ripple positive effect that stretches beyond the workplace.

At the Lillian Ngala Network, we’re all about bringing out the best in teams. For us, leadership is more than meeting the bottom-line, but more importantly about uplifting lives. That might be through coaching, mentorships, providing a platform for strategic networking, or even corporate HR training. Take your team to the next level by signing up for the #LillianNgalaNetwork through any of the packages that suits you. Let’s make leadership about more than just the bottom line; but about uplifting lives.

Remember to meet us at our next strategic network meeting coming up in the next fortnight, at Serena Hotel, Nairobi. You and your entire team are invited to come and witness in person the power of strategic networking on corporate teams. See you on March 6th, 2024!

Your Network Is your Net Worth