Mental Health and Leaders
The familiar safety instructions you hear on a plane say: “Put on your own mask first before assisting others.” This rule also applies to leaders. First, I have to take care of myself to be able to help others. It never works the other way around.
“First, I will put on my oxygen mask...”
What can I do for myself, my team, for the company?
First of all, it is important to see yourself as a leader at several levels and say to yourself: “What can I do for myself, what specifically can I (and can’t I) do for my team and for the company.” It is refreshing to write down 10 items for every level. Ideally, you should create a mind map of a satisfied colleague with the entire team.
This will allow you to view your opinions and attitudes in context with others. You will see the boundaries between who I am, what I need to feel better and how it will be projected onto the team or, by extension, the entire company. Keep in mind that there is no right or wrong option. Follow your guts and if you decide to create a mind map with other people, respect the opinions of others.
We all have some bright and dark sides.
Are we aware of them?
Do we know who we really are?
Do we know our demons?
Are we aware of our weaknesses that can leave us paralyzed?
Read, listen and feel what you identify with and what you don’t. Whatever causes you to have positive and negative emotions is often an area of your personal boundaries. During my therapy sessions, I always ask my clients: Who are you? Write down 10 nouns.
Interestingly, in addition to all the roles people write down, men are much more likely to write down their demons than women. For example: I am a lazy, narcissistic person, a liar and a cheater. Either way, everything you write about yourself is important because you realize who you really are. Only then, you can truly change something. If you cannot be honest with yourself, how do you want your team to be honest with you? Let alone using this to create psychological safety that we will get to later.
I know my strengths and weaknesses, and now it is time for full reconciliation and acceptance. I accept the way I am and will use it as a basis for other values, visions and plans. Rule #1 for self-acceptance is truly sincere and forgiving acceptance of who I am. No suppression such as “no, this is not me”. Listen to your intuition and do not try to overpower it with thoughts that fight against it. Whenever you suppress something, the pressure creates counter-pressure and nothing good comes out of it.
What is my self-worth? Do I include material values such as my house, car, a beautiful wife, or do I appreciate my qualities, my drive, my time? How much do I trust myself and know my worth? This is followed by the last bit - self-love.
Do I truly love myself the way I am?
Why do I let my team make me question myself?
Why do remarks regarding my working hours, low performance or hair style make me feel uneasy?
Growing healthy self-love is the foundation, which is then projected onto those around you, including your team. Only if I know myself, know where I am heading, why I am heading there, with whom and what my qualities are can I lead my team in a similar manner.
I am able to control my fears and stress. I do not let them engulf me
Working with fears is absolutely essential to long-term balance. Fears are all around us and in recent months their impact on us has been significantly greater than ever before. Long-term fear for our future, job, marriage, pretty much anything we care about usually results in chest pressure, nausea, anxiety and, in worse forms, panic attacks.
Do you know how to work with fear? Do you use this method every time you need to dissipate your fears? If you need to learn how to work with fears and stress, follow our blog. We will soon publish an article on specific effective methods of working with fears and stress. For now, try the following breathing method.
Every day, take at least 10 minutes to close your eyes, realize all your emotions and situations you experienced during the day, and wherever you find a negative blockage, breathe through the emotion and try to tell yourself: “I allow myself to forgive myself for getting into the situation.” With every breath, try to shake off the emotion and release it from your heart. Keep repeating this until the emotion leaves you completely.
...then I will help others put on their oxygen masks.”
I have a clear vision and plan
It is crucial for a team to have a clear vision towards which my group and I are working. To come up with a clear plan for the vision and steps how to achieve it. To have a plan of action. As soon as your colleagues do not know the vision or the plan on how to achieve the vision, all sorts of anxieties, demotivation and annoyances may arise. Your colleagues then fall victim to long-term depression and usually leave the company within several months because they do not see the purpose of their work and financial security is no longer enough.
I do not invest my energy into situations I cannot change
I see this in practice all the time. We do not assess the situation, but instead we assess people’s characters. However, we will achieve results much easier and encounter much lower emotional loads if we try to address specific situations, not specific people. That means that we put our energy into something we can learn from or something that can help us reach a conclusion.
As soon as I invest my energy into people or someone else’s situations or attitudes, the energy exhausts me, I feel helpless, and this is often followed by short-term depression. So, put your energy into things that make sense. Into things where your energy may help change something. Never forget this: Wherever I put my energy, I see growth.
My demands for others and myself are achievable
Are your demands for yourself and those around you achievable? Or are they influenced by nonsensical KPIs that were made up on the fly by a colleague in a different country? Or, perhaps, they were set by your ego. If you set up something that you know is not achievable, it will be stressful for yourself as well as your team. Try to come up with a positive and satisfactory scenario for every demand. What happens if the situation brings only average results and what happens if expectations are exceeded? That way, it will seem much more achievable for yourself and your colleagues, and engagement will improve. If we introduce unreasonable demands, we can expect to have an annoyed team, as well as anxiety, problems with meeting deadlines, excessive workloads and so on.
I am empathetic and I see things as a whole
There is a great exercise when you close your eyes and look at the situation that bothers you from a bird's eye view. You try to look at yourself and others, their responses and attitudes, while also observing yourself. I try to empathize with others and understand their reasoning. Whenever the team feels misunderstood and not accepted, you cannot expect them to play into your hands.
I talk about my needs openly and listen to the needs of others
Make sure you hear your people and understand what they are telling you. As soon as you are not listening to their needs, a breeding ground for conflicts appears and you can start to exhaust each other for a very long time.
Psychological safety within a team
What is psychological safety within a team? Being convinced that your colleague will not be punished or belittled for their ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes. What do we need at work to feel safe? Freedom, trust and openness.
I am accountable for my decisions across the team
I am accountable for my decisions, I stand behind them and I stand behind my team. That gives people a sense of security. How can I achieve that? I am not a victim. I am not blaming anyone else. If I take this sense of security and safety within the team from people, their brains start to panic. Then, communication closes and trust slowly disappears.
I build healthy relationships
Healthy relationships are relationships based on freedom, trust and acceptance of self the way you are. However, many employers tend to build relationships based on conditions or dependence. Sure, a certain degree of dependence on your employer as the money provider is beneficial in a healthy set-up. However, this does not refer to anything like “you will fit in only if...”. Such a set-up is not beneficial to anyone and puts unpleasant pressure on people. As we mentioned earlier, pressure leads to counter-pressure which forces us in a vicious circle with no solution.
Author: Simona Zábržová
Photos: Pexels.com (fauxels)